By Kelsey Durham

Community Board 11 passed a resolution at its monthly meeting Monday night to approve a proposal from the city Department of Transportation that seeks to create a pedestrian plaza outside the Long Island Rail Road station in Douglaston.

The board voted 30-3 in favor of moving forward with designs drawn up by the DOT Plaza Program that would renovate the area in front of the LIRR station at 41st Avenue and 235th Street, fashioning the space after sidewalk plazas seen in midtown Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn.

The project would add tables and chairs for pedestrians to sit and have coffee in front of the station and also calls for new plants, umbrellas and granite blocks to spruce up the space.

An application was submitted for the project in 2013 by the Douglaston Local Development Corp. as the agency hopes to revitalize what many community members say is an area on the decline near the LIRR station.

Since then the DOT has drawn up plans for two options that could be chosen and held a series of community workshops to get feedback from nearby residents about any concerns with the design or changes they wish to see.

One of the biggest reservations community members had was with the first option, which calls for complete closure of the turnaround area in front of the station that many cars use after dropping a passenger off at the platform.

Residents and civic groups raised worries that without the turnaround, traffic would be diverted through the nearby neighborhoods and could be hazardous for families and small children, but the resolution approved by CB 11 recommended the second proposal calling for only a partial closure of the turnaround that would still leave it open for use.

“I would love to see the revitalization of this area, but every time a train comes into the station, we have cars and it’s extremely dangerous,” said Nora Flynn, who said she and her husband have lived in Douglaston for a combined 55 years. “What will happen to the disabled and elderly people who will then be dropped off an additional 50 or 60 feet from the platform if you pave over this turnaround?”

Other residents who spoke at Monday’s meeting expressed similar concerns, saying that traffic during peak train hours would be too much for the neighborhood to handle.

David Breen, a representative from the DOT’s Plaza Program, said at the meeting that the DOT conducted a survey and found that approximately 177 vehicles per hour travel through the station during peak hours of what he called “neutral weekdays,” which include Tuesday through Thursday.

The study also found that more than 1,000 pedestrians would be in and out of the station during the same peak hours, and the addition of two crosswalks was one of several changes the DOT made to accommodate community concerns after the first workshop in May.

“From the DOT’s perspective, it’s about getting as much feedback from the community as possible,” said Breen, who noted that the DOT is willing to work with residents and any concerns they have before implementing any changes.

Jerry Iannece, a longtime CB 11 member and former chairman of the board, was one of several residents who also showed support for the project and said he was in favor of the DOT’s proposal to try the plan for a year.

“For many years we had a running joke that we weren’t entitled to a plaza here in Douglaston because we were too rich or didn’t qualify or whatever,” he said. “This is the first one, the first chance we’ve gotten. Let’s show them how it’s done.”

Breen said the DOT would continue to make improvements throughout the next month and hopes to apply for capital funds beginning in the fall.

Reach reporter Kelsey Durham at 718-260-4573 or by e-mail at kdurham@cnglocal.com.

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