The Department of Transportation and Community Board 5 may have reached an agreement on the controversial Cooper Avenue underpass construction.
The project that encompasses Cooper Avenue between 74th and 79th streets, where Middle Village meets Glendale, began in January 2012.
Since then, proposals made by the DOT and the Department of Design and Construction resulted in push-back from members of CB 5, business owners and elected officials including City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Maspeth), Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Glendale) and state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach).
But at the April 10 CB 5 meeting, board members reported some good news.
“From what I know, the major issues relating to that underpass, DOT gave in to us on every major issue,” District Manager Gary Giordano said at the meeting.
In addition to repairs to the underpass’ outer walls and installation of several new catch basins, the DOT and the DDC were considering inserting a new traffic island where Central Avenue meets Cooper and expanding an existing island located at Central and 73rd Place.
Members of the CB 5 Transportation Committee fought the DOT on the islands, stating that the addition of one island and expansion of another would impede traffic flow around the already congested intersection.
The one issue the DOT did not give in on is changing the direction of 74th Street, an adjacent roadway that currently runs northward, granting direct access to the underpass.
Though a majority of those at the meeting were pleased with the outcome, board member Richard Huber expressed great concern.
“Recently, the Transportation Committee was presented with the new plans for the Cooper Avenue underpass,” he said. “At that meeting, the DOT said there would be not loss of parking but now, a year later, the plans came back to us and it shows that we are losing parking. Not one of our recommendations were taken into consideration; oh wait, they did eliminate the tree on the island.”
Despite numerous emails to the DOT and the DDC, neither agency provided a rendering of the updated plans, nor would they provide a written description.
The DDC said there was no rendering available while the DOT did not respond at all.
There is no specific date for the Cooper Avenue underpass project to be completed but in the past, the DDC has predicted that construction would be done by the summer.
Much of the street is tethered off by orange netting, allotting just one lane on each side.
Over the past year, the underpass has caused issues in the community, the most serious of which was the flooding that occurred in August 2012. The area’s sewer system could not keep up with several severe thunderstorms, resulting in flooded streets and homes. At the Cooper Avenue underpass, cars were fully submerged and elected officials suspected the construction project may have caused the pumping station in the location to fail.
For now, most CB 5 members said they are happy with the new plans and the accommodations made by the DOT.