Bright orange temporary construction fencing has recently dotted the landscape along Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills as Metropolitan Transportation Authority New York City Transit ramps up maintenance efforts for surface subway gratings on several medians.
According to NYC Transit spokeswoman Deirdre Parker, crews are performing inspections of the gratings on the thoroughfare underneath which the E, F, M and R subway lines run. So far, personnel could be seen working near 72nd Drive, 72nd Avenue, 75th Avenue and 78th Avenue.
The MTA was alerted to the issue of disrepaired concrete and asphalt around the gratings after Stephen Melnick, president of the Queens Boulevard Restoration Group, an organization that monitors the city’s handling of safety and maintenance issues concerning the boulevard, sent a letter to the agency and an e-mail to City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) and Community Board 6.
Melnick, a Forest Hills resident, said that during a routine cleanup project in June, a QBRG worker stepped on one of the gratings “and the whole thing shifted. You could see that the concrete holding it up was deteriorating.”
Melnick reported that within four weeks of mailing the missive, MTA crews began working on a median at 75th Avenue.
“The fact that they worked so fast to rectify this was pretty amazing,” he said.
“After learning about the concerns near 75th Avenue, my office sent a letter to the MTA at the request of Mr. Melnick, to make repairs and improvements,” Koslowitz said in a statement. “I am glad that the work is being done. My office will continue to monitor the progress with the MTA.”
Melnick said the gratings issue sheds light on more infrastructural problems along the boulevard, including crumbling medians and sunken or raised roadbeds.
“What are they doing to inspect the infrastructure? That’s what you’ve got to ask,” he said. “I’m pleased with the response, but I have questions regarding the rest of the structure.”
City Department of Transportation spokeswoman Nicole Garcia said inspectors would respond to the 75th Avenue site, and that no capital maintenance project is in the DOT budget at this time.
Melnick, who founded QBRG in 2003, asserted that all areas of the 7.5-mile boulevard — “not just the top, but also below” — should be closely scrutinized.
“It’s a safety factor, a commercial factor,” he said. “A lot of things are in play. This is a quality of life issue.”