The Department of Transportation introduced a plan on May 17, which it said would improve bus and traffic flow in the Jamaica area and included a change to 169th and Home Lawn streets that residents fear will do more harm than good.
Traffic traveling southbound on 169th Street would be rerouted around a narrow curve to Home Lawn Street in Jamaica Estates where it would continue southbound to get to Hillside Avenue, a major business corridor.
A dead end would be created at 169th Street before it reaches Hillside Avenue with the installation of bollards. A triangular area in between 169th and Home Lawn, which now has a Greenstreets planting area and diagonal parking, would be removed to make way for a pedestrian plaza.
“What is the point? What is the benefit?” asked resident Intekhab Ahmed, who lives in an apartment building on 169th Street right in the middle of where the changes would occur. “Parking is more important here. We have a park nearby. We don’t need a pedestrian plaza.”
Ahmed also noted that the area is often congested with traffic, especially during rush hour, and pushing it down a narrow space, surrounding a lounging area would be inconvenient and dangerous.
Miguel Sanchez, who was sitting outside a barber shop on 169th Street, agreed. He said that while people might enjoy a plaza to sit and drink their coffee, “It’s going to cause a lot of problems for people who want to get to Hillside. There is not going to be enough room for all that traffic.”
Marie Adam-Ovide, district manager of Community Board 8, whose jurisdiction includes the spot where the changes would occur, said she and her members had not heard about the plan, because they weren’t invited to the DOT meeting. Later, after it was explained to her by Queens DOT Commissioner Maura McCarthy, she said she didn’t think residents would object.
Similarly, members of the Jamaica Estates Association declined to comment about the plan because, they too, had not been invited to the meeting.
Daneek Miller, president of Amalgamated Transportation Union, Local 1056, who did attend, opposes the idea of a pedestrian plaza at the location, stating that the intersection is dangerous and buses have to use the area suggested for the space in order to make wide turns.
The plan, which is still being developed, is supposed to allow for an improved pattern of traffic flow and would not be implemented this year, according to the DOT. Asked a series of detailed questions about the changes, a DOT spokesman declined to comment further.
Maroofa Jesmeen, who is the coordinator of the Big Apple Learning Center on 169th Street, thought the plaza was a terrible idea and was upset to hear the area might lose valuable parking spaces.
“It doesn’t make any sense, and it’s not going to help this community,” Jesmeen said. “Hillside is a really busy street and people look for parking. I don’t see any point to making a sitting area over here.”
Mesbahuddin Abdullah, the owner of Green Driving School on 169th Street, said he thinks the plaza would have some appeal, but it is only worth installing if it doesn’t interfere with traffic flow. “They could put some flowers and trees around it,” he said. “That would be nice.”