A pedestrian tunnel that connects both sides of Bellerose beneath the Cross Island Parkway at 88th Road has fallen into disrepair, and community leaders were out in force on July 17 to get the city to do something about it.
“It is clear that this tunnel is not being maintained,” said state Sen. Tony Avella, D-Bayside), who led a group of more than 30 residents and civic leaders at a rally by the tunnel’s eastern end.
“Yet this tunnel is used every day by residents of the nearby community who are unable to walk a great distance to get to the other side of Bellerose,” he added.
A walk through the narrow tunnel confirms the problems of which every resident spoke: paint that is badly chipped, flaking or peeling off in sheets; graffiti prominently displayed end to end; and one of the few working light fixtures hanging from the ceiling by a few wires.
Avella said upon calling the city’s Department of Transportation, he was told there is only one small crew that handles such matters for the entire city.
“Which means this is not going to be a priority for them, unless we make it one,” he said. “These residents are entitled to the same resources as the ones given any other bridge or tunnel.”
Michael O’Keeffe, president of the Creedmoor Civic Association, and the Rev. William Dulaney of nearby St. Gregory’s Church said the parish, which predates the highway, is divided with the school on the eastern side and the church located to the west.
O’Keeffe also said that the tunnel is used by those heading to and from the Long Island Rail Road.
By some wacky coincidence, the DOT just happened to have a crew out at the tunnel the day before his press conference — “after word got out,” Avella noted — to paint over some of the worse graffiti on the red brick walls at both entrances.
“Patchwork isn’t enough,” Avella said.
And the crews either missed some things or left before new visitors arrived that night.
“Have you seen what’s on the wall at the other end?” asked a woman in the group, “It’s disgusting.”
The lighting, all said, is a matter of safety within the long, confined space. Jerry Wind, president of the Bellerose Hillside Civic Association, said that a police officer was assaulted in the tunnel within the last few years.
Angela Augugliaro, president of the Queens Colony Civic Association and, like Wind, a member of Community Board 13, pointed out that the officer was attacked while confronting graffiti vandals.
Augugliaro said that in past years, civic groups would be able to acquire paint through the Borough President’s Office and do a touch-up job when needed.
But she and Avella both said the condition of the existing paint job has so deteriorated to the point where a professional crew would be required to come in and address it.
Only then, Avella said, would volunteers be able to stay ahead of the vandals and the weather.