The controversial 20th Avenue strip in College Point, where most of the congestion originates, will be getting a facelift and some help with safety issues and traffic flow through a $700,000 federal grant.
Congressman Joseph Crowley announced the funding on Monday afternoon in front of the 20th Avenue shopping center. Traffic has been a constant problem there since the mall opened a few years ago.
"This money will be used to alleviate congestion and keep the traffic moving,” Crowley said as cars and trucks whizzed by. “People from College Point have dealt with it more than they should have.”
He believes the changes will make the area more pedestrian friendly and encourage better traffic flow. The project will involve adding a median in the center of 20th Avenue, from 132nd Street to the Whitestone Expressway service road.
“It will also include new street furniture, trees and lighting and plantings along the median,” Crowley added, noting that the median will replace hash-marks on the road and will not decrease the number of lanes.
Borough President Helen Marshall joined Crowley in pushing for improved access to the area. “There are horrible concrete barriers now that are ugly. They will be replaced by greenery, new lights and better traffic controls. We have to improve access to College Point.”
Councilman Tony Avella, who represents the area, could not attend. Instead, Crowley invited nearby Councilman John Liu, who is chairman of the Transportation Committee. He noted that Crowley six years ago allocated $1.8 million to upgrade the intersection at the Whitestone Expressway service road by adding a lane. Work on that will begin soon.
Referring to the planned medians, Liu concurred that they do improve traffic flow and enhance safety. It was noted that there are only four ways to enter or exit College Point and that the 20th Avenue work will provide a welcoming for visitors.
Construction on the project is expected to begin in a few months and only take a short time to complete. Marshall added that the Department of Transportation will use the opportunity to update necessary features, including adding the best and brightest street lighting and making sidewalk improvements.
An additional $175,000, or 20 percent of the funding, will come from the Department of Transporation for a total of $875,000. Liu added that the DOT’s preliminary budget includes that cost sharing.
Gene Kelty, chairman of Community Board 7, who also attended the press conference, is happy with the planned project. “College Point has always had a problem with isolation. This will help open it up,” he said.
Crowley believes the beautification “will make a statement about College Point,” while Fred Mazzarello, president of the College Point Board of Trade, hopes it will help enhance the other stores in College Point, primarily those located nearby on College Point Boulevard.