Plans to relieve some of the bus traffic around the historic St. George’s Episcopal Church in Flushing will require drivers on two routes to turn right on 39th Avenue instead of left.
And six months.
Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing) and the Rev. Wilfredo Benitez, pastor of the church, announced on Friday that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has agreed to reroute the Q17 and the Q27 buses, which currently park north of the church on 38th Avenue before heading down Main Street on their routes.
Members of St. George’s congregation and elected officials have claimed for years that the buses tie up traffic and cause noise and air pollution when idling next to the church, and in some cases drivers relieve themselves against the church building.
“This is a small step,” said Kim, who made reducing air and noise pollution near the church part of his CleanFlushing Initiative.
Benitez, who has been with the church for two years, said the landmark structure currently is boxed in on three sides by buses, with the Q17, Q27 and three others turning down 39th Avenue before heading north on Prince Street and stopping for layover time on 38th.
The Jamaica-bound Q20 and Q44 also stop in front of the church on Main Street, at times taking up the whole block, including during Sunday services and weddings.
“I don’t know of another church in the city that has active bus stops in front of it,” Benitez said. “We get an exception for funerals, but we have to contact the MTA in advance.”
The congregation has had three churches on the site since it was founded in 1702. Its former leaders include Francis Lewis, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Under the MTA’s plan, the Q17 and Q27, which are the busiest of all the routes around the church, will conclude their northbound runs by turning right from Main Street onto 39th and discharge passengers at a new stop before heading north on 138th Street, west on 37th Avenue and south along Main again to begin new runs.
The Q19, Q50 and Q66, which operate less frequently, still will turn left from Main Street at the end of their northern runs. But in September, they will resume their southern routes by turning left on Prince Street and access Main Street via Roosevelt Avenue.
“No NYC Transit or MTA Bus Company bus will travel along or stop on 38th Avenue between Main and Prince Streets,” MTA Vice President for government and community relations Lois Tendler wrote to Benitez in a letter dated Jan. 29. The bus stops in front of the church will remain. Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) and state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing), also on hand Friday, called it progress.
“I think it is a big step,” Stavisky said.
An MTA spokeswoman said the six-month delay for implementation is largely due to the need to change schedules ,which she said could not go into effect before Aug. 31.
She also said the city Department of Transportation must make some adjustments to parking to accommodate the changes for the Q17 and Q27.