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Queens Chronicle

New plaza OK’d for Douglaston site

Area near train station would add public space for community use

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Posted: Thursday, June 19, 2014 10:30 am

With an overwhelming show of support from members of Community Board 11 on Monday night, the long-planned plaza in downtown Douglaston took another step toward becoming a reality — possibly as soon as next month.

The agenda also included informational presentations on speed bump criteria and hotel legislation proposals.

In voting for the Douglaston Station Plaza, at 235th Street and 41st Avenue, members had to decide between two options. The first, under which a full plaza would eliminate the heavily used vehicular turnaround there, received no support from the board.

The board opted instead for the alternative, which would see an overhauling of the area while keeping the station open to traffic. The traffic island with a historic weeping beech tree and war memorial will be retained.

An estimated 100 concerned individuals turned out for the meeting, which came on the heels of two prior community feedback workshops addressing the proposal.

David Breen, associate project manager for Traffic & Planning, Public Spaces at the Department of Transportation, characterized the station as “very well-used,” with approximately 2,300 riders on an average weekday and 1,000 on an average weekend day.

Breen indicated that an average of 177 vehicles and 1,021 pedestrians use the turnaround during peak hours.

Monday night, over a dozen individuals openly expressed their opinions on the matter during the public participation segment.

The Rev. Linden DeBie, pastor of the nearby Dougaston Community Church, said that as things stand now “the area is a real mess,” adding that he is “very encouraged by the proposals.”

One area resident said that “the option that maintains the turnaround is viable,” while another indicated that the plaza would be “critical to begin to enhance” the village, which she said is now “a sad story, adding “We have to do something.”

Several area business owners indicated they would like to see the plaza plan come to fruition.

But not everyone was supportive. One commuter was “extremely concerned” over the proposal, claiming the revitalization would pose problems for the elderly and disabled by forcing them to walk an extra 50 or more feet to get to the platform. Another agreed, saying things are “working very well” the way they are.

There were no cost estimates given with the DOT to incur the expenses.

Board members voted 30-3 in favor of the proposal, with one abstention.

The hope is that Douglaston will return to the vibrant place it had once been. At the annual meeting of the Douglaston and Little Neck Historical Society on May 14, urban designer Victor Dadras, who was commissioned by the society to help in the redevelopment, indicated that plans include the creation of more green space, more and better-quality retail stores, and public community space for festivals and other activities.

According to Breen, the plaza would feature new crosswalks, movable furniture, planters, granite blocks and flexible bollards and umbrellas, all part of what he termed a “functional design.” He said that there would be “no obstruction to emergency access.”

Breen added that the next step would be to “potentially implement improvements in July.”

In other business, the DOT’s Queens commissioner, Dalila Hall, made a brief presentation on speed bump criteria. She indicated that anyone can request a speed bump, generally used to reduce aggressive driving, by calling 311.

That would lead to a DOT field study to determine if there is a speeding problem. The study would consider various factors, among them: widths of roadways; distance from hydrants and driveways; closeness to hospitals and schools; whether the bump would pose a fire hazard; whether the route is used by ambulances; and whether it is a bus, truck, snow or emergency route.

The next step would be for the DOT to ask the community board if it would support a proposed bump. The board could then reach out to area residents for further input.

Representing the Hotel Trades Council, the union of hotel workers, Deputy Political Director Devin Maroney addressed the board on a hotel legislation proposal.

While no legislation is pending, the council has started a dialogue with communities about the hotel construction boom that has spread through the city, often to neighborhoods unaccustomed to the large impacts such properties have.

Maroney hopes to work with residents and other stakeholders to make sure they have a stronger voice when hotels enter their communities.

He encouraged the board to pass a resolution in favor of applicable legislation.

The meeting also included an update from Deputy Inspector Jason Huerta of the 111th Precinct, who indicated a spike in burglaries in the area, including nighttime break-ins with homeowners at home, though he said the situation is “not out of control.”

Welcome to the discussion.