Night work has begun this week to speed up completion of the controversial College Point Boulevard pedestrian islands.
“We’ve been pushing for the night work because now they can get it done, one, two, three,” Community Board 7 District Manager Marilyn Bitterman said.
The islands, which Bitterman said were not warranted or desired, have been a bone of contention since work began last fall. They run from 32nd to Fowler avenues along the boulevard, but unlike the traditional elongated versions, these islands are more rectangular and shorter and not all the same size.
According to officials at the 109th Precinct, drivers are unaware of the islands and don’t see them until it’s too late and end up hitting them. Last November, accidents had gone up 400 percent there in a one-month period.
Since then, the city has installed temporary markings, plastic barrels and bollards as warnings to drivers, but accidents continue, though on a smaller scale.
Gene Kelty, CB 7 chairman, called the area “a minefield” because motorists are hitting the islands while making turns, while Bitterman characterized the area as “a nightmare that I avoid driving through.”
Although it took two weeks for the night work permit to be approved, Bitterman is confident it will speed things up. Workers will be there from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. until the job is completed.
The work now will consist of resurfacing the road with a stronger asphalt that is expected to hold up better under heavy traffic and poor weather conditions. But will it help drivers? Bitterman doesn’t think so.
“I don’t think it will help getting around the area,” she said.
Sanitation officials have complained that their trucks can’t clear the islands properly when making turns and repaving the road won’t change that situation.
Bitterman noted that the city is adamant about keeping the islands, though her office has recommended removing them.
Inspector Brian Maguire, commanding officer at the 109th Precinct, said last winter that there is little need for the islands as few people cross the street there.
Although a traffic initiative, the project is being handled by the Department of Design and Construction. The Department of Transportation will be responsible for the final signage.
Kelty, however, said he blames the DOT “because they signed off on the project.”
A spokesman from the DDC said that once the roadway is paved, permanent pavement markings will be installed. Alan Silvestri, a DOT spokesman, called the ongoing work “a difficult situation, but it will be alleviated when the job is completed.”
The project also includes adding upgraded water and sewer mains.