The plan for Select Bus Service along Woodhaven Boulevard and the epidemic of domestic violence in South Queens both sparked blunt discussion at Tuesday’s meeting of Community Board 9 in Kew Gardens.
Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), a supporter of the Select Bus Service proposal, defended it in front of a skeptical audience.
Ulrich said Queens was the only borough to not have any Select Bus Service, a designation that allows certain bus lines to utilize dedicated lanes and have higher capacity vehicles, priority at traffic lights and a quicker fare-collection system to allow buses to make quicker trips on major thoroughfares.
The MTA has already implemented Select Bus Service on Hylan Boulevard in Staten Island, Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn, Webster Avenue in the Bronx and on several Manhattan streets, such as 34th Street. A service connecting Harlem to LaGuardia Airport that would run along Astoria Boulevard is set to begin in the next few months. The M60 would run along that route and make stops in Astoria and East Elmhurst.
The current plan on Woodhaven Boulevard as envisioned by the city Department of Transportation, tasked with redesigning the streetscape for the MTA to implement the bus service, would dedicate one lane for buses and right turns on between Metropolitan and Eliot avenues from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Additionally, the DOT would like to install a curbside bus lane northbound approaching Liberty Avenue and southbound approaching Rockaway Boulevard, which would also be in effect 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Parking would be allowed in the curbside lanes at other times.
CB 9 member Sherman Kane said the plan could possibly take away parking spots and disrupt driveways along parts of Woodhaven Boulevard that are residential, specifically in Ozone Park, Woodhaven and Glendale
“What’s this going to do to people with driveways who have to back out into the bus lane?” he asked the councilman. “Woodhaven Boulevard is a residential boulevard.”
Ulrich said the plan as it stands now would not affect those areas yet and the first phase is only north of Metropolitan Avenue.
But some members remained skeptical, casting doubts that faster bus service would help ease traffic on the congested corridor.
“The traffic problem is due to the cars, not the buses,” said CB 9 member Marian Molina, who said driving from Woodhaven to Queens Center at rush hour now takes as long as 45 minutes, instead of less than 10 minutes at other times. “This is just going to make the situation worse.”
Later in the meeting, Rosemonde Pierre-Louis, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence, spoke to the board about assistance available to domestic violence victims.
The issue of domestic violence has become a crisis in the neighborhoods of South Queens, police say. The 102nd and 106th precincts collaborated to host a meeting in February aimed at addressing the problem and letting people know what help they can receive if they are victims of domestic violence.
About 40 percent of felony assaults in the 102nd Precinct and about a third of all rapes in the past year have been domestic violence-related, according to NYPD statistics and Pierre-Louis noted that the precinct’s only murder this year, that of Jessica Canty on April 19, was shot to death, allegedly by her husband, in their Ozone Park home.
“This has been a major problem in this community and we hope the community board will help us combat it,” Pierre-Louis said.
She said among immigrant communities and populations with certain cultures and religions, the topic of domestic violence is taboo. Her office deals with that and she noted that 14 languages are spoken in the agency, which operates a facility at 126-02 82 Ave. in Kew Gardens.
Pierre-Louis also noted that the city’s efforts to combat domestic violence also focus on children, who can be permanently affected by these incidents.
“Some of these children grow up to think violence is part of any relationship,” she said.
Addressing a question about what to do for a victim who doesn’t want help, Pierre-Louis said her office is trained to offer help to those who tell them that.
“We can provide the resources needed for a victim who says, ‘I’m not leaving,’’ she said.
Pierre-Louis also pointed out that although victims of domestic violence are disproportionately women, there have been men who have sought help.
One fatal domestic incident in the 102nd Precinct last year involved a man murdered by his girlfriend, whom he had a restraining order against. The girlfriend pleaded guilty to manslaughter and is serving a five-year prison sentence.
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, call 311 for New York City’s Domestic Violence Hotline. In emergencies, call 911.