They arrived by foot, on bicycles and from cars parked along an endlessly busy Jamaica Avenue, lining themselves against the walls of the Woodhaven Richmond Hill Ambulance Corp. once all the metal folding chairs were occupied — which was quickly.
Packing into a room sheltered from the hum of passing vehicles and pedestrians who shouted to one another during Tuesday’s warm evening that hinted at summer, they stood shoulder to shoulder and crossed their arms, readying themselves for a long night at Community Board 9.
And while the meeting did last for hours, the more than 150 residents present needed to wage no battle to get what they wanted.CB 9 members unanimously rejected a city proposal to redirect traffic on 84th Street in Woodhaven and 89th Avenue in Ozone Park, eliciting loud cheers and much applause from relieved individuals who have for months been criticizing a proposal they argued would leave them close to stranded.
“It would block one of our only remaining entrances back into the neighborhood,” Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association President Ed Wendell said of the city Department of Transportation’s original plan to change 84th Street from one-way northbound to one-way southbound from Liberty to Atlantic avenues.
The city had also suggested converting 89th Avenue from a two-way to a one-way street running eastbound between Woodhaven Boulevard and 97th Street.
The board had been slated to vote at its January meeting on the proposals, but pushed back the decision following an outcry about the plan from an irate group of residents who said CB 9 had not done enough to notify them about the plan.
In February, Queens DOT Commissioner Maura McCarthy and more than 150 people attended a public forum on the matter at St. Elizabeth’s Church in Ozone Park, during which no one spoke in favor of the traffic changes. Nor did anyone speak in favor of them at the CB 9 meeting this week.
“There’s a major lack of communication between the community board, the DOT and those who would be affected by this,” said Woodhaven resident David Adorno, who added that he wanted to see more of an outreach effort from CB 9.
CB 9 Chairwoman Andrea Crawford emphasized that the board did try hard to let people know about the city’s proposal.
“We let civic groups know, and it’s their responsibility to let individuals know,” Crawford said.
Margaret Finnegan, a resident of 92nd Street in Woodhaven for more than 40 years, also spoke out against the traffic changes, bringing with her a speech that filled several typed pages.
“It’s funny how the city wants to stop pollution, but this will inconvenience drivers” and force them to travel longer distances to get around the traffic changes, she said.
“This is poor city and environmental planning,” Finnegan continued.
A number of residents, including a board member, pointed their finger at the 83rd Street Boston Market for requesting the change. Boston Market has not responded to repeated requests for comment.
“I would boycott Boston Market if this change went through,” said Alex Glatt, a Woodhaven resident.