It has been over 25 years since the city first planned a walking and biking trail around Jamaica Bay and now, with only pieces of it completed, the city Department of Transportation is planning on filling in the gaps and finishing the loop.
One of those gaps is between the greenway along the Belt Parkway and the spur across the Joseph P. Addabbo Bridge into Broad Channel. To connect the two means somehow building the greenway through the neighborhood of Howard Beach — perhaps along residential streets.
That doesn’t exactly sit well with neighborhood residents who are concerned about what a greenway could do to traffic, safety and quality of life in the community.
Last Thursday DOT officials stepped into that hornet’s nest during a workshop at the Knights of Columbus hall in South Ozone Park, where residents spoke up about their concerns about the plan and what they would like — and not like — to see.
“We’re looking to get as much community input as we can,” said Alice Friedman, a representative from the DOT.
With maps of Howard Beach and Jamaica Bay in front of them, residents identified their concerns and wishes with DOT representatives for more than hour.
Safety was one major concern. The residents noted that last July, a Brooklyn man was killed on 84th Street while riding his bike through the neighborhood.
There are already bike lanes in Howard Beach, along 84th Street in Lindenwood, 157th Avenue and 92nd, 93rd, 100th and 102nd streets, but there are no greenways. Friedman said a greenway would be separated from roadways by bollards or railings. The bike lanes in the neighborhood have no such separation.
One of the suggestions provided by the residents echoed one made by Community Board 10 First Vice Chairman John Calcagnile at the Feb. 6 meeting where DOT first presented the idea to utilize Spring Creek Park, which surrounds the neighborhood. Not only would such a move would keep the pathway off the streets, it would allow the city to team up with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which is planning to undergo a $50 million renovation of the park space.
The residents noted that the park, which suffered a massive fire on March 15 that burned nearly a third of it, is a magnet for illegal activities, including drug use and keg parties.
The DEC said renovations at the park would make it less susceptible to fires and illegal activities, which often occur out of view of homes under the cover of the overgrown phragmites.
Thomas Mercatante, who lives near the park, said security is a big issue to residents, noting that the greenway along the Belt Parkway is already a constant problem with garbage and broken fences.
“We don’t have cops down here,” Mercatante said. “We need more police presence. Who is going to keep this area secure?”
Barbara Granickas, a resident of Old Howard Beach, said after the meeting that bike lanes were not a popular idea with the residents who came to it.
“Our group was very adamant that we didn’t want a bike lane,” she said. “A walkway is OK, but not a bike lane.”
Granickas, whose husband, Peter, is a member of CB 10, noted that there are already issues with bike lanes in the neighborhood, including on her street where the bicycle symbol has faded and only the arrow marking the lane exists — pointing in the opposite direction of the traffic flow.
“Especially in the summer you will see cars mistake that arrow and think that’s the direction they could drive in. It’s really dangerous,” she explained.
Frank Dardani, chairman of CB 10’s Parks Committee, said he would be interested in somehow connecting parks farther inland from Jamaica Bay — such as Tudor Park and Loring Field — to the greenway. He noted one of the issues is Conduit Boulevard has only one means of crossing, a pedestrian bridge between Lindenwood and MS 202’s playground, and that leaves Ozone Park residents with no direct route to the bayfront.
“There really is no way of getting across the Conduit now and getting to the greenway,” he explained, suggesting a new route across Conduit Boulevard.
Options were also considered to connect South Ozone Park and Southeast Queens to the greenway via North Conduit Avenue.
CB 10 Chairwoman Betty Braton went further, noting that a greenway along the Conduit’s large median — which was built to accommodate Robert Moses’ planned Bushwick Expressway that would have connected JFK Airport to the Williamsburg Bridge — may help connect Jamaica Bay to the Brooklyn Queens Greenway in Highland Park near the Ridgewood Reservoir.
Friedman said the meeting was the first of four the agency is holding in neighborhoods around Jamaica Bay. Workshops are scheduled for March 25 in Rockaway at Scholars’ Academy, 320 Beach 104 St., and on April 2 in Brooklyn at the Carmine Carro Community Center, 300 Fillmore Ave., in Sheepshead Bay and on April 8 at the Brooklyn Sports Club, 1540 Van Siclen Ave., Canarsie.
The ideas presented during the workshops will be worked into proposals that will be presented to community boards in the fall. Draft plans and a list of priority areas that will be constructed first are scheduled to be released next spring.