Geraldine Burccoleri’s home did not come with a driveway. But when her family moved there 40 years ago, that was not much of a problem. Parking was never much of an issue in the residential part of South Ozone Park where she lives. But in recent years, finding a spot has gotten more difficult along 109th Avenue as the population in the community rises and residents utilize the side streets to park cars and take the A train, which is located two blocks away.
Finding a spot is important for Burccoleri. Her mother is handicapped and has a handicapped placard for her minivan. Her sister has Down syndrome and needs to utilize special vans to get around. That makes the parking spaces in front of Burccoleri’s home so important.
But last Thursday morning, she woke up to a life-changing surprise. The coveted parking spaces in front of her house were gone. Half the block, including the section in front of her home, had been reserved for a bus stop serving Jamaica-bound Q41 buses.
There was never a bus line along this section of 109th Avenue. Until July 1, the route took the Q41, which runs from Jamaica Center to Howard Beach, along 111th Avenue from 111th to 130th streets. The change in the route was done to eliminate what the MTA described as time-consuming turns in South Ozone Park. The Q41 would run up 109th Avenue to 111th Street, then turn south one block to 111th Avenue. Then Jamaica-bound buses would turn north at 130th Street, then west on 109th Avenue, then north again on 128th Street. The turns occurred where the cross streets are not contiguous on either side of 109th Avenue near PS 121 and St. Teresa of Avila church.
When the MTA brought the plan before Community Board 10 last September, the board overwhelmingly rejected it, but the community board vote is merely a recommendation and the MTA is still allowed to implement plans without its support. Among those on CB 10 who opposed the change was Margaret Finnerty, president of the Richmond Hill South Civic Association, who suggested the change would affect students at Our Lady of Perpetual Help and PS 100, both of which are on 111th Avenue, forcing them to walk a long block to access buses.
But for Burccoleri and her neighbors, including Sherry O’Neil, who has lived on 109th Avenue between 115th and 116th Streets for four decades, it’s a quality of life issue.
“We bought this house knowing we didn’t have a driveway, because we knew we had parking,” she said.
Burccoleri was also concerned about who would be standing on the patch of grass in front of her house waiting for a bus, especially with two schools nearby.
Deka Singh, who lives directly across the street from Burccoleri, has already experienced that problem. The red and blue sign marking the new bus stop sits almost directly in front of her home.
“I found people sitting on my front steps,” she explained. “They were waiting for a bus.”
The buses would also stop in front of Singh’s driveway, one of the few on that block, and she worries about whether or not she can access it if there is a bus picking up passengers. Even before the Q41 began running on 109th Avenue, she said people were treating her front stoop as a queuing area.
The placement of the bus stops is also an issue for the band of neighbors fighting the change. The Q41 has three stops between 111th and 116th streets, but then none to Lefferts Boulevard — three blocks away. The two stops on this narrow stretch of 109th Avenue take up as many as 10 parking spots; six on the eastbound side and up to four on the westbound.
Unsure of what else to do, Burccoleri and her neighbors put together a petition opposing the route change and looking for at least a dialogue with the MTA on possibly changing the locations of the stops. As of Tuesday, more than 100 people have signed the petition and Burccoleri said they would continue gathering signatures in the coming weeks. She said she hopes to pressure the MTA to consider changing the route entirely, but the agency rarely reverses changes unless they prove to make service worse.
In the meantime, however, the Q41 is stopping in front of Burccoleri’s house, her mother’s minivan is parked a distance away and problems are arising among the neighbors including arguments over parking.
“I’m very disgusted, to say the least,” she said.
For O’Neil, who has already gotten into arguments over parking with neighbors, the change may be the last straw. After 40 years, she’s looking at moving though she had planned to stay at least until her daughter graduates high school.
“Now I guess I have to put my house up for sale,” she said. “I’m done.”