After nearly two years of living what Ozone Park business owners called a nightmare, relief has arrived.
The city Department of Transportation announced last week it was once again making Liberty Avenue between 93rd Street and Cross Bay Boulevard two-way, reversing a decision to make it one-way in 2010, which shop owners said made business plummet.
“What happened today is very good,” Fabian Niaupari, owner of Terranova Bakery on Liberty Avenue, said on Tuesday, the first day that the city implemented the change.
Niaupari said he believes the traffic change will help draw customers back to the once-busy area —which he said is badly needed after his store’s business fell by about 45 percent once the city made Liberty Avenue one-way. Because of the drop, Niaupari had to lay off two workers.
“I didn’t want to, but I had to,” he said. “The city can’t want things like that either.”
While shop owners welcomed the city’s decision, they said they are disappointed the cement barrier at the end of Liberty Avenue by Cross Bay Boulevard has not been removed. The DOT has said the barrier, which bars cars from traversing Liberty across Cross Bay Boulevard, is needed to prevent accidents.
City officials emphasized that since the 2010 change, crashes at the intersection have dropped by 54 percent.
“If they want to enforce the law, they should put more cops and cameras out there, not a barrier,” said Madhu Patni, owner of Kalish Pharmacy, located at the corner of Liberty Avenue and Cross Bay.
Still, Patni said he is pleased with the city’s decision.
“Before, people didn’t know which way to go,” he said. “They didn’t know what to do.”
DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said in a prepared statement that the city is continuing to “work with local communities in Ozone Park to engineer streets that are better for business and improve the safety and mobility for everyone using them.”
Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) and state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) praised the city’s decision.
“DOT is making things right again,” Ulrich said. “Allowing two-way traffic along Liberty Avenue will boost small business there and offers drivers a more convenient commute in and around Ozone Park.”
Addabbo said he also hopes the barrier is removed.
“The concerns of the small businesses in the vicinity have been partly addressed, but I believe will not be fully addressed until Liberty Avenue is totally opened to traffic, once again,” he said.
Community Board 10 Chairwoman Betty Braton also said she breathed a sigh of relief to learn of the news.
The board “is pleased that DOT responded and that the community’s request can be accommodated without compromising the overall safety improvements made,” she said.