The city Department of Transportation is looking at a request for pedestrian plazas in Ozone Park along the Queens-Brooklyn border and some community members are wondering where the support is for them in our borough.
The proposed plazas, which were discussed at a public meeting last week in Ozone Park, would include all of a small section of Drew Street, which straddles the borough border, between Liberty and 101st avenues, and the eastbound side of 101st Avenue between Drew and 75th streets. They would be constructed near the V-shaped intersection of 101st and Liberty avenues at the borough line.
The plazas, proposed by a Brooklyn group based a few blocks from the site called the Bangladeshi-American Community Development and Youth Service, are a change from an earlier proposal to build one along Liberty Avenue west of Drew and Forbell streets in East New York on the Brooklyn side of the border. The new design would include a 16,000-square-foot section including the one-block spur of the eastbound side of 101st Avenue, entirely in Queens, and the small section of Drew Street that straddles the border.
The plans would close the small section of Drew Street to all traffic and the one-block spur of 101st Avenue to eastbound traffic. Cars heading east on Liberty Avenue into Queens could only access 101st Avenue by making the left two blocks farther down.
The DOT said the plazas are being proposed because the area around the intersection, which includes a mostly concrete triangle, is void of any usable open space and the plazas would add some green space to the area. The department also says the effect on traffic would be minimal because the stretch of Drew Street being affected serves an average of 79 cars an hour, while the 101st Avenue spur serves only an average of 33 vehicles an hour. Other pedestrian plazas in the city have been built on streets serving 10 times that number. Eleven parking spots would be eliminated on 101st Avenue for the project.
Community Board 9 District Manager Mary Ann Carey said the executive board members will meet with DOT Queens Commissioner Dalila Hall this week on the proposed plazas, and the agency is expected to appear before the entire board next month.
Carey said she has not seen much support for the project on the Queens side.
“We have a process that includes people giving us signatures and notices that they want pedestrian plazas,” she said. “But we haven’t gotten any of that.”
She said the original proposal for Liberty Avenue on the Brooklyn side was killed in part because of community opposition there after a meeting that was held in May, and the Queens proposal came to CB 9 by surprise this month.
“You can’t have someone come out of the blue and propose this without the community knowing about it,” Carey added.
At least two members of CB 9 said they did not even know the proposal had been changed to include streets on the Queens side until last week.
But Darma Diaz, the chief operating officer for BACDYS, said her group proposed the plazas to improve the quality of life in the community.
“We don’t have enough community space,” she explained. “We are also trying to create a safety net. Right now people congregate on the corners and don’t have a good place to gather.”
The Bangladeshi-American population in both East New York section of Brooklyn and Ozone Park along the border has exploded in recent years, in a community that had been plagued by a notoriously high crime rate. Crime has dropped as of late and new stores, many operated by Bangladeshi-Americans, have opened on both sides of the border.
“We were thinking that this was under-utilized space and perhaps this would improve our BID and have a place for our community to congregate,” Diaz added.
She also said the original plans for the plaza on the Brooklyn-side along Liberty Avenue were scrapped because the DOT and BACDYS saw more promise along Drew Street and 101st Avenue, where a big triangle already exists.
Carey said CB 9 would look at the proposal and take it into consideration. The board’s liaison with the Bangladeshi community on the project — Woodhaven resident David Adorno — is still in the hospital recovering from severe injuries he sustained in a motorcycle accident.
“We’ll see what happens,” she said.
Diaz said she felt optimistic after last week’s meeting, even with some residents expressing opposition to the plan.