At first glance, 84th Avenue does not look like a major thoroughfare. The shady, often curvy, residential block that meanders through Richmond Hill and Kew Gardens is barely wide enough to fit two cars at the same time and still have room for curbside parking.
But for people living in South Queens and trying to access the Grand Central Parkway, the Van Wyck Expressway and Queens civic buildings in Kew Gardens, 84th Avenue is a popular shortcut, a quick connection between South and Central Queens that drivers use to avoid congested thoroughfares like Lefferts Boulevard and Park Lane South.
At the request of some residents, the City Department of Transportation is eyeing a plan to eliminate the street’s two-way designation between Myrtle Avenue and Lefferts Boulevard and make it a one-way street heading eastbound.
On Sept. 11, Community Board 9 held its first public forum on the matter and more than a dozen residents of 84th Avenue appeared to speak. Their opinion of the plan was a unanimous thumbs down, leaving many to wonder where the request to change the traffic pattern came from.
“It’s going to turn this street into a speedway,” said 84th Street resident John Kennedy.
Right now cars are forced to drive slowly to maneuver around vehicles traveling in the opposite direction, but with no risk of oncoming traffic, neighbors fear that could be especially dangerous along the segment of 84th Avenue between 113th and 116th streets, where there are a number of blind curves, they say.
Some residents also doubt the change would control traffic using the street as a shortcut. Even though drivers would not be able to head back to Richmond Hill and South Queens neighborhoods along the street anymore, they could still head toward Kew Gardens along the road, which one resident said makes up the majority of the traffic.
“Most of the cars I see are heading for Lefferts [Boulevard],” she said.
Residents are also concerned about two group homes in the vicinity of 84th Avenue that could be affected by the change.
Kew Gardens Civic Association President Dominic Pistone called the change “a dumb idea,” and said he has not heard of anyone living on the block who wanted the change.
“No one I’ve talked to is in favor of it,” he said.
CB 9 Chairwoman Andrea Crawford said the idea did not come from the community board, but rather was proposed by unspecified community members who consider the street too narrow for cars going in both directions to pass each other safely, especially with the rising number of vehicles using the road.
The avenue is already a one-way east of Lefferts Boulevard, where traffic can only travel eastbound. There, 84th Avenue merges with 122nd Street and becomes Brevoort Street, crosses Metropolitan Avenue and ends at Cuthbert Road near the Kew Gardens LIRR station. The change would streamline traffic so that the street is one-way eastbound for its entire length from Myrtle Avenue to Brevoort Street. The entire street is residential with mostly unattached Victorian homes from Myrtle Avenue to 115th Street and a mix of apartment buildings and private homes through its Kew Gardens’ length.
CB 9 has not scheduled a vote on the plan as of yet, or even made any hint that there is support on the board for it. The DOT told the community board that it was seeking to do a study of the street to see if the one-way designation is warranted, something that residents opposed to the idea welcome.
“If the DOT wants to do a study, they can come and sit in my yard and see what is going on,” said George Madison, another resident of 84th Street.