Concerns about traffic congestion and maintaining green space highlighted the Community Board 2 meeting on Monday night, as city agencies presented a plan for renovating a mile-long stretch of Jackson Avenue in Long Island City.
Representatives from the Department of City Planning, Metropolitan Transportation Authority and New York City Transit presented the plan to make Jackson Avenue more pedestrian-friendly from 21st Street in the west to Queens Plaza in the north.
As the neighborhood transitions from industrial to residential, the population is expected to double in the next decade, according to Community Board Chairman Joseph Conley.
“We’re creating a tree corridor with lighting,” said Landscape Architect Noriko Maeda. “We’re also putting in more seating and more pedestrian-friendly medians.”
The 2-foot-high medians, ranging from 6-feet to 17-feet wide, would help reduce illegal left turns and U-turns, Maeda said. Before, there were two lanes of traffic and one lane for parking, Conley noted. The plans would change that lane into a turning lane.
The design of the streetscape will continue through the end of the year, and is scheduled for 18 months of construction beginning in early 2008, Maeda said.
In a coordinated plan, the MTA would move subway vents from the sidewalk to the median, making sidewalks more pedestrian-friendly and improving subway safety in the event of a fire.
The three to six months of vent construction is scheduled to begin in mid-2008, according to New York City Transit Design Manager Mahesh Patel.
At the same time, Queens Plaza will be rebuilt and the MTA is planning to construct a street-level connection for disabled people between the G and E trains.
Although residents welcomed safer vehicle turning and more greenery, they were still skeptical of the plans.
“I think the presentation is a pie-in-the-sky,” said Bernard Wolff, 76, a 35-year resident of Long Island City. “If the widened median isn’t maintained, it’ll be a disaster.”
The trees would be watered by a maintenance crew, and the Department of City Planning is negotiating with the Long Island City Business Improvement District to come up with a contract, Maeda said.
“Though more greenery sounds good, going from three lanes to two lanes is a concern,” said Frank DiStefano, 64, a 13-year resident of Long Island City.
But officials disagreed. The plan is based on a traffic study done this year, and projected 10 years into the future, Maeda said.
“There’s nothing bad about this proposal except for the street in front of Dyke’s Lumber, which unloads trucks at rush hour,” Conley said. “It’s about improving safety and traffic, and adding greenery.”
Although no further public hearings are required, City Planning will present revised plans at the next community board meeting, on Thursday, Sept. 6. They will then send a letter to the city Arts Commission, followed by a final submission.