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Queens Chronicle

CB 5 votes down proposed bus lane

DOT plan for Fresh Pond Road sees 28-6 count against at meeting

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Posted: Thursday, July 18, 2019 10:30 am

Community Board 5 voted 28-6 to reject a Department of Transportation plan for a bus lane on the southbound side of Fresh Pond Road from Bleecker Street to Putnam Avenue from 3 to 7 p.m. at last Wednesday’s meeting.

The board later voted in favor of the DOT analyzing alternatives, including retiming traffic lights and consolidating bus stops.

The board’s Transportation Committee previously voted in support of the bus lane project last month.

Before the vote was taken Wednesday, CB 5 member Kathy Masi mentioned the Woodhaven Boulevard bus lane.

“It works beautifully down at Cross Bay Boulevard,” she said. “But from where we are from Eliot Avenue up to maybe Myrtle or Jamaica Avenue, it’s a nightmare. It’s not what the DOT refers to as an ongoing construction project. It’s actually an accident waiting to happen ... So that’s why we’re very, very reluctant about DOT projects right now.”

Another member voiced concern that, “If you’re going to take away one side of the street parking it’s going to be impossible. Just because you’re adding on the side street, all you’re doing is taking away non-paid parking ... and those residents that would never otherwise park there, they’re losing those spots.”

CB 5 member Richard Huber spoke of its effect in Brooklyn, saying, “We were told that they had an entire 20 percent increase in traffic speed. Which means we go from 4 miles an hour to 5 miles an hour.”

He added sarcastically, “We’re going to be flying.”

A spokesperson for the DOT said, “We are disappointed by CB 5’s full board vote on DOT’s critical fix to transit and congestion issues along nine blocks on Fresh Pond Road that came despite their Transportation Committee’s previous vote in support of the project in June. The fact remains that cars, buses and first responders currently crawl southbound during late afternoon and early evening rush hour between Bleecker Street and 67th Ave. Buses currently move at 3 miles per hour — that’s slower than the average person walks. DOT’s design for this critical corridor will make traveling faster for all users, while creating a net gain of metered parking and additional loading zones to support the vitality of local businesses. It’s a win for businesses and especially a win for the 30,000 daily bus riders using this route and countless motorists heading to this commercial corridor and local neighborhoods.”

Days before the vote, Councilman Bob Holden (D-Middle Village) wrote to the DOT requesting the organization suspend its plans for the bus lane.

“After meeting with the DOT Queens Borough staff on multiple occasions and hearing from the small business owners and residents of Fresh Pond Road, I believe this bus lane proposal has been rushed into existence rather than first implementing less drastic traffic-calming measures,” he wrote.

Holden said when he first learned of the proposal in April he requested a walkthrough of the location and that during the walkthrough and a subsequent meeting at the DOT Queens Borough headquarters he made suggestions including eliminating select parking spots in bottleneck areas, widening the lanes by the bus depot, adding turning lanes at select intersections, synchronizing the traffic lights, consolidating bus stops and working with the local precinct to increase enforcement of parking violations.

“These are simple measures that should be taken first to see if they have the desired effect on traffic flow,” Holden wrote. “If after one year these changes do not produce the desired outcome, then we can consider implementing a bus lane with more limited hours.”

Holden said if the bus lane must be installed he suggests reducing the hours of operation from 4 to 7 p.m.

According to the lawmaker, he met with Fresh Pond business owners, residents and the DOT Queens Borough staff on July 8 and the group was resoundingly opposed with the primary concern being the elimination of parking in front of stores during bus lane operation hours.

“This could be detrimental to dozens of small businesses and consumers that are already facing hardships,” he wrote.

Early in Wednesday’s meeting, CB 5 district manager Gary Giordano said, “Yes, we are advisory but to be honest with you there aren’t too many times where we haven’t gotten our way because we make sure that we are as correct as we possibly can with regard to any matters that we are making recommendations on.”

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