Residents slam traffic change plan at forum 1

Alex Blenkinsopp, of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association, and Queens DOT Commissioner Maura McCarthy address a crowd of more than 150 people at a public forum on the city’s proposal to change traffic patterns on two streets.

After last week’s contentious meeting during which numerous residents condemned the city’s proposal to redirect traffic on two streets in Woodhaven and Ozone Park, Community Board 9 members are expected to table their upcoming vote on whether or not to approve the controversial plan.

“There will probably be a motion to put it over to March, instead of doing it at the February meeting” said CB 9 District Manager Mary Ann Carey.

The board had been slated to vote at its January meeting on the city Department of Transportation’s proposal to change 84th Street in Woodhaven from one-way northbound to one-way southbound from Liberty to Atlantic avenues and convert 89th Avenue in Ozone Park from a two-way to a one-way street running eastbound between Woodhaven Boulevard and 97th Street, but pushed back the decision following an outcry about the plan from an irate group of residents.

Queens DOT Commissioner Maura McCarthy and more than 150 people attended a public forum on the matter at St. Elizabeth’s Churcg in Ozone Park last Wednesday night. The Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association requested the meeting because many individuals said they hadn’t been able to sufficiently learn about the plan, nor voice opinions on it in public.

“If we close off these streets, we might as well isolate the two communities forever,” Maria Thomson, a CB 9 member and executive director of the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation, said in reference to Woodhaven and Ozone Park.

Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association President Ed Wendell agreed.

“These two communities have a relationship that depends on them being able to cross a border,” he said. “…We’re proposing to close a door, and it’s not going to help these communities.”

Many of the residents attending the forum said they believed it was unfair that CB 9 would vote on the matter during its Feb. 14 meeting because it is being held in Kew Gardens, not in the impacted communities. Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) urged CB 9 to delay its vote until March, when affected residents could more easily attend the meeting.

“With such a large outpouring of community opposition, it is hard to see how these plans can continue as proposed,” Miller write in a Feb. 2 letter to Carey.

McCarthy emphasized that while the city proposed the traffic changes, it did so in response to requests from the community board.

“The DOT is not going to implement this over the rejection of the community,” McCarthy said. “We only do that if it’s a safety issue.”

“We get suggestions from one person, ten people, a hundred people,” McCarthy continued.“We investigate it. We go back to the community board, and the community board canvasses the community and takes a vote.”

However, when Alex Blenkinsopp, WRBA’s communication director, asked if any residents in the audience had been canvassed by CB 9, no one came forward.

“In that case, commissioner, it seems like perhaps the canvassing needs to be redone and the proposal should be retracted by DOT,” Blenkinsopp said.

Carey emphasized that the board works hard to reach out to its residents, saying it has a “mailing list of over 900 individuals.”

Sam Esposito, a CB 9 member, said the board had not gotten any requests from residents to change the traffic direction on 84th Street.

“It was only done at the request of Boston Market,” Esposito said. “No resident asked for this.”

Boston Market did not respond to a request for comment.

Vance Barbour, also of the WRBA, said if the board does end up approving it, and the city greenlights the plan, the DOT will be flooded with complaints.

“There will be a whole bunch of people suggesting to DOT that we reverse these changes,” Barbour said.

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