Two boros unite in bid to remove plaza 1

The pedestrian plaza along 101st Avenue on the Brooklyn-Queens border was unused last Friday around noon. Business owners in both boroughs have been calling for its removal, saying it has caused fewer people to visit their stores because of a lack of parking.

There is one thing that is uniting business owners in Queens and in Brooklyn on 101st Avenue: their disdain of the pedestrian plaza at the intersection of 101st Avenue and Drew Street, which sits on the border of the two boroughs.

“What’s the purpose of this?” said Khairul Islam, a real estate broker whose Brooklyn office sits a block away from the plaza. “I don’t know any people who are benefiting from this.”

Islam was pointing to the plaza, which on a bright and relatively warm November afternoon was unused by pedestrians in the area.

“People don’t feel safe sitting there,” he said. “They’re afraid a car is going to come by and hit them.”

But Islam’s main concern is not the under-utilization of the plaza, but its effect on his business.

“This is destroying the businesses,” Islam said. “This isn’t a benefit.”

The construction of the plaza required the removal of several parking spots along 101st Avenue and turned the corridor into a one-way street.

Islam said dozens of his customers have complained about a lack of parking along the street, resulting in them having to circle around the block to find a place to leave their cars.

On the other side of the Brooklyn-Queens border, Ozone Park Discount Variety and Hardware co-owner Hasib Ali echoed Islam’s comments, saying his business of 30 years is “suffering.”

“We are not surviving,” Ali said. “What we need is parking back. Not this.”

Other business owners in Ozone Park joined Ali in saying their longevity in the community is being threatened by the plaza.

“It’s no good for our people,” one business owner said. “I want everything to be open.”

News that the pedestrian plaza will be reduced by year’s end, according to Department of Transportation officials, was met with criticism by the business owners.

“I think it should be completely removed,” Islam said.

The DOT said in an email that it would bring back metered parking along 101st Avenue, but still leave a portion of the plaza and not return the road to its original two-way status.

Installation of the plaza was proposed by Brooklyn-based nonprofit Bangladeshi American Community Development and Youth Services, which also pays for the maintenance of the site.

Misba Abdin, the chief executive officer of BACDYS, said in response to the business owners’ comments that the pedestrian plaza is “actually one of the only positive things about the area” and criticized the business owners, many of whom, he claims, don’t live in Ozone Park or Brooklyn.

“Not all of them live in the neighborhood,” he said. “A lot of people like the plaza.”

Abdin, in contrast to other people’s comments, said the plaza is extremely popular and claimed that at certain times during the summer months it can be hard to find a place to sit down.

“By eight, nine o’clock you can barely find an open spot,” he said.

He also accused business owners of having their customers sign a petition to remove the plaza, without telling them what they were signing.

“I can bring thousands of people who support it,” he said.

He said that, as of right now, he would not support the removal of the plaza.

Islam said he and other business owners have gone to Community Board 9 in Queens and Community Board 5 in Brooklyn, urging their members to advocate for the removal of the plaza.

Community Board 9 members at previous meetings have expressed mixed opinions on the plaza, with some calling for its removal while others have said it should stay in the area.

Islam said he wanted to see City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), whose district stretches into Brooklyn, work with the business owners and restore parking to the area.

He accused the Republican lawmaker of taking sides in the battle between the business owners and BACDYS.

“I don’t think he should be taking political sides,” Islam said.

Ulrich did not return requests for comments by press time.

(1) comment


Problem: Plaza is under-used because people are afraid of cars.
Solution: Lets bring more cars back.

Did I get that right?

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