Monday, June 14, 2010

Liberty Avenue is the Focus of DOT Study by Lisa Fogarty - Queens Chronicle

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The Department of Transportation will focus on key intersections throughout Ozone Park and Richmond Hill. Photo DOT

Its name may not have been sullied with a foreboding moniker like the Queens “Boulevard of Death,” but Liberty Avenue’s congested and often dangerous corridors have raised enough concern to press the Department of Transportation to take action.

Agency officials held a public meeting at the Lefferts Library in Richmond Hill Monday evening to gather feedback about a new study it has proposed to improve mobility and safety along eight key Liberty Avenue intersections. The meeting took place just days after DOT presented to Community Board 10 members a more detailed proposal for the Woodhaven Blvd./Crossbay Blvd./Rockaway Blvd. and Liberty Avenue intersection and Rockaway Boulevard from Atlantic Avenue to Sutphin Boulevard

The corridor of focus at Monday’s meeting includes intersections at Woodhaven Boulevard, 96th Street, 111th Street, Lefferts Boulevard, 123rd Street, 132nd/133rd Streets/103rd Avenue and two on either side of the Van Wyck Expressway.

The areas were selected both because they are pedestrian-oriented and rife with storefront commercial property, as well as based on complaints DOT received regarding congestion levels, parking problems, trucks being ticketed while loading and unloading, a history of crashes and transit issues — the elevated A train runs above the majority of these intersections and
myriad buses cross paths along the route.

DOT is only in the preliminary stages of identifying issues and collecting data about the area and plans to hold a public walk-through within the next few months. Unlike at the CB 10 meeting, the agency didn’t offer specific ideas for changes that could be implemented along the corridor, but rather welcomed suggestions from the 30 or so community members in attendance.

“We’re not talking about solutions now; we’re gathering information for future processes,” said Andrew Lenton, project manager at DOT. Lenton added that the agency would consider what the area will be like in 10 years without changes, taking into account anticipated congestion from the creation of a racino at Aqueduct.

CB 10 Chairwoman Betty Braton suggested DOT add residential 107th Avenue to the areas it will study, saying many drivers use it as a bypass to Liberty Avenue. “The avenue is not as wide in certain areas,” Braton said. “There are a lot of parking issues and peripheral issues that are traffic-related.”

Nearby 103rd Avenue was also cited as a congested road often used as an alternative to Liberty Avenue. The intersection of Lefferts Boulevard and Liberty Avenue, which DOT said was the most problematic, was the focus of longtime resident Robert Naegele’s concerns.

“Three thousand people get off that A train at rush hour and scurry across every which way to catch buses,” Naegele said. “There probably should be a bridge above the street or some redesign of the subway. When they designed that intersection and subway back in the 1920s, they didn’t have as many people.”

But the majority of public input didn’t center on staggered T-intersections, but rather on a pervading feeling among some Richmond Hill residents that their largely Indo-Caribbean community was not being consulted about proposed changes.

“It behooves you to reach out to the community — this is not the community,” said Vishnu Mahadeo, president of the Richmond Hill Economic Development Council. “Community Board 10 can only do so much. They are not reflective of our community.”

Mahadeo, who said residents of Indo-Caribbean backgrounds were not notified about Monday’s meeting — though Braton countered that she personally sent out notices — said the neighborhood rarely gets the attention and services it needs. If DOT and the Metropolitan Transit Authority want to endear themselves to residents, Mahadeo suggested satisfying their immediate needs and installing an elevator on the A train to assist the elderly.

A Census 2010 volunteer also cautioned DOT not to take the Census population data in Richmond Hill at face value because many residents did not return their forms.

“When you’re looking at congestion you have to look at the numbers and then add to the numbers,” Braton added.

Residents have until July 15 to submit comments to DOT about the Liberty Avenue project through its website: