Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Businesses Hopeful for DOT Traffic Proposal by Bryan Yurcan - Queens Chronicle

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With the city Department of Transportation days away from starting work on a project designed to ease traffic on several intersections on Liberty Avenue and make them more pedestrian friendly, many area businesses and residents are taking a wait-and-see approach as to how effective the changes will be.

The DOT announced in June that it would implement several improvements to that area, specifically the complex Woodhaven Boulevard, Crossbay Boulevard, Rockaway Boulevard and Liberty Avenue intersection.

The DOT plans several major changes, including converting Liberty Avenue to a one-way eastbound street between 93rd Street and Cross Bay Boulevard, which will provide room for back-in angle parking spaces on that block.

A concrete barrier will also be placed along Cross Bay Boulevard to prevent Liberty Avenue traffic from crossing through the intersection. The northbound lane for left turns onto Rockaway Boulevard will be extended and signal timing will be adjusted to improve traffic flow.

Three transit loading zones, or “bus plazas,” will also be installed along Liberty Avenue: between 93rd and 94th streets and east of 96th Street on the north and south sides of Liberty Avenue

The DOT said the areas were selected both because they are pedestrian-oriented and rife with storefront commercial property. Also, the DOT said the changes are further based on complaints the agency received regarding congestion levels, parking problems, trucks being ticketed while loading and unloading and 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.

Several business owners in that area of Liberty Avenue said something does need to be done, but are reserving their judgement of the plan’s effectiveness until they see it in action.

Wayne Zanatta, one of the owners of Midway Cabinets Inc. said he liked the idea of extending the left turn lane onto Rockaway Boulevard. He also supported any plans to make the area safer for pedestrians.

However, Zanatta said he hoped the DOT would also consider changing Rockaway Boulevard and 96th Street from a no standing zone. Currently, signs indicate there is no standing allowed in that area between 4 and 7 p.m.

“That’s a big detriment to business, but a great revenue raiser for the city,” he said.

Zanatta said he plans on attending a Monday walkthrough the DOT has scheduled to get a better idea of the project.

Deen Idross, an employee of the neighboring business, Venice Carpet, also said removing the no standing signs would be the biggest thing the DOT could do to help area businesses.

“Customers are getting ticketed every day, it makes the businesses suffer,” he said.

Shenny, an employee of Liberty Florist who did want to give her last name, said the DOT improvements are long overdue.

“The traffic out here is scary, it’s been bad for a while” she said. “Hopefully these changes will make it better, but we’ll have to wait and see.”

Howard Kamph, president of the Ozone Park Civic Association, said “something had to be done” in the area, specifically to make it more safe for pedestrians.

“In the long run, if its safer for pedestrians and there’s less accidents, than it will certainly have been a worthwhile project,” he said.

Vishnu Mahadeo, president of the Richmond Hill Economic Development Corp., praised the DOT for reaching out to the Indo-Caribbean community in the area, which he says was ignored during the agency’s initial set of public meetings on the project.

“We were very open to working with them and giving our input,” Mahadeo said.

Betty Braton, the chairwoman of Community Board 10, said she was disappointed the DOT did not take into consideration the feedback proposed by the board.

Specifically, the board committee that reviewed the project expressed concerns with the back-in parking plan for 93rd Street and the concrete barrier that will close off traffic from Liberty Avenue to the intersection, and asked the agency to revise them. The DOT, however, is going ahead with its plans.

“We believed we had some good ideas, but we are not the traffic engineers, they are,” Braton said, while noting that the CB 10 committee that reviewed the plan did in fact contain one professional traffic engineer.