ALMOST DONE, BUT MUCH MORE TO DO
CB 5 Committees Review Cooper Ave. Work
Though the Cooper Avenue underpass reconstruction project is nearing an end, there is some unfinished business which will remain once the crews have wrapped up their duties, members of Community Board 5’s Transportation and Public Transit committees were informed during their meeting last Thursday, Mar. 26, at the board’s Glendale office.
Board 5 Chairperson Vincent Arcuri reviewed updated plans sent by the city’s Department of Design and Construction (DDC) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) the project, which involved renovations of the retaining walls on both sides of the underpass between 74th and 79th streets on the Glendale/Middle Village border. Work on the eastbound side wall was completed last fall, and Arcuri projected that the completion of the westbound side wall was imminent.
Once that wall is finished, the chairperson noted, crews will begin the process of constructing wider sidewalks on both sides of the street. When finished, the roadbed itself will be much narrower, with just one lane of traffic in each direction divided by a double-yellow line.
Committee members expressed concerns about the new configuration, citing a previous history of accidents at the location when both sides of Cooper Avenue were separated only by yellow lines. Arcuri noted that the number of accidents prompted the city DOT to paint a striped safety zone in the middle of the roadway, providing space for passing vehicles.
Other panel members suggested that the two-lane configuration would also make the road potentially impassible should a vehicular breakdown or accident occur.
But the project left out segments of the retaining walls directly below the two overpasses which carry the Long Island Rail Road’s Montauk branch and a service road above Cooper Avenue, Arcuri stated. Repairs to the staircase leading into the underpass from 71st Street were also excluded, he added.
The chairperson said board members have filed a budget request with the city seeking funds to complete the omitted renovations.
Arcuri also reviewed traffic control changes made to portions of Cooper Avenue between 73rd Place and 80th Street leading into the un- derpass. He noted the DOT followed the board’s suggestions in creating a new crosswalk at the corner of 73rd Place and Cooper Avenue, as well as related striping to help better manage traffic flow and turning vehicles.
However, Arcuri stated, many ideas the board presented have yet to be followed, including keeping 74th Street between 78th and Cooper avenues in Glendale as a one-way road for southbound traffic. As previously reported, the DOT wants to convert the street into a northbound roadway once the underpass project is completed, but local businesses and residents complained it would add to congestion on 73rd Place and eliminate an outlet for drivers seeking to turn away from Cooper Avenue in the even the underpass becomes impassible.
Committee member Richard Huber added that the conversion would also make it impossible for trucks to safely enter his business, which is located on a dead-end portion of the Cooper Avenue service road near 74th Street.
Other suggestions previously made by the board which, according to Arcuri, were not carried out were the installation of a crosswalk and traffic signal at the corner of Cooper Avenue and 79th Street (adjacent to the entrance to a new athletic complex and restaurant) and two new left turn lanes at the corner of Cooper Avenue and 80th Street (near The Shops at Atlas Park).
Other project updates
The board has received conflicting news regarding the status of the long-awaited reconstruction of streets in southern Middle Village, Arcuri told the committees.
The project, as previously reported, involves the reconstruction of roadbeds and installation of new sewer and water lines on streets in an area of Middle Village bounded by Metropolitan Avenue, 80th Street, Cooper Avenue, the LIRR Montauk Branch and 73rd Place.
Arcuri said the board was previously told that the start of construction was going to be delayed, but officials at Queens Borough Hall indicated the project could begin in 2014. As of last Tuesday’s meeting, he noted, the board had yet to receive an update from the city DOT.
Meanwhile, plans for the replacement of the Grand Street Bridge on the Maspeth/East Williamsburg border appear to be off the table until at least 2020, Arcuri said. The board recently learned that the design process has been stopped.
“It seems we’re the only people interested in getting that bridge done,” he said, indicating that the board has yet to hear from neighboring Brooklyn Community Board 1 about its feelings on the project.
The reconstruction of Wyckoff Avenue between Flushing and Cooper avenues on the Brooklyn/Queens border in Ridgewood has also been delayed indefinitely. Arcuri said the board is reaching out to local elected officials in an attempt to reignite interest in getting the project underway.
Turning to mass transit, improvements to M train stations in Ridgewood and Bushwick are well underway, according to Public Transit Committee Co-Chair John Maier. Construction is in progress at the Seneca Avenue and Fresh Pond Road stations, while repairs at the Knickerbocker Avenue station have been completed.
The Central Avenue station in Bushwick is now closed through August as MTA crews completely renovate the stop. Maier noted, however, it appears improvements have yet to begin at the Forest Avenue station.
Play streets, bike racks
Following a presentation at Board 5’s March meeting regarding the city’s “Play Streets” program, Arcuri noted, the board received a request from residents on Doran Avenue between 88th and 89th streets in Glendale to have the block participate in the initiative.
Arcuri said the application requested that the block be closed to vehicular traffic seven days a week between noon and 6 p.m. No time frame was specified on the request, though the Play Streets program is known to take place primarily during July and August.
If approved by the city DOT, the Department of Health and the Police Department, the applicants would be authorized to close the block for the designated times to allow youngsters open space to play.
Arcuri stated the board would request further details from Doran Avenue residents about the request. Before the board considers it, he noted, a public hearing would be held at an upcoming Board 5 meeting.
Members of the panel also debated the merits of having bicycle racks installed along roadways around the board’s confines. According to a list published by the DOT, there are presently 113 racks scattered around Board 5’s confines.
On some streets, Arcuri noted, there are about two racks per block. He questioned if there were enough bicyclists in the area to warrant that many. Maier, however, countered that two on a block were “not all that much.”
A local resident in attendance, Pat Mullen, observed “if you build it, they will come,” noting that among avid bicyclists, a lack of racks near their workplace is a top complaint.
Arcuri said that the committee would examine the issue further and report back at a later date.
Traffic safety requests
Committee members agreed to ask the DOT to consider installing a traffic signal at the corner of Myrtle Avenue and 71st Place and daylighting (no standing regulations) at the northeast corner of Union Turnpike and 88th Street, both of which are in Glendale. They also agreed to request a new traffic control device at the corner of Flushing Avenue and 63rd Street.
The next meeting of Community Board 5’s Transportation and Public Transit committees is scheduled to take place on Tuesday night, Apr. 23, at 7:30 p.m. at the board’s Glendale office, located at 61-23 Myrtle Ave. For additional information, call 1-718-366-1834.