Maspeth hosts Vision Zero community outreach meeting
by Jess Berry
Jul 09, 2014 | 5859 views | 0 0 comments | 127 127 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Executive director of Maspeth Town Hall Eileen Reilly at the Vision Zero town hall meeting at I.S. 73 in Maspeth.
Executive director of Maspeth Town Hall Eileen Reilly at the Vision Zero town hall meeting at I.S. 73 in Maspeth.
The auditorium at I.S. 73 got heated on Monday, June 30, as community residents brought up issues close to home at a Vision Zero public outreach meeting hosted by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley.

With representatives from DOT, Department of Education (DOE), 104th Precinct, Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) and Transportation Alternatives, Crowley explained that the purpose of the meeting was to give community members a platform to voice their opinions about specific and general traffic concerns in their neighborhoods.

“The heart of the approach is engagement with the communities,” Crowley said. “You know best and we want to hear from you what concerns you have, what ideas.”

The end goal of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative, and the numerous public outreach meetings that have come from it, is to have zero traffic-related injuries and fatalities in the City of New York.

So far, Crowley said, she believes the initiative has been working, citing that there has been a 30 percent decrease in traffic crashes resulting in deaths in the first four months of this year.

That has come from increased efforts both in terms of traffic reorganization — including lowering the city speed limit to 25 mph, increasing speed cameras and introducing arterial slow zones on major roadways — and in terms of enforcement.

Captain Christopher Manson from the 104th Precinct said that hazard summonses, which range from failure to yield to pedestrians to speeding, have increased 20 percent in the precinct so far this year.

“I think we’re doing the right job in the right place at the right time,” he said.

But not all community members agreed, with many listing both street-specific and citywide problems that need addressing.

Carol Terrano, a member of Community Board 2, pointed out that there are no stop signs or traffic devices to reduce speeding on 50th Ave. from 59th St. to 65th Pl.

When DOT Queens Borough Commissioner Dalila Hall said DOT would look into the issue, Terrano expressed her frustration over what she claimed is a general lack of action from DOT, amid applause from fellow community residents.

“Every time that I ask anything in our community from the Department of Transportation, it’s always, ‘no,’” she said.

“We get no cooperation from your agency, you don’t want to work with us. It’s a nightmare,” Terrano continued. “So it’s very, very difficult for me to sit here and be calm about it, because it makes me very, very upset. I don’t feel like we’re getting anywhere, and until someone gets killed on 50th Avenue, then we’ll get some action.”

Executive director of Maspeth Town Hall Eileen Reilly pointed out a speeding issue on 72nd St.

“Especially now that we’re looking into two classes of universal pre-K, we really need to make it a safe place,” she said.

Hall said DOT would have to go out on the street and use radar guns to make sure there was actually a speeding issue. Then they would have to look into whether or not a speed bump is feasible, because they must be a certain distance away from driveways and fire hydrants.

Another issue attendees brought up was trucks that do not use designated truck routes, and instead cut through neighborhoods.

Manson said that this year over 150 summonses had been issued for this exact problem. But, he said, he did not expect that to solve anything.

“It’s a neverending battle and I’m not going to lie to you, it’s going to continue to go on and on and on,” he said.

Others mentioned pedestrians and bicyclists who do not follow traffic signals, speeding on 74th St. near Maspeth High School, and traffic safety on both Queens and Woodhaven boulevards.

The hot-button issue of the evening, however, ended up being the conversion of 70th St. from 54th Ave. to Calamus Ave. into a one-way street.

This has been a long-contested and long-awaited change in the community, and one that was supposed to happen three years ago, according to Crowley.

She said over the years the project was delayed for weather-related reasons, but most recently was put on hold because, as she was told, “the community board changed their mind about the project and said they did not want it to happen.”

Hall explained that just before work on the project was going to begin over spring break of this year, “several residents of 70th Street contacted my office and said that they were not consulted, they were not supportive, they didn’t know this was going on.

“And it seemed like I was hearing mixed messages,” Hall said. “So because it didn’t seem to me that there was community support all the way around on this front, I wanted to have more discussion with the community, and that’s where we’re at right now.”

At this point, one resident stood up and explained that, as he understood it, there were only two people in the community that had expressed concerns over the project. Crowley agreed that this was not reason enough to cancel the street conversion.

“You’re never going to have 100 percent of one community agreeing to a traffic change,” she said. “So when does the DOT say, ‘This is happening because it’s for the safety of the street and not because the majority agrees that they want it.’”

Crowley added, compared to Middle Village and Glendale, Maspeth is not up to standard on its one-way streets.

“Maspeth has narrow streets, and in my opinion, there are too many two-way streets in Maspeth,” she said.

Crowley said her plan now is to follow up with Community Board 5 and continue to work on addressing the issue.
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