After years of fighting to get 168th Street, which runs in front of JMC, converted to a one-way street, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has finally responded to grant their wish from Gothic Drive to Highland Avenue.
One glance at the street after a service at JMC explains why this has been such an important issue to community members for the past five years.
Every Friday, thousands of worshippers fill the center and spill out onto the sidewalk. Once the service is over, those worshippers file out into the narrow street, as cars try to make their way through the crowd from each direction.
“This unique combination of speeding drivers and thousands of pedestrians is a tragedy waiting to happen,” Assemblyman David Weprin said.
He and Councilman Rory Lancman, along with Congresswoman Grace Meng, have been working to change the street to a one-way for years.
Mazeeda Uddin, the Women’s Chairman of the Alliance of South Asian American Labor (ASAAL), was one of the key players in getting the street converted.
“It finally happened!” Uddin said. “When I heard this, I was crying.”
Efforts were given an extra boost after 16-year-old Mahmudur Sarkar, a student at JMC, was struck by a car and critically injured on April 21 in front of the center.
“The decision to convert 168th Street into a one-way street is long overdue,” Meng said. “As we applaud the extension of this one-way, zone, we continue to send our thoughts and prayers to Mahmudur Sarkar and his family.”
The decision may be later than hoped for, but action must now be taken quickly, members of JMC said. With Ramadan beginning on June 28, up to 5,000 worshippers are expected to attend services at JMC every single night.
“Jamaica Muslim Center is one of the flagship Islamic institutions of Queens County and this city, and we see a large number of people coming every day throughout that month,” one member said. “And so we have to make sure that there’s some relief coming soon. Anything that can be done during the month to alleviate any concerns that we have would also be appreciated.”