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Douglaston LIE project angers residents

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The work to reshape the interchange between the Long Island Expressway and the Cross Island Parkway and to replace several overpasses in the area was in the preliminary stages this week.

Many residents at the Douglaston Civic Association's meeting at the Community Church of Douglaston Nov. 15 expressed ire over what they claimed was a lack of publicity about the project.

But civic association's president, Elliott Socci, said information about the project has been available from his group and other sources, such as Community Board 11, for several years.

"We've been aware of this for five years," he said. "Every meeting had information or an update on the project."

Socci said the group would consider having similar meetings throughout the project to keep the community informed about the work.

The $112 million proposal was conceived as an alternative plan by the state when northeast Queens residents and politicians protested the idea of widening the LIE for High Occupancy Vehicle lanes in 1996. State Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) was a major architect of the project.

Socci said his civic - which has long complained of being shut out of the decision-making process during the design stages of the project - would seek to become part of any further meetings between Community Board 11, local politicians and the state Department of Transportation about the work.

The group also requested and got a closing of the 248th Street exit off the LIE service road during the construction period. The street, which still provides an entrance to the expressway, featured a sharp turn that some residents described as dangerous.

The LIE project will include: the permanent shutdown of the Douglaston Parkway exit on the LIE; the buildup of West Alley Road to handle traffic that would have used Exit 31; the addition of 12 acres of park land to Alley Pond Park; and work on LIE overpasses at Marathon, Little Neck, and Douglaston Parkways.

The project coincides with the state's effort to extend the HOV lanes on the LIE throughout Long Island and into Queens. The HOV lanes will terminate at the county line and a half-mile long exit ramp was expected to be created at the city line to handle the additional traffic.

As Douglaston residents crowded around diagrams and aerial shots of the parkway interchange last Wednesday night, engineers from the state Department of Transportation were peppered with questions about the reconstruction project.

Residents leaving the meeting - most of whom were angry about the loss of Exit 31 - voiced concerns on how the project would affect school traffic, emergency vehicle access to the area, and local businesses.

"I'm not very happy," said Howard Rosenstrauch of Douglaston. "It's going to be a nightmare for a full two years."

Kathy Pilosi of Douglaston said "it's a big waste of our taxpayer dollars. It's just going to make it worse."

Socci said "80 to 90 percent of the project is bridges. In the past they've done many of the bridges west of the Cross Island Parkway - now it's simply our turn."

As they left the civic meeting last week, some people directed a part of their anger toward Padavan for orchestrating the project, and others questioned why he was absent from the gathering.

Socci said he asked Padavan not to attend the civic meeting.

"The goal of the meeting was to give information about what's happening now," he said "not to focus on the past or the HOV lanes."

Anyone with questions or concerns about the project can call a community outreach hotline at 718-997-0918.

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