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Beep suggests Jitney for Queens mall

“I think we have to...

By Jennifer Warren

Worsening traffic at Queens Center Mall has prompted Borough President Claire Shulman to consider a Jitney shuttle service to transport shoppers to and from the congested area, she said Tuesday  at the Queens Borough cabinet meeting.

“I think we have to get dramatic about this. We need proposals that are non-traditional because the traditional ones don’t seem to work very well,” Shulman said as the borough commissioners discussed the expansion of the Queens Boulevard mall and anticipated traffic increase.

The mall is located west of the Long Island Expressway north of Queens Boulevard, which has been the site of recent police and city Department of Transportation crackdowns following the deaths of more than 70 pedestrians since 1993.

Traffic congestion is the result of many competing factors including double-parked livery cars, jaywalking shoppers, St. John’s Hospital employees, and area construction, said Deputy Inspector Anthony Mullen of the 110th Police Precinct.

Traffic around the mall is expected to increase during the coming year when a new 18-screen cineplex, an Outback Steak House and a Target department store are scheduled to open on the site.

“We’re suffering from riches,” Shulman said, noting that the Queens Center mall takes in more revenue per square foot than any other mall in the country.

The borough president said the problem she and her commissioners face is reducing traffic without discouraging customers.

But others, including Community Board 6 District Manager Kathleen Reilly who represents the Forest Hills and Rego Park communities, cited the dangers involved with such commercial expansion and traffic gridlock.

She described one 45-minute ordeal in which she navigated around one block of the area that had bumper-to-bumper immobile cars.

“My concern is if somebody has a heart attack or a fire, nothing could have gotten through unless by foot,” Reilly said.

Rose Rothschild, district manager for Community Board 4, which covers Elmhurst and Corona, also expressed concern that too many officers from the 110th Police Precinct were diverted to the mall for traffic enforcement and patrol.

“Why should all of our people be on Queens Boulevard? If somebody hits us on the head, there’s no police because they’re all on Queens Boulevard.”

Mullen agreed that many of his officers were assigned to the boulevard. The deputy inspector also displayed a map indicating the frequency of summonses issued in the mall area — 5,200 since the beginning of February. But he noted that it was not a trouble spot in terms of crime.

“Most of my crime is not on Queens Boulevard,” he said, adding that the boulevard traffic problem “takes away the resources” from the rest of the area.

Another suggestion Shulman proposed to ease traffic was to have shoppers park their cars at the nearby 63rd Drive G/R subway station in Rego Park and travel one stop by train to get to the mall.

Reach reporter Jennifer Warren by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 155.

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