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DOT faces local anger on Queens Blvd. meters

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City Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall and Borough President Claire Shulman met with 30 western Queens community board leaders and elected officials last week to soothe tensions following the early stages of metered parking along Queens Boulevard.

“If indeed this plan doesn’t work for a variety of reasons, we will gladly revisit it. If it doesn’t work we will stop it,” said Department of Transportation spokesman Tom Cocola.

The project, which the DOT expects to complete around June 18, calls for converting two lanes of service road traffic into more than 300 metered parking spaces in both eastbound and westbound service lanes of Queens Boulevard.

At the closed-door meeting held last Thursday, DOT officials agreed not to install parking near slip-on and slip-off ramps between the central and service lanes. Also discussed was the elimination of meters in front of the St. John’s Hospital outpatient facility and area funeral homes, said borough president spokesman Dan Andrews.

Residents were outraged that the city agency would initiate a dramatic reshaping of their roadway without first holding public hearings.

DOT’s Cocola said the public slight was regrettable but unplanned.

“Unfortunat­ely, we showed the program initially to the mayor, then we were asked to show it to the Queens borough president. Somehow the information leaked to information outlets and then boom,” he said.

Cocola said the agency had planned for a mid-April presentation to area community boards. But even a presentation, he said, would not have sought approval or disapproval but provided notification of upcoming plans to residents.

Joe Hennessy, chairman of Community Board 6, who attended the session with Weinshall, Shulman and other officials, said that adding meters to the roadway would only make it more congested for neighborhood residents who are the most likely to use the outer lanes.

“We feel that it’s only local people who use the service roads in our community. They [DOT] maintain their figures show differently,” Hennessy said.

Officials from the DOT expect the parking spaces to slow traffic in the central lanes of Queens Boulevard, a seven-mile stretch of roadway running from Astoria to Jamaica that is 12 lanes wide at some points.

Queens Boulevard is one of the most dangerous roadways for pedestrians in the city. Since 1993 more than 70 people have been killed on the boulevard.

“Hopefully, it will be successful,” Hennessy said of the DOT project. “They’re the experts but sometimes what works on paper doesn’t work in reality.”

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

Posted 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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