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Merrick Boulevard to get facelift after 20 years

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A 20-block stretch of Merrick Boulevard in Laurelton is getting a face-lift after about 20 years of disrepair, and community leaders gathered Monday to celebrate the project’s progress.

The project, an undertaking of the city Department of Transportation and funded by the state, includes repaving of the boulevard, which has been completed, as well as installing new traffic lights to brighten the street, which is expected to be finished in the fall.

The stretch of road from Springfield Boulevard to the Cross Island Parkway had not been paved since about 1980, and parts of the road were marked by potholes, said state Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-St. Albans) at the small ribbon-cutting ceremony at the corner of Merrick and Francis Lewis boulevards.

“It had been over 20 years since the roads were paved,” he said. “Not only was it unattractive, it was dangerous.”

Scarborough, in cooperation with state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) and City Councilman James Sanders, Jr. (D-Laurelton), approached the city DOT about the project last fall, and construction began in the spring, said Joseph Cannisi, the Queens commissioner of the city DOT. The project cost about $480,000 in state funds, Scarborough said.

The road resurfacing, a total of six miles when laid in a single lane of travel, has been completed, and the new traffic lights will be installed this fall along Merrick Boulevard from Baisley Boulevard to the Cross Island Parkway, Cannisi said.

“Every fixture will be taken down and replaced with new lights, new lamps, new lenses,” he said. “You’ll get a much better efficiency out of the lights.”

The area has been plagued by bad lighting, which has scared some shoppers away from the commercial strip, said Bess DeBetham, president of the Local Development Corporation of Laurelton, Rosedale and Springfield Gardens.

The strip, which extends for about 20 blocks, has supermarkets, drugstores and small retail stores.

“We want to see people out on Merrick Boulevard shopping,” she said. “We believe the new lights will bring people out here.”

The street repaving project grew out of the Local Development Corporation’s overall plan to stimulate business in the community, DeBetham said.

“The revitalization of Merrick Boulevard is part of our revitalization strategy for the community,” she said.

Scarborough added that the residents should both want to shop and be able to shop in their own neighborhood.

“We want this to continue to be a strong, vital community full of hardworking people,” Scarborough said. “We believe it needs a commercial shopping strip. This is a community that is on the rise.”

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 138.

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