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Neighbor to Neighbor: SE Queens celebrates Merrick Blvd. face-lift

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Merrick Boulevard has changed a great deal since my generation took roots in southeast Queens. Its first constructed surface was concrete. Through the year, as sewers, pipes and a maze of wires were installed underground, the concrete was chopped up when repairs had to be made.

Eventually the repair procedures made maintenance of the concrete surface too expensive and time-consuming, so macadam took its place. Eventually that, too, needed a face-lift. Z-shaped black and white bricks created a distinct community identity through our crosswalks between Laurelton Parkway and Springfield Boulevard.

It was thought that repairs could be made easier and faster by removing and replacing those bricks. Eventually however, some of the bricks broke, and some, when replaced, were not level and too many finally disappeared completely.

In some areas, holes in the crosswalks, especially during heavy rain or a light covering of snow, made crossing Merrick Boulevard somewhat of a hazardous undertaking. I hope, if those who drive along Merrick Boulevard will cooperate by doing so carefully, that it will be safe to cross that heavily trafficked roadway again because a new resurfacing job has been completed.

The completion of this project was officially celebrated at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the northwest corner of Merrick Boulevard and Francis Lewis Boulevard. Improved lighting is to follow.

We, who live and/or work in Laurelton, Rosedale and Springfield Gardens are blessed to have legislators who are observant, cooperate with each other and are members of the community. While anxious for progress, they know that sometimes “progress” is not always properly defined, especially if improvements change the character of a community, introduce businesses deemed in excess of each other, or conflict with the mores of the community.

State Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-St. albans) conceived the plan to organize the Local Development Corporation of Laurelton, Rosedale and Springfield Gardens (LDC/LRS), with Bess DeBetham as chair. The LDC/LRS wish list included this large resurfacing job. Joseph Cannisi, Queens Borough commissioner for the Department of Transportation, smiled as he told us that if this smooth stretch of roadway had been a single lane, its equivalent would have stretched six miles.

“This project was very big. It cost well over $400,000,” he said.

Scarborough was responsible for getting that funding, as well as funding for new lighting. This effort is part of an extraordinarily cooperative program that includes state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans), City Councilman James Sanders, Jr. (D-Laurelton) and U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans), who could not attend the ribbon cutting since he had to be in Washington, D.C.

The legislators and their groups (the LDC/LRS and New Directions) are not only committed to seeing the businesses in their districts improved, but also want the area to have a new, pride-inspiring “face-lift.” They also are working on improving transportation, and have gotten cooperation from the Long Island Rail Road to fix the Rosedale, St. Albans and Laurelton stations.

Some, however, have said that they thought our legislator had neglected to include our very own Laurelton Station. Unfortunately, there is a lot to do and it cannot all be completed overnight.

Again, we learn that patience is a virtue. These improvement projects demand and deserve community cooperation. The malls in the middle of Merrick Boulevard were planted with attractive trees and bushes in heavy pots. Spring daffodils (memorials of Sept. 11 victims) and other flowers added the right colonial touch.

Reckless, negligent drivers have wrecked much of that and endangered our lives. Don’t say you weren’t warned if a system to catch and prosecute offenders is put into place.

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