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Queens Plaza, park seawall to get new federal funding

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The complicated tangle of roadways that converge in Queens Plaza and a crumbling sea wall in Queensbridge Park have both been targeted for improvements with funding allocated by the federal government last month.

U.S. Reps. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) and Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) together secured $2.5 million for the construction of new roadway designs in Queens Plaza, which were developed as part of the city Department of City Planning's Queens Plaza Bicycle and Pedestrian Improvement Project.

The congressional representatives also obtained $100,000 to finance a study of the structural integrity of an East River sea wall in Queensbridge Park, funding they pledged last summer in a press conference at the park.

The money for both Long Island City projects comes as part of the latest federal budget adopted by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush.

The Queens Plaza funding allows the city to move forward with a long-term effort to spruce up the neighborhood where the Queensboro Bridge touches down, an area the city has targeted for development as a new central business district.

"The goal of the project, redesigning Queens Plaza, will ease traffic congestion and improve air quality conditions along the plaza," Crowley said in a release. "The rebuilding of the plaza will encourage residents to use the convenient mass transit trains and buses and other alternate forms of transportation such as bicycling and walking by improving the pedestrian environment and creating bike lanes."

The new road schemes were designed in a planning phase financed by a previously awarded $2 million federal grant, which is also funding the design of aesthetic streetscape improvements like lighting and sidewalk plantings from the East River to Van Dam Street.

But the city had been waiting on the latest funding to put the shovel to the ground and begin construction on the roads, which are being reconfigured to create a more logical flow of traffic onto and off the Queensboro Bridge and to create more space for pedestrians.

The $100,000 allocated to the sea wall will fund a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers investigation into the integrity of the structure and the promenade along the East River in Queensbridge Park, which sits across the street from the Queensbridge Houses and directly north of the Queensboro Bridge.

"For years Queensbridge residents have been blocked from access to the river front and their safety near the river has been threatened by the damaged sea wall," Maloney said in a release. "These federal funds are a great step toward a fully repaired sea wall and a safer and more accessible river front."

The wall's state of disrepair prompted the city Parks Department to erect barriers around it, but visitors to the park are known to often cut through the fence.

The study will determine whether the wall should be rehabilitated or removed, Crowley said last year at the press conference. At that time City Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Woodside) also promised $250,000 in city funds to assist the study and provide for emergency repairs.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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