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Lane closures on Northern planned for drainage work

How slow can you go?

That was the question posed by residents at Tuesday night's meeting of the Douglaston Civic Association to engineers working on the Alley Pond Drainage Improvement Project.

The project, designed to alleviate flooding in the neighborhood around Queensborough Community College, involves the construction of new drainage lines under Springfield Boulevard and 46th Avenue, under the Cross Island Parkway and Northern Boulevard out to Alley Creek.

Work began a few months ago south of Northern Boulevard, but residents who gathered at St. Anastasia Church feared even more congestion on the thoroughfare than usual would begin next June or July when construction of the sewer reaches Northern and the Cross Island Parkway.

"Don't worry, we're used to it," said Douglaston Civic Association President Eliott Socci when warned by engineers that traffic on Northern could slow considerably.

Engineer Nicholas Maraffini said Northern Boulevard would experience intermittent lane closures that could bring the posted speed limit to a mere 25 miles per hour between Bayside and Douglaston.

Although most of the boulevard would stay at three through lanes at any given time, sections would occasionally be cut to two lanes, he said.

The turning lanes from Northern Boulevard onto the Cross Island would be maintained, however, and the Cross Island Parkway would retain a minimum of three lanes in each direction, said Maraffini.

The engineers said nearly all parts of the storm sewer would be underground except for a 52-foot-wide, 8-foot-high outflow sewer north of Northern Boulevard, and that water quality in Little Neck Bay would barely be affected.

Turning to other matters, the association heard a call from City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) to keep up the momentum on community facilities regulations passed by the Council's Land Use Committee recently.

"It's only a first step," said Avella of the proposed restrictions on the ability of houses of worship and medical offices to expand in residential neighborhoods.

Avella said "steeples," or private homes used as houses of worship, posed particular challenges to community facilities regulation.

Queens Civic Congress President Sean Walsh, a Douglaston resident, told the audience that his group supported the proposed community facilities changes but would fight for legislation to regulate building bulk, not just parking requirements.

"You're going to have to say, 'this is not enough,'...then they'll give us a little piece," said Walsh of future public hearings on the changes.

Avella said starting Jan. 1, his district would also include the more Republican areas of Little Neck and Douglaston between Northern Boulevard and the Long Island Expressway as a result of redistricting.

Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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