After years of lobbying and false starts, a group of Sunnyside Gardens residents has started the wheels rolling on improvements to long−neglected Barnett Avenue.
Barnett, which runs east to west between the Long Island Rail Road tracks and Sunnyside Gardens Park, is heavily used by pedestrians walking between their apartments and the Sunnyside Mall at Northern Boulevard. It has no sidewalks, brush overhangs the road shoulders and people have long used it as a dumping ground.
But now Ciaran Staunton and his neighbors are working with the city to establish boundaries between city−owned land and the privately owned park, clean up the brush and make improvements to the corner where Barnett and 48th Street meet.
Community Board 2 Chairman Joseph Conley said the DOT recently completed a survey to determine property boundaries and an interim pedestrian walkway — a segment of the road shoulder protected from traffic by a temporary barrier — could soon be put in place.
“Ciaran really championed this effort,” Conley said. “He bit in like a pit bull.”
The group had attracted the attention of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D−Manhattan), who visited the area a year ago along with city Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik−Khan and said the city would fund the construction of sidewalks in 2012.
But Staunton said that when Mayor Michael Bloomberg visited Sunnyside in March, the city announced it had pushed the sidewalk project back to 2014.
“We had to move ourselves to provide some leadership,” Staunton said. “Friends of Sunnyside Gardens Park and some of the people from the Phipps Garden Apartments said, ‘Let’s move,’ and that’s what happened. That’s when we stepped up the pressure.”
Calling themselves the Barnett Avenue Alliance, the group enlisted Conley’s help to get officials from the DOT and Parks, Sanitation and Design and Construction departments to sit down and talk about how to clean up the corner. The group also hired a landscape architect to produce renderings of what they hope the corner will look like.
They got started Saturday as Quinn visited a volunteer cleanup day at the corner.
“This weekend, I had the distinct pleasure to witness firsthand what happens when a neighborhood stands together in partnership with government in a shared effort to solve a problem,” Quinn said in a statement.
The efforts also won praise from Dierdre Feerick, a candidate for Councilman Eric Goia’s (D−Sunnyside) seat this fall.
“If they do this right — which I think they will — you’ll have seniors who are able to go shopping, you’ll have a much brighter area there, and because the trees have been pulled back, you’ll also have more natural light,” she said.
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jewalsh@cn
©2009 Community News Group
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