The final phase of a nearly four-year battle against a state Department of Transportation proposal to extend High Occupancy Vehicle lanes from Long Island into northeast Queens officially ended last week when a lawsuit against the long dead plan was settled.
State Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) was the lead plaintiff in a suit filed by city officials in June 1996 to stop a DOT project that would have added HOV lanes to a 1.1-mile stretch from the Queens border to the Cross Island Parkway to alleviate traffic congestion in the area. The project would have cost $75 million.
While Gov. George Pataki announced in May 1998 that the plans to extend the HOV lane into Queens had been shelved, a spokesman for Padavan said the final, legal end to the suit was delayed until now to make sure the proposal was not resurrected.
As an alternative to adding HOV lanes and widening the LIE, which runs through Alley Pond Park, new plans call for changing the entrance and exit ramps between the Expressway and the Cross Island Parkway from a cloverleaf design to one exit-entrance breakdown lane in both directions.
Padavan spokesman Ed DeCosmo said the work to redesign the exit and entrance lanes was ready to begin.
"Essentially that's the end of it," DeCosmo said of the stipulation filed in Queens County Supreme Court last week to end the suit. "The lack of a stipulation was one of the sticks the community still had at its disposal in case something went wrong."
The new plan would actually bring more land into the Alley Pond preserve and reunite portions of the park that have been separated by expressways for about 40 years, according to a statement from Padavan.
The original project to expand the LIE was designed and adopted by the state DOT in May 1996 as part of a larger highway construction proposal to relieve traffic congestion on the expressway from Suffolk County through Nassau County and into the middle of Douglaston.
But residents, concerned that the expansion would bring the expressway within 10 feet of private homes in some areas, launched a battle against the plan and earned the support of every local politician along the way.
There was also concern over the impact the HOV lanes would have on the ecologically fragile areas of Alley Pond Park, through which the LIE travels.
Joining Padavan in the suit were Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Borough President Claire Shulman, state Assemblyman Mark Weprin (D-Bayside), former Assemblyman Doug Prescott (D-Bayside), city Parks Commissioner Henry Stern, Community Board 11 and the Douglaston Civic Association.
©2000 Community News Group
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