On Wednesday night, roughly 20 Roosevelt Island residents weighed in on the Department of City Planning’s proposals for possible future transportation plans for the neighborhood at a meeting hosted by Manhattan Community Board 8.
Michael J. Klatsky, highway transportation specialist for the transportation planning division, and Jack Schmidt, director of the transportation division, hosted a presentation and discussion outlining the different options the department is considering to improve transportation on Roosevelt Island and Queens.
The meeting was jointly hosted by Community Board 8’s Roosevelt Island Committee, co-chaired by Larry Parnes and Jeffrey Escobar, and the Transportation Committee, co-chaired by Charles S. Warren and A. Scott Falk.
The Department of City Planning started the Western Queens Transportation Study to improve mobility and further connections within Western Queens and other parts of the city, including Roosevelt Island and northern Brooklyn. In October, the department announced its recommendations, which include:
- The creation of a new bus route, the Q105; the elimination of the A102; and the extension of the Q19, Q39, Q67, Q104 and the Q103, to improve service to Roosevelt Island, Western Queens destinations and other Queens neighborhoods
- Extending East River Ferry service to Roosevelt Island and Hallett’s Point as well as constructing more ferry landings at Hunter’s Point, Roosevelt Island and Astoria Cove for new ferry route
- New entrances, pedestrian plaza, multipurpose escalator, bike share station and pedestrian plaza gateway for the Motorgate Garage
- New express stops at Astoria/Ditmars Boulevard, Astoria Boulevard and Queensboro Plaza to encourage New York City Transit to take advantage of unused tracks to run express service at peak periods to address overcrowding and delays
- Traffic calming at 21st Street, Crescent Street and Vernon Boulevard, as well as PARK Smart for Vernon Boulevard to make north/south corridors safer for all users
- Constructing two-way protected bicycle lanes on 36th and Borden Avenues as well as the Roosevelt Island Bridge
Although residents were overall pleased with the recommendations, some residents had concerns about certain factors that affect transportation on Roosevelt Island that were not considered in the study. Sharon Pope, a Roosevelt Island resident and outreach manager for Bike New York, criticized the absence of the Triborough Bridge in the study.
“It’s such a convoluted and difficult process, biking over the Triborough Bridge,” Pope said. “You have looked at as far away places as Jackson Avenue and beyond. It appears that the Triborough Bridge is the elephant in the room.”
Frank Farance, chair of the planning committee for the Roosevelt Island Residents Association, said that he previously looked into the feasibility of the department’s recommendations and proposed establishing three lanes on 21st Street in both directions.
“That’s the big issue,” Farance said. “On the Astoria Boulevard, 21st street seven-legged intersection, the problem that you have there is that it’ a two minute cycle of which you give only 40 seconds to each of the legs.”
Others noted the effect of transportation plans on lower-income residents of Western Queens. Judith Berdy, president of the Roosevelt Island Historical Society, said that talks of improving transportation coincided with gentrification of the area.
“I don’t think the City Planning Commission should approve one more damn housing project in Western Queens,” Berdy said. “Enough is enough. They’re only building luxury. There’s nothing for the poor people.”
The City Planning Department is planning to finalize its recommendations by the end of the year.