BY JOE MARVILLI
In its last session before summer break, Community Board 11 approved a new pedestrian plaza for Douglaston.
The board gave the Douglaston Station Plaza permission to proceed after much deliberation and input from public speakers for and against the project. Now that it can go ahead, installation can begin for the tables, chairs, umbrellas and scenic additions to the area around the Douglaston Long Island Rail Road, located at 235th Street and 41st Avenue.
The pedestrian plaza is the work of a partnership between the Dept. of Transportation Plaza Program and the Douglaston Local Development Corporation, a nonprofit of local residents, community leaders and business owners that wants to revitalize the neighborhood.
Scheduled to start in July, the pedestrian plaza is the result of several meetings that narrowed possible designs down to two options. The first one would keep the LIRR turnaround open to traffic, with new seating areas created around it. The second choice would have closed the turnaround to traffic, dedicating the space solely to the plaza. The first choice was overwhelmingly more popular, with no one on the board supporting the closure of the turnaround.
In terms of safety, the pedestrian plaza will add two new crosswalks and there would be no obstructions to emergency vehicle access. The DOT said that the City’s biggest fire truck would still fit in the turnaround, meaning that the plaza will not impede any emergency. Only four parking spaces would be displaced by the change.
The DLDC would be responsible for maintenance of the area, an undertaking they said they can support with their available resources.
While the plaza is starting as a temporary placement for a year, if the community likes it, the DOT and DLDC will return and go through the approval process again for a permanent fixture.
Many members of the public signed up to speak about the plaza. Those for it said that it would help revive Douglaston’s sagging business sector, driving more residents to explore the plaza and the surrounding stores. Those against the proposal argued that the plaza would create an additional obstacle for those trying to get to the LIRR, especially during the morning rush hour. According to the DOT, there are about 2,300 LIRR riders on an average weekday.
Ultimately, the board voted to approve the pedestrian plaza, with the turnaround open to traffic. The motion passed 30-3-1.
Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @JoeMarvilli.