BY LUIS GRONDA
Community Board 9 tabled a vote that would have given support to a proposed plan along a major intersection within its district.
During the board’s last meeting before breaking for the summer, CB9 chose not to vote on a Dept. of Transportation plan to make safety improvements on Hillside and Metropolitan Avenues and Kew Gardens Road.
The proposed improvements would fix multiple problems that the agency identified at the Richmond Hill intersection, including long pedestrian crossings and turn conflicts that cause congestion on the intersection.
“There are a lot of left turns taking place and often people waiting to make a turn going eastbound are blocking the vehicles that are potentially trying to make a left turn going westbound and it becomes a bit of a chaotic scene,” said a DOT representative, explaining how the turning conflicts cause congestion. “From a pedestrian perspective, this becomes very difficult to predict the vehicle movements.”
According to DOT’s presentation, there were 46 total injuries at the intersections in question from 2008 until 2012. They found that 60 percent of the crashes took place when pedestrians were crossing with a walk signal and 24 percent of the crashes occurred when cars were making a left turn.
The changes the agency proposed to make it safer for drivers and pedestrians include shortening pedestrian crossings, building pedestrian safety islands and switching 131 street between Metropolitan Ave and Kew Gardens Road to a northbound lane to improve traffic flow.
But there was a point of contention from CB9, not because of the plan itself, but because some members felt that residents and business in the area should be notified before the agency makes a major change to the intersection.
When asked if they had notified residents, Albert Silvestri, a DOT rep, said they would not notify affected residents and business on safety improvements like pedestrian islands before bringing it to the Community Board.
That led to a long discussion about whether or not it should be voted on. CB9 Chairman Ralph Gonzalez said the agency had requested the board support on short notice so they could begin the project soon.
Eventually, the board voted 23 to 17 to table the vote until the residents and businesses in the area have been notified of the agency’s plan.
There was another motion to hold a public hearing on the matter on June 23 to discuss the project further, but that was voted down, 33 to 7.
It is uncertain what will happen with the item now. CB9’s next meeting is in September and they could vote on it then, but that is not official right now, the board said.
Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @luisgronda.