By Yvette Brown
A stretch of Queens Boulevard over the Van Wyck Expressway has undergone major cosmetic work, and it is finally coming to an end after five years of safety worries and rodent infestations.
The Briarwood Action Network held a meeting on Tuesday night to discuss the duration of the construction and any hazardous conditions including minimal street lighting for nighttime pedestrians, garbage lined up in front of stores and restaurants and insect and mice infestations.
“For years, the Van Wyck Expressway was a punchline, people would say, ‘oh you got stuck on the Van Wyck Expressway, there’s nothing that can be done.’ Yes there is, there’s this project,” said Director of External Relations for the New York State Department of Transportation Charles O’ Shea. “It’s been years in the making, we’re doing it as best we can, we have a wonderful group of people that are working on it.”
The project, which started in July 2010, is set to be fully finished by December 2016, according to Resident Engineer for the project Phil Trapani. The New York State Department of Transportation has invested more than $265 million to reconstruct the Kew Gardens Interchange.
There will be more night construction work as part of the project. The contractor will demolish the median barrier on the Van Wyck Expressway and will work in the median and shoulder areas of the expressway going southbound between the Grand Central Parkway and Exit 6, Jamaica Avenue.
Reconstruction will be done on the six bridges over the Van Wyck Expressway, there will also be construction on extra lanes going in each direction to allow for turning and parking. There will be a dedicated exit lane going southbound to Hillside Avenue, workers will also be finishing the new ramp connecting the eastbound Jackie Robinson Parkway and Union Turnpike with the northbound Van Wyck Expressway.
Crews are also widening the Van Wyck Expressway and construction will be done on green spaces along Queens Boulevard on NYS DOT bridges. The work will consist of a plaza area as well, which will include benches, fences and plants. The minuscule details of the plaza are set to be finished in a few weeks while the major details, including completing the canopy, will be finished by the end of the year. Construction is being done to replace the 82nd Street pedestrian bridge, which will be complete by the end of the year. Work is being done on Hoover Avenue to widen the sidewalk and finish the utility work, that is also set to be finished by the end of the year. The northbound Van Wyck Expressway ramp has already been completed.
All of the lanes on the Van Wyck will remain open and the work will go on from Oct. 6 through Nov. 6 between 3:30 p.m. and midnight, weather permitting.
While the community was interested in the construction work being completed in a timely manner on Queens Boulevard and Main Street, they were more concerned with the outcome of all of this work and what it means for sanitation and traffic.
Residents mentioned that there should be more time for pedestrians to cross the street, as well as repairs to the subway elevators for the elderly or disabled, which is set to be fixed and completed by the end of next year.
“I’m really not concerned anymore about this project because when it happens, it happens, I’m more concerned about current conditions between now and whenever it ends,” said one Queens resident at the meeting. “The trash, the rodents, the lighting, being able to cross the street safely and the concern of the winter.”
In response to the concerns of the residents Trapani said, “Our contractor has put out two trash bins and they empty it every week. It does overflow, and when we see it, we get them to [empty] it.”
“We are changing how we plow snow, Commissioner [Kathryn] Garcia is really big on what we call sectoring, so we recognize that there may be better ways that we plow snow and we have since conducted a pilot in different areas of the city to see how the sectoring has a positive effect on how we plow snow,” said Community Affairs Liasion for the Department of Sanitation Julian Sepulveda in response. “It did well this past year and we’re hoping to continue to bring it around, but we’re still in the pilot stages.”
President of BAN Aida Vernon also responded to the sanitation complaints and worries, explaining that there will be more work done on sanitation’s part and how Lancman has allocated funds for additional pick-up services.
“Recently a staffer in Councilman Lancman’s office told me that we were going to get some increase [of] one more pick-up [per] week,” said Vernon. “We were also going to get some larger garbage receptacles around Queens Boulevard and the busier areas in the neighborhood and we’re going to have a non-for-profit group called Wildcats to do some cleanup.”
Reach Yvette Brown at (718)357-7400 ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org or @eveywrites.