BY JON CRONIN
A once-dim future for the Lefferts Boulevard bridge businesses in Kew Gardens appears to be getting brighter.
Recently, three engineers—from the MTA, city Department of Transportation and a volunteer retired engineer from Kew Garden—examined the bridge after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority told the business owners that the platforms on which their buildings are located must be demolished.
Al Brand, the retired engineer, floated the idea that an additional concrete slab could be installed underneath the bridge.
Nathalie Reid, owner of Thyme Natural Market, said that she was happy to see action taken at the site.
“Now they have to find somebody and draw up a plan of action,” she said.
Concerns regarding this proposal include whether the slab would allow adequate clearance for Long Island Rail Road trains underneath and the possible cost of the project.
Michael Cohen, communications director for Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D- Forest Hills), said that Brand is volunteering his expertise and acting as a representative for the Kew Gardens community and Koslowitz in the MTA’s discussions.
“He’s not recommending they put a slab under; he’s saying it may be possible,” said Cohen, who added that Brand is “not privy to the structural minutiae of the bridge.”
Cohen said the engineers have surmised that the slab could be 12 to 14 inches thick. If the slab is added, then the MTA will have to make sure that there is room for the train to pass.
“We’re talking about inches,” said Cohen, highlighting how narrow the space would be.
Cohen noted that there are still many questions that need to be answered regarding the site. He said that Koslowitz is pleased that the MTA is considering the alternative. He added that the agency has committed to hosting a meeting before Aug 1. to discuss bringing in a third-party consultant to review this matter and making a recommendation.
Reid recently asked Mayor Bill de Blasio for help on the matter during a town hall in Rego Park. The mayor said that he had been informed about the issue by the councilwoman and was against tearing down the Lefferts Boulevard bridge businesses.
De Blasio said that he would have DOT engineers visit the site.
The MTA clarified that there are three structures in the area. The central structure, which is owned by the city’s Department of Transportation, is a bridge that supports the roadway and is not part of the discussion. The two platforms on either side of the roadway are owned by the LIRR and support the businesses. The buildings on those platforms are owned by the LIRR and leased to a master tenant, who subleases space to neighborhood retailers. The MTA informed the master tenant that due to the repairs needed to those structures, the lease would not be renewed in 2020.
Reach Jon Cronin at 718-357-7400, email@example.com or @JonathanSCronin.