BY JON CRONIN
Both houses of the New York State legislature passed a bill last week that would force the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to conduct a feasibility study of the Lefferts Boulevard bridge within 90 days after the bill is signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
For the past year, the community has stood with and advocated for the shop owners whose stores sit on the Kew Gardens bridge, which is owned by the MTA. The shop owners are running out of time as their buildings are in desperate need of repair. The MTA will not pay for the repairs and the businesses’ leases expire in 2020.
In the past few months, state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal (D- Flushing) have authored the bills in their respective legislative bodies.
“The Lefferts Boulevard bridge is a gem of our borough and the epicenter of a thriving neighborhood,” Comrie said. “Working in tandem with community stakeholders, Assembly Member Rosenthal and I introduced these corresponding bills to help make sure the LIRR will be held responsible for its mismanagement of the bridge structure.”
The bill passed 61-0 in the state Senate and 131-4 in the Assembly.
“The future of the Lefferts Boulevard bridge is of vital importance to our small-business owners, residents and the entire Kew Gardens community,” Rosenthal said. “I am proud to partner with Sen. Comrie and the Kew Gardens Civic to see that the community’s voice is heard. I look forward to continuing this fight to ensure that the LIRR takes active measures to keep our bridge and neighborhood intact.”
Dominick Pistone, the president of the Kew Garden Civic Association, said he hopes the bill crosses its final hurdle.
“I hope the governor doesn’t pocket veto it,” Pistone said. “He’s the only thing standing in the way right now.”
Sylvia Hack, a member of Community Board 9, has advocated for the shop owners for the past year and helped to form the Save Kew Gardens Coalition. She said that she is pleased that the bills passed the legislature, but has not heard from the governor’s office or the MTA.
“They could override a veto, but all this takes time,” she said. “It takes a lot to get something done in government.”
Hack noted that the result would be that the MTA might find the reconstruction of the bridge feasible, but claim that there is no funding for it.
“In terms of what the MTA spends, this is peanuts,” she said. “I want them to do the right thing. This bridge is essential to our community.”
The MTA previously noted that there are three structures that make up the Lefferts Boulevard bridge. 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.