By Jon Cronin, Editor
Following years of frustration due to a lack of resolution, the shop owners on the Lefferts Boulevard bridge in Kew Gardens continue to face an uncertain future.
The bridge is owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and is in dire need of repairs, as are the shops that are located on top of it. During the past year, community advocates have said that four meetings with the MTA that were being coordinated by Queens Borough President Melinda Katz’s office have all been canceled with no explanation.
Nathalie Reid, who is the owner of Thyme Natural Market, said that when she met with state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) two weeks ago, he told her that he was “very aggravated with the MTA” and “knows of their hijinks.”
She said that both Addabbo and state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D- St. Albans) are now trying to organize a meeting with all of the shop owners, members of Community Board 9, local civic associations and other elected officials who represent the community.
“We’re quite frustrated—I feel we’re being timed out,” she noted, referring to the fact that the shops on the bridge all have leases that will expire in 2020.
Reid said she is afraid that the MTA is stalling and will demolish the bridge and the buildings once the leases end.
Despite little progress over the past year, Reid said that she is reinvigorated by the involvement of the local state senators.
“The hatchet is about to drop,” she said.
Reid added that in the past six months, two stores have closed on the bridge. A jewelry store across the street from her shop closed in the fall, and PK’s Farm Fresh grocery store shut its doors a few weeks ago.
“If I have to hand over my keys, I’m gonna fight right to that day,” Reid said.
“We need someone at the state level—at least get to the governor or someone with the governor’s ear,” she added.
Comrie said that he intended to put pressure on the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) to work with the business owners on the bridge.
“Years of delinquency have brought us to this critical juncture,” Comrie said. “I stand united with the business owners, residents of Kew Gardens, community advocates and my colleagues in government in pushing the LIRR to work with us to achieve an outcome that is acceptable to the community.”
Addabbo said that he and Comrie are currently exploring the options available to the businesses. He noted that he understands the community is afraid that the MTA wants to demolish the bridge, despite the agency’s never having given an indication that it planned to do so.
Addabbo noted that the MTA is interested in a feasibility study that would inspect whether the agency should only enhance the parts of the bridge on which the shops sit. Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D- Forest Hills) is working on obtaining funding for the feasibility study.
“A study takes time, but we may not have the luxury,” Addabbo said. “Let’s get everyone at a table.”
Murray Berger, the executive director of the Kew Gardens Civic Association, said he heard that the next meeting on the matter will be in mid-April.
Reach reporter Jon Cronin via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 357-7400, ext. 125.