BY JAMES FARRELL
The 149th Street bridge in Murray Hill, which spans the Long Island Railroad tracks between 41st and Roosevelt avenues, is open to traffic after being closed off for nearly six years, state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) announced at a press conference last Thursday.
Stavisky made the announcement alongside several other community leaders, who both bemoaned the setbacks in the bridge’s construction and celebrated the political teamwork involved in its ultimate completion.
“It’s been six years of frustration, of meetings, of telephone calls,” Stavisky said on Thursday, standing near the midway point of the bridge. “I can’t tell you how relieved I am that the Murray Hill community will no longer face all these barriers. We are one community, not separated by a closed-off street.”
The bridge was closed and demolished in 2010, and an initial reconstruction process was completed in 2012. However, city inspectors found cracks in the cement that made it unsafe for use by cars, and they closed the bridge. In the years that followed, the closure put a strain on Murray Hill’s predominantly Korean small businesses because the area was deprived of a vital route of connection, according to local leaders at the press conference.
The latest reconstruction of the bridge began last year and was slated for completion in 2017, but Stavisky pushed the city Department of Transportation to expedite the process, leading to its completion last week.
“Today marks the end of construction, but as the senator said, we’re reconnecting a community,” said DOT commissioner Nicole Garcia, who was widely praised by all in attendance for her work in pushing for a speedy completion of the project.
Also in attendance were Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing), Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing), Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside), Korean American Association of Queens President Paul Yoo, Murray Hill Merchants Association President Young Hwan Kim, and President of the Korean American Association of Greater New York Minsun Kim. Stavisky credited these local leaders with playing a role in the bridge’s ultimate construction, and several spoke of the teamwork involved in the project.
“This is an example of what’s possible when we all work together. When elected officials, merchants, small-business owners, community leaders come together to work on an issue,” said Assemblyman Kim.
Those same leaders also spoke with regret about the toll that the bridge’s closing took on businesses, claiming that several businesses have closed since the bridge was closed, as it hurt accessibility and cut traffic to the area.
“Many small businesses that used to be here are no longer here,” Kim added. “I think we need to be cognizant of that and remember that not all roads lead to Manhattan. There are growing communities in the outer boroughs like this that need our support. We need to continue to support them.”
“Over the past six years, due to the delayed 149th Street bridge reconstruction, there was enormous damage to the minority-owned small businesses nearby,” said Murray Hill Merchants Association President Young Hwan Kim. “However, Senator Toby Stavisky and her staff actively fought for this long-neglected neck of the woods.”
Stavisky agreed. “We’re not going to get those businesses back,” she said. “We have to be more responsive.”
In keeping with this idea, Stavisky also announced that, after local business owners voiced concerns, two-hour metered parking will be installed in the area surrounding the bridge to help alleviate a lack of parking by inducing more frequently available spots.
Reach James Farrell at (718) 357-7400×127, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @farrellj329.