One of the slides from the DOT’s presentation to the community board shows the availability of increased parking on Shore Front Parkway, but many locals are opposed to the new plan.
Albert Silvestri, the Queens Deputy Commissioner for the DOT, explains the new plan to the community board and about 50 locals who attended the meeting. Most of those present oppose the plan for increased parking on Shore Front Parkway.
John Cori, the president of the Rockaway Beach Civic Association, detailed his opposition to the plan and called for a public hearing on the issue.
About 50 locals listened to the debate about increased parking on Shore Front Parkway.
Parking has been a contentious issue on the Rockaway peninsula since the first Model-T Fords hit the summer resort area.
It continues apace today. Witness the meeting of Community Board 14 at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Wednesday night.
On the agenda was a plan put forth by the city’s Department of Transportation to redo Shore Front Parkway along its entire length, from Beach 73 Street to Beach 108 Street, including new “calming” methods, new “enhanced” crosswalks, new line painting and new medians at three locations that line up with the entrances to the high-rise that came after Robert Moses originally built the road as a tie between the Belt Parkway and Southern State Parkway in Nassau.
And, it included an apparently divisive and controversial plan to place new parking spaces on the southern side of the road.
The plan, particularly the parking plan, was attacked even before a DOT presentation to the board members and about 50 locals who came out to speak about the plan – mostly in opposition.
City Councilman Eric Ulrich spoke before the presentation.
“This plan needs more community input,” the Republican councilman said. “The plan should be tabled for a few weeks so that the community can be heard and a compromise drawn that would allow for more parking while allowing for a better quality of life for those who live in proximity to Shore Front Parkway, those who live in the area. This plan should not be forced down their throats.”
John Cori, the president of the Rockaway Beach Civic Association, agreed. He presented a survey that had been taken on Tuesday night at an emergency meeting that indicated that the majority of those who live in the area are opposed to more parking on the south side of the road.
The tally against the parking plan at that meeting was 31-4, according to Cori. Of those living within a block of the parkway, the vote was 17 to 0 in opposition.
Cori charged the DOT with lying about its statistics during the presentation, which said that a number of locals indicated during an earlier focus group that they supported more parking.
“Why didn’t you say in your presentation that more were opposed than in favor,” Cori asked.
Cori also charged that he was told by DOT officials that the community could get most of what they wanted only if parking meters were supported by the community.
“The DOT has been misleading the community,” Cori said. “They don’t understand that the restrictive parking regulations on the west end impact our community greatly. We need a public conversation on this plan – a public hearing.”
Cori made a motion to hold off the plan until such a public hearing could be made. The motion was seconded.
Eventually, after some discussion, the board voted to hold a transportation committee meeting open to the public and then bring the motion up to the board at a future meeting rather than holding a dedicated public hearing on the issue.
Albert Silvestri, the Queens Deputy Commissioner for the DOT told the meeting that a public dialogue was important and that one was taking place at the meeting.
“We have milled the parkway at your request,” he said and now it needs to be paved and marked. We need to have a marking plan and at least do some temporary marking as a safety issue. Holding it up complicates the process.”
Silvestri told the board that none of the important issues, such as redoing the critical crossings and aligning the openings in the central mall could be done until the plan is approved.
One board member told Cori that he was opening a can of worms by postponing the process.
“I know exactly what I am asking for,” Cori answered angrily.
Other board members challenged the DOT on the remainder of the presentation.
Casey Gorrell, the DOT representative who did the presentation, for example, said that the agency’s studies showed that the great majority of motorists who used the road drive above the speed limit and that called for further calming methods.
He said that many of the cars travelled at 27 to 30 miles per hour, five miles per hour above the speed limit.
Breezy Point resident Marty Ingram brought a laugh when he said that he was an aviation safety expert, and that he “could make aviation safer by keeping all of the planes on the ground,” adding that the speed test was done in the winter, when traffic is light and “everybody goes over the speed limit.”
Eddie Pastore said that he had put the question of parking on the south side of Shore Front Parkway on social media and that locals had “overwhelmingly” rejected the plan.
Phil McManus, speaking during the time for the public to present their ideas, said that Rockaway should say “no” to more bike lanes, speed bumps and reduced speed limits.
“Calming is another word for slowing us down, making it longer to get to work, to school and home,” he said. “We don’t need more bike lanes when there is a beautiful bike lane on the boardwalk adjacent to the roadway.
Another local said, “When I hear the DOT speak about speeding at 32-37 miles per hour, I am appalled.”
He got cheers from the board.
A third said that parking would be beneficial to the community.
“About 100 days a year, outsiders would use the spots,” he said. “The rest of the year, those spots would be available for locals. We can always use more parking in Rockaway.”
No date has yet been set for the transportation committee meeting.