On Monday, November 30th, there was a meeting in Woodhaven regarding the proposed Select Bus Service for Woodhaven Boulevard at American Legion Post 118. The meeting was called for by the Woodhaven Business Improvement District, the Woodhaven Residents' Block Association, the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation and the Task Force Committee for an Informed, and Safer, Better Woodhaven. We were joined by several elected officials (Sen. Joe Addabbo and Assemblyman Mike Miller). And Nicole Garcia, Queens Borough Commissioner for the Department of Transportation was on hand to hear the community's opinion of the proposal.
This has been a contentious issue - and there was a lot of interest in it which resulted in a packed house. If you've been to meetings in and around Woodhaven you'll know that you have people that show up early and people that show up late. This meeting was scheduled to start at 7:30. Check out the clock - just after 7:30 and it was already a mob scene.
I knew it was going to be a big crowd when I saw the irregulars - the people who show up to one or two meetings a year - showing up half an hour early for this. Traffic, transit and parking. Three topics that will interest people enough to get them to come out on a cold Monday night in November.
There were a lot of people who showed up and couldn't get in. And so, for those who could not attend, we bring you the meeting in its' entirety - unedited. It runs 1 hour and 53 minutes. In order to keep the file size manageable, we ran it at a slightly lesser quality - we apologize in advance if it's a bit fuzzy. Note: Down below, we will provide links to some appropriate sections in case you want to jump directly to certain points instead of watching the entire thing.
Maria Thomson, Executive Director of the Woodhaven Business Improvement District, chaired the meeting. She told the crowd about the BID and how she feels the SBS will impact the businesses in Woodhaven - and she pointed out the role that our businesses on the avenue play in our community. Click here to skip straight to Maria.
The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association was represented by President Martin Colberg who said "Change is good, but it has to be positive change for everyone." The WRBA sent Commissioner Garcia a 12-page letter a few days before the meeting listing specific issues with the proposal and urging DOT to consider alternatives to SBS, namely the creation of a "busway" along the abandoned LIRR tracks along 98th Street. Colberg also noted that the plan, as it stood now, would turn people away from Woodhaven. Click here to skip directly to Martin.
Kenichi "Kenny" Wilson, Chair of Transportation for Community Board 9 spoke about how DOT has been communicating with CB9. He also spoke as a resident who lives on Woodhaven Boulevard and a business owner who has already been adversely impacted by the bus only lanes north of Metropolitan Avenue (Bus Rapid Transit). Click here to skip straight to Kenny.
Paul Capocasale, a business owner on Jamaica Avenue and a founder of the Task Force Committee for an Informed, and Safer, Better Woodhaven spoke about his safety concerns. Click here to go directly to Paul.
The room was crowded and hot (you can see that many people were in the hallway and we heard that some were out on the steps); but everyone was engaged in the conversation.
Jose Vasquez the Task Force Committee for an Informed, and Safer, Better Woodhaven gave his presentation using pictures and video. Click here to go directly to Jose.
Nicole Garcia, Queens Borough Commissioner for the Department of Transportation was taking notes and told the audience that she would be bringing back the community's feedback to her bosses. Nicole spoke several times throughout the meeting, usually in response to specific questions or points, but you can click here to go directly to her main address. Ms. Garcia did say that the plans were not set in stone and committed to future meetings with the community, saying that we would be seeing a lot more of her.
Our State Senator Joe Addabbo noted that he has the entire length of SBS in his district. Click here to go straight to Joe, followed up by a quick statement by Assemblyman Mike Miller.
Alexander Blenkinsopp, Communications Director of the WRBA, when speaking to Commissioner Garcia, took a quick poll of the residents to see how many were opposed to the SBS plan as it currently stands - you can see that it wasn't popular with the crowd in attendance last night. Alex also asked Ms. Garcia about the 'Busway' proposal - she noted that she had not read the proposal yet, but called it an interesting idea.
Here's Alex and Nicole Garcia speaking. Alex made note of the fact that DOT only held two meetings on this in Woodhaven and they were about how to implement SBS, not whether or not to implement it. When asked if the future meetings DOT has agreed to have would be more about how, or whether to, Ms. Garcia seems to indicate the meetings will be about how to implement it. Now, what's involved in that, we don't know. But if you are opposed to the SBS plan, this section shouldn't leave you feeling encouraged. Click here to go directly to Alex.
Philip McManus of the Queens Public Transit Committee had quite a bit of criticism for DOT on this and other projects. Click here to go directly to Phil.
Allan Rosen, former director of bus planning for MTA New York City Transit, is also a member of the Queens Public Transit Committee. He recently wrote an editorial in the Queens Chronicle questioning Select Bus Service. Mr. Rosen questioned the financials behind SBS. Click here to go directly to Allan.
Vance Barbour, one of the Directors of the WRBA, noted that he is a bus commuter who would probably benefit greatly by SBS - but still opposes it because he's looking at how it impacts the entire community. Click here to go directly to Vance.
There was a lot of other comments from people which are available in the entire unedited video at the top of this page. Overall, it was a robust meeting with a good turnout.
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Photos by Joey Wendell