The $5.7 million repairs to the Cooper Avenue underpass and its retaining walls, which support the Long Island Railroad and vehicular bridges above Cooper Avenue between 74th Street and 70th Street/69th Drive in Glendale and a portion of Middle Village, are underway.
The parapet walls at the top of the retaining walls will be replaced and lined with steel bar fencing, and the retaining walls themselves will be resurfaced.
Wider sidewalks with new curbing and a few catch basins will also be installed at the street level along the length of the under pass.
But residents are now concerned with the proposed 74th Street conversion, which was announced by DOT at a Community Board 5 Transportation Committee meeting in the Atlas Park community room last week, fearing it will add more traffic to Cooper Avenue.
“What would be the benefit?” asked Robert Schoemig, a co-owner of the Avenue Bar and Grill at 71-22 Myrtle Avenue, on the Glendale Civic Association Facebook page.
“Having that changed to a northbound street would create [problems],” Schoemig said, “in that cars would try to turn left onto Cooper to head west, or right go under the underpass, which would increase the possibility of an accident.”
According to DOT spokesman Scott Gastel, the city plans to change 74th Street into a one-way southbound to reduce pedestrian and vehicle conflicts at the Cooper Avenue and 74th Street intersection, where the mouth of the underpass is located.
The intersection is a designated school walk-route, and the DOT intends to improve safety for children and all pedestrians, Gastel said.
Community Board 5 District Manager Gary Giordano added that the DOT wants to allow school buses to safely drop students off curbside at P.S./I.S. 119.
But, “they can certainly, as a school, find better ways to stop traffic behind the buses,” Giordano said referring to 119, noting that when a school bus puts out its “stop” sign, traffic is legally bound to halt behind it.
Giordano added that with the implementation of more elementary-level grades into what is now also P.S. 119, there will be less school buses because more students will be able to walk to the school.
“You're not going to have as many school buses,” he said. “You're going to have more students walking because they're going to live closer to 119.”
According to Gastel, the DOT will not make any changes to 74th Street until construction on the underpass is completed. The scheduled completion date for the project is June 2013.
“We have a good solid year to convince DOT that this plan for changing the direction of 74th Street will do more harm than good as far as traffic and pedestrian safety goes,” Giordano said.
A representative from Councilwoman Liz Crowley's office said she is also against the proposal, and will soon write a public letter to DOT reiterating the community's concerns.