Richard Huber owns Superior Interlock at 73-39 Central Avenue at the mouth of the underpass on the 74th Street side. His daily walks through the area provide an insight he said the Department of Transportation (DOT) lacks.
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 its intersection with Cooper Avenue.
But Huber said Cooper Avenue’s previous layout, with a left-turning lane leading to 74th Street, which also allowed for a U-turn to the service road, is the best model for the area.
“Leave the traffic pattern as it is,” said Huber, who is also a Community Board 5 member. He added that a left-turn traffic light signal would make it even safer.
Currently, the DOT’s plan is to expand the sidewalks in the underpass, change the direction of 74th Street to a one-way northbound, and rework lane lines on Cooper Avenue, possibly eliminating parking spots in front of Huber’s business.
The major problem with changing the direction of 74th Street, Huber said, is the traffic clutter it would add to the already chaotic intersection of 73rd Road, Cooper Avenue and 78th Street.
The intersection is missing a crosswalk, but people cross it illegally anyway, he said. In addition, he said if everyone were making a left onto 73rd Road, the businesses and traffic there would experience problems when receiving deliveries.
“Their talk of safety is creating a problem that doesn’t exist and exacerbating a problem that does exist,” he said, referring to the DOT.
“They’re doing this to justify the existence of the project in my opinion,” Huber said of the change to 74th Street. “They have to change something so they can say they did something.”
Local representatives also voiced opposition to the 74th Street proposal in recent statements.
“This plan does not best represent the needs of the community,” Assemblyman Mike Miller said. “Local businesses have been operating under the current configuration for two or three generations and they have voiced their opposition to this plan.”
Huber said more than 100 residents sent letters opposing the plan to Queens DOT Commissioner Maura McCarthy.
However, according to Gastel, 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.
The purpose of expanding the sidewalks in the underpass, Huber said, is to allow bicyclists to ride on them.
“Well, if you ever ride a bicycle down a steep hill knowing there’s a steep incline what are you going to do?” Huber asked. “You’re going to go as fast as you can so you don’t have to pedal so much. Is that safe for the pedestrians?”
Huber suggested putting a bike lane in the underpass and keeping the sidewalks the same width, providing more space for cars, even though the road is not a designated bike route on city maps.
The DOT’s most recent proposal involved reducing the lanes of traffic in front of his business from two to one, meaning postal and other trucks making deliveries would block traffic.
“I’m not hear to cause trouble, but I have 20 guys inside that I’m employing and letting them earn a living,” Huber said. “You know, 20 families to take care of here.”