DOT proposes turning 74th Street into one-way north

After the rehabilitation of the Cooper Avenue is complete, the Department of Transportation may turn 74th Street into a one-way northbound between Cooper Avenue and 78th Avenue – a plan residents say they don’t agree with.
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.

Cooper steps down as Flushing Meadows head

Few would argue that when Estelle Cooper, the longtime administrator for Flushing Meadows Corona Park, resigned in early January, the park lost a true champion of cause and attention.
The park had long been ignored since the 1964 World’s Fair until the early 1990s. But when Cooper was appointed assistant parks commissioner and administrator of the park in 1994 by the Giuliani administration, she saw her role as an advocate for programs and funding for the 1,200 acre public space.
According to a source, Cooper also relinquished her role in Unisphere, Inc., a nonprofit fundraising group for Flushing Meadows Park.
Cooper, 81, is reportedly leaving the post to start a political consulting firm.
A longtime Republican in a county dominated by Democrats, she ran against Emanuel Gold for State Senate in 1978, and again against Claire Shulman for borough president in 1986. She lost both campaigns.
Her Republican connections run deep. Phil Ragusa, the head of the Queens County Republican Party, was retained as the accountant for Unisphere, Inc.
Cooper’s new consulting firm will be known as Cooper and Company, and will be helmed by Cooper’s grandson, Michael Balsamo.
Balsamo was also executive director of Community Day Camp, a company owned by Cooper’s daughter, Ilene Balsamo, which secured a deal with the Parks Department to operate out of Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
Despite charging fees of between $900 to $2,675 for two- to eight-week sessions, the camp only paid the Parks Department $1 a day per camper to use park space and facilities, a deal that came under fire.
However, according to sources, other camps using the park were charged the same $1 per camper fee.
Community Day Camp was then accused of failing to pay counselors and contractors in a scandal that became public when former employees complained to a local television station.
Balsamo’s familial connection to Cooper and the subsequent scandal is believed to be at least partly behind Cooper’s resignation, sources say.
However, the Parks Department said the resignation was part of Cooper’s desire to start hew new consulting firm.
“Estelle has announced that she will begin a new career as a partner in a political communications firm,” said a department spokesperson in a statement. “We all wish Estelle the best as she embarks on her new endeavors.”
In its statement, the Parks Department noted the many improvement to the park under Cooper’s leadership.
“The park has seen many transformations,” read the statement. “A set of synthetic soccer fields were constructed and Parks built the new Flushing Meadows Aquatic Center and the new Al Oerter Recreation Center. The United States Tennis Association expanded and Citi Field was built as the new home for the New York Mets.”

CB5 to discuss gyms at next meeting

Community Board 5 will hold its next monthly meeting on Wednesday, February 8th at 7:30 p.m. in the Christ the King Regional High School Cafeteria, located at 68-02 Metropolitan Avenue in Middle Village.
The agenda includes a hearing of the mayor’s preliminary Capital and Expense Budget for fiscal year 2013.
A hearing will also be held on an application to the Board of Standards and Appeals on behalf of 329 Wyckoff Realty LLC for a special permit to allow a physical culture establishment (fitness center) at 329 Wyckoff in Ridgewood. The operator is expected to be a Planet Fitness Franchise.
The agenda includes the Zoning and Land Use Review Committee’s recommendation regarding a proposed Retro Fitness center at 65-45 Otto Road in Glendale.
The agenda also includes the Executive Committee’s recommendations regarding the roposed 2012 Street Festivals in the CB5 area; a public forum; a review of applicants proposing to sell alcoholic beverages; a review of demolition notices; and other committee reports.
For additional information or to register to speak in advance, please call the board at 718-366-1834.

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