Maloney Talks Transportation With Queens Residents
NEW YORK, NY - On Saturday, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-Queens, Manhattan) discussed upcoming improvements to Queens's transportation infrastructure at a town hall meeting at the HANAC Senior Center, highlighting three projects that will benefit her constituents: East Side Access, the Queens Plaza Roadway Rebuilding Project and the Queens Seawall. She was joined by Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan and Councilman Eric Gioia who expressed the need for continued investment in Queens infrastructure. Joseph Petrocelli and Audrey Heffernan of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority made a Powerpoint presentation on East Side Access. Penny Lee of the New York City Department of City Planning discussed the Queens Plaza Roadway Rebuilding Project. Jennifer Kao of the New York City Parks Department made a presentation on the Queens Gateway Park .
Following are excerpts from Congresswoman Maloney's remarks:
"While the rest of the nation hasn't done a great job of promoting mass transit, New York City has done a spectacular job. MTA subways, buses, and railroads move 2.4 billion riders a year, about one in every three users of mass transit in the United States and two-thirds of the nation's rail passengers. We can't add more subways and we can't add more trains.
"We need to build alternatives - and that's why East Side Access and another project that's particularly important to our region, the Second Avenue Subway, were developed. They are the only two projects in the entire nation that the FTA has given a rating of 'highly recommended'.
"This year East Side Access will receive $340 million dollars from the federal government. That's on top of $254.5 million dollars previously appropriated for East Side Access. Additionally, there is more than $1.5 billion in the prior state capital plan for these projects, and $450 million in the recently passed Transportation Bond Act.
"East Side Access will be built in Long Island City and will provide LIRR commuters a one seat ride to Grand Central Terminal and shave 30-40 minutes off their commutes. It will create a new stop in Sunnyside to bring commuters to the growing business district in Long Island City , and take some of the traffic off of Queens streets.
"While East Side Access is an important regional improvement, the next item on our agenda, Queens Plaza Roadway Redevelopment is purely local. It will transform the existing forbidding character of Queens Plaza into a welcoming gateway for Long Island City and the Borough of Queens. Residents will benefit from less traffic, better air quality, new and improved public space, more comfortable and speedier commutes, and a more inviting environment for business development.
"I have long recognized the importance of this project for Western Queens, securing $500,000 for Queens Plaza in 2003, $750,000 in 2004, more than $1 million in 2005 and $800,000 for 2006. Additionally, I'm pleased to report that City Planning applied for and received an additional $9.6 million in federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) funds that will help this project become a reality." At the forum, Penny Lee announced that the city now has sufficient funds to complete the project.
"Finally," Ms. Maloney continued, "I want to talk about an absolute travesty in our community. We have one of the greatest waterfront areas in the country - splendid views of Manhattan 's skyline and access to one of the world's great rivers - but we don't have access to the waterfront. In fact, the Queens seawall - which protects the land from being eroded by the swift moving East River - is crumbling, particularly in the area along Queensbridge Park .
"Initially, the Army Corps of Engineers determined that there was no federal interest in fixing the seawall. Last February I convened a meeting of the local elected officials, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Parks Department and the MTA to try to persuade the Army Corps that this project deserved their attention, if not for our sakes then because a number of manholes along the collapsing seawall happen to connect to MTA facilities. And if the seawall collapses, the cathodic protection system - meant to help prevent the saltwater corrosion of steel frames along the 63rd Street subway tunnel- would be in jeopardy. It would cost millions to replace. A few months after the meeting, the Army Corps had a change of heart. Apparently the seawall is in the federal interest after all. The Parks Department is working on plans to fix the seawall and open up the waterfront - which we hope to unveil soon.
"As you know, everything costs money. I got $500,000 in federal funds in 2005 and another $175,000 in 2006 for the seawall's repair. Thanks to the leadership of Assemblywoman Nolan, the state is putting up another $325,000 in state funds for the project. More funding will be available thanks to mitigation money from the repairs to the FDR Drive .
"There's no reason to wait, but thousands of reasons to get this seawall repaired as soon as possible - the safety of all the children and families of this neighborhood. This community deserves a waters edge that doesn't threaten their children's lives or risk injury. The people of Queensbridge Houses deserve a safe place to live, and for the children, a safe place to play.