Despite strong opposition from residents, civic organizations and elected officials, the Department of Transportation (DOT) waited less than 48 hours after an overwhelming defeat at the hands of Community Board 9 to force their SBS plan down Woodhaven’s throat.
To be clear, opponents of the plan proposed by DOT were not against improving the boulevard, or even against Select Bus Service in general.
It’s easier understood this way: if you went to a restaurant and ordered a bowl of soup and it came with a hair in it, you would send it right back to the kitchen. That doesn’t make you “anti-soup,” it just means you were opposed to that specific bowl of soup.
DOT’s plan for Woodhaven Boulevard is one big, greasy hair in a bowl of soup costing a few hundred million dollars.
Woodhaven has a long history of fighting City Hall on these battles and losing. Just a bit over 100 years ago, residents fought the city’s insistence to build a noisy elevated train through Woodhaven, preferring an alternate plan to build a subway beneath Jamaica Avenue.
The city forced their plan on Woodhaven, promising that the elevated train would be clean and “practically noiseless.” It turned out that Woodhaven was right.
Back in the 1920’s and 30’s, residents fought the city’s plan to destroy a swath of homes to widen Woodhaven Boulevard, saying it would create a dangerous road through our community.
The city bullied their way into expanding the road and today, without irony, they use the fact that it’s a dangerous road as the reason they must fix it.
That’s big government for you. Create a problem and then rush in claiming to be the saviors needed to fix it.
It’s like having a friend throw a garbage can through your front window and then say “Hey, I can fix that – for a few hundred million dollars.” You know where you’d tell your friend to go!
Residents also fought the construction of the viaduct over Atlantic Avenue in the 1940s, preferring a simple grade crossing. They felt that the bridge would divide the neighborhood and that the area around the bridge would become “unsightly.”
If residents from the 40s saw the area now they would see a bridge regularly covered in graffiti, with litter scattered around a strip club. As they were with the expansion of the boulevard, the residents of Woodhaven were right.
So you must forgive residents of Woodhaven if they are skeptical about the city’s latest plans to “save” Woodhaven Boulevard. Not only has our historical experience with DOT been negative, but recent years have not seen much improvement.
In fact, we’ve been getting hair in our soup from DOT practically every single time we order it.
When it came to keeping the lights on at night in Forest Park during a rape spree, DOT failed. When asked to provide safe conditions for special needs students at the new school on 91st Street, DOT failed, having to be publicly embarrassed before doing the right thing.
When it came to putting speed humps on 98th Street, DOT dragged their heels for four years before finally getting it done earlier this year, again after some public embarrassment.
But they put the humps at the very beginning and the end of the block. That left over 1,000 feet in between where cars are speeding, effectively defeating the purpose of the humps.
Even when DOT finally does something right they get it wrong. Their relationship with Woodhaven has been one long streak of misery fueled by DOT’s arrogance and incompetence.
And so, DOT has won this battle and the city has gotten their way once again. For better or worse, DOT and Queens DOT Commissioner Nicole Garcia will own the results of this plan. Every accident, every new nasty traffic pattern, every new problem caused by their plan will be theirs to own.
Now, maybe it turns out that they were right all along. Perhaps in two or three years, we’ll be singing the praises of DOT for rescuing us with this wonderful scheme.
But considering their track record, both historically and in recent years, that’s an unrealistic bar to set. It’s more likely that we’ll be sick to our stomachs from the hairy bowl of soup the city forced down our throats once again.