June 12, By Jason Cohen
Improving the subways, assisting businesses in Kew Gardens and the Queensway, were some of the items discussed when Mayor Bill de Blasio held a town hall in Rego Park Thursday night.
The town hall took place at the Lost Battalion Hall Recreation Center, 93-29 Queens Blvd, and was part of his ongoing series of town halls across the city. The mayor previously held a town hall in Long Island City on April 27 and another on March 29 in Corona.
The event was co-hosted by Council Member Karen Koslowitz, Borough President Melinda Katz, Assembly Member Andrew Hevesi, Assemblywoman Toby Ann Stavisky and District Council 29.
One resident asked the mayor where he stood on the Queensway, which would transform 3.5 miles of the now-defunct Rockaway Beach Rail Line into Queens’ version of the High Line.
The Trust for Public Land and Friends of the QueensWay, an advocacy group, recently released a schematic design of the first half-mile of the plan, which would offer improved access to Forest Park, they say, running from Metropolitan Avenue south to Union Turnpike.
The mayor didn’t say if he was for or against the project, but explained he needed more time to evaluate the project and that a decision could be made in months.
“We the city have to come to some final conclusions about the facts involved in the Queensway,” the mayor said. He noted that he will meet with the MTA and look at all possible options.
Nathalie Reid, owner of Thyme Natural Market located on Lefferts Blvd Bridge, asked the mayor about the bridge’s future and the businesses located on it.
Reid explained how The MTA is debating whether to demolish the bridge that goes over the Long Island Railroad on Lefferts Boulevard, leaving 13 business owners in the heart of Kew Gardens worried about their future.
“I’m sure you can understand how upset we are,” Reid said. “There’s been a lot of sleepless nights.”
De Blasio replied that he has been well informed about this situation from Councilwoman Koslowitz. He said that while the city has little control over the MTA, it will do its best to find an amicable solution.
Reid also told the mayor that the stores on the bridge had to contend with leaks and other problems due to the bridge’s poor condition and asked for help.
The mayor stressed that the MTA or the property manager must repair the stores.
“I want to ensure that the MTA properly maintains the properties,” de Blasio said. “I do know that tearing down the bridge will destroy businesses and I don’t like that. We want to work to see if there is another way to keep it in tact and get you the repairs you need.”
Another issue that residents complained about was the subway system. Many people asked the mayor what he was doing about it. Ethan Felder, an activist and a member of Community Board 6, said he is tired of the “headaches and delays on the subway.”
“What can we do to make the subway situation better?” he asked the mayor.
The mayor once again said the city does not control the MTA. However, he noted that something needs to change soon.
“The MTA needs to come forward with a plan in the short term as to what will be done to address this crisis,” de Blasio said. “What we need from the MTA is a plan for what they can do to stop these delays. If we don’t see a plan soon, I will put forth my own vision of the changes needed.”
In the meantime, the city is creating alternative methods of transportation, such as the select bus service to more neighborhoods and the light rail being developed from Queens to Brooklyn, he said.