July 5, By Jason Cohen
A plan put forward by a local engineer might save the bridge that goes over the Long Island Railroad on Lefferts Boulevard from being demolished and the 13 stores on it.
Al Brand, a retired engineer and member of the Kew Gardens Civic Association, presented his plan to MTA officials at a meeting last Wednesday and said that it might be possible to preserve the bridge by installing a new slab underneath it, according to Michael Cohen of Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz’s (D-Forest Hills). If feasible, the 90-year-old bridge might not have to be demolished.
Cohen said the MTA agreed to explore this option. However, the MTA will have to determine whether there will be sufficient LIRR clearance for trains if a slab goes in as well as the cost involved.
In May, the MTA announced it would cost about $20 million to fix the bridge and that it might make sense to demolish the structure and hire a developer to rebuild it.
The MTA leases the commercial space on top of the bridge to one company, which in turn subleases the space to the stores. The MTA is contemplating not renewing the master lease– so it can build a new bridge–when it ends in 2020, which would lead to the store owners being tossed out.
With about two years and nine months left until the 2020 lease is up, Cohen stressed it is crucial to find a solution soon. The next step is hiring a consultant to see if installing a new slab is a viable option.
Koslowitz, Cohen said, believes that a positive resolution may be worked out.
“She’s pleased that the MTA is willing to entertain an alternative solution that does not require the demolition of the bridge,” Cohen said.
The bridge, which is between Austin and Grenfell streets, has been falling apart for years and is in dire need of repair, business owners and officials agree.
Nathalie Reid, who runs Thyme Natural Market, a business on the bridge, said nothing has been done to address the bridge’s disrepair for years, which has resulted in flooding and electrical problems for store owners.
She explained the issue was finally addressed about a year ago when she and her fellow business owners went to Koslowitz.
The proposed plan gives her a glimmer of hope, but with less than three years left on the lease, she hopes the MTA can come up with a solution soon.
“I’m just frustrated right now because I don’t think things are happening quick enough,” Reid said.