September 26, By Tara Law
The MTA is considering plans to repair the Lefferts Boulevard bridge in Kew Gardens that would preserve the bridge and the 13 mom and pop stores situated on it.
The MTA has agreed to conduct an engineering feasibility study that would assess the potential for replacing the concrete decks that support the bridge without destroying the stores, said Aaron Donovan, a spokesman for the MTA.
The MTA had announced at a meeting with Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz in May that the bridge had fallen into disrepair and could not be saved.
Michael Cohen, a spokesman for Koslowitz, said that the MTA told the councilwoman that it was likely to destroy the bridge after the lease it holds with Zee N Kay Management—a firm that subleases the space to the businesses—expires in 2020.
The decks that support the bridge—that goes between Austin and Grenfell streets– are more than 80 years old, and must be replaced if the bridge and buildings are to be preserved.
After an outcry from the community and pressure from officials, the MTA has begun to consider alternatives.
Koslowitz has agreed to fund the cost of the study. She aims to preserve the bridge and protect the family-owned businesses located on it.
The study is a sign for store owners that the MTA is at least willing to listen to the community.
However, Natalie Reid, the owner of Thyme Natural Market and Cafe on the bridge, remains uncertain as to her future despite the study.
She has complained for years about the poor condition of the bridge and how it has led to problems in her store. Reid has had flooding issues due to bad pipes for years, she said. After storeroom floorboards were ripped up to determine the cause of the leaks, she discovered a large hole through which the train tracks were visible.
“This business is my life,” said Reid. “If it were up to them, we would just go away. They don’t want to deal with small potatoes like us. The MTA is not taking responsibility.”
Daniel Allen, the president of the Historic Districts Council which is part of the Coalition, said that although the study “sounds good,” he is not convinced the MTA will change its decision or pattern of neglect.
“The MTA has the capacity and the resources to fix this structure and help the community,” he said. “I would like to see the stores retained.”
“If you destroy the architecture, you’re left with a boring, nondescript, anyplace no-place,” he added.
Many residents have come together in an effort to save the bridge, as part of the Save Kew Gardens Coalition. Nearly 3,800 people have signed an online petition put together by the coalition that demand it be preserved and repaired.