Feb. 14, 2020 By Allie Griffin
Rego Park and Forest Hills residents packed a community board meeting Wednesday night to denounce the MTA’s Queens bus network redesign draft plan.
The residents decried the loss of bus stops and cuts to existing bus lines under the contentious plan that overhauls the complete bus network in the borough.
Attendees of the meeting — many of whom are seniors or disabled — said the longer walks between bus stops and the greater need for transfers between bus lines would make it nearly impossible for them to get around. The MTA plans to change the average distance between bus stops from 850 feet to 1,300 feet across Queens.
Council Member Karen Koslowitz came to the Community Board 6 meeting and called the draft plan “unacceptable.”
She took issue with the fact that riders would need to take multiple buses to reach their destination —instead of just one. For instance, the Q23 route that runs north-south through Forest Hills would be scrapped and residents would need to take two buses to get from either end of the neighborhood.
“I’m against this plan because this plan doesn’t take in the needs of my community,” Koslowitz said.
“We have elderly people who take the bus…we have disabled people and we have children who take the bus,” she added. “We don’t want to send our people on a wild goose chase.”
More than 19 percent of Forest Hills and Rego Park residents are 65 years or older, according to census data.
Several residents criticized the MTA’s changes to the Q23 and Q60 bus lines under the draft plan, which was released on Dec. 31.
The Q60 bus route — that currently runs along Queen Boulevard and over the Queensboro Bridge — would no longer go into Manhattan. The line would become the QT60 and end near the Hunters Point South ferry terminal in Long Island City, said MTA transit planner Julian Bautista-Rojas.
Board member Jean Silva, who is disabled and uses a personal mobility scooter to get around, said she takes the Q60 to get to Manhattan’s Hospital for Special Surgery, where she receives treatment.
Silva takes the Q60 bus because it drops her off nearby the hospital and because many subway stations are not ADA-accessible — but under the draft bus plan, she wouldn’t have the option.
Instead she’d have to get off the QT60 bus in Long Island City and ride across the Queensboro Bridge pedestrian pathway on her scooter — or take the subway from LIC to Manhattan and transfer to another bus in Manhattan to reach the hospital just on the other side of the bridge, she said.
Another disabled board member shared the same opinion as Silva.
“I’m disabled,” Pat Morgan said. “This will make it impossible for me to go into Manhattan easily.”
Many Forest Hills commuters at the meeting were also displeased by the MTA’s proposal to cut the existing Q23 line, which runs from East Elmhurst to Forest Hills.
The redesign splits the existing route into two separate lines — the QT11 and QT87.
To get between the northern and southern parts of Forest Hills, across Queens Boulevard, commuters would have to transfer from the QT11 to the QT87 at the Forest Hills-71st Avenue E/F/M/R station.
Instead of crossing Queens Boulevard and heading south like current Q23 buses, the QT11 heads east to Fresh Meadows.
Meanwhile the QT87 picks up the southern end of the current Q23 route, traveling from Forest Hills, south of Queens Boulevard, farther into Queens, to Little Neck — where several people at the meeting said no one from the community goes to.
The proposed QT87 route also utilizes Ascan Avenue, a private road within Forest Hills Gardens.
Several members of the private community showed up at the community board meeting to denounce a public city bus using the privately-maintained street.
“I have to assume that the Q87 routing on Ascan Avenue is an inadvertent error, is an oversight because these are private streets and private property,” said Tony Barsamian, president of the Forest Hills Gardens Corporation that oversees the community’s upkeep.
Nearly every person in the room had issues with the draft plan, while the two MTA reps presented it as a “faster, more reliable” bus network. The plan, they said, aims to create straighter bus routes, end redundant routes and cut bus stops that are too close together in order to provide faster trips for riders.
The MTA representatives repeatedly assured the packed room that they were there to gather feedback in order to make adjustments to the current draft plan.
The agency said at the time it released the draft plan that it would have a final plan by the end of the second quarter. However, the MTA representatives at the community board meeting said there is no set timeline at this point.