March 29, 2019, By Meghan Sackman
Jackson Heights residents and advocacy groups are rallying tomorrow to ensure that 78th Street, between 34th Street and Northern Boulevard, will be car free as part of the original Travers Park redesign.
The rally, to take place on March 30 at 11 a.m. on 78th Street, comes after residents took note of Koeppel Mazda Car Dealership opening a service entrance for cars to enter the dealership on 78th Street.
This entrance is located to the north of Travers Park, the Garden School, and Staunton Field, on 78th Street, where a car free plaza was incorporated into the decade long plan for the park redesign.
Residents are appalled by the possibility of this invasion of vehicles into the anticipated pedestrian haven, according to Shakar Krishnan, Co-Chair of public space advocacy group, Friends of Diversity Plaza, who pointed out the danger this situation presents.
“It’s unimaginable that all of these plans–we’ve been fighting for years to protect this area from vehicles–are being overturned by this car dealership service entrance,” Krishnan said.
Krishnan also said that Koeppel had full knowledge of the plan for a car free space on 78th when the dealership moved there in November.
He said that they are simply demanding that Koeppel use its other two entrances, one located on 77th Street and the other located off Northern Boulevard, instead of interfering with the final phase of construction for Travers Park.
Advocates, who anticipate 50 to 75 rally participants based on Facebook RSVPs, went to the lengths of sending a letter to Koeppel’s management.
The letter, dated March 7, asked for the removal of the service entrance and included the backing of Council Member Daniel Dromm, who has been in support of the car free plaza since day one of the plan.
“As one of the leaders who fought for the complete closure of 78th Street over the last 10 years, I support the community’s efforts to have it remain a full closure,” Dromm said in a statement. “ I remain committed to working with the community to ensure that 78th Street is a car-free zone and a full extension of Travers Park.”
According to the NYC Parks Department, construction on the fourth phase of the Travers Park redesign is under review.
“The Travers Park project is on schedule and moving forward,” said a Parks Department spokesperson. “Parks and DOT remain committed to opening up pedestrian access on 78th Street. The design is currently under review, but no changes have been finalized at this point.”
Koeppel Mazda Car Dealership has not responded for request to comment within press time.