May 10, 2019 By Meghan Sackman
Jackson Heights residents and advocacy groups are rallying tomorrow, for the second time, to ensure that 78th Street, between 34th Street and Northern Boulevard, will be car free as part of the original Travers Park redesign.
The “Save Travers Park ‘Play In’ Community Rally”, to take place Saturday from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the park, will fill 78th Street with children and other residents to show the importance of keeping the street car free, despite the Koeppel Mazda dealership service entrance on the same street.
Advocates, including members of grassroots groups such as Make Queens Safer, Transportation Alternatives, and Jackson Heights Green Alliance, think this service entrance is unnecessary due to the fact that the Toyota dealership, which was there before Koeppel, chose not to put a service entrance there on its own accord.
Advocates for the cause say Northern Boulevard is too dangerous to have cars coming off that road onto a street where they may not expect to stop their vehicle. They say there is a safety issue with children being in such close proximity to these drivers that enter through the service entrance.
“Drivers coming off Northern Boulevard onto 78th Street are not going to be aware that they have to stop in 100 feet, said Christina Furlong, co-founder of grassroots group Make Queens Safer. “It’s too much of a conflict for the only play space in Jackson Heights.”
Furlong, who attended the first rally for a car free plaza in March where people barricaded the service entrance to block cars, and the town hall meeting where Council Member Dromm reaffirmed his support to the car free street, said the community needs a commitment from the Mayor on this issue.
The original redesign for Travers Park, which has recently completed, included keeping 78th Street completely car free until it hit Northern Boulevard.
A representative from the Mayor’s Office attended the town hall meeting last month and said De Blasio remains in support of the original plans, but Furlong and other advocates for the cause are worried he won’t follow through.
“We need the Mayor’s office to get on board. They made a statement that they need to be held accountable for,” said Furlong. “It’s been a long process of trying to take back green space in the community and after 10 years and soon to be three events taking action, it’s time to get a commitment.”