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Flushing leaders fume as DOT pulls one-way plans

A city plan introduced nearly four years ago to make Main and Union streets in Flushing one-way was tabled earlier this month, surprising and aggravating community leaders.

The plan, which the city Department of Transportation said it had finalized a year ago, was aimed at relieving traffic in the downtown area in time for the construction of several large development projects poised to increase the significant traffic woes the neighborhood is already facing.

“A couple of weeks ago things were being put together for presentation, and all of a sudden we get this phone call saying it’s being modified,” said Flushing BID Executive Director Mabel Law, who has been working on the plans with the DOT. “The main modification or proposal that they’re probably going to give us at an update meeting in a couple of weeks is that DOT says it would be two-way with restricted turns. I told them that kind of sounds like what we have now.”

Main and Union streets currently do not allow turns at several intersections at specific times of day in order to enhance safety for pedestrians.

Between 96,000 and 98,000 people pass through Main Street in Flushing in a given day, which is comparable to 34th Street in Manhattan, Law said, and as such the neighborhood needs more comprehensive traffic and pedestrian plans. The Flushing Main Street No. 7 subway station is the most-trafficked subway station outside of Manhattan and has the 12th-highest ridership of the city’s 468 stations, according to a 2008 MTA study.

The traffic congestion problem will only increase when Flushing Commons, an $800 million mixed-use project now undergoing public review is built by 2013 where Municipal Lot 1 stands now, according to Chuck Apelian, vice chairman of Community Board 7, who said he was surprised when he heard the DOT was scrapping the original plan.

“We had worked on this for two years in various formats. It’s very frustrating now because we are at a critical juncture,” he said. “The success of adding a project as big as [Flushing Commons] is obviously going to be dependent on the surrounding streets being able to handle the traffic. ... I’m very disappointed about the timing.”

One of the reasons for the original plan, which the DOT proposed and said it had finalized last year, was to further protect pedestrians.

The changes, which would have made Main Street one-way northbound and Union Street one-way southbound, were also expected to relocate bus stops and widen sidewalks by as much as 10 feet to allow disabled people and people getting off of buses to have more space. The sidewalk widening has also been tabled, according to Law.

Apelian said a community board subcommittee was scheduled to discuss the matter during a public meeting this week, and Law said there would be a closed-door meeting between DOT and Flushing officials near the end of the month.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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