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Boro weighs in on city transit future

TimesLedger Newspapers

What projects would Queens residents like to see incorporated into the city’s next transportation plan? the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council asked the public at an open house at the borough president’s office last Thursday.

The answer: More bike lanes.

“I’m here as a cyclist,” said one man who rides his bike from Forest Hills to the Jamaica Long Island Rail Road station to get to school in Farmingdale. “It’s one big cycling nightmare from beginning to end.”

He said he is afraid to ride his bike after hearing about several other bicyclists who have been hit by cars.

“Now I’m spending more money on flashing lights on my bicycle, so I look like a Christmas tree, than I have actually spent on the bicycle,” he said.

Some people at the open house also brought up the Fresh Pond railyard in Glendale, asking the NYMTC to take into account solutions to quality-of-life issues in the surrounding community as part of its plan.

Community Board 5 District Manager Gary Giordano said the railyard is seeing more freight trains coming through and the surrounding community has had to deal with all-night operations.

“People can’t sleep, the exhaust residue is on their windowsills, and the town of Brookhaven just sold 230-plus acres … for an expansion of the railyard,” he said.

These comments and others were brought up at the open house, one of several the NYMTC has held as it formulates its regional transportation plan, a 25-year blueprint for transportation strategies and investments in New York City, Long Island and the lower Hudson Valley.

NYMTC is using the feedback to help shape the plan, which is updated every four years as mandated by the U.S. government in order to be eligible for federal transportation funds. The plan covers modes of transportation such as highways, streets, public transportation and bicycle and pedestrian facilities, and takes into account factors such as safety, congestion and the environment.

The planning director for NYMTC, Gerry Bogacz, who led the open house attended by about 20 people, said the process was in the beginning stages and the public’s comments provide important guidance to the organization as it moves forward.

“We’re at a point where, although we’ve done some work on the plan, this is a key point to give us input because our members are actually formulating the plan at this point,” Bogacz said. “So you’re not being asked to react to a graph but rather to provide input upstream.”

He said people can also submit comments online, and the first draft of the plan will be released in May 2013.

Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at kfrantz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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