At January’s Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association meeting, residents expressed their concern for the change once again.
“I live two houses off of 84th Street and when I asked residents on the block if they’ve heard about it, no one has heard about it,” said resident Lisa Shepkie.
At the meeting, WRBA president Ed Wendell asked if anyone in the room was in favor of the changes. But not a single resident raised a hand.
Wendell circulated letters earlier in the month around the neighborhood, urging residents to voice their opinion.
In a letter published by Wendell in the Leader/Observer, he wrote, “if you are coming home from Howard Beach or Ozone Park and Woodhaven Boulevard is congested or closed due to an accident, how will you cross Atlantic into Woodhaven?"
“Simply put, you can't keep closing access points to a community,” he continued.
The proposed changes have been the cause of much discussion and debate at recent Community Board 9 meetings.
At January’s meeting, residents took to the public forum to air their disapproval, and to question the board on why they did not receive a notice of the proposed changes.
Diane Yodice has lived down the block on 84th Street and 91st Avenue for the last 30 years.
“I can't imagine how the buses are going to get through,” she told attendees at CB 9’s January meeting. “And we already have two streets running southbound – 82nd and 94th streets. It's extremely unfair to take away our one direct northbound street.”
Shepkie also spoke at CB 9’s January meeting and told the board that she was used to it when it was a two-way street.
“Then I had to get used to it after it was converted to a southbound street, but now you're going to turn around and change it the other way,” she said. “Why? Why are you going to take away the one street that gets you directly to Woodhaven?”
A number of other residents said they had not been notified of the change and found out about it only days before it was to be voted on by the board on Tuesday, January 10.
Yodice said she first heard of the changes while sitting in St. Elizabeth’s Church and reading through their bulletin. “I saw a two little line blip: community board 9 meeting on proposed change of 84th Street,” she said.
She then emailed late Woodhaven activist Susan Farrell, who passed it on to the block association.
But CB9 Chairwoman Andrea Crawford said board officials sent out numerous mailings to individuals in the neighborhood.
“This board, this staff is very diligent in sending out notices about neighborhood or community changes,” Crawford told attendees at January’s meeting.
She also stressed that the community board did not ask for the street changes, but that it is a city proposal.
Residents are also concerned about the conversion of 89th Avenue from a two-way to one-way eastbound between Woodhaven Boulevard and 97th Street. Some worry about the effects it could have on school buses, since two grammar schools are nearby – P.S. 60 and St. Thomas the Apostle.
“They never even mentioned it in the bulletin, it was only until I was in touch with Community Board 9 that I heard of it,” Yodice said.
Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley told WRBA meeting attendees that there is no support behind the 89th Avenue change.
“I would advocate against it,” she told attendees. “I’m with you.”
The 84th Street change is not within the Crowley’s portion of the Woodhaven district.
Other elected officials are also voicing opposition to the proposed changes. One opponent is Assemblyman Mike Miller. In a statement last week, Miller said, “this proposal does not take the needs of the community into consideration.”
“This street is one of the only paths drivers have to go from Ozone Park, over Atlantic Avenue, into Woodhaven. The alternatives are to go out of the way or to sit in traffic on Woodhaven Boulevard,” he said.
It is not clear what Councilman Eric Ulrich’s stance is. Repeated calls to the councilman’s office went unanswered and messages left were not returned.
The DOT will hold a meeting on the proposed changes at St. Elizabeth's Church on 84th Street and Atlantic Avenue on Wednesday, February 1 at 7 p.m.