The vote comes as a big win for the Woodhaven community, who fought a highly vocal battle to have the street directions remain as they are.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) proposed changing the direction of the two streets in late 2011 – 84th Street was slated to be transformed from a one-way northbound to a one-way southbound from Liberty to Atlantic avenues, and 89th Avenue was slated to be converted from a two-way to a one-way street running eastbound between Woodhaven Boulevard and 97th Street.
Many residents were against the conversion of 89th Avenue because they said it would inhibit access to certain blocks, forcing them to drive around unnecessarily to get home.
Woodhaven residents were against turning 84th Street southbound because they feared it would prevent access into their neighborhood, particularly Jamaica Avenue. The street, they said, was their only path other than Woodhaven Boulevard to drive straight into Woodhaven from Ozone Park.
And at a forum held in February with DOT Queens Borough Commissioner Maura McCarthy, many residents said the change would isolate the Ozone Park and Woodhaven communities.
“Everyone in Woodhaven uses 84th Street every day to avoid the overcrowding of cars on Woodhaven Boulevard during rush hour,” said resident David Adorno. “It is a major street and the change should never have been brought to the table.”
He said he was glad CB9 voted against the changes, “because if they had voted in favor, it would mean that they don’t represent the best interest of the overall community, who were largely in opposition to this.”
At February’s forum, McCarthy noted that neither one of the changes were mandated because of safety issues, such as a high accident-prone intersection. She also noted that the DOT would not implement any changes over the objections of the community, but would only do so if there was a safety issue.
Many residents said they were not properly notified about the plans, but CB9 said the board sent out numerous notifications to individuals and civic organizations about the changes.
“This board, this staff is very diligent in sending out notices about neighborhood or community changes,” former CB9 Chair Andrea Crawford said at January’s board meeting.
Many Woodhaven residents packed the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Ambulance Corps building on Jamaica Avenue for the meeting, and when the unanimous vote against the conversions was cast, some cheered.
“We get e-mails and phone calls from people who are frustrated, who see things about our community that bother them,” said Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA). “And they are close to giving up because they think they can't make a difference.
“[Tuesday] night proved that one person can make a difference,” he added. “And it also proved that when a community works together, they can get quite a bit accomplished.”
According to Wendell, one resident, Diane Yodice, who noticed a church bulletin stating that the board would vote on the changes in December, prompted Woodhaven’s protests to the changes. She informed late activist Susan Farrell, who then told WRBA.
Community Board 9 tabled the vote in December, and did so again in January and February, after more residents spoke out against the conversions.
“Overall, the system worked,” Wendell said. “Initially, all we wanted was a chance to be heard.”