2004-12-10 / Front Page

Freeway Section To Close Soon

The decommission of Rockaway Freeway – to provide land for the Arverne By The Sea project – will soon begin with a permanent closure of a section of the notoriously dangerous roadway, according to a Community Board representative.

A four-block section of the freeway between Beach 73 and Beach 77 Streets will be closed off with traffic rerouted to either Rockaway Beach Boulevard or Beach Channel Drive, said Jonathan Gaska, Community Board 14 District Manager. While most of the freeway is slated to become parking for ABTS residents, this section will be part of the development, including part of the future YMCA ball field, said Gaska.

Gerard Romski, site manager for ABTS, said it would probably happen before the end of the month.

The closure is the first step in the freeway’s decommission, which would see the roadway “de-mapped and eliminated between Bay 32 and Beach 77 Streets to provide parking for the entire area,” as described in the ABTS draft Environmental Impact Study (EIS), which the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development released in June of 2003.

The “Roadway Modification” section of the EIS also calls for the reconstruction of the peninsula’s other major east-west roadways: Rockaway Beach Boulevard, Edgemere Avenue, Shore Front Parkway, and Beach Channel Drive. Gaska said the decommissioning of Rockaway Freeway was also included in the urban renewal plan for Arverne dating back to 1989. Those plans ultimately failed.

Rockaway Freeway, which connects with Beach Channel Drive just west of Beach 108 Street runs – at times under the deteriorated elevated subway tracks – to the Mott Avenue/Beach Channel Drive junction in Far Rockaway. For decades the roadway, which was two lanes in each direction and allowed north/south traffic to cross over, was notorious for crashes. Often, death, serious injury, or property damage, were the results.

The freeway was modified about four years ago – reducing it to one lane in each direction, adding turning lanes and lights, and preventing north/ south traffic in many areas – yet it remains one of the sites of the peninsula’s worst traffic accidents. A crash in the section that is soon to close sent eight people to the hospital in July.

By Brian Magoolaghan

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