2005-08-12 / Editorial/Opinion

Reconstructing Beach 116 Street – It’s Never Easy

People began complaining about the configuration of parking on Beach 116 Street the day that the project was completed and it continues today. The complaints run the gamut of those things that can go wrong even if a plan is carefully drawn. The diagonal parking is dangerous. When a large vehicle is parked next to you, it is impossible to see oncoming traffic as you pull out. The parking malls are impossible to keep clean. There is never enough parking. People continually park illegally on the “no parking” curbs. When the mayor chose the southern end of Beach 116 Street for a memorial to those who died on American Airlines flight 587, one of the city’s perceptions was that the beach end of the street would have to be reconfigured. Well, the Department of Transportation figured, why not reconfigure the entire street and do away with all the complaints. Which, in the best of all possible worlds, sounds like a good idea. The problem is, the DOT plan, another plan that looks reasonable and well thought-out, is under attack from a number of local business people who believe that they will have nowhere to unload the trucks delivering goods to their businesses. They may or may not have a point. The DOT plan calls for parallel parking on both sides of the street and on both sides of the median as well. In that way, the number of parking spots remains virtually the same as it is today. Both the southbound and northbound roadways will be 31 feet wide. The plan is to have a 10-foot center median, a width designed to facilitate trees and decorative lighting. Do the math. A typical car is approximately 6 feet wide. The Hummer, the widest car, is only five or six inches wider. Heavy trucks are between eight and ten feet wide. Let’s posit an 18-wheel truck unloading in front of Brown’s Hardware and a Hummer across the street, probably the worst-case scenario we can come up with. The Hummer is nearly seven feet wide; the truck is nine or 10 feet wide. Add the two vehicles together and we get 16 or 17 feet. That leaves 15 feet for the travel lane, fine if nobody double-parks, thereby blocking the street entirely. Perhaps the center median should be reduced to five feet, even if we have to lose the trees and decorative lighting. That would make sense to all with the exception of those who think that decoration is more important that parking spaces and we have many of them in Rockaway. Of course, something will have to be worked out in terms of loading zones for stores such as Brown’s Hardware, the Rockaway Surf Shop and the Beach Club. Many other stores on the shopping strip get deliveries each day – bread, soda, produce, etc. They need assurances that they will get access to the curb for those deliveries. At the same time, the street is undergoing revitalization. The stores surrounding the subway station will get a facelift. The 9/11 Tribute Park will anchor the north end of the street while the AA 587 Memorial will do the same for the south end. There is a massive and expensive condominium that will bring lots of people to the street. A plan for change is needed and the DOT has come up with one that seems to work. We hope that agency can sit down with the business owners and work out the details. Beach 116 Street is important to the west end and to Rockaway. We would not like to see business owners driven out by the DOT improvement plan.

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