2007-04-06 / Editorial/Opinion

Opinions Toying With Rockaway's Road System

The military has a name for what happened in Rockaway on Thursday, March 29, but we can't print it in a family newspaper. For several hours, the three major east-west roadways that run from Beach 73 Street to Beach 108 Street were in gridlock because the city's Department of Design and Construction (DDC) decided to begin a much-needed road construction procedure several days early without adequate warning to the community. When we contacted the Department of Transportation, the agency we believed was the culprit for the monumental logjam, we were told that they don't do the primary milling work and that the DOT does the repaving after the milling is done. When we got to DDC, a spokesperson told us that there was a hole in the schedule and they decided to begin the project several days early. The DDC said that they had faxed a message to Community Board 14 that the work was to begin early the evening of March 28, after the board offices were closed for the day. Even the police, who are generally made aware of street closing in their precinct areas in advance, were caught short by this one. Had the police not taken the initiative to order the road to be reopened, there is a chance we could still be in gridlock today. Part of the problem is that there is no coordination between agencies and requests to close streets are routinely approved without any knowledge of what's going on in other parts of the area. When DDC gave permission for its contractor to cut off the westbound lane of Beach Channel Drive, it had no knowledge that the Rockaway Freeway was closed at both Beach 73 Street and Beach 62 Street and that Rockaway Beach Boulevard was closed off at Beach 73 Street as well. Perhaps the agency did not care. Perhaps it was just an error in judgment to allow so many vital major roads to be closed at one time. Perhaps it is simply institutional stupidity, a belief that what you are doing is so important that it does not matter what impact it has elsewhere. In any case, Rockaway is running at the edge of the envelope. Traffic increases daily as new people come into the community and as the warmer weather draws people to the beach and boardwalk. That increase comes as the DOT and the DDC continue to narrow the roads that the traffic must transverse to get from one end of the peninsula to another. We understand that Rockaway Beach Boulevard will be closed in various areas along the new Arverne By The Sea project for months. The road that was supposed to take its place, Beach Front Parkway, will never be ready in time to pick up the slack. There are only so many east-west roads - Beach Channel Drive, Edgemere Avenue, Rockaway Beach Boulevard, the Rockaway Freeway and Shore Front Parkway. Some of them cover only small sections of the peninsula, while others go from one end of the peninsula to the other. None of the roads should be closed without consultation to find out what is happening with the others, and none should be closed without adequate notification to the community. And that does not mean the evening before the road is to be closed.

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