Major Transportation Hearing Tuesday
By Brian Magoolaghan
It's put up or shut up time for Rockaway and Broad Channel residents who have gripes about mass transit or other transportation issues.
Community members will have a rare opportunity to have their voices heard Tuesday night - without having to go all the way to City Hall - when the City Council's Transportation Committee holds a hearing in Broad Channel.
"I'm alerting everyone that this is the chance of a lifetime," said Democratic District Leader Lew M. Simon, who urged City Council Speaker Christine Quinn to hold such a meeting when she spoke at his office late last year.
"This is a chance for the community to speak up, and we'll finally be heard," said Simon. "I'm hoping that they hear us loud and clear."
The public will have the chance to speak at the hearing in two- to three-minute intervals.
City Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr. told The Wave this week that he's hopeful that the building and population boom in this area, combined with a strong turnout at the meeting, will result in funding for additional capital improvements in the fiscal year 2008 budget.
"For years now, transportation in the area has been deplorable," said Addabbo.
Representatives from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Department of Transportation and the Mayor's Office will be at the hearing, which will be led by City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing), the Transportation Committee chair.
The big question this week was just how many residents would show up.
The hearing was promoted at last week's Community Board 14 meeting, and several board members are planning to testify Tuesday night, according to CB14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska.
"Quite frankly, I'm hoping that people in Rockaway show up," Gaska said. "People should come out in numbers to make the point that government needs to do a better job in Rockaway in terms of transportation."
Gaska and others said improving rail and bus service and adding ferry service from Riis Landing to Manhattan are sure to take center stage.
Simon this week continued to urge people to attend the hearing and announced that he has arranged free transportation by Varsity coach bus from the Good Government Regular Democratic Club at 112-20 Beach Channel Drive (opposite Waldbaum's) to the hearing location. He asked anyone interested in riding on one of the buses to arrive by 5:30 p.m.
Andy McGee, a Belle Harbor resident who called The Wave this week to talk about the hearing, said he too was worried that not enough residents would show.
"That's always the way it is down here, but this is of number one importance," said McGee. He also said that he has heard politicians "talk, promise and do nothing about transportation" for the last 40 years. Improvements in mass transit, McGee said, would be the answer to "a lot of our problems."
The hearing is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, April 24, 6:30 p.m. at the Broad Channel American Legion 1404 located at 209 Cross Bay Boulevard. To contact Simon regarding the shuttle buses, call 718-945-1216.