QUEENS — Members of Community Board 6 said Thursday that the Department of Transportation proposal to remove 14 parking spaces from a busy commercial strip in Forest Hills in an effort to curb the number of accidents there, will hurt local stores and restaurants.
Ann Marie Doherty of the DOT told the board Thursday that 17 people were injured at the intersection of Metropolitan and 71st avenues between 2007 and 2011. In 2011, she said, a pedestrian was fatally hit when a car traveling east made a left turn from Metropolitan Avenue on to 71st Avenue.
The measures proposed by the DOT for the intersection also include relocating a Q54 bus stop in order to install two left turn bays on Metropolitan Avenue, one on each side of the intersection.
Doherty also pointed out that a number of stores on that stretch of Metropolitan Avenue, including 7-Eleven, have large parking lots, which could help alleviate the problem.
But the board members said the loss of 14 parking spaces would harm local businesses.
“You haven’t really thought out this situation at all,” said Barbara Stuchinski, one of the board members. Stuchinski said the proposal would especially hurt Glascott Funeral Home and Jones Surgical store, which “has a lot of senior traffic going in for different supplies.”
Joseph Hennessy, the chairman of the board, said that he has received numerous complaints from local business owners about the proposal. He also said that patrons cannot use parking lots which belong to stores if they don't shop there.
Board members also demanded more details about crash statistics presented by the DOT.
Ron Cohen from the Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corp., which is based on Metropolitan Ave., said his organization “responds to many more emergencies with serious injuries at the intersection of Union Turnpike and Metropolitan Avenue,” than at the intersection of Metropolitan and 71st aves.
The problem, he said, is a high volume of traffic along Metropolitan Avenue in general. “One turning lane is not going to make a whole lot of difference,” he said.
Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz said that taking away parking spots "hurts business. If people want to go into a store and they can’t find a parking spot, they go someplace else.”
The DOT also proposed safety measures for the intersection of Union Turnpike and Austin Street, located near The Kew-Forest School, a college preparatory school with about 300 students.
Drivers at that intersection often use a right turn only lane on Union Turnpike to go straight instead, which endangers pedestrians, according to the agency.
The DOT wants to install a painted buffer area and plastic bollards to prevent drivers from going straight.
The board will vote on the proposals in October, but its recommendations will be non-binding.