QUEENS — Representatives of the Kew Gardens community came up with a plan that envisions saving the Long Island Rail Road bridge as well as a dozen businesses built along it, as the MTA considers demolishing the aging structure, local officials said.
The proposal, presented during a meeting of community representatives with MTA and LIRR engineers Wednesday, suggests building a new concrete deck beneath the current crumbling structure, which would support it, while eliminating the need to destroy the bridge, according to the office of local Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz.
The bridge built in the heart of Kew Gardens more than nine decades ago has become a hazard in recent years as the decaying structure continues to crumble while little is being done to maintain it, local merchants and elected officials said.
The idea to built the additional deck is the brainchild of Al Brand, a retired engineer and member of the Kew Gardens Civic Association, who came up with the plan on behalf of Koslowitz and the community, according to Michael Cohen, Koslowitz's spokesman.
Cohen, who participated in the Wednesday meeting, said that the MTA seemed willing to explore the proposed option, although it would have to hire an outside contractor to determine whether the new deck would provide enough clearance for the trains to pass beneath the bridge and whether the existing columns supporting the structure could handle its weight.
"If that can happen that would be fantastic because everything would just stay in place," Koslowitz said.
The bridge on Lefferts Boulevard, between Austin and Grenfell streets, consists of the roadway owned by the Department of Transportation and two LIRR-owned platforms supporting the rows of stores, including an accounting office, natural market, pharmacy, bagel shop and Chinese takeout.
"They have to help these people," Koslowitz said. "These people invest money into a business and then overnight they come and try to destroy it."
Local organizations have created The Save Kew Gardens Coalition vowing to fight for the bridge and its businesses.
They have also launched an online petition on Change.org which had more than 3,300 signatures as of Friday afternoon, about a month after it was created.
The stakeholders will meet again in July to ascertain how much it would cost to hire an outside consultant and who would pay for the study, according to Cohen.
A spokesman for the MTA confirmed that the meeting took place but declined to provide further comment Friday.