26 The QUEE NS Courier • DECEMBER 10, 2015 for breaking news visit www.qns.com Some LIC residents say not enough public input in Gantry Park redesign By Angela Matua email@example.com/@AngelaMatua Long Island City residents who frequent Gantry Plaza State Park will see a number of renovations come next summer, but some are saying they would have liked to have been included in discussions about the new features. Leslie Wright, regional director of the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, presented the plan at a Community Board 2 meeting on Dec. 3. Sheila Lewandowski, CB 2 second vice chair, said the park located on 48th Avenue between Vernon Boulevard and 5th Street was “poorly designed.” At the board’s meeting Thursday night in Sunnyside, Lewandowski, who lives near the park on 49th Avenue, said trash has flown over to neighboring yards and that park patrons have climbed the wall perimeter into her backyard to retrieve lost basketballs. She added that one day, a glass bottle was thrown over the wall to her neighbor’s yard, missing her neighbor by inches. “It’s a state agency issue,” Lewandowski told The Courier. “They don’t have systems through which they communicate directly with communities they’re serving and it causes a lot of problems.” The New York City Transit Riders Council is proposing a Freedom Ticket to alleviate the burden of people living in transportation deserts. The park was designed by Queens West Development Corporation when active recreation ‘FREEDOM TICKET’ WOULD ALLOW FREE TRANSFERS BETWEEN RAIL, SUBWAY AND BUS By Angela Matua firstname.lastname@example.org @AngelaMatua Many southeast Queens residents know all too well that they have some of the longest work commutes in the city. The New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) is proposing a new fare they say would slash costs and time spent traveling to and from work. The council proposed last week creating a “Freedom Ticket” allowing unlimited subway, bus and Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) or Metro- North Railroad trips within the five boroughs for $215 a month. Some Queens commuters who rely on a combination of the LIRR and MTA subways and buses to get around currently fork over $218 for a monthly LIRR pass on top of $116.50 for a monthly MetroCard. The NYCTRC, the citizens advisory committee to the MTA, released a report last Wednesday advocating for the new fare. Commutes for people living in transportation deserts like southeast Queens may stretch up to 15 hours per week, the report said. The cheapest travel options include a bus or dollar van ride to a subway, but a $10 LIRR ride — which is out of reach for many residents in the area — can shave off considerable time from a rider’s commute. Dollar vans, a popular option for people living in transportation deserts such as eastern Queens, have been a topic of controversy. Many operate illegally and there have been several van-related shootings and car chases within the last year. Councilmen I. Daneek Miller and Rory Lancman introduced the Commuter Van Reform Act in July to raise fines for illegally operating vans. A trip from Rosedale to Manhattan with the LIRR takes 40 minutes, while taking a bus or dollar van and then the subway takes 86 minutes, the report found. The report also argues that the Freedom Ticket would ease congestion on the heavily used E, J and Z lines. During a.m. peak hours, 34 percent of seats on the LIRR between southeast Queens and Jamaica are empty and 23 percent of seats between Jamaica and Penn Station are not used. The cheaper fair would encourage riders to utilize the commuter rail, according to the report. The council also suggested creating a one-way Freedom Ticket that would cost $6.50 — more than a bus or subway ticket but less than a one-way LIRR ticket — and cut travel time. The group, chaired by Andrew Albert, suggests implementing the Freedom Ticket in phases starting in 2017. The first phase would allow southeast Queens riders to purchase the ticket. By 2019, the fare would be expanded to areas where Metro- North and LIRR stations are 0.8 miles or farther from the nearest subway station. The Freedom Ticket would be implemented citywide by 2021. The MTA recently struck down an idea to create a free shuttle bus to LaGuardia Airport. A spokesperson for the MTA said the agency would “consider” implementing the Freedom Ticket. “It’s an interesting proposal to alleviate the concerns of some of our customers, though it would certainly carry a financial impact for the MTA as well, so we’ll consider it next year as we determine how to structure the next in our series of modest fare increases equivalent to the rate of inflation,” spokesman Kevin Ortiz said. spaces were being developed near residential areas. The park was transferred over to the State Parks jurisdiction several years ago. Lewandowski would like to see a large fence placed over the wall to deter people from climbing over. Wright also said the weeds growing on top of the wall will be removed but Lewandowski noted that the weeds have actually deterred people from climbing the wall, which has small grooves that allow people to easily scale it. Lisa Ann Deller, CB 2 first vice chair, also said that the design felt like a “done deal” and that the Parks Department did not provide enough opportunities for community engagement. Deller asked the regional director if comments were still being accepted. “There are always challenges with parks in an urban environment,” Wright said. She added that the agency would “absolutely” be open to hearing suggestions from community members. “If were going to find solutions they should be driven by people who are affected by it,” Lewandowski said. “The State Parks Department should sit down with those who are affected in a negative way.” The basketball courts will receive new backboards, posts and nets and a new surface. The red perimeter wall closest to the sidewalk will get a new coat of paint and preventive features to deter skateboarders and a higher fence will be placed around the handball courts. Construction for the courts will begin in spring 2015 and be ready next summer. Renovations for an existing “tot-lot,” a small playground for 2- to 5-year-olds, that was closed several years ago will begin in February 2016 and be open to the public next fall.
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