4 The QUEE NS Courier • DECEMBER 10, 2015 for breaking news visit www.qns.com Officials, riders praise Flushing SBS in first week, but some concerns raised By Alina Suriel firstname.lastname@example.org/@alinangelica It’s so far, so good for the Q44 Select Bus Service (SBS) route through Queens during its first week of operation. Officials and community members have expressed their approval at the roll-out of the SBS from Flushing to Jamaica on the Q44 route. The new routes were implemented on Nov. 29; the Q44 SBS marks the ninth SBS route in the city. According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), design elements along this route include offboard fare collection and dedicated bus lanes. To provide safer crossings for pedestrians, the agency will build pedestrian medians at certain intersections throughout the route and the Department of Design and Construction (DDC) will construct widened sidewalks in downtown Flushing. Mayor Bill de Blasio said this route is part of his administration’s pledge to increase the Select Bus Service and utilize it on 20 routes citywide. “This community has some of the highest bus ridership in the whole city, and it’s long past time we got these buses moving,” de Blasio said. Assemblywoman Nily Rozic said northeast Queens had too few transit options to connect the growing neighborhoods. “This new route will go a long way in improving how New Yorkers experience mass transit by providing accessible service that aims to cut down travel time, eases the flow of traffic through the use of dedicated bus lanes, and focuses on pedestrian safety,” Rozic said. Councilman Rory Lancman, once a critic of the change, applauded the MTA and DOT for using community feedback to create a plan that works for bus riders, pedestrians and drivers. “The Q44 Select Bus Service will speed up commutes for thousands of riders every day,” Lancman said. Public transit advocacy group Riders Alliance gathered for a celebratory bus ride on Nov. 29 to mark the first day of the new Q44 Select Bus Service. According to the organization, riders noted faster commute times and substantial improvements to the bus riding experience. Riders Alliance organizer and Queens resident Josselyn Atahualpa said the implementation of the Q44 marks an important time for bus riders who worked for a year to make it a reality. “For Riders Alliance members who ride the Q44, SBS isn’t just about better commutes,” Atahualpa said. “It also shows that when bus riders speak up, we can make change happen.” Although many are in favor of the new route, Councilman Peter Koo of Flushing has expressed concerns about some aspects of the service, noting that questions still abound about when drivers are allowed to travel in the bus lanes. According to Koo, NYPD officers are currently issuing tickets to cars driving in the bus lanes, although his office had been told by the DOT that there will be a grace period as SBS gets off the ground. “I have repeatedly asked the DOT to work more closely with the local precinct so that all enforcement agencies are on the same page, and that the public can know what to expect,” Koo said earlier in the week. “Unfortunately, two days after the implementation of SBS, these questions still persist.” THE COURIER/Photo by Angela Matua A group of fires in Forest Hills is being investigated by the NYPD. NYPD HEIGHTENS SECURITY, ASKS FOR HELP TO CATCH FOREST HILLS ARSONIST By Angela Matua email@example.com.@AngelaMatua A recent rash of fires in Forest Hills that have left construction sites charred is getting increased attention from the NYPD, which brought in its Arson Explosion Squad and Major Case Squad to help with the investigation. Police believe all the fires are connected to the same suspect. Five of the seven targeted properties are owned by Bukharian Jews, yet the NYPD has been hesitant to officially declare the arson pattern a hate crime. Nevertheless, the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force is also participating in the investigation, NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyd said at a community meeting at the Bukharian Jewish Community Center on Tuesday. Members of the Bukharian Jewish community in the Cord Meyer area of Forest Hills feel they are being personally targeted because of the crime pattern. On Sunday, community leaders announced at the Bukharian Jewish Community Center that they have pooled together $50,000 as a reward for anyone with information about the suspect. Each fire occurred within a few blocks of each other, starting with the fire on Oct. 20 at 70-35 113th St. A property owned by Rabbi Zalman Zvulonov, director of the Bukharian Jewish Community Center’s Yeshiva, was targeted twice. Located at 112-35 69th Rd., the site was first hit on Nov. 15 and then set ablaze again on Sunday at 12:18 a.m. Police released a video on Nov. 27 of a suspicious person dressed in all white pacing around 67th Drive near 110th Street, where a fire was set on Wednesday night around 11:12 p.m. Boyd said identifying the arsonist needs to be a community effort and police are asking people with security cameras to position them outward onto the street in case the suspect is walking near. “We’re trying to tap into community sources that we need to solve this crime,” Boyce said. “We’re going to solve this crime together.” According to authorities, the arsonist left a note with various letters and symbols one block away from 108-47 67 Dr., where he set a fire. According to a spokesperson for the NYPD, the note “turned out to be a fruitless clue.” A Courier reporter noticed on Tuesday several police cars patrolling at least three of the arson sites and a command post at 112th Street and 68th Avenue. “I lay in my bed at night and hear those fire engines going past my house and I say, ‘Oh no, not another one,’” Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz said at the meeting today. “We have to catch the person that’s creating these fires.” On Dec. 8, police released a video of the person of interest walking eastbound on 69 Road in the vicinity of 112 Street and the Grand Central Parkway on Dec. 6 at 12:10 a.m. Anyone with information regarding the arson pattern is urged to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577- TIPS, visit their website or send a text message to 274637 (CRIMES), then enter TIP577. All calls and messages are kept confidential. Persons who witness trespassers or others taking part in suspicious activity at a location should call 911 immediately.
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