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Rockaway takeaway: City wants to take lanes from Canarsie thoroughfare

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The city wants to block a way on the Rockaway Parkway.

Locals are livid about the Department of Transporta­tion’s plans to take away a lane of the Rockaway Parkway in Canarsie as a way to reduce traffic accidents.

“I think it’s horrible,” said Canarsie resident Marc Want. “They’re out of their minds.”

Rockaway Parkway would go from two lanes each way down to one between Flatlands and Seaview avenues, to make room for turn lanes and pedestrian islands at intersections, according to the plan presented at the Community Board 18 meeting on Jan. 17.

The plan is part of Mayor DeBlasio’s Vision Zero initiative to eliminate traffic deaths by the year 2020, which identifies that stretch of the parkway a “Vision Zero Priority Corridor” due to the relatively high number of fatalities there.

Six people died and 22 suffered severe injuries in traffic accidents in that area between 2011 and 2015, and a majority of motorists speed between Avenues J and K on the parkway, according to city statistics. There are also several schools in the area, and a nursing home.

But Canarsie residents complained that the plan unfairly punishes drivers when the real problem is pedestrians.

“There are too many cars and not enough roads,” said Judy D. Newton at the CB18 meeting. “Instead of punishing motorists, who have to go to work, and people going about their day, why not also punish the jaywalkers?”

Locals also griped that the plan would make traffic even worse.

“Making that one lane will be disastrous. It’ll take forever,” said Jim Buchanan, “If it’s one lane, I’d rather walk. I could make it quicker.”

A Department of Transportation rep defended the one-lane proposal by calling the current arrangement a license to speed.

“Two lanes, there’s no reason not to speed,” he said. “One lane allows you to control speed.”

He also said that the planned left turn bays — separated from the other lanes by a concrete median — will better separate cars at the busy intersections.

“We think it’s better,” he said. “The left doesn’t interfere with the right.”

This is not the first plan the department has unveiled for Rockaway Parkway. The city suggested adding pedestrian islands back in 2016, and Community Board 18 supported the idea.

Residents did say they recognize the need to address the civilian deaths on the thoroughfare — but with something short of stripping away traffic lanes. Want said he would support adding speeding cameras to the area instead.

“I understand kids were killed. Idiots speed there,” he said. “They should put speeding cameras. It’d be a lot cheaper.”

Reach reporter Adam Lucente at alucente@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow him on Twitter @Adam_Lucente.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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