The Cooper Avenue retaining wall has been under construction since January 2012, and the Department of Design and Construction (DDC) has said it should be done sometime in the summer.
It’s been a popular project, but now the area’s traffic patterns are the focus of a Department of Transportation (DOT) proposal, which has sparked some controversy from business owners, residents and community board members.
The retaining wall, which runs east to west through the Cooper Avenue underpass between 74th and 79th streets, was in dire need of repair when it was first brought to the Community Board 5 last year.
Gary Giordano, district manager of the CB5, said the board supported the $6.7 million capital project to repair the wall, which included the creation of sidewalk curbing along the underpass, replacement of the parapet wall on top of the retaining wall, and improvements to the sewage system.
“The parapet walls on top of the retaining walls were so deteriorated under the overpass that you could see the steel bars because there was so much erosion,” Giordano said. “If it did not get replaced, it is possible that something could have fallen on somebody walking by or fallen onto passing traffic.”
There has been little complaint with DDC and project contractors, who completed the Glendale side of the wall in December and are now in the process of completing the north wall on the Middle Village side.
Giordano says the board is now concerned about the DOT’s focus on traffic patterns in the vicinity. The department is calling for a directional change of 74th Street between Cooper Avenue and 78th Avenue, an adjacent road to the underpass that currently grants the neighborhood direct access from the avenue’s underpass.
“The DOT wants to reverse the direction of 74th Street between Cooper and 78th Avenue, alongside the new PS/IS 119, which we are not in favor of,” Giordano explained. “We think there will be more hazardous traffic conditions with those movements.”
Richard Huvel, owner of Superior Interlock across from the development and a longtime Glendale resident, was a supporter of the retaining wall repair project, however, he too agrees with Giordano that there is an additional burden being placed on the neighborhood as a result of DOT’s plans.
“Glendale is the city of cemeteries, parks and railroads, and the Cooper Avenue underpass is one of the only thoroughfares going east and west,” Hubel explained. “You eliminate that center buffer zone, you’re going to increase response time for emergency service vehicles; whether it is fire department, police department or ambulance.”
His family-operated business has been on Cooper Avenue for 66 years, and he is worried that the traffic conditions caused by the project will effect his business’s operation.
“Where are my guys going to park their cars when they come to work,” Huvel said, adding that the project will not only cause problems for his employees, but also shipments. “We have FedEx Trucks and UPS trucks which double park here all the time.”
Last week, standing outside of his businesses and examining the possible effects of the DOT’s proposed change, Huvel pointed out that several cars are now making illegal U-turns because there is no longer immediate access to the neighborhood streets.
“Everybody now has to make a conflicted turn at 73rd Place, they then have to make a conflicted turn at 78th Avenue, they then have to make a conflicted turn at 74th Street to go up the block,” he explained. “There are kids there and you’re just putting too many cars there.”
A DOT representative said the decision to change traffic flow in the area came in response to community feedback over the safety of pedestrians at the three-way intersection of 73rd Place, Cooper Avenue and 78th Avenue.
In addition to changes in traffic patterns, the proposal will also include shortened crossing distances, a crosswalk, and an adjusted signal timing.