311 Launches Portal to Report Obscured License Plates

Photo Credit: @placardabuse on Twitter

By Iryna Shkurhan[email protected] 

New Yorkers can now report delinquent drivers for obscuring their license plates through a simple 311 online portal. 

More and more drivers are modifying their license plates with a variety of tactics to avoid getting flagged by speeding cameras or paying tolls across the city. Some evasive drivers purchase a transparent cover on Amazon for less than $20 that reflects the camera’s flash to prevent recognition. While others resort to bending their plates, scratching off segments, spraying chemicals or even using temporary paper plates illegally. 

The new measure was unveiled following Councilmember Robert Holden’s letter to NYC’s Chief Technology Officer, Matthew Frasier, urging him to take action against the issue. Frasier coordinates tech related projects across the city in an effort to democratize technology.

Screenshot from the new 311 portal.

Previously CM Holden, who sits on the Committee of Transportation, sponsored a bill to prohibit the sale or distribution of materials that obscure or distort plates. Enacted by the council this past January, the first penalty for violations is $300 while subsequent ones would amount to $500. 

“The financial implications of this problem are significant as well. The State is losing considerable money on tolls due to obscured license plates, and the city is losing revenue from red light and speed cameras,” penned Holden to Frasier in a letter dated February 23, 2023. “In addition to the financial impact, the safety of our citizens is at risk. Using obscured license plates makes identifying and prosecuting individuals who commit crimes challenging.”

A report from THE CITY found that drivers modifying their plates to evade personal costs has cost the city up to $75 million in possible fines for license plates that were damaged, missing or obscured. Since the pandemic, the problem has only gotten worse with a significant rise in speed cameras unable to read license plates due to obstruction.  

In addition to lost funding, safety advocates say that these tactics embolden more reckless driving and that can put others on the road at risk. Others believe that drivers may be resorting to these measures due to a higher cost of living, especially with car related expenses, and are feeling pinched by the associated costs of gas, tolls and parking. 

Data obtained by THE CITY showed that from January 2016 to March 2020, approximately one percent of camera enforcement infractions showed up unreadable. But in December 2021, the number of vehicles that could not be ticketed jumped to four percent indicating a rise in plate obstruction. 

New York State’s Vehicle and Traffic Law states, “Number plates shall be kept clean and in a condition so as to be easily readable and shall not be covered by glass or any plastic material or substance that conceals or obscures such number plates or that distorts a recorded or photographic image of such number plates.” A violation can result in a fine ranging from $50 to $300.

Congresswoman Grace Meng recently shared that she was impacted by this tactic when a speeding car with modified characters was caught by a camera in Howard Beach and appeared to match her license plate.

“Nice try. This ain’t my car and the license plate clearly shows someone altered with the plate’s characters. See you in traffic court!” wrote Meng on her campaign Twitter account alongside pictures of the speeding violation ticket she received in the mail.

“We must prioritize tackling the persistent problem of obscured or tampered license plates,” said Council Member Holden in a press release. “Implementing a streamlined 311 reporting function empowers New Yorkers to swiftly alert law enforcement of such violations through a few simple taps on their smartphones. This responsive approach exemplifies the government’s commitment to addressing the concerns of its citizens.”

Once in the portal, reporters can describe the problem with a maximum of 2000 characters and attach up to three images showing evidence of license plate obstruction. Those reporting can also submit their own contact information to receive updates, but it is not required to identify yourself. 

To report a violation, you can visit the 311 portal

Opinion: Just heard about Citi Bike? Don’t complain.

A Citi Bike docking station in Glendale.

It’s now February, and as promised, more Citi Bike stations are creeping into the streets of Queens.

But somehow despite Community Boards discussing the topic at every meeting, civic associations fighting against the DOT’s original rollout plan and local reporters screaming into the void for a year, the normies are only just finding out about it.

Our question to them is: Have you been living under a rock?

In District 5 of Queens, for example, Citi Bikes are a hot button issue given that the communities of Ridgewood, Maspeth, Middle Village and Glendale fit the bill for being “transit deserts.” Additionally, NYC Economic Development Corporation produced a chart based on Census data, which shows that well over 60 percent of households in District 5 own cars.

Since the release of the DOT’s initial Citi Bike draft plan around this time last year, many longtime community residents have been angry and confused about the commercial enterprise coming to their neighborhood.

This is especially due to the fact that many of the Citi Bike docking stations were placed in roadbeds – where up to three parking spaces per station will be surrendered – as opposed to on sidewalks.

Elected officials, including Councilman Robert Holden and members of Community Board 5, have expressed their dismay with the DOT’s lack of transparency, since it neglected to present its Citi Bike draft plan for CB5 to vote on.

Juniper Park Civic Association released two reasonably feasible counter proposals in response to the DOT’s plan, where the group advocated for more stations to sit on sidewalks instead of in the street. CB5 also fought like hell, voting overwhelmingly in favor of submitting a letter to the DOT requesting that they be able to play an active role in the implementation of the program and the placement of these stations.

“Lyft’s Citi Bike program continues to gobble up parking spaces badly needed by hardworking New Yorkers, like a giant corporate PAC-MAN who refuses to hear the reasonable requests of middle-class neighborhoods in favor of the fanatical anti-car movement and a corporation with a vested interest in getting New Yorkers to give up owning cars,” Holden said in a statement back in July. “One of the great things about living in New York City, particularly in Queens, is that every neighborhood has its own character. The Queens DOT denies this unique diversity by forcing a one-size fits all approach to bike stations across the city.

In order to prevent this menace to our community, we needed to come together as a massive unit of residents and reach out to the powers that be. People who were angry and concerned about this stark loss of parking and ostracization of disabled and elderly folks who cannot use these bikes, needed to open their mouths – BEFORE, not after they’ve been fully implemented.

You’ll be hard pressed to get these things taken down by the DOT once they’re up.

Our newspaper and several other hyperlocal papers worked diligently to inform readers about this addition to the community through many meticulously reported updates and articles. We call on real New Yorkers to stay informed on what’s going on around them by supporting local journalism and using their voice to advocate for their best interests.

Once all the hipsters are over living in NYC for the aesthetic and head back to the Midwest to settle down, they will not take the bikes with them. We’ll be stuck living with it. Don’t let it happen again when the next big thing plagues our neighborhoods.

Queens’ top news stories of 2022

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

Given the events of the two years previous, 2022 was a year of opportunity for many.

It had its ups, but also its downs – and the borough of Queens was no exception.

The beginning of the year started with discussions of innovations in transportation, with Gov. Kathy Hochul’s announcement to move forward with the Interborough Express as part of her 2022 State of the State.

The proposed 24-mile Interborough Express would use existing tracks to connect 17 subway lines, four commuter rail lines and dozens of bus lines, with end-to-end travel time expected to be less than 40 minutes.

The year began with discussions of innovations in transportation, with Gov. Kathy Hochul’s announcement to move forward with the Interborough Express as part of her 2022 State of the State.

It would extend from Co-Op City in the Bronx to Bay Ridge in Brooklyn and could serve as many as 100,000 riders per day.

“It’s time to invest in the bold, cutting-edge infrastructure projects that will make a real difference in the lives of everyday New Yorkers,” Hochul said in a statement. “New Yorkers deserve reliable public transit that connects them from work to home and everywhere in between. The Interborough Express would be a transformational addition to Brooklyn and Queens, cutting down on travel time and helping neighborhoods and communities become cleaner, greener and more equitable.”

The conversation extended to more Queens residents advocating for the use of abandoned rail lines – such as the QNS plan, a proposal to reactivate and repurpose freight rail along the Lower Montauk Branch which runs through central Queens; and the QueensLink, a proposed 3.5-mile long transit and park corridor in the same space, which would connect northern and southern Queens.

The latter became a controversial issue in September, when Mayor Eric Adams came to Forest Hills to announce that the city plans to spend $35 million to begin phase one of construction for the QueensWay, a linear park along the 3.5 miles of abandoned railroad tracks, in place of the QueensLink.

Eric Adams paid a visit to Forest Hills for the announcement.

Friends of the QueensLink argued that the implementation of the QueensWay would shut out any future use of transit on the line and deprive Southern Queens residents of a faster commute and less traffic while reducing pollution and carbon emissions.

“They’re talking about transit, but they’re not doing anything about it. So the key is, if you really do care about public transit, and it’s not just a campaign slogan, then you need to take it seriously and study the integration of a Transit Link, which would be a subway and a park,” Rick Horan, executive director of QueensLink, said.

“Our goal is to try to see if there’s enough value in this project to get it there. But the only way we can do that is to study it,” he continued. “So we’ve been promoting an Environmental Impact Statement for QueensLink, which includes rail entry.”

An advancement in transportation that came to fruition was the completion of the massive Kew Gardens Interchange project after what feels like forever – 12 years, four phases and $739 million later.

The Kew Gardens Interchange is the complex intersection of the Grand Central Parkway, the Van Wyck Expressway, the Jackie Robinson Parkway and Union Turnpike. Its reconstruction allows for faster travel, safer merging and exiting and more reliable connections for travelers to get to JFK Airport and other prime destinations.

12 years, four phases and $739M later, the massive Kew Gardens Interchange project is complete.

The interchange serves nearly 600,000 vehicles daily.

Within the political sphere, the gubernatorial election between Democrat Kathy Hochul and Republican Lee Zeldin was a hot button issue statewide, but also in Queens – with a rise in fears of crime and Zeldin’s tough-on-crime campaign approach.

While Hochul came out victorious, Zeldin’s visit to Glendale and another to Middle Village resonated with many locals.

Lee Zeldin paid a visit to Glendale during his run for Governor.

Even neighborhoods that were once considered “more tame” by residents, such as Forest Hills, were the setting for true crime stories right here in Queens.

The spring for Forest Hills was particularly somber this year, following the grisly killings of two individuals: Orsolya Gaal and Zhiwen Yan.

Gaal, a 51-year-old mother of two from Forest Hills, whose body was discovered in a sports duffel bag near Forest Park in April.

David Bonola was sentenced to 25 years in prison following the murder of Orsolya Gaal.

Forty-four-year-old David Bonola of South Richmond Hill was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the slaying, and police say the pair had an on-and-off romantic affair for two years while Bonola worked at her home on Juno Street as a handyman.

The community came together to mourn the life of Zhiwen Yan, a food delivery worker who worked at Great Wall Chinese Restaurant in Forest Hills and resided in Middle Village with his wife and three children.

The community showed much support for Zhiwen Yan’s family during their time of grief.

Yan, 45, was fatally shot on the night of April 30 while riding his scooter on his way to deliver food in Forest Hills.

Glen Hirsch, 51, of Briarwood was charged for the killing, but eventually got out on bail and then committed suicide before he could do his time.

The murder of 61-year-old FDNY EMS worker, Alison Russo-Elling, in Astoria shocked the entire city.

The murder of Alison Russo-Elling left Queens in a state of shock.

The 25-year veteran of the FDNY, who responded to the 9/11 attacks in 2001, was brutally stabbed in September near EMS Station 49 in an unprovoked attack.

Peter Zisopoulos, 34, was charged with murder in the second degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree, according to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.

In terms of Astoria news, Innovation QNS – a project that seeks to rezone five city blocks to build a mixed use residential and commercial district in the neighborhood – was definitely the most talked about issue.

Rendering via Innovation QNS.

The project quickly became a controversial topic among residents, as concerns about displacement, lack of affordable housing, gentrification and not enough community outreach arose.

Councilwoman Julie Won, who represents that section of the district, pushed for 55 percent affordability for the 3,190-unit project recently, but indicated her support for the project at 45 percent affordability after negotiations with developers.

The project was ultimately passed by the City Council in November, with 46 votes in favor and one against. Its plan now features 1,436 affordable units – more than double the 711 units originally approved by the City Planning Commission.

“From Day 1, I have stood with my community in demanding deeper affordability from this development–and because we held the line, the Innovation QNS project has doubled the number of affordable units than initially offered, from 711 to 1,436 affordable units,” Won said in a statement.

More recently, locals clamored at the announcement of a new 25,000-seat soccer stadium for the New York City Football Club – slated to open in Willets Point in 2027.

The plan – spearheaded by Councilman Francisco Moya – includes 2,500 affordable homes (with no market rate components), a 650-seat school and a 250-room hotel.

Mayor Adams’ office projects that the development will bring in $6.1 billion in revenue over the next 30 years, as well as over 14,000 construction jobs and 1,550 permanent ones.

JPCA updates Citi Bike counterproposal

Group will negotiate with DOT before finalized plan

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

Following a pause for additional community feedback on the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Citi Bike expansion plan for District 5, Juniper Park Civic Association (JPCA) has released an updated counterproposal.

Back in April, JPCA released their initial counterproposal in response to the DOT’s original draft plan – which sought to add 52 Citi Bike stations to Ridgewood, Maspeth, Middle Village and Glendale. Thirty-four stations were planned to go in roadbeds and 18 stations were planned to go on sidewalks.

The original proposal for the Citi Bike expansion in District 5, circulated by the DOT.

JPCA’s original proposal called for 45 total stations – all on sidewalks in the interest of preserving parking spaces for locals.

Christina Wilkinson, a member of JPCA who prepared the counterproposal, said that despite submitting the original document to the DOT in April, they did not hear back until June, and all but seven new suggestions for the 34 stations allotted for the roadbeds were rejected.

“The reasons they gave didn’t really make any sense. It was this language that maybe they would understand, but nobody outside of the DOT would,” Wilkinson said.

She along with Councilman Robert Holden also felt a great sense of disappointment when the DOT neglected to present their plan to the full Community Board and obtain feedback from local businesses.

Additionally, at Community Board 5’s monthly meeting on Dec. 14, the board voted overwhelmingly in favor of submitting a letter to the DOT requesting that they be able to play an “active role” in the implementation of the program and the placement of these stations.

After some negotiation with the DOT, JPCA’s updated counterproposal calls for 53 stations in total, with 20 in roadbeds and 33 on sidewalks or in no parking areas.

The group argues that the neighborhoods of District 5 are low-rise communities where the majority of residents already own bikes and can adequately store them, resulting in a “reduced demand.”

They also brought up that because this area is a “transit desert,” many residents own cars and thus, need the street parking.

In addition, they argue that roadbed docks “prevent adequate street cleaning,” and that only able-bodied people can enjoy the bikes.

Ridgewood Gardens Associates, Inc., a residential cooperative corporation located at 5224 65th Place in Maspeth, expressed their dissatisfaction with the proposed placement of the Citi Bike stations near their property in a letter to Holden.

“These locations make no sense for several reasons…A large part of our resident population is elderly and they along with other residents struggle to find parking,” George Mandato, board president of Ridgewood Associates, Inc., wrote in the letter. “The inability to find parking is a serious problem for them and the loss of many parking spaces will clearly prejudice the health and safety of these disabled individuals.”

Wilkinson feels that CB5 had the right idea by voting to send that letter requesting more input, and that many people most likely are not even aware of the stations that are coming.

“The more input, the better,” she said. “We didn’t know about this co-op having an objection until [Dec. 16], so I guess most people in the area don’t know that this is coming. And when they find out, they freak out.”

The installation of the stations will be delayed until at least January, but it’s not certain as to when residents will begin seeing more Citi Bikes.

Op-Ed: Double down MTA, Queens needs more trains

By Juan Ardila, Assembly District 37 Elect

QNS rendering via Friends of the QNS.

Give credit where credit is due with the Interborough Express proposed by Gov. Hochul: For a governor to finally take notice of an underused freight-rail line running from Brooklyn into Queens, and pushing to convert that line to passenger rail, is an idea whose time has finally come.

The IBX, as proposed, would run 14 miles through these two boroughs without going through Manhattan. The governor and the MTA, in other words, are taking a real interest in helping all New Yorkers with their daily commute, and not just those traveling to Manhattan.

Moving away from Manhattan-centered planning is what Queens and the outer boroughs have long deserved, and addressing the mass transit needs of some of our long-marooned communities simply makes sense.

Converting this long right-of-way from freight to commuter rail, as opposed to asking the MTA to build out entirely new and expensive infrastructure, is cost-effective.

It also makes environmental sense as it helps to alleviate our city’s dependence on automobiles, which currently crowd our streets and highways.

Lastly, it makes economic sense, because the city benefits when more people have better mass-transit access to jobs, schools and other essential places like daycares and hospitals.

But I implore the governor and the MTA: Don’t stop there. Keep going and double down by revisiting the QNS plan, a recently studied proposal to reactivate and repurpose freight rail along the Lower Montauk Branch which runs through central Queens and can connect Long Island City to nearby neighborhoods like Maspeth, Ridgewood, Middle Village — all the way to Jamaica.

The governor can help us make Queens, the MTA’s most underserved borough after Staten Island, the sort of inter-connected, environmentally friendly, economic powerhouse it was meant to be.

The IBX and the QNS lines are also remarkably similar. Both are publicly owned right-of-ways that have been used sparingly for years by freight-rail companies.

Both can be converted comparatively cheaply, by infrastructure-expense standards, to include passenger service, sharing the same space with freight.

Passenger service can run during the day and freight can run in the off-hours. The QNS would be 90 percent less expensive to build out per mile than the Second Ave. subway plan by comparison.

Moreover, both the IBX plan and the QNS both call for a planned stop at Metropolitan Ave. in Middle Village, which could turn this growing neighborhood into a mass transportation hub.

If both lines are built, a 14-mile line would have 23 miles of new interconnectivity. This would be groundbreaking for those who live along these lines.

Right now, many of the areas where the unused QNS line lies are commonly referred to as transit deserts. What’s it like to live in a transit desert? I happen to know because I live in Maspeth. I can walk faster than most of the local buses through my neighborhood. People around here own cars out of necessity, not as a luxury. That’s not how New Yorkers should live.

This is no charity request either. Queens’ population has been exploding in recent decades.

Long Island City is one of the fastest-growing neighborhoods in all of America, period, while neighborhoods like Ridgewood and Jamaica are only getting more populated.

Neighborhoods along the QNS line are home to thousands of workers from all trades who are looking for better ways to get around. Approximately 95,000 existing jobs and three of NYC’s most important industrial business zones lie within a half-mile of the QNS line, so if both the IBX and the QNS are built, those workers will have a real chance of finding better jobs across the entire region with greater access to mass transportation.

What’s more, the nonprofit advocacy group Friends of the QNS, which has been promoting reactivating the Lower Montauk line for more than half a decade, has spent this summer working with a bicycle advocacy group here in Queens to promote a greenway that could be added alongside the train line.

The DOT and the MTA should review these proposals, because, despite all the pressures and complaints from drivers about congestion and parking, we have to find a way to share our city with bikes and other alternative forms of transportation.

I was glad to see that the QNS line was included in the MTA’s list of ideal projects in its 20-year Needs Assessment report (a 2018 DOT feasibility report has already made it clear that the proposal is feasible).

Rather than simply adding it onto a long list of to-do projects that may never get done, let’s make this one happen.

New Citi Bike stations ‘on hold’ for District 5

CB5 votes to send letter to DOT requesting input

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

The original proposal for the Citi Bike expansion in District 5, circulated by the DOT.

As the implementation of new Citi Bike stations for Queens District 5 comes closer, the debate on where they should go continues among members of the community.

Following an eventful Transportation Committee meeting of Community Board 5 on Nov. 29, the incoming installations are now “on hold” pending community feedback — much to the dismay of some residents.

The committee resolved that it would pen a letter to the Department of Transportation (DOT), requesting that the board be able to play an “active role” in the implementation of the program and the placement of these stations. In the interest of preserving as many parking spaces as possible, the committee stated a preference for stations on sidewalks, daylighting and no parking areas.

At CB5’s monthly meeting on Dec. 14, the board voted overwhelmingly in favor of submitting the letter, in hopes that they can figure out a way to make the Citi Bike system work for everyone.

CB5 voted in favor of sending a letter to the DOT, requesting that they play an active role in the implementation of the program.

“A lot of people in the community have various opinions on it, and everyone just wants to make sure it’s implemented in a way that provides the maximum benefit, while minimizing any consequences or downstream negative effects,” Eric Butkiewicz, a Middle Village resident and chairman of the Transportation Committee, said in an interview.

He said that the DOT has scrapped the original map of the draft plan that was circulated earlier this year, in wake of the pause for community input.

The installation of the stations will be delayed until at least January, but it’s not certain as to when residents will begin seeing more Citi Bikes.

“I think this is the proper way to do it. [The DOT] is open to community feedback and how they go about putting these stations within the grid, and I think that’s where we come in as a Community Board…what works and what doesn’t,” Butkiewicz continued. “It seems that the DOT has scrapped or put aside locations in the previous plan that were right outside businesses, which they thought were a good idea. Once they consulted or heard feedback from those local businesses, they found out that it would conflict severely with the ability for them to operate.”

While Butkiewicz feels the recent conversations around the Citi Bike installation have been productive, other locals feel disappointed in the new plans and left out of the conversation — including Rachel Albetski, an urban planner who resides in Ridgewood.

She and another resident attended the last Transportation Committee meeting to engage with board members and publicly discuss Citi Bike in a positive light to demonstrate that many locals are in favor of the expansion happening as quickly as possible.

“As soon as the door was opened to let us into the meeting, we were immediately questioned by the District Manager [Gary Giordano] where we were coming from and who we’re associated with…I was really taken aback,” Albetski said in an interview. “I’ve never ever been treated like that at a public meeting.”

Albetski claimed that she was told the entry restrictions were COVID-related, and that she did not see a Zoom link immediately available as a remote option.

She was eventually let into the meeting and shared her thoughts about Citi Bike to all who were present.

“I just wanted to give a positive voice to someone who is pro Citi Bike, and part of that stance is being in favor of seeing them in the roadbed and not on the sidewalk. Once they’re on the sidewalk, you’re further congesting sidewalk space…sidewalk space is at a premium and they’re already congested. It just doesn’t make sense to put Citi Bike on the sidewalk,” Albetski said.

She argued that the discussion at the meeting to go back to the drawing board in terms of placements of the stations was confusing, and said that this would only delay the project from community members who will benefit from more Citi Bikes now.

“That process should be open to more people besides the ones in that room because I don’t really think that it’s completely representative of what everyone in the actual broader community thinks. You’re saying that no one wants this and that the community is against it, but there’s actually a broad swath of people out there that really want to see it,” she said. “It’s just good to have another option for people when they just want to get around within their neighborhood, and it’s a great supplement for trips that would have been made by transit or car.”

Various letters of support from locals were submitted to the public forum of the recent monthly board meeting, as well as another letter questioning whether or not the CB meetings are actually public.

In reference to the Transportation Committee meeting, Giordano said that all members of the public who wanted to be let in, were indeed permitted to enter.

“I had some concern about additional people coming, to the point where it would be unsafe — especially with COVID,” he said. “We didn’t have anyone standing outside not able to get in.”

All members of the community were then encouraged to become involved in future meetings, reiterating that every meeting — both committee and board meetings — are open to the public.

Massive $739M Kew Gardens Interchange project completed

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

12 years, four phases and $739M later, the massive Kew Gardens Interchange project is complete.

After what feels like forever for many Queens residents, the $739 million Kew Gardens Interchange reconstruction project is finally complete, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced last week.

The extensive project, which took 12 years and four phases to reach completion, seeks to improve and modernize dated infrastructure and adapt to the needs of the nearly 600,000 vehicles the interchange serves each day.

The Kew Gardens Interchange is the complex intersection of the Grand Central Parkway, the Van Wyck Expressway, the Jackie Robinson Parkway and Union Turnpike. Its massive makeover allows for faster travel, safer merging and exiting and more reliable connections for travelers to get to JFK Airport and other prime destinations, according to Hochul’s announcement.

“The transformation of this vital interchange near one of New York’s major airports is the latest accomplishment in our efforts to modernize the state’s transportation network,” Hochul said in a statement. “The complete overhaul of Kew Gardens Interchange will provide a safer, less congested network of roads — improving the travel experience for nearly 600,000 daily motorists, enhancing quality of life and boosting the regional economy for decades to come.”

Following the announcement of its groundbreaking in 2010, the construction of the Kew Gardens Interchange was split into four phases — the most recent replacing the deteriorated two-lane Van Wyck Expressway southbound viaduct over the Grand Central Parkway with a continuous three-lane viaduct, and constructed new exits to the westbound Union Turnpike and the Jackie Robinson Parkway. Additionally, the three lanes from the Van Wyck now merge with two lanes from the Grand Central over a longer distance.

The final phase cost $366 million and was funded by the state.

In total, the entire project includes 22 new bridges, three rehabilitated bridges, wider travel lanes, new lane configurations, updated signage, upgraded stormwater drainage and a new dedicated shared use path for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Some locals who use the Kew Gardens Interchange on a regular basis could not be happier to see it completed, including TikToker Mike Schulte, a Rego Park native and Glendale resident.

In December 2020, Schulte posted a video to his TikTok page, @itsyaboymikeofficial, with clips that showed portions of the Kew Gardens Interchange under construction, along with heavily trafficked roads.

Relating to the shared experience of many New Yorkers in a humorous way, Schulte went on to add captions to his video such as “Is this just in NYC?” and “Do you have roads that have…been under construction your whole life?”

Schulte reminisced on how far the project has come since his video, and applauded all of the workers who made the finished product possible.

“Frankly, it’s really nice to see it finally finished…and still a bit shocking that you can now drive through that area without traffic sometimes,” he said. “As a lifelong New Yorker who’s dealt with his fair share of traffic, it’s refreshing to see a project finally finished and working in the way it was intended.”

Other residents feel differently about the outcome.

Kenichi Wilson, an Ozone Park resident, first vice chair of Queens Community Board 9 and a former chairman of its Transportation Committee, said he feels the new additions don’t adequately address the needs of motorists and that its layout is confusing.

“There’s still some ways that you can’t get off…for example, you can’t go from the Van Wyck to the Grand Central eastbound, which is very confusing, and I don’t know why that was never in the plans,” Wilson said.

He feels that the Interchange is not a driver-friendly route, and actually discourages his daughter, who’s a new driver, from using it out of fear that she’ll get sideswiped or pushed into a wall.

“The Jackie Robinson opens up into that interchange…it’s still a squeeze, a hard right or hard left, that people are sideswiping the wall. Out of all that, couldn’t they improve that? People fear that section right before the interchange because they’re afraid that someone’s gonna sideswipe them or push them into the wall,” he said. “A lot of people in the neighborhood are not happy and they figured, ‘you’re completing it this time, why didn’t you think of the modern problems nowadays?’ It will definitely take some getting used to.”

Construction and revamping were never strangers to the Interchange, as it was built in the 1930s and expanded in the 1960s.

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