Nov. 7, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez
A developer is revisiting plans to install a small, seasonal seating area along the curb on Jackson Avenue, with Community Board 2 once again expressing safety concerns about the project.
Rockrose, the developer behind several luxury developments in the Court Square area, is proposing to bring a “Street Seat” in front of 26-01 Jackson Ave., a couple of feet away from the intersection of 44th Drive and Jackson Avenue.
The street seat is part of a Department of Transportation program, and replaces some curbside parking space with a mini box-like structure decked out in seats, plantings, and other accessories for a period of about 10 months beginning in the spring.
The request for a street seat, presented at Monday’s Community Board 2 Transportation Committee meeting, marks the second for Rockrose. The company had originally applied for a larger street seat to be installed in the parking lane front of Toby’s Estate, a couple of storefronts down its current proposed siting, in the spring of 2017.
The original request, however, was later dropped because of issues relating to the seat’s length and placement near the odd intersection of 43rd and Jackson Avenues and Purves Street. At the time, the community board said traffic flow adjustments would be required to nearby streets for the unit to safely be installed.
Rockrose now seeks to install a smaller, standard street seat, measuring 6 feet wide by about 30 feet long, in the parking lane adjacent to the Hayden, one of Rockrose’s buildings.
No changes to traffic flow are expected, although the street seat is designed to take up roughly two parking spots, given the buffers and other safety features typically installed around the unit.
The street seat, like the 16 others around the city, prohibits alcohol and smoking inside, and acts as an extension of a sidewalk. Commercial activity is also prohibited in the street seat.
Rockrose, additionally, will be responsible for the maintenance and safety of the unit. Set operating hours are also tied to the public space.
Patricia Dunphy, senior vice president of Rockrose, said the street seat would liven up the Jackson Avenue block, which is poised to see more commercial growth due to spaces like Book Culture, Xi’an Famous Foods, and more opening in the stretch.
“The idea is to have some more activity here,” she said during the committee meeting. “We think it’s going to be just great…it’s just another space to be outdoors.”
She also brought letters of support from groups like the Long Island City Partnership and other civic associations.
Shari Gold, part of the DOT’s public space unit that oversees street furniture, said the street seat activates street life and would create another public space in an area that lacks it.
“There’s a lack of open space,” she said. “There is a need, and this is what the community wants. We have a developer that is willing to try.”
Some transportation committee members, however, rejected the street seat siting, echoing concerns about the original proposal and claiming that safety is once again at risk here.
“Why would we seat people in the middle of the street on a truck route?” said Denise Keehan-Smith, chair of the transportation committee.
John O’Neil, from the Queens DOT office, told Keehan-Smith that the street seat wouldn’t be in the middle of the street, but rather in a parking lane away from traffic.
Gold, meanwhile, said street seats have been successfully installed along traffic routes in Brooklyn, which have not been the cause of any accidents.
“I think it’s very dangerous, personally,” Keehan-Smith said.
Sheila Lewandowski, another committee member, said she wants to support the street seat, but its location also made her reluctant to accept the idea. She also requested more data from the DOT on traffic impacts, pedestrian volumes, and more to help the committee come to a decision.
Gold repeated that the street seat proposed location in a parking lane means there will be no impact on traffic, and that data wouldn’t reflect any changes as a result of the unit. Parking, she said, would be the only factor affected during the months the street seat is up.
The board, however, strongly disagreed on the DOT’s responses.
“This is where we always get stuck,” Keehan-Smith said. “What you’re saying is not realistic. It’s not reality. We live in reality, and we know what can possibly happen.”
“You don’t want to talk about traffic, but we do,” Lewandowski said, adding that the agency should perhaps look at other places in the Court Square area for the seating.
The DOT said it is hoping to install the street seat for the 2019 season, or some time in March, but whether it goes through depends on community board approval.
Keehan-Smith, however, requested a town hall on the plan to make sure voices from the people in the area are heard.
If approved, the street seat would be the first for Queens.
MAYBE AMAZON CAN FIT THEIR NEW HQ IN THE TWO PARKING SPACES? YOU SEE, I AM A IDEA MAN.
“It’s not reality. We live in reality, and we know what can possibly happen.”
This statement contradicts itself on its face. Reality is what is real, what actually does happen, not what can POSSIBLY happen, which is speculation. They don’t live in reality, they live in hysteric fantasy land. What can possibly happen from having a street seat here? If there is already parking there, you aren’t blocking a driving lane, so you don’t create more traffic at the corner. And has there ever even been one instance of a driving car hitting a parked vehicle at that location? Has one single car ever veered into that parking area and struck a parked car? If not, then what would be the safety issue? Why would a seat be any more prone to being struck by a vehicle than a car parked there? Honestly, where do people come up with these far-fetched doomsday scenarios? Granted, it seems a strange corner to stick a street seat in but not because of any safety issue.
The car people are some of the greediest, craziest, selfish people in the city. They would kill your grandmother for a spot.
Tally the developer / DOT / CB employee names being discussed in this article, their associated salaries, and let me know how much money NYC is wasting discussing ‘a seat’. Also, my favorite part of this is Keehan-Smith saying “I think it’s very dangerous, personally”. If she can show us her Bachelors Degree in Civil Engineering or Urban Planning, then she’s allowed to think something ‘personally’. If she doesn’t have one of these two things, she has no right to weigh in on the safety of this installation what so ever. Let’s keep wasting tax payer dollars making sure ‘a seat’ doesn’t get installed by a private entity willing to maintain it at no cost to the city.
I agree with you on not wasting taxpayer money on what I believe is a STUPID and dangerous idea. I really don’t think you need a Bachelor’s degree to see the DANGER here.
If the concern is that Jackson Ave is not safe, then ask DOT to redesign it to make it safer. Seating boxes like this are actually one of the measures in the DOT’s toolbox to calm a street by clearly signalling pedestrians are present and using the space. It changes the character of the space and drivers (who in 10 minutes will be pedestrians enjoying that space) will slow down. With the expansion that area has undergone and the massive new expansive it will undergo if Amazon really is coming there, EVERY opportunity to gain livable, usable space for people needs to be taken. While much larger park space projects need to be undertaken (e.g. closing the end of Tomson and expanding the Courthouse park), This and other small measures can make a huge difference to how welcoming and functional the streets in that area can be made.
Leave Court Sq. Park alone. We don’t need another DOG run as there are too many dogs for 1 park already. What we need are less people in the area andd less development. There are no stores, how about some. A movie theater????Get rid of the stupid planters on Jackson Ave. and you will be doing something. People can’t see oncoming traffic when in the middle median. A woman with a baby in a stroller told me this is a dangerous situation, and I agreed with her. You can’t make a left turn out of Court Sq. west or Pearson St. JUST STUPID!!!!!!!!!!!!
Also the traffic it causes on Jackson caused by the drivers who park close to the intersections (Bank of America and Dunkin Donuts) and then the buses from 23rd and the truckers leaving Pearson, can not negotiate the turn. I have see buses and trucks getting stuck for 20 minutes.
How will civilization continue to exist if we give up two parking spacse for people to sit outside? If Chair Keehan-Smith isn’t successful at killing this megaproject of epic proportions, I’m moving to Mars.
Obviously we need more public space, more schools, more transportation…more lots of things. But shouldn’t we all view this this tiny little bit of general improvement over what already exists as a positive? There are so many little pockets of our still small community that we can take (figurative) ownership of and make everyone’s life here just a little more pleasant.
This is great. They should also add a bike corral with planters for Toby’s while they’re at it. The sidewalk is so narrow there. People can’t lock up on that block without making it an obstacle course for pedestrians.
Once again, Keehan-Smith and Lewandowski display their ignorance of modern city planning, transportation issues, and urban design, and fail to encourage a more livable city. There are plenty of these in Manhattan and other cities on busy streets. They would love it if Queens stayed just like it was back in their glory days. Thank god for CB term limits. Everybody said “institutional knowledge” would be lost with term limits, but it is clear from their comments that there is none at CB2.
Let me get this straight, developers don’t actually want to include any public green space in their plans, so they throw the community a little bone and call this proper outdoor space? What a crock.
So true! These developers don’t give a damn about the community and certainly not public or green spaces. Their high rise footprints eliminated any chance of that and the city allowed them to do it all because of money. Disgusting.
SO TRUE !!!!!!!!!!!!
Look, I am not a developer, but I wish I was. And if I was, I am not sure that I would be super charitable. They are in the BUSINESS of building and their profits depend upon developing as much of their ultra expensive land as possible. If you want to focus your anger, do so at the politicians or at yourselves for not being more socially and politically active to demand change.
It’s not about being charitable, but it is about not being extremely greedy which, let’s face it, seems they are. Don’t get me wrong, the politicians are at fault too. They know they accept money from theses developers. They’re not fooling anyone. As far as being more politically active- how much money do you have? No commoner wins against big real estate unless they have just as much money to play the game. Check out the recent piece in The NY Times about the lower east side and Public hotel. There’s no winning.