A plan to create more parking spaces in Woodhaven has fueled opposition from groups who want to see the city move to decreasing its reliance on cars as a form of transportation.
Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar’s proposed plan comes after a walk with the Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner, multiple press releases, and arguments stirring on social media.
An August 30, Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar toured the neighborhood with Department of Transportation (DOT) Queens Commissioner Nicole Garcia.
Rajkumar put in a formal request to the agency formal seeking to create more parking spaces along 98th Street and Park Lane South near Forest Park Co-ops by converting the existing parking spots into angled parking.
The assemblywoman also wants to convert the median along Woodhaven Boulevard’s Service Road into parking spots, and to “slim down” the bus lane.
A protest outside Rajkumar’s office earlier this month after details of the plan began to become public voiced opposition to the potential of trees being cut down to make way for the new parking spaces.
However, Rajkumar’s chief of staff clarified that no trees would be removed as part of the proposal. Instead, the additional parking would be on a “vacant plot of gravel at 98th Street and Park Lane South that is privately owned by a co-op building.”
“I never advocated for parking in green spaces,” said Rajkumar. “I never advocated for parking in Forest Park. My plan does not interfere with any green spaces, bike lanes or mass transit.
“A few extremists from outside of the district are literally making up their own facts and organized a protest against something that doesn’t exist,” she added.
Aaron Fernando, one of the protest’s organizers who in South Richmond Hill, argued an attempt to clarify the plan was only given after the protest was announced.
Fernando, who has lived in the area his entire life, believes the Assemblywoman either misspoke or is backtracking from the language used in her original press release.
“Effective communication to her constituents and recognition that she made a mistake I think is something that her constituents would expect from her,” said Fernando. “Many of them have already expressed their disappointment on social media and in her office directly.”
But even without trees being threatened, Fernando is still not satisfied with the assemblywoman’s proposal, arguing the co-op’s vacant plot is better off being used as a playground or community garden.
“I think the very notion of adding more parking is absurd,” he added.
Woodhaven resident Kat Bridges, who noted that she voted for Rajkumar, also opposes the plan. Bridges, a nurse at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, commutes via subway from Woodhaven to Washington Heights.
“I wanted to express my concerns of eliminating green spaces, adding traffic, and more reckless drivers,” said Bridges. “If there was a misunderstanding from the press release, shouldn’t everything be easy to organize?”
Kenneth Mankowitz, president of the Forest Park Co-Op Section 1, says he is largely in favor of the proposed parking plan, saying a lack of parking has long frustrated residents.
“Her suggestion to narrow the bus stop lane outside [restaurant] Don Tequila to open up spots would be a huge boost to co-op residents,” he said. “We fully support Assemblywoman Rajkumar’s efforts with the DOT commissioner and hope she is successful.
“A lot of the areas for spaces the assemblywoman proposed used to actually be parking spaces before they were removed, so her proposals make perfect sense,” added Mankowitz.
A DOT spokesperson said they will be following up with the assemblywoman.
“We are always happy to talk to elected officials and walk through their communities and hear about their ideas or concerns raised by constituents,” the spokesperson said.