By Stephen McKinley
Merchants with stores on Woodside’s busy 61st Street have said they will keep up the pressure on police, city agencies and elected representatives, until the street’s signs are changed to prevent livery cabs from stopping there.
Meanwhile, a bomb scare on Tuesday morning at the Woodside subway stop has served to heighten their sense of urgency.
At an angry meeting in Shane’s Bakery on May 9, merchants had expressed outrage over the constant stream of cabs that fill the street to overflowing.
They said that this causes traffic congestion, pollution and is bad for business, because delivery trucks cannot get on to the street to drop of produce.
Since then, the merchants circulated a petition that asked for the following changes: “We . . . do hereby petition for the following New York City street change: ‘No parking, standing or stopping on either side of 61st Street between Woodside and Roosevelt Avenues, effective Monday though Saturday 8am to 8pm, except for trucks actively loading or unloading.’ ”
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“We are basically going through the process,” said Heather Schafer of the community organization Woodside on the Move.
“I saw cars triple lined up a few days ago,” she added. “The problem is no better.”
On Tuesday morning, the neighborhood was struck by trouble of a different kind: a bomb scare caused police to seal off the 61st Street subway stop until bomb squad officers determined that the suspect package was a hoax.
Shane Moynagh of Shane’s Bakery said that the scare showed the need to sort out the 61st Street problem urgently.
“What’s to stop people parking a car bomb underneath the subway stop and bringing it down?” he asked, noting that the Woodside subway and Long Island Rail Road stops were part of a major commuter hub for Queens and Long Island.
Since the meeting at his bakery, he said he had learned of other areas with a livery cab congestion problem.
“Flushing has a problem, Astoria has a problem, 74th Street has a problem, we have a problem,” he said. He stressed that neither he nor the other merchants wanted the drivers themselves to get into trouble or lose their livelihoods. Rather, it is a case of regulating the cabs, he said.
“These guys understand there’s a problem, but it’s their living,” Moynagh said. “They provide a service and they’re very nice men. But it just gets out of hand.”
Moynagh said he was to attend another meeting on Tuesday evening, with representatives of the local police precinct. He said he would present the petition and make the case for changing the street’s signage. He added that the merchants felt that there was room across Roosevelt Avenue under the LIRR stop for a proper taxi rank, if the city would only enforce it.