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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Another issue our community has to fight for.

Homeowners in Malba Gardens are feeling the toll of the $109 million project to widen the Whitestone Bridge.

“Our homes in Malba Gardens, we take great pride in them. We put a lot of money into these homes, and the last thing we want to see is our values decrease from this expansion,” said resident Antonio Melone. “That is my domain, and I will do everything to protect it. And every resident in Malba Gardens is willing to do the same. If it takes for us to protest on that bridge, we will do that.”

According to MTA Bridges and Tunnels, the project will provide wider 12-foot lanes on the bridge with new emergency breakdown lanes. Reconstruction efforts also promise a brand new playground and new location for Francis Lewis Park, which is expected to open by early May.

But while construction may mean brand new swings, a jungle gym and newly-planted trees for the neighborhood’s children, parents are saying the overall picture is far from perfect.

“The bridge is actually moving 18 feet closer to the homes,” Melone said. “We also lost a lot of trees that were 40, 50 years old. There are a lot of issues and concerns that we have about this.”

Resident Alfredo Centola said losing the trees has not helped alleviate the growingly-noticeable noise issues since the project’s groundbreaking. The construction, he fears, will also lead to increased traffic and pollution. “As of right now, it’s an inconvenience, and there is a negative impact with the noise,” Centola said. “We just want to make sure when the construction is over that they’ll build an eight-foot wall to mitigate the noise.”

Malba Gardens homeowners said there was talk earlier about building a barrier to block out racket from the bridge, but officials said they could not verify the possibility due to the project’s premature stage.

That’s unacceptable. We can’t wait until the end of the project to know,” Centola said. “They’re stringing us along.”

MTA Bridges and Tunnels officials said construction on the Queens end of the bridge began in the fall. Ongoing work will take place for over two more years.

By Melissa Chan

Tags: Francis Lewis Park, Malba Gardens, MTA Bridges and Tunnels, Whitestone, whitestone bridge