The city has placed 14 new benches along Bell Boulevard as part of a multi-phase streetscape project to upgrade the commercial strip, the president of the Bayside Business Association said.
The benches, which were given to the community by the city’s Department of Transportation, were placed late last month along Bell between Northern Boulevard and 35th Avenue.
“The DOT has put them where they deemed would be appropriate, according to plans approved by the mayor’s office,” said Judith Limpert, president of the business association. “They are not what we would have chosen. They are a little too modern. But we’ll try to get as many things that the city is offering for free.”
The streetscape project will also include upgraded sidewalks, new trees and the installation of antique lampposts.
“It’s been a 10-year process to get approved,” Limpert said. “It’s a piecemeal thing.”
The benches were added to the community through the DOT’s CityBench program, which is paid for by a $2.4 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration.
Jerry Iannece, chairman of Community Board 11, said he believed the next phase of the project would begin in the next few months.
“Some people think it’s a great idea, while others think it will lead to vagrants loitering,” he said. “In my view, it’s an improvement. We’re trying to increase foot traffic on Bell Boulevard, so merchants will get more business. We want there to be more of a village environment. This way, people can grab a coffee, sit down and enjoy the sights.
The project, which is being conducted by the city’s Department of Construction and Design, had been stalled for some time due to funding and sewer-related issues.
Iannece estimated the project to cost a couple million dollars.