A sign that reads "Rough Road" at the entrance of a new 36-acre police academy in College Point could serve as a metaphor for the neighborhood, not just as a warning to motorists of the many potholed streets laid across former swampland.
"The more development you add to the community, the harder it is to get in and out," said state Sen. Tony Avella, who represents the area. "It's like putting 10 pounds of potatoes in a 5-pound bag—you can only stretch the bag so much. How much more can the College Point community [accommodate] in terms of traffic and congestion?”
Not much, some residents say. On a peninsula cut off from much of the rest of Queens by the 10-lane Whitestone Expressway and accessible only by car or bus, College Point has long had a reputation as a quiet, almost timeless hamlet across Flushing Bay from LaGuardia Airport.
That began to change four years ago, when the city started construction on the $750 million police training academy in the College Point Corporate Park. (The first class of 800 recruits entered in January.) When completed, the complex will feature indoor shooting ranges, training fields, parking and even a 100,000-square-foot mock-up city for practice simulations.
As many as 5,000 visitors will likely stream in and out each day. Such comings and goings—coupled with a Metropolitan Transportation Authority bus depot across 28th Avenue from the academy, an NYPD vehicle impound lot nearby and several industrial plants—could wreak havoc on an already overtaxed infrastructure that has failed to keep up with the accelerating pace of development in recent years.
Adding to the challenge, the area has begun attracting young professionals and growing families eager to be near thriving Flushing—and to pay College Point's cheaper rents. Song Chen, a 35-year-old lawyer who works in Flushing, said he has seen the neighborhood's population skyrocket since he moved in five years ago. He often drives to work because waiting for overcrowded buses takes longer.
Another draw for both tourists and locals in recent years has been Spa Castle, a glitzy complex of pools, hot tubs, fountains and hydrotherapy baths on 11th Avenue in the northern end of the neighborhood.
Chris Androne, who owns a sheet-metal company nearby, said the traffic from the spa can be horrendous. He complains that it often takes him more than 15 minutes to drive three miles to his home in the more posh precincts of Whitestone to the north. His wife, Angie, who runs a lip-gloss manufacturing business above her husband's firm, said traffic has increased appreciably in the past three years alone.
“It's getting worse and worse,” she said, noting that many single-family homes have been converted to house multiple families.