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Exclusive: NYC DOT To Remove Borough Park Traffic Islands

NEW YORK (CBS 2) -- There has been a rare change of heart from the beleaguered New York City Department of Transportation.

The Borough Park traffic islands that CBS 2 first told you about six months ago, the ones that caused such chaos, are apparently going to be removed, Marcia Kramer reports exclusively.

When CBS 2 first aired this story last November you saw Ladder 114 having trouble rushing to a fire in Borough Park. It ran smack dab into cement traffic islands installed by the DOT.

A back-up caused by the traffic island forced an ambulance to pull into oncoming traffic to swerve around the barricade and the problems of ambulances trying to reach the Maimonides Hospital emergency room down the block continue to this very day.

But apparently not for very much longer.

"It takes a lot of guts to recognize that maybe we could have done it differently, maybe we shouldn't have done it, so I have to applaud the commissioner for seriously looking at this," Assemblyman Dov Hikind said.

In a rare change of heart, Commissioner Jeanette Sadik-Khan has, sources say, agreed to remove the offending barricades. The move will head off a threatened suit by Assemblyman Hikind, who had gathered petitions from more than 1,000 constituents.

"The message was a very clear one: remove the islands; they jeopardize people in the community," Hikind said.

It's a big step for the agency to take. Just last week it installed new trees on the islands and the barricades themselves were costly. Those trees will now have to be uprooted.

"They actually spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to do this," Hikind said.

Local businesses and residents are thrilled at the change of heart.

"It caused a lot of chaos with the ambulances going to the hospital," said Jimmy Giapoutzif, adding when asked what his reaction will be when he sees bulldozers come up the block, "We'll be celebrating."

"I'll believe it when I see it -- as long as it's not some political dodge," Borough Park worker Dov Schechter said.

Officially, the only thing transportation officials would say is that they are considering making "improvements" to the area. But Assemblyman Hikind said this is an example of how you can fight City Hall.

Sources tell Kramer the DOT is expected to reveal its plans to remove the barricades at the end of next month.

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