On Monday, June 5th, 2017, Community Board 11 Queens voted to support 6 miles of protected bike lanes. With this approval, the Department of Transportation will begin improvements this year; they estimate that construction will begin around September and be completed in a few months. This timing would work well with the Oceania/210th Street protected bike lanes CB11Q approved earlier this year, which will be built over the summer. The additional 6 miles of protected bike lane will really update the cycling map in Eastern Queens.
Street safety projects have captured public interest in New York City. Modern engineering proves that cities can work better for citizens, increasing their quality of life and decreasing car casualties. This Eastern Queens project has been featured on New York 1, The Bayside Patch, Planetizen, and Streetsblog. There was a follow up article by Streetsblog, which is so dedicated to Eastern Queens that it sent a reporter to cover the Community Board meeting, and another by the Times Ledger and the Queens Chronicle. Even Twitter was aflutter with CB11Q the night of the vote.
The large press turnout was generated by the overwhelming community support for this project. Within just a few weeks, 1,111 neighbors signed a petition demanding this infrastructure improvement.
Almost every community member we talked to on the street was excited to support this project. Many local organizations wrote endorsement letters in favor of the project. Representatives from Westmoreland Association, Inc., Kissena Park Civic, Douglaston Village Chamber of Commerce, Douglaston Local Development Corporation, Transportation Alternatives, and our own Eastern Queens Greenway came down to the meeting in person to express their support.
Eastern Queens citizens are very vocal about the infrastructure they deserve, but community support of DoT proposals does not guarantee infrastructure improvements will be built.
At the most recent Community Board meeting, the Board discussed whether it would recommend that the project move forward. Prior to this meeting all Board members received documentation of the proposed plan. The Board decided that the project would be voted on in three sections. Before discussion was allowed to get very far, Janet McEneaney put forward a motion to table the first two sections of the plan but allow a vote on the third section. She argued that since the Transportation Committee had not officially voted on this proposal, it was inappropriate to vote on it at the general meeting. Community Board Chair Christine Haider clarified that committee votes are not required for a general meeting vote, and this board often will vote without a committee recommendation. Bernard Haber, the chair of the Transportation Committee, mentioned that he felt this issue was better discussed by the full Board, so he did not feel a Committee vote was the right choice. In addition, no member called for a vote during the Transportation Committee meeting when this project was initially discussed. The vote to table the motion was called 16 in favor, 15 against, and 2 abstaining. Since the abstentions counted against the motion, it did not pass. The committee then re-entered discussions on the first section (which focused on Northern Boulevard).
The DoT and others were able to resolve many of the concerns brought up during discussion. To questions about fire safety, the DoT mentioned that the FDNY has reviewed and approved the plan. There were claims that businesses were against the project, but Susan mentioned that all businesses were contacted, and there was no major opposition (multiple businesses and Chambers of Commerce came to the meeting to express their support of the proposal). There was discussion of Bernard Haber’s plan to take some of the wetlands/grasslands north of Northern Boulevard to build a bike path. DoT mentioned that they could research the idea, but putting the infrastructure DoT proposed in place would not preclude research other plans for the future. Bernard’s plan would be a substantial capital investment and would take a minimum of 5 years to build. Earlier that night, however, DoT had showed a slide that showed the injuries sustained in this section of Northern Boulevard over a recent 5-year period.
The final vote on the Northern Boulevard section was 18 in favor, 11 against, 1 abstaining.
The second section voted on was the Douglaston Parkway route to the Long Island Rail Road station. Without much discussion, this motion failed with a tied vote of 15 in favor and 15 against.
The last vote was on the Alley Pond West part of the project. There were calls to hold a voice vote since there was such broad support from the Board. A roll call vote was taken, and the project passed unanimously.
It’s not surprising that the community supports projects like this that not only make our streets much safer but also increase the quality of life in our neighborhood, allowing kids to safely travel to parkland. That’s why even when our Eastern Queens neighbors don’t know each other, they join groups like Transportation Alternatives, a New York City organization that encourages street safety projects for walkers, joggers, and cyclists (like the one being discussed). But for some people, projects like this mean much more. Jay Michaels, MMC (Joe Michaels’ son) wrote to the community board, saying:
It has come to my attention that the area around the Joe Michaels Mile has deteriorated. So much so, that a cyclist was killed at an intersection recently. This news saddens me. Not only because of the deterioration and injures. It also saddens me because it is my understanding that this beautiful pathway that my father ran on almost every day has now gotten so bad that – if he were alive – even he would wonder if it were safe…
Peter Schenkman is the son of Michael Schenkman, who was killed by a driver last year while trying to get to Joe Michaels Mile. He spoke at the Community Board meeting and submitted a letter reading:
I lived in Eastern Flushing for a few years after college and would regularly navigate the dangers of Northern Boulevard / Alley Pond corridor to get to the Joe Michaels mile for a quick ride or skate. As far back as I can remember, cars sped through the corridor. With the huge downhill heading east, navigating the street as a pedestrian or cyclist is like playing a sick frogger game where you try to avoid being hit. Unfortunately in my father’s case, killed…Separated, protected spaces for pedestrians and cyclists to safely access Joe Michaels Mile from Northern Blvd is an important, necessary first step. It will prevent other Queens residents from suffering the same fate as my father.
We have to stop the killing!
The Eastern Queens Greenway will continue to work with the neighborhood to make sure everyone can travel safely. The overwhelming support for this win proves strong community interest in making our hometown better. We hope you’ll work with us as we advocate for other grassroots projects that Eastern Queens residents have proposed, like:
Motor Parkway East will connect the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway trail in Queens with the 14-mile Motor Parkway Trail being built in Nassau. We need your help NOW to pass a bill in Albany.
Rebuild Utopia Parkway As a Complete Street so that it is safer for everyone who uses the street: pedestrians, drivers, cyclists, and bus riders.
The Kissena Walk will build a trail in the parks that would connect Bayside and Flushing Meadows / Corona Park. This would allow families and kids to avoid busy streets like Main Street, College Point Boulevard, and Booth Memorial Avenue.
Most importantly, we’d love for you to join us at our monthly meetings where community members help each other implement street safety ideas that they come up with. We meet on the 3rd Monday of the month at 7:30 PM.
Flushing Quaker Meetings House
137-16 Northern Boulevard
Flushing, NY 11354