Nov. 27, 2017, By Tara Law
Advocates for the DOT’s program to restructure Queens Boulevard—which includes the addition of protected bicycle lanes–will gather Wednesday to organize support for Phase IV, which would go from Yellowstone Boulevard to Union Turnpike.
Transportation Alternatives, a non-profit group with a $4 million budget, will host a meeting in Forest Hills to generate support for Phase IV of the Vision Zero program, which they say will make the streets safer for cyclists, pedestrians and motorists.
The meeting will take place at the Queens Bully at 113-30 Queens Boulevard from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The group will discuss petitioning practices and outreach to the community and businesses to generate support.
The DOT aims to implement changes to Queens Boulevard— which will include protected bike lanes, stop signs and other safety features —in 2018.
Advocates say that Queens Boulevard has become safer since the redesign began in 2015. To date, four miles of roadway along Queens Boulevard has been revamped in the first three phases—from Roosevelt Avenue in Woodside to Yellowstone Boulevard in Forest Hills.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in May as construction of Phase 3— between Eliot Avenue in Rego Park and Yellowstone Boulevard—was about to begin that there had been zero fatalities on Queens Boulevard since 2014, attributing the results to the redesign of the boulevard.
“Queens Boulevard offers the best and most dramatic proof that our efforts at Vision Zero are working,” de Blasio said. “What was once a ‘Boulevard of Death’ is no longer — as pedestrians, cyclists and motorists all have become accustomed to enjoying a more vital, welcoming and safe street.”
The changes, however, have generated a lot of controversy and mixed views.
John Dereszewski, who is chair of CB6’s Transportation Committee, refused to back Phase III in May because it called for the elimination of 198 parking spaces along the 1.3 mile stretch between Eliot Avenue and Yellowstone Boulevard.
The construction of Phase III took place in summer and several business owners have since claimed that the loss of parking has led to a downturn in business since their customers are unable to find parking.
“The bike lanes aren’t hurting us, they’re murdering us,” Jay Parker, the owner of Ben’s Deli located at 96-40 Queens Blvd., told the Queens Chronicle. “This is our busy season. If things don’t turn around, you could expect layoffs in January or February. I can promise you that.”
The Chronicle cited other businesses with similar complaints.
Community Board 4 supported Phase II—from 74th Street to Eliot Avenue– with the exception of the protected bicycle lanes.
Despite the board’s no vote to bicycle lanes, Mayor de Blasio stepped in and made sure they were installed.