Feb. 28, 2020 By Allie Griffin
Transit advocates and bike safety supporters are hosting a rally Saturday in Forest Hills to demand the city to keep its promise to complete the final stage of the Queens Boulevard Redesign plan.
Last week, the Department of Transportation (DOT) said that it plans to begin the fourth and final phase this summer with the project expected to be completed by the end of 2020, a full two years behind schedule.
The DOT is expected to begin installing protected bicycle lanes, shortening pedestrian crossings and implementing other traffic safety features to the Forest Hills stretch from Yellowstone Boulevard to Union Turnpike this summer. The plan will lead to the loss of about 200 parking spots.
However, the advocates are worried that history will repeat itself and the project will be delayed once again — now that an alternative plan was recently put on the table.
At a town hall in Forest Hills last week, Council Member Karen Koslowitz decried the resulting loss of parking spaces and suggested her own plan for the Queens Boulevard redesign.
“I am not against bike lanes,” Koslowitz said at the Feb. 19 town hall. “What I am not for are the bike lanes along Queens Boulevard that are taking away hundreds and hundreds of parking spots.”
The council member is afraid that small businesses along the stretch will lose business because customers won’t have a place to park, she said.
She suggested that protected bike lanes be constructed in the middle of the boulevard, instead of the service road as the DOT has proposed.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said the bottom line is that City must finish the redesign project, but asked DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg to formally review Koslowitz’s alternative bike lane proposal at the town hall.
“I want this to be given absolute, total consideration,” de Blasio said. “I want to see both proposals [and] I will make the ultimate decision.”
He added that the City will do so quickly, but transit advocates — including rally organizer Transportation Alternatives — aren’t as quick to take the mayor’s word for it, after years of delays.
“The short of it is we are tired of these endless new considerations for why this safety project, the gem of Vision Zero, continues to get pushed, delayed and watered down,” said Transportation Alternatives Queens Organizer Juan Restrepo.
“And we won’t take this new timeline as fact, because there have been multiple lies and half truths being said about this for close to two years now.”
Phase four work was initially scheduled to begin in summer 2018. The revamp will be the final phase of the 7.5-mile overhaul of Queens Boulevard, from Sunnyside to Kew Gardens, that began in 2015 in order to reduce the number of pedestrian and cyclists deaths.
Commissioner Trottenberg first said the work would be completed by this summer, but the DOT and the mayor quickly said work would only “begin” this summer. A spokesperson for the DOT told Streetsblog that the commissioner misspoke.
Advocates also say the Council Member’s suggestion to construct bike lanes in the center median puts cyclists in danger of fast-turning vehicles.
Restrepo said the proposal “de-prioritizes cyclist and pedestrian safety,” in order to calm parking concerns.