You are reading

Community Board 6 Votes “No” to Queens Boulevard Redesign

DOT installing Phase Three of the Queens Boulevard Redesign (DOT)

June 14, 2018 By Tara Law

Community Board 6 rejected the Department of Transportation’s plan last night to redesign the Forest Hills stretch of Queens Boulevard. The project would include protected bicycle lanes and safety improvements.

The board, in a vote of 23 to 11 and four abstentions, shot down the DOT’s plan to redesign the boulevard between Yellowstone Boulevard and Union Turnpike. Members who voted against the proposal argued that that the overhaul would eliminate too many parking spaces, cause hardship to business owners and hurt seniors who are dependent on cars.

The DOT presented the plan— which calls for protected bike lanes, traffic safety measures and the elimination of about 200 parking spots— to the board, and members voiced their concerns before to the vote.

Several board members claimed that the loss of parking spaces would hurt local businesses and asked the DOT what could be done about it. Some said that they are worried that businesses would suffer the same fate as Ben’s Best, a 73-year-old deli on the Boulevard in Rego Park that is closing. The owner of Ben’s claimed that the installation of the protected bicycle lanes on that stretch of Queens Boulevard led to the closing.

“Some people have given 40, 50 years of their lives to these business. Is this going to allow a retail environment to continue to exist with the loss of this parking?” said one board member.

The DOT has said that it analyzed 1,700 surveys and online comments and that 65 percent of respondents were in favor of the project. The DOT also adjusted the loading zone times to accommodate peak business hours in response to business feedback, said DOT’s Queens Deputy Borough Commissioner Albert Silvestri.

The DOT’s survey found that 89 percent of respondents either walk or use public transportation to shop on the Boulevard. Only 26 percent of respondents said that they regularly drive on the boulevard.

The DOT and proponents of the plan— including transportation activist group Transportation Alternatives— insisted that the priority should be making the road safer for pedestrians and bikers.

Laura Shepard, a volunteer for Transportation Alternatives, submitted a stack of petitions supporting the redesign to the board.

Shepard said that she was grateful the board had voted in favor of the previous phase of the redesign (Phase III), which covers the Queens Boulevard stretch in Rego Park.

“I’ve been riding my bike my whole life, but it was too scary until this whole board voted for Phase 3. So I thank you for that, because it changed my life for the better,” Shepard said. “I’ve been able to ride pretty much everywhere, to do more and more by bike.”

However, members skeptical of the plan kept returning to the issue with parking on the Boulevard, and how the installation of protected bicycle lanes reduce spaces. Some asked whether the project was inclusive of the elderly, many of whom depend on cars— and parking spots— in order to access businesses.

“There’s one population that uses parking more than bikes— and that’s seniors and disabled people. And seniors and disabled people are not finding parking spots,” said a board member, who did not give his name. “We’re discriminating against these groups because they’re not going to hop on a bike.”

Board member Jean Silva said that she doubted the accuracy of the DOT’s survey.

“How many thousands of people use Queens Boulevard?” Silva said, claiming that not enough people had been surveyed.

Board member Steve Goldberg agreed.

“If only 26 percent of people you surveyed drive on Queens Boulevard every day…. why is Queens Boulevard so crowded?” Goldberg said.

The board’s vote, which is advisory, comes two weeks after Council Member Karen Koswlowitz announced her opposition to the plan.  However, the decision as to whether the plan will be implemented will be ultimately made by the DOT and Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Silvestri told the board’s transportation committee last month that the project is a “mayoral priority” and is likely to go forward regardless of Community Board 6’s vote.

Prior to last night’s meeting, Community Board Chair Joseph Hennessy and Committee Chair Steven Goldberg even questioned whether it would be worthwhile to take a vote at all.

“I’ve been asked not to call a vote tonight, but I think we should be entitled to vote for the community to know what we want,” Hennessey said last night.

Several board members raised their voices before the vote, arguing that the DOT is neglecting the interests of the community.

“Are we going to get ‘mayoral priority’ shoved down our throats?” Silva said.

While most board members gave the proposal a forceful “no,” several members— especially younger board members and members who admitted they ride bikes regularly— defended the safety measures and the value of protected bike lanes.

Board member Alexa Weitzman said that she had decided to vote “yes” because she is thinking of the future.

“I’m voting yes for my four-year-old son who just learned to ride a pedal bike, and I’m invested in this community,” Weitzman said.

email the author: [email protected]

28 Comments

Click for Comments 
Forest Hills Resident

A solution needs to be made instead of
comments and pointing fingers. I’ve lived in this neighborhood for 45 years reading all the concerns with bike lanes is a huge issue for everyone- Emergency vehicles, bikers, delivery people, the disabled and seniors. All of you have valid points.
I drive down Queens Boulevard everyday parking is a nightmare, I rarely see bikes in the bike lane and emergency vehicle have to go into the bike lanes which is also a safety issue. Something’s gotta give, Lets compromise.
I have an idea to propose to Community Board 6 Joseph Hennesy.
There are 4 lanes in the main road, eliminate 1 lane make it a bike lane, which will open up the side street, we need bike lights on Queens blvd. Also, why can’t overpasses be built for safer crossing? especially seniors and disabled? It would benefit residents, there would be economic growth, less safety hazards,
I know the city is desperate for money but the politicians are squeezing in too much for residents. They should be here everyday to see exactly what goes on. parking meters, bike lanes, double parking, it’s crazy! the streets themselves aren’t that big. I remember the 3 lanes on Queens Blvd. The traffic was a nightmare- it still is. There are too many people and too many cars everywhere in NYC … A
compromise to TRY help resident’s has to be done. Forest Hills, Rego Park have a large majority of Seniors. With all the money that the city tries to save they actually spend more money on non sense that just doesn’t work.
No one will agree on everything but there has to be a compromise so everyone benefits somehow.

3
1
Reply
KnowYourLanes

There are three lanes in the main ‘express’ portion of the road… not 4…

Reply
MW

How short-sighted of everyone to vote this down. I both have a car in FoHi, drive, bike, walk and use public transportation. Improving the safety for pedestrians and cyclists is not only putting safety first, its also investing in the community for the future. The reason Queens Blvd is so busy is not because of local shoppers- it’s busy because of cars driving through to get to outter regions, JFK and Long Island included. Most people shop online anyway now, even for groceries. I do agree that parking is a major issue and that more garages and parking availability for residents should be made available. Passes like those used for residents in The Gardens should be implemented and those visiting should be on metered spots or in garages, like Manhattan and similarly busy, congested areas. As with everything, costs go up and times change. Everyone had to adapt, even those driving cars.

31
8
Reply
Sfliny

As a resident in the area where this bike lane was proposed I am thrilled to learn that it has been voted down. Only recently had I heard this was happening but I thought it was a done deal. Last year it was bad enough that the city installed many new fire hydrants and left older dead ones. This already took away many parking spots. I understand those who want a bike path but in all honesty not that many ride bikes. You tend to see more bikes near the Post Office area of Forest Hills. There are food delivery people however, the need for parking near your apartment is the better option for local residents. In addition, not only are there retailers and doctor offices along this route there are many new restaurants that are depending on the weekend patricians. I’d rather have vacant buildings and not empty ones that would deteriorate the neighborhood. Even the city loses out if the bike lane was built because of all of the meter funds and parking tickets. We all know how ticket happy the police are in Forest Hills! So I can see and understand both sides, but the residents who live there should be the ones to vote on such a change. One thing I would like to see are speed bumps near the stop signs on Austin Street by the park. Too many cars speed on this street and also go right through the stops which is very dangerous where children walk.

14
36
Reply
John Dereszewski

If DOT had been willing to compromise on the bike path/loss of parking issue, this otherwise positive proposal should have gone through. As a CB 6 member who reluctantly opposed the proposal – both last year and last Wednesday – for this reason, I can only express my frustration on DOT’s bullheaded approach. I hope DOT will reconsider before implementation occurs – but I won’t hold my breath.

11
18
Reply
Alexander Paykin

This really is ridiculous. There are plenty of businesses in Midtown and downtown Manhattan where there is no street parking and they are thriving. Every place that has gotten protected bike lanes has seen a decrease in cars and an increase in quality of life. You have to ask yourself, if parking is such a high priority in this neighborhood and is such a valuable commodity, why is nobody tripping over themselves to build parking garages? It is the fact that there’s so much free and cheap parking in this area that encourages the overuse of cars and contributes severely to the traffic.

As for another poster’s comment that the side streets are perfectly effective for bicycles, check a map. The only street the truly runs parallel to Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills is Austin Street. Does anybody think bicycling on Austin Street is a good idea?

In fact, restaurants and shops that rely on parking should primarily exist on Austin Street. That is the local commercial Main Street.

Queens Boulevard is supposed to be a thoroughfare. I don’t know whoever thought it was a good idea to have parking lanes on it at all. As another commenter pointed out, until 2001, the area that is now being discussed for bike lnes did not even allow parking.

66
21
Reply
Jacob Abrams

A. This is NOT Manhattan!
B. Parking is extremely difficult to find for all residents in the area. Keep in mind that many travel by car to long island, upstate, out of state and other boroughs where taking public transportation may not be efficient or timely enough.
C. This isn’t Florida or the South where the climate is ideal year round making using a bike as the primary form of transportation ideal.
D. Not everyone is young and physically fit enough or capable of riding a bike. Plenty of elderly, sick people and disabled.
E. Nobody is building additional parking because they’re busy building new residential complexes where they can charge $400 a month for parking to building residents only!

This mindset is extremely selfish and narrow.

17
31
Reply
Jacob Abrams

For the love of God can someone please tell me how many friggin people ride bikes in the coldest days of winter in NYC??? Hardly any!! Thats a good 5-6 months out of the year when these bike lanes will be more worthless than they already are! Doesn’t matter if its 2018 or the year 2050, winters aren’t going anywhere. The studies they conducted where clearly skewed. I live by Queens blvd and hardly ever see any bikes traveling down the bike lanes. Meanwhile QB is packed with cars. We need to think about the elderly and disabled at least, not just a tiny few young athletic types.

27
55
Reply
ever heard of seamless?

Luckily all of NYC stops ordering food for delivery in the winter, or your comment would be completely stupid.

7
1
Reply
Jacob Abrams

The “traffic” of food delivery boys on bikes on Queens blvd is nowhere near the traffic of cars. Instead of referring to these fudged/bogus studies of theirs they should count with street cameras how many bikes per day actually travel down these lanes. I can guarantee you the number would be miniscule!

12
39
Reply
John O'Reilly

You are absolute correct Jacob. In the DOT annual report on bike riding, the numbers show that one-fifth of one percent of the population of Queens (0.02%) uses a bike on a daily basis for purposes of commuting, and most of those people live in western Queens. The report also shows that after years of building out a bike highway infrastructure and ride sharing programs, the number of daily bike commuters to Manhattan over the East River bridges declined in 2017 vs 2016. Queens Blvd has already been made much safer by the implementation of the Vision Zero elements including reduction in the speed limit, and there is no evidence to show that the bike lanes alone add to safety. The best that can be said about use of the bike lanes is that they are mostly used by delivery people operating illegal motorized vehicles usually in violation of several traffic laws, who don’t limit their bike riding to the bike lanes but rather travel anywhere they feel like on QB. Occasionally you will see a hobbyist out for a ride that can just as easily be done in a park like Flushing Meadow or Forest Park. Is this what we want to disrupt well established ways of doing things for?

12
28
Reply
Bob

THIS IS NOT Europe, parking tough, I travel the Blvd. 2x/day. State of art for Bikes, pot holes, speed traps for drivers. Car forced after 7 to look for.spots in neighborhood that has none. 20% loss business revenue. Put the mom and pops out and build apt. Building. Same lie about improving quality. DEVELOPERS own mayor. NOT residents
PLOWS KNOCK down plastic markers and waste money to replace. DOUBLE PARKING out of control. When angle off exits , rear view angle blind spot. Emergency vehicles and buses have to go in bike lan e. More revenue from bikes than business or cars? STORES CLOSING RIPPLE DOWN ECONOMIC EFFECT. BIKERS FLAUNT TRAFFIC LAWS. INSANITY, GREED, CORRUPTION.

9
28
Reply
Dave Pagl

I have lived 1/2 block off the North side of Queens Blvd. on 66th Road up the block from Tower Diner for over 30 years and since they put in the existing unprotected bike lanes I have rarely seen anyone (and I mean ANYONE) using the bike lanes other than a stray restaurant delivery bike guy in my neck of the woods. I also drive and when I have to enter into or exit from the main road to the service road it is a very good thing more bike riders don’t use the bike lane because the sight lines are horrible and its a miracle there aren’t more car accidents and fatalities. Granted QB as it stands is more a thru highway than a local access route but parking in Rego Park and Forest Hills is a huge problem and trying to find a spot on QB is largely absurd unless you get real lucky. Complaining is great but someone has to come up with an idea that reduces the through traffic and focuses on the needs of the people who actually live, work and run businesses on and off the Boulevard. We need to find a way to rename it The Boulevard of Life not Death. Anyone have a great idea?

Reply
R. V.

The idea that his business is flailing because of the bike lane is ridiculous. What did Ben’s Best do when there was no parking by the median and it was a travel lane between 1945 and 2001? Did business sag. Give me a break.

62
18
Reply
SaveBens

Ben’s declining business is not about the lack of parking per se… it’s about a motorist’s inability to pull over / double park and wait for a spot, or run in to grab their order, with the bike lanes in place. When that 2nd lane was a through lane, you at least had the ability to double park and wait for a spot or run in and grab your food (yes at the risk of a ticket, but welcome to NYC, it’s just how it is). With the bollards they’ve put up separating the bike lane from the vehicle lane, you can not stop whatsoever without completely holding up all traffic behind you. I tried to use Ben’s curbside pickup service, which they introduced to try and combat the issue caused by the bike lane, but the bike lane leave no curb to pull up to, and no way to pull over to even grab your food without causing a huge traffic jam. Take away the parking, whatever, it’s the trend, but the biggest FU to Queens Blvd. drivers is taking away the ability to at least pull over temporarily to wait for parking or patronize these stores.

5
20
Reply
John O'Reilly

Thank you to members of the Community Board for your time and dedication to arriving at what most people consider the appropriate recommendation. I can only imagine the pressures you must have felt throughout this process, and not being compensated to boot! While DOT may demean your important work, I truly believe almost everyone in the community appreciates your efforts.

18
11
Reply
You've got rocks in your head

Too bad, you’re getting them anyway, just like Sunnyside. You people must have rocks in your head if you disagree with moving towards a cycling model. Clean air and fitness…. or dirty air and fat/sedentary…. The latter ain’t a life worth living. Thankfully the mayor , whom I mostly disagree with, has got it right on this one. This will force people to live more sustainable, or ship out! Get ready for your bike lanes, whether you like it or not! You voted for him, I did not.

54
28
Reply
Transportation Alternatives

Who made you boss? You can’t dictate what happens in my community. Go home…

9
30
Reply
You read at a 3rd grade level. How very sad.

The comment above clearly indicates that this is a directive from De Blasio, not me. It’s clear you are either unwilling or unable to read. How embarrassing for you… luckily we don’t know who you are but I can imagine you aren’t very attractive either (or pleasant)!

27
1
Reply
Sunnyside res

Wow those TA people are busy in everyones community….Same speech just insert new community board name

13
12
Reply
Chris

This all seems pretty stupid, given that the side streets parallel to QB are perfectly suited to bicycle traffic and are one way streets. Exactly what is the pressing need for the bike lanes? Coupled with the 25mph limit and the deliberately badly timed traffic lights there is a negative environmental impact because more traffic spends excess time idling. Between lights and double parked cars due to lost spaces (which then stop all traffic in the lane when a buss or truck cannot pass) how is any of this of benefit?

30
51
Reply
Bike Lane Joe

So what am I suppose to do the next time I feel like riding my bike? Go to a park?

12
14
Reply
Jacob Abrams

Yes or move to a city with a warmer climate. Do you ride your bike during the winters when ots 0 degrees out?? Highly doubt it.

16
28
Reply
Lazy ol Jacob Abrams.. Town Crack Pot

Dear Lazy ol Jacob Abrams… Town Crack pot…

Buy a balaclava and set of gloves and grow a pair of balls you comfortable little baby.

2
5
Reply
Jacob Abrams

Do you have any sense of empathy towards the sick, elderly and disabled who can’t use bikes to travel? This isn’t China and I’m sure all of these pro bike lane comments are coming from young tree huggers who couldn’t care less about anyone other than themselves and their own healthy fit physiques. I wonder if its hatred driven by envy or that toxic ideology thats behind your sentiment? Probably could never afford buying a car so now you don’t want anyone to have one. Commies everywhere!

13
3
Reply
RegoResident

As a disabled resident of Rego Park, I am not a tool for you to score political points. No one deserves to die so I can have a slightly better chance of getting a parking spot. This is a safety issue, and safety comes first.

If you want to make life easier for those of us who are disabled, get more elevators in the subways so we can use them and increase funding to AccessaRide. Find a way to build parking garages in the area – municipal or commercial. Even before the bike lanes, circling for an hour wasn’t exactly feasible, and I ended up taking public transit. Buses have wheelchair lifts as does Access-A-Ride. They’re both a pain in the ass, but no more so than driving here.

I feel like you’re just using me and other disabled people as a pawn to get what *you* want. You like to drive, so you didn’t want to lose parking spaces. Did you even ask the disabled community what we want? Because I can assure you, the creation of more disabled people (when delivery cyclists get hit by cars) ISN’T IT!

I am very glad this decision was overridden. The polling makes clear the members were not representing the community but their own interests. Anyone who prioritizes parking spots over human life has no business in government.

Leave a Comment
Reply to this Comment

All comments are subject to moderation before being posted.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Recent News