March 18, 2019 By Jon Cronin
The Department of Transportation is moving ahead with its plan to redesign Queens Boulevard between Yellowstone Boulevard and Union Turnpike but it has not provided any details as to when construction will begin.
“We are moving forward with the redesign and working with the community, but have no updated timeline to share at this time,” a spokesperson for the DOT said today.
But the community has not heard anything from DOT. Community Board 6 and Council Member Karen Koslowitz–both critics of the plan–said today that they have not heard from the agency. Transportation Alternatives, supporters of the redesign, have not heard a peep either.
The plan–which would bring protected bike lanes, shorter pedestrian crossings and other safety features to the Forest Hills stretch of Queens Boulevard–represents the fourth and final phase of the 7 1/2 mile overhaul from Sunnyside to Kew Gardens.
A DOT spokesperson in May 2018 said the department aimed to start construction on Phase IV in the summer of 2018, yet work has still yet to take place.
Community Board 6 voted down Phase IV on June 13, 2018, with 22 board members opposed and 12 in favor of the project. The board’s vote, however, was advisory and most thought the DOT would start construction soon after—especially since the mayor supports the plan.
The big sticking point, however, for the community board was that Phase IV would lead to the elimination of about 200 parking spaces. Some business owners argued that they would lose customers when the parking spaces are removed.
Some Community Board 6 members were also concerned that those senior citizens who travel almost exclusively by car would struggle to find parking near grocery stores or doctors’ offices.
Frank Gulluscio, district manager for Community Board 6, said the community board has not heard anything about the plan since the June vote. He said that the board has a cabinet meeting coming up and that he intends to ask the DOT representative for an update.
Koslowitz, who remains opposed to the redesign, echoed Gulluscio’s statements, “I haven’t heard anything,” she said, but she anticipates that the DOT will start construction when the weather improves.
Juan Restrepo, the Queens organizer for Transportation Alternatives, said that it has been “radio silence” on his end. He noted that some advocates had tweeted photos of signs on Queens Boulevard indicating that there would be road work for Phase IV, but they have been taken down.
Restrepo noted that in previous phases the proposal was given to a community board in the spring and then implemented in the fall.
“It’s definitely in a strange place,” he said. Yet, he still believes, “It’s not a matter of if but when.”