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Queens Boulevard Redesign to Move Forward With or Without Community Board Approval: Report

May 31, 2018 By Tara Law

The NYC Department of Transportation will install protected bicycle lanes and an array of safety improvements along the Forest Hills/Kew Gardens section of Queens Boulevard this year— with or without the approval of Community Board 6.

The fourth and final phase of the controversial Queens Boulevard redesign project—which will include traffic calming measures, protected bicycle lanes and the elimination of about 200 parking spaces— will be implemented between Yellowstone Boulevard and Union Turnpike in July despite the objections of many business owners and residents.

The aim of the project is to make Queens Boulevard safer by adding and modifying pedestrian crossings, taking steps to calm the service roads, reconfiguring the intersections, and installing other safety improvements.

“We aim this summer to continue this life-saving street redesign, which has shown dramatic safety gains in the places where it was implemented along Queens Blvd in 2015 and 2016,” a DOT spokesperson said.

The DOT provided CB6’s Transportation Committee with an “informational presentation” of the redesign in May, the agency said.

The DOT made it clear during the meeting that the plan would be implemented regardless of the board’s view, according to reports. “This is a mayoral priority,” Queens Deputy Borough Commissioner Albert Silvestri told the committee, reported Streetsblog. He added that the project would move forward.

Community Board 6 Chair Joseph Hennessy decided that there was little point in putting the project up for a board vote, according to Streetsblog.

“This plan is going through whether our board is voting for it or not,” Hennessy reportedly said. “So there’s no point in taking a vote.”

The DOT said that it will present the plan to the full board on June 13, but the meeting will be for informational purposes. The DOT may also incorporate community feedback at that point.

Community Board 6 could not be reached for comment by press time.

The DOT argues that the earlier phases of the Queens Boulevard project, which were rolled out in phases beginning in 2015, have made the thoroughfare significantly safer. The first three phases go from Roosevelt Avenue in Woodside through to Yellowstone Boulevard in Rego Park.

No pedestrians or cyclists have died on the sections of Queens Boulevard that have undergone a redesign, according to the DOT. Pedestrian injuries dropped by 55 percent, and the total number of crashes dropped by 19 percent, following installation.

The community’s reaction to the rollout of each phase of the project has been mixed.

For instance, Community Board 4 voted against Phase 2 of plan–which goes from 74th Street to Eliot Avenue– due to the installation of the protected bicycle lanes. Mayor Bill de Blasio, however, stepped in and the DOT to moved forward with it.

While some praise the program for making Queens Boulevard safer, others— especially businesses along the busy corridor— complain that the project has eliminated too many parking spaces, making it difficult for customers to reach them.

The president of the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce, Leslie Brown, launched a change.org petition aiming to stop the project in February. The petition argued that the project was primarily being pushed by bicycle advocates— including activist group Transportation Alternatives— and that the program would hurt businesses. The petition has generated 1,761 signatures as of this writing.

Critics also argue that too few cyclists ride along Queens Boulevard to justify the project. About 16 bikes an hour ride along the one-mile length between Yellowstone Boulevard and Union Turnpike, according to the DOT.

Nevertheless, the DOT says that it has the support of the majority of local stakeholders to move ahead with the plan.

The agency said that it has received positive feedback about its Queens Boulevard redesign, citing data it generated from a survey conducted between September and April. The DOT said that 65 percent of those surveyed were in favor of the design. Most of the respondents— 68 percent— lived in Forest Hills or nearby.

The DOT also noted that it has been responsive to feedback from the public. The department has modified the design of slip lanes to make it easier for drivers to see in response to community feedback, the department said.

During the presentation, the DOT also went into detail about how it intends to alter Queens Boulevard as part of Phase IV.

The DOT said it will install pedestrian paths and bike lanes along the road median throughout the project area. Shorter pedestrian crossings and new crossings will be installed, as well as stop-controlled slip lanes to smooth the transition from the main road to the service road.

Along 71st Road, the DOT will install pedestrian space between medians and restrict southbound left turns onto the eastbound service road.

Traffic calming measures will be installed between 77th Ave. and 78th Ave, including speed humps on the Grand Central Parkway service road, a right-turn only lane and a crosswalk at 78th Avenue and Queens Boulevard.

Along Union Turnpike, the DOT will install a “QWICK KURB” road separator system, and a right turn lane and red turning arrow, as well as a protected bike lane.

Finally, the DOT intends to extend the westbound turn bays at Yellowstone Boulevard and Ascan Avenue.

The project will create a “footprint” for the installation of a $100 million project planned along Queens Boulevard as part of the de Blasio administration’s Great Streets Program. The project is intended to beautify and improve safety along the boulevard.

This project will include the installation of a linear park line along the median, adding protection to the bike lanes and pedestrian paths, changes to slip lanes, additional safety improvements and a Q60 bus line that runs through the median.

The first stage of the project will be implemented between Roosevelt Avenue and 73rd Street in 2019.

Queens Blvd Yellowstone Union May 2018 by Queens Post on Scribd

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18 Comments

K

looks good to me.. Much better than what we have right now from safety point of view.




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Isaac Rodriguez

These lanes are the epitome of stupidity. They create congestion, which is very environmentally unfriendly, while adding nothing to the transportation infrastructure. I am a Queens cyclist and a lifelong New Yorker–this makes no sense. It is just something that developers can point to and pretend that these neighborhoods are just like the trendy spots and charge accordingly. It is also part of the Blaz Admin’s deal with developers so they can ignore parking and environmental impact. The Mayor is trying to remake transportation reality, but ruining quality of life in the process. Let him go ahead and do his thing–it will show who he really is.




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Robert Blechman

Isaac, let me help by translating your comment:
“These lanes are the epitome of stupidity.” – The lanes represent a compromise to retrofit the existing traffic infrastructure at a reasonable cost. No one is 100% happy with the compromise, but no one wants to spend the money necessary to really do this right.”
” They create congestion” – They do calm traffic which is part of their intention.
“I am a Queens cyclist and a lifelong New Yorker–this makes no sense.” – (You mean no one in their right minds would be a Queens cyclist and a lifelong New Yorker? I disagree! However, Queens is the most underserved borough in terms of safe bike routes and this is a step forward, however imperfect.)
“It is also part of the Blaz Admin’s deal with developers” – I don’t have any proof of this and it doesn’t really make any sense if my argument about bike lanes ruining traffic along Queens Boulevard cited above is true, but I don’t like the de Blasio Administration, so I’ll just throw this out there.
“The Mayor is trying to remake transportation reality, but ruining quality of life in the process.” – Change is hard. I don’t like it even though as a cyclist and life long New Yorker I should see this as benefiting me. However, as mainly a motorist, adding bike lanes affects my unexamined auto-centric view of what a city should be so I don’t like it.

You’re welcome!




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John O'Reilly

Robert, you are correct, change is hard, so hard that it’s not happening. DOT recently reported that after years of installing bike lanes all across the City, commuting by bicycle to Manhattan over East River bridges actually declined in 2017 versus 2016. The bike lanes serve a tiny fraction of City residents and as small as it is, the number of bicycle commuters is declining. The bottom line is that the investment and overall costs to our society makes putting in more bike lanes an always complete waste of resources, especially considering that the oft cited benefit of increased safety is actually the result of other changes already made to Queens Blvd, primarily the reduction in speed.




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Robert Blechman

I think you’ve hit the nail on the head about why the current iteration of bike lanes along Queens Boulevard is less than perfect. Because there wasn’t support from all stakeholders for doing it all the way, the city compromised on retro-fitting current traffic infrastructure rather than devoting the resources necessary to do it right, that is, a center 2-way bike lane extending the length of Queens Boulevard. Maybe if everyone had joined to promote this transportation alternative, the city would have spent the money. No matter. Baby steps are better than no steps at all. We’ll get it right eventually.

Issues of usage are premature. In every other case, once bike lanes were installed usage increased. If you build it they will come. If you don’t build it, they can’t.

As with any conversation about resources, one must take into account not just the cost of the conversion, but the continuing impacts of not making improvements. Car traffic on Queens Boulevard needed to be tamed with alternatives made available to reduce volume. All talk of current bike lane usage, resources spent, impact on parking and driving habits etc. needs to consider the bigger picture. Especially on a huge multi-lane thoroughfare like Queens Boulevard, inclusion of safe bike traffic should be a no-brainer.




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John O'Reilly

Robert, the “build it, they will come” mantra just has not happened. Bicycle commuting in the City is declining notwithstanding years of installing new bike lanes. DOT is the complete opposite of being transparent with data, and constantly fudge information by use of interpretative statistics while hiding basis information like the actual number of users. the date and time and location data was collected and so on. You are absolutely correct, the center median should have been rebuilt to accommodate a fully protected 2 lane bike lane the length of Queens Blvd., but DOT needed to appease the TA folks ASAP.




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Robert Blechman

John, If the DOT hasn’t been transparent in disclosing bike lane usage statistics, what sources do you use to arrive at your conclusions? I’m not aware of any other organization who has the capability to collect valid city-wide usage data, so if you’re right about the DOT, at best there can be no conclusion about the success or failure of bike lanes. Thanks in advance.




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Mike Bekman

I’m confused. When did it become ‘safe’ to cross against the lights, and not pay attention when you cross the street? When did we start teaching folks that they are in *no* way responsible for themselves, and that it’s simply fine for pedestrians and cyclists to simply run red lights, jay walk, etc, and for it to always be 100% the responsibility of the folks in motor vehicles? Are people completely irresponsible now?
Don’t get me wrong-I’d love to see more folks biking to work, sure but none of this matters if people are darting in and out of traffic acting as a danger to themselves and to others, and all the redesigns in the world won’t prevent a person from simply crossing against the light-A regular occurrence on Queens blvd.




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Robert Blechman

When did we start blaming pedestrians for speeding vehicles hitting them? The whole reason there’s a program to tame Queens Boulevard is because of vehicle going to fast, with traffic lights too short for such a wide thoroughfare, especially for the elderly or disabled. The fencing all along the boulevard is there to prevent unsafe mid-street crossing. The majority of the rest is on drivers who also speed through lights, drive while distracted or don’t look out properly for pedestrians and cyclist before they take a turn or hit the gas.




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Jonathan Chung

I live in the Forest Hills area and I go to Kew Gardens area Monday to Fridays. I am opposed to the bike lane in the front of 80-02 kew gardens road. The reason is because traffic will get worse if implemented like from 8 to 9am and 2 to 3pm. Where are the vehicles going to go since that I go to the day hab there?




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Robert K. Blechman

What’s interesting to me is the degree of aggrieved auto-phile entitlement exhibited by the naysayers on this post. We are so immersed in the infrastructure of our car culture, it seems natural to us. So much space set aside for parking. Entire buildings set aside for parking. In Manhattan, cars on an island city never meant for cars. (Ever try driving through Greenwich Village?) I never thought bike lanes were so divisive – OK in Brooklyn yes, but that’s Brooklyn. But in Queens?
Some additional thoughts:
1) All that space devoted to car parking that could be turned into additional traffic lanes, pedestrian walkways, bike lanes, and even, in some places, green public parks! No one complains about the way car parking dominates our city real estate and degrades our urban experience.
2) Funny reactions of auto-philes from a non-driver’s perspective: Take away one driving lane (which I, a non-driver paid for too) and hear the complaints. Lose a few subsidized parking spaces (they are all subsidized) and it’s Armageddon!
3) Meanwhile, the numbers of deaths and injuries due to high speed driving on the Boulevard of Death are down for the past three years. The bike lanes are just part of the larger program to tame Queens Boulevard.
4) Increasing car traffic in Forest Hills is NOT the answer to over-crowded subways!

Car owners don’t realize how entitled they are because we all live in a culture almost entirely devoted to cars. They don’t acknowledge the sacrifices and problems we’ve had to deal with because of that car-obsessed culture. It seems perfectly natural to them to devote so much real estate to car traffic and to storing cars. We base much of our geo-political activities on petroleum issues. Our country’s GDP is still largely based on car sales and servicing. (https://marketrealist.com/2015/02/gdp-automotive-industry-growth-related)
One of our culture’s key rites-of-passage is getting that first driver’s license. That car-centric obsession is changing.
(And yes, I know what autophile really means).




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John O'Reilly

Some questions and additional comments. Does DOT face legal liability for not attributing the editorial comments in Section 2 “Community Outreach” to the apparent author Transportation Alternatives? The “analysis” in Section 2 is laughable and pathetic. When and how did the Mayoral declaration of priority happen? Kudos to Tara Law for properly attributing to Streetsblog the reporting on the events at the Transportation Committee meeting. Forest Hills Post: Thank you for making available the DOT presentation but please resize your ads so they don’t cover over portions of the presentation.




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Hannah

If one local community can change its mind, then any community can. A network is useless if its missing parts of it. It all needs to be connected. John O Reilly, stop pushing this narrative of the TA as some all powerful external lobby.




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Sherri Rosen

If people didn’t cross in the middle of the street against the light, climb over the barriers on Queens Blvd, stop looking at their phones while crossing and drivers stopped at stop signs and didn’t drive on Queens and Yellowstone Blvds trying to make every light, the streets would be safe, Bicyclists don’t pay state insurance, pay for registration and inspection, so why should bicyclists get their own lanes? 200 parking spots lost? You’re all worthless city employees who probably have city permits so you can park wherever you want while the rest of us have to drive around for an hour. You’re worse than sewer sludge.




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Denyse Prendergast

I live on the Rego Park/Forest Hills border, and I drive the area every day. I have seen a bicycle chained to one of the bicycle stands exactly once. There is value in improving safety, of course, but the reduction in parking has made an already difficult situation impossible. After 40 years as a customer of Ridgewood Savings Bank on Queens Blvd and 108th Street, I moved my accounts elsewhere; I grew tired of circling for 20 minutes trying to park. An easy fix for me, but a serious issue for area merchants.




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Anonymous

The mayor is willing to make people’s lives miserable fo the sake of people who are not his constituents. Dirty politicians have their own special circle in the afterlife.




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Ed

I don’t understand the need to calm the service lanes. Large trucks and double parking has already made this practically one lane anyway. Look at the service lanes in Rego Park. Nobody is enforcing the double parking, and sometimes people just drive in the bike lanes to get around the jam. If we had enforcement of regulations in the first place we wouldn’t need all this anyway.




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John O’

Turns out our local views on the decision whether to extend the bike lanes don’t matter since DOT is going to do what it wants to do anyway. Of all the issues facing our neighborhoods, including the growing presence of persons obviously in need of help living on our streets and in the subways, getting the bike lanes to Union Turnpike is “the mayoral priority”. DOT recently reported that about 0.002% of the population of Queens commutes by bicycle and that bicycle commuting to Manhattan over East River bridges actually declined in 2017 vs 2016. Please also note that the bike lanes will not be extended past Union Turnpike to the area where Borough Hall, DOT and Borough President offices are located, God forbid their parking and travel is adversely affected. What did we learn? Everything old is new again. When local office holders are funded by big donors like Uber and lawyers who also happen to be economic partners of the Manhattan lobbying group known as Transportation Alternatives, the Manhattan lobbying group is going to get what it wants. And will someone please send an amber alert so we can find out Karen Koslowitz’s opinion on all this?




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