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Transportation Alternatives Gets Ready for DOT’s Queens Boulevard Meeting Jan. 23

Jan. 11, 2018 By Tara Law

An activist group that supports the NYC DOT’s program to restructure Queens Boulevard and add protected bike lanes is marshaling Queens pedestrians and cyclists to attend a Jan. 23 DOT public workshop in Kew Gardens, which will address the next stage of the redesign.

The DOT will lead a discussion about safety concerns and street design on the stretch of Queens Boulevard between Yellowstone Boulevard and Union Turnpike, which is scheduled to be restructured as part of Phase IV of the Queens Boulevard Vision Zero program this year. The city intends to install protected bike lanes, stop signs and safety features.

The meeting will take place from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Queens Borough Hall.

Transportation Alternatives, a citywide nonprofit with a $4 million budget, is known for mobilizing its supporters ahead of NYC DOT meetings and town halls. The group hosted a meeting on Nov. 29 to organize support for Phase IV.

Peter Beadle, co-chair of Transportation Alternatives’ Queens Activist Committee, urged fellow volunteers to turn out for the upcoming DOT meeting in a group message.

Beadle is a member of the Transportation Committee on Community Board 6, which covers Forest Hills and Rego Park, and is a lawyer at Vaccaro & White that represents bicycle and pedestrian accident victims.

“DOT heavily incorporates the community feedback from these workshops in their designs, so your participation matters!” Beadle’s message reads.

Advocates for the Queens Boulevard project, a centerpiece of the Vision Zero initiative, point out that no fatalities have occurred along the road since 2014.

In December, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the road has “turned a corner.”

The Boulevard of Death has become the Boulevard of Life,” De Blasio said.

Despite this pronouncement, the Queens Boulevard projects— and especially the bike lane installations— continue to be controversial in Queens.

A number of local businesses have complained that bike lanes have eliminated parking spaces that could be used by driving customers.

The owner of Rego Park deli Ben’s Best, Jay Parker, told the Queens Chronicle in November that he believed the bike lanes had caused his business to drop by nearly 20 percent since bike lanes were installed outside of his business in August.

They’ve killed our business,” Parker said of the DOT.

Transportation Alternatives is currently canvassing Forest Hills businesses to garner support for Phase IV.

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10 Comments

Arthur

Removal of Queens Blvd traffic and bike lanes are supported, by and large, by large well-funded anti-vehicle advocates who do not come from our community and who do not have our community’s vitality at heart.  Here are the facts:

The letter being circulated among some local businesses to garner support for safety improvements is a typed form letter on the letterhead of Transportation Alternatives. Transportation Alternatives (“TA”) advocates for changing the City’s transportation priorities and decreasing automobile use.  The letter does not advise the business owners that traffic and parking lanes would be removed from in front of their establishments.

TA’s agenda IS anti-car.  Their website’s landing page claims: “Streets and sidewalks are 80% of our public space! … this public space belongs to the people of New York City – and in every borough, we are working with New Yorkers to reclaim our streets”.    TA management sits on the board of the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy http://www.itdp.org/ which, among other things, hypocritically backs decreasing the off-street parking requirements for new housing developments, so developers can increase density without responsibility for its effects, while at the same time advocating for congestion pricing, which will unfairly fall on Queens residents and businesses who must drive and will only increase congestion in our neighborhoods.

TA and aligned anti vehicle groups advocate lane removal and traffic law enforcement over traffic education.  Any time someone suggests cyclists obey traffic rules or wear reflective gear, they’re shot down for “victim blaming”.  Besides, cycling and pedestrian deaths have been decreasing for several years.  The Rego Park bike lanes have been in place only since last summer.  Teaching all road users to be mindful of each other, has done more for local safety than the recent road re-design.

TA and aligned advocacy groups do not come from our community.  Only 10% of TA’s $4 million budget comes from members.  The rest comes from large real estate firms, big budgeted “civic organizations” and wealthy individuals not rooted here.

While I appreciate the passions of those who want to make Queens Blvd safer their hypocrisy speaks otherwise.  Disparaging businesses who complain of problems after the loss of parking? Suggesting people park blocks away or on the other side of Queens Blvd. from the merchant of their choice?  That doesn’t help the elderly or disabled and the loss of convenience leads to loss of business.  Saying we’d be better off with higher priced restaurants and stores?  Should the seniors who live here, subsiding on shrinking-in-value social security, be given bicycles so they could ride to less expensive neighborhoods for affordable shopping?  Is that your definition of community? 

Its claimed that hundreds of petition signatures were obtained in the neighborhood before the Rego Park bike lanes were installed.  What did the petitions say and what did those obtaining the signatures tell the signers?  The letters from local businesses?  The TA letter is certainly not handwritten.  Would the businesses have signed it if they knew that traffic and parking near their establishments would be reduced?  That 33-4 Community Board vote on the RP phase of the bike lane installation?   Sorry, first there should have been a public hearing on the DOT’s SPECIFIC plans, with a public comment period.  Petitions and letters prepared BEFORE the specific plans do not prove that the public is on board.

If any safety improvements are to be made, they should not remove traffic lanes or parking spaces. Queens Blvd. bike lanes? Put them on the medians. It would be safer for the cyclists and less disruptive to the character and economic vitality of our neighborhood. 

 




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Jacob

The redesign across the city it to transform the city for decades to come , four children too. It’s more than just the old people you mention who don’t have much time anyway. They had their time and queens Blvd is hideous It needs to get with the times and the rest of the city ( High line, LIC Gantry) if it the surrounding neighborhoods want to thrive in the future. The donor list , it’s uusally just employees of large companies that make a matching donations . It’s not the nefarious mysterious stuff you make it out. I work for a large firm and HR usually always approves matching grants.




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Andrea Simon

Prior to discussing the Yellowstone to Union Turnpike section Forest Hills residents and business owners should hear a discussion on the negative impact these lanes have had on the Rego Park section. Immediately after the snowstorm the bike lanes were plowed and bike traffic was virtually zero except for the illegal motorized bikes. The crosswalks across Queens Blvd. were not cleared until five days later. So much for pedestrian safety. And God forbid a pedestrian crosses with the light and a bike is approaching. Bikers don’t think red lights apply to them. It appears Vision Zero actually means no vision at all…in other words total blindness.




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Laura Shepard

Fact check time! Peter W. Beadle didn’t write that post, I did. Also, don’t be fooled by that $4 million figure. There is only one paid staff member for all of Queens, who definitely doesn’t make that much. The rest of us, including Peter and I, are all volunteers. In fact, we pay TA for membership, not the other way around. We do this because we live here and we care. We want to be safe when we walk and bike and we don’t want our families, friends and neighbors to get killed. Last year, I was not involved with the activist committee and I attended the Rego Park workshop on my own. I knew about it because I read the local papers and kept an eye out for any mention of Queens Blvd. I knew DOT would repeat the same process they used for Elmhurst. I lived in Station Square and I wanted the bike lane so that I could ride west, among other reasons. It was too scary and dangerous to ride through Rego Park on Queens Blvd without one, but I saw people doing it every time I walked by. I joined the TA Queens committee soon after because when you want to get something done, you have to find your people and work together. Every time I ride on the bike lane or see a new headline about how there have been zero fatalities on Queens Blvd for three years and pedestrian injuries went way down in 2017, I’m glad I did! By the way, both times I’ve eaten at Ben’s Best, it was because of and thanks to the bike lane.




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Peter Beadle

Yes, I had copied that from a post by Laura, and I certainly approve of it. I guess what really strikes me is how I never got a phone call about this story. Did I miss a message or an email? Is it your practice to quote people without reaching out to them to more fully develop the story and verify the facts?

I’ll add that I am no longer a chair of TA and haven’t been for over a year. It’s also important to note that the people we help to get out to the meetings include many local residents who have signed petitions and letters we’ve gathered here – a community I’ve lived in for 18 years and where I’ve raised my children. We’ve obtained hundreds and hundreds of signatures from local residents AND businesses in support of this project. The “outsider” narrative that this article feeds is false and destructive. We aren’t outsiders coming in to ruin the neighborhood. We are locals who honestly believe we need this infrastructure to both make the Boulevard safer and provide us with much needed alternatives to moving people around.

I’m really disappointed to see how this story was approached and it makes me wonder how thoroughly some claims by businesses were investigated. For instance, the Ben’s best reference doesn’t indicate that the reporter asked for and received financials for the last several years to verify the claim. It makes no mention of the usually half empty parking garage that sits across the street, nor does it point out the restaurant literally sits on top of a busy subway stop. Ben’s has an amazing pastrami sandwich and I’m sure its other food is great too. I’ve been there once in 18 years despite living around the corner, because that great sandwich costs way more than I’m willing to pay. Changing demographics is a much bigger story when it comes to business health, but doesn’t seem any of those details were examined.




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Resident

Wow. These Transportation alternatives people are mean. Jay, I wish you well and thank you for being in our neighborhood.




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Tony

Lol at Jay Parker. I read his Fall 2017 opinions on the bike lanes. So i decided to visit and check out his deli and eat his food. His business is dying because his customers literally are also dying of old age. His customer base is shrinking. Beef prices are up. A pastrami sandwich costs almost $20. His website lists 20-30 employees. He has depressed revenues and higher employee and food expenses. He should reinvent the business and stop blaming the bike lane for other extenuating factors that are were in place already negatively impacting his business. Its amazing. He’s blaming the factor that is probably least detrimental. Increased safety around QB if anything benefits the old people that frequent his restaurant. My god, he has a dish of boiled chicken on the menu that is $25-$30. Come on………




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Mark Laster

Perhaps Jay should consider proper kosher supervision so that the growing kosher community could eat there.




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