Mayor de Blasio has instructed NYC DOT to move forward with the redesign of Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst following a contentious meeting of Queens Community Board 4 last night, in which the chairman hastily pushed through a vote against the bike lane portion of the project.
“I respect those who disagree with us, but in the end, the safety of our neighbors and our children is the most fundamental responsibility we have in this work,” de Blasio said in a statement released this afternoon. “Today, I have instructed the Department of Transportation to move forward on the next phase of safety enhancements to Queens Boulevard, including a protected lane for cyclists.”
The CB 4 meeting last night was a travesty of public process even by the standards of New York City community boards.
Immediately after arguing that Queens Boulevard “is not a park, it is a very heavily traveled vehicular roadway,” CB 4 Chair Lou Walker moved to “accept the safety plan for Queens Boulevard except the bike lane.” The resolution passed in a quick show of hands, with one member opposed and one abstention, but multiple board members appeared to be confused by Walker’s phrasing and the rush to vote.
Some board members walked out in dismay right after the vote, and dozens of people in the audience who supported the bike lane turned their backs to the board and then left the room.
The median bikeway is a centerpiece of the Queens Boulevard redesign and the project would make no sense without it. DOT implemented the same basic template — claiming space on service roads to create continuous paths for walking and biking on the medians — on 1.3 miles of Queens Boulevard in Woodside last year. The proposal on the table at CB 4 last night would extend that design another 1.2 miles from 74th Street to Eliot Avenue. A third phase through Rego Park and Forest Hills is scheduled for 2017.
Queens Boulevard is one of the only direct east-west routes across the borough, and many people already brave its chaotic traffic on bikes. The portion of the street covered by this phase of the redesign includes the block between 55th Road and 55th Avenue where a truck driver struck and killed Asif Rahman in 2008.
At a rally before the meeting, his mother, Lizi Rahman, called for action. “It’s been more than 8 years, and ever since I lost my son I have been fighting for a bike lane on Queens Boulevard,” she said. “It was pretty difficult from the beginning — almost for the first seven years I didn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.”