2 Queens Community Board Members Hold Up a Safety Project for Thousands

Are two Community Board 4 members enough to stop a redesign of this Corona speedway? Photo: DOT [PDF]
Are two Community Board 4 members enough to stop a redesign of this Corona speedway? Photo: DOT [PDF]
The transportation committee of Queens Community Board 4, which covers Corona and Elmhurst, is comprised of three people. On Monday evening, two of them showed up to a meeting — that’s quorum, apparently — and they really, really did not want any changes to 111th Street.

Here’s the backstory: The Queens Museum, working with Immigrant Movement International, Make the Road New York, and Transportation Alternatives, began working last year with local residents to make 111th Street — a multi-lane speedway dividing Corona from Flushing Meadows Corona Park — safer and more beautiful. In July, the groups hosted a Vision Zero workshop to gather suggestions. In September, they organized a daffodil planting on the 111th Street median.

The effort garnered the support of Council Member Julissa Ferreras, who allocated $2.7 million in discretionary capital funds for a street redesign. Earlier this year, DOT presented its plan, which would reduce the number of car lanes to make room for wider medians, a two-way protected bike lane, and parking. The plan also includes new crosswalks.

The CB 4 committee members were not pleased. They feared that reducing the number of car lanes on this extra-wide street would lead to traffic congestion, and asked DOT to come back.

The agency tweaked its plan, moving a bike route in the proposal from 114th Street to 108th Street. DOT measured traffic during special events, and concluded that any congestion could be mitigated by adjusting signal timing, rerouting traffic bound for Citi Field, and working with NYPD to deploy traffic agents.

On Monday evening, DOT presented the revised plan [PDF] to the committee of two — James Lisa and Ann Pfoser Darby. (Joseph DiMartino, the chair of the committee, was not there.) Ferreras came to show her support for the plan.

Lisa and Darby didn’t care.

“From the get-go, they were not at all even interested in hearing the presentation,” said Transportation Alternatives Queens organizer Jaime Moncayo. “They didn’t really seem to be even interested in any changes that DOT had made to the plan.”

“They were adamant that the only reason to do this was to add bike lanes,” Moncayo said. “They kept insisting to DOT that they come back with a design that puts the bike lanes through the park.”

Ferreras was taken aback. “That it’s only two residents who make the recommendation is startling,” she said. “The community board members also have a responsibility of representing all those interests in the community. You shouldn’t vote on the community board just on your [own] behalf.”

“I feel that the members had already made their mind up on this project,” Ferreras said. “They said it wasn’t enough. Nothing was enough. They didn’t want the bike lane. They didn’t think I talked to everyone in the community.”

One of the committee members claimed that Ferreras only talked to immigrants. “I felt blatant disrespect,” she said. “This is a project for everyone in Queens. It was a very unpleasant and frustrating meeting, but not one that we can’t overcome.”

Opponents have begun organizing a petition against the plan, and have gained the backing of Assembly Member Francisco Moya, who “has expressed that he will do everything to block this project,” Ferreras said. (Moya’s office has not yet responded to a request for comment.)

The plan is likely to go before CB 4 at its next general board meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. on June 9 at VFW Post 150, 51-11 108th Street. Ferreras said she is also requesting a special meeting about the proposal in July, and is aiming for it to be installed “as soon as possible.”

“They want to keep it exactly like how things are,” Ferreras said of the opponents. “My focus now is to make sure that this project gets done. We’re going to continue to listen to residents’ voices. But I am clear that we need a complete street on 111th Street.”

  • Daphna

    Way to go NYC Council member Julissa Ferreras for supporting this so strongly. She should appoint different people to Queens Community Board 4 next spring. Each person’s term is only 2 years but there are no term limits and existing members usually are re-appointed if they desire to stay on by the Queens Borough President and by the City Council member. However, this harmful trend could be ended. Community Board members who are not acting in the best interest of their community need not be re-appointed after their current 2 year term ends. Ferreras correctly states “The community board members also have a responsibility of representing all those interests in the community. You shouldn’t vote on the community board just on your [own] behalf.” James Lisa and Ann Pfoser Darby should not be re-appointed next time around by Queens Boro Prez Melinda Katz !

  • Daphna

    This is reminiscent of 2011-2012 when two East Harlem community board members organized opposition to the complete street / protected bike lane design for 1st and 2nd Avenues, and got Manhattan Community Board 11 to withdraw their support for the plan. Frank Brija of Patsy’s Pizza and Erik Mayor of Milk Burger derailed the plan through spreading mis-information and fear. Melissa Mark-Viverito, the NYC council member for that area, worked hard to educate the public and the community board members to re-gain support for the street improvement.

    Now in Queens, a similar situation is playing out with the city council member having to counteract the harmful opposition of two CB members for a plan that would benefit the neighborhood.

  • BBnet3000

    One of the committee members claimed that Ferreras only talked to immigrants.

    Is there any additional context for this? What was their reasoning?

    Of course, a huge number of people living in this area and using this park are immigrants and they shouldn’t be ignored.

    884 cyclists, 84% riding on the sidewalk

    Seriously? This street needs cycling infrastructure. There is a similar situation on Fort Hamilton Parkway along the side of Green-Wood Cemetery, where a high volume of people cycle on the sidewalk because there is no cycling infrastructure on a high speed, high volume road where there is yet ample room in the right of way for a bike path.

  • Time to just start ignoring the CB’s and implement these improvements without their approval. People’s lives are more important than some asshole appointed (not elected) to a committee whose stated purpose is to advise the council. The council/city doesn’t have to take that advice when it’s this blatantly wrong.

  • Joe R.

    Some of these CB members will use a high rate of sidewalk cycling as an excuse to not build cycling infrastructure: “Cyclists don’t deserve special infrastructure until they stop disobeying the rules.”

    Never mind that lack of infrastructure is often why the so-called rules are ignored in the first place. And a lot of the rules don’t make a whole lot of sense anyway, at least to anyone who has ever biked more than a mile.

  • Simon Phearson

    Lifelong CB tenure has been justified, sometimes, on the grounds that it’s just hard to find volunteers who are willing to show up for the meetings and presentations on a regular basis. That’s part of the “problem” with imposing term limits, supposedly – you turn out the old, and then who’s going to step up?

    Obviously, this takes for granted a lack of volunteers that might itself just be the product of the inevitable re-appointment of longstanding CB members. But for me, it also raises the question: who cares? Do we need CBs so badly that, were they to be underpopulated, city government would grind to a halt? We already see that they are poor conduits for channeling communities’ concerns or meaningfully addressing them. Let them go vacant, for all the good they seem to be doing.

  • Daphna

    There are upwards of three applicants for every community board spot. Any justification of keeping existing CB members term after term because of a lack of other volunteers wanting to serve is completely false.

    In many ways community boards are not needed. NYC tax payers could direct that money elsewhere instead of into their budgets. But it would be a hard sell politically to end community boards. Also, pointing out that they are advisory-only and that the DOT does not need their approval has not gained traction. So the next best move is to push for more open-minded people, and people who are willing to be educated about complete streets, to be appointed to CBs.

  • Matt

    Bingo. These guys don’t have any authority to unilaterally veto anything. They need to pull their heads out of their asses and actually do their job.

  • nyc372

    It was my understanding the DOT was going to move forward with changes to streets that improved safety regardless of CB approval. And, given that CM Ferreras, who is ELECTED to represent this community supports, I can see no reason not to move forward.

  • Mary Finn

    Who knows? Maybe they are right. Often the law of unintended consequences apply. Instead of planting back-stabbing stories in the press, consult traffic ideas to see what the pros and cons are of the proposal. If people start seeing their streets clogged with diverted traffic or their children endangered, perhaps the plan won’t look so rosy. Everyone talk to each other and unite for the good of Queens.

  • Andrew

    Some of these CB members will use a high rate of sidewalk cycling as an excuse to not build cycling infrastructure: “Cyclists don’t deserve special infrastructure until they stop disobeying the rules.”

    As if motorists are always in full compliance with the law.

  • No one uses motorists’ rate of compliance with the law as a basis for whether or not to build a highway. Drivers’ lawlessness is blithely accepted (despite the cost in lives), while every illegal act on the part of a bicyclist can cause outrage (despite its benign nature). Driving is entrenched as part of the culture, while bicycling is on the fringe; thus we bicyclists are judged by a standard that no one ever applies to drivers. This state of affairs is as illogical as it is immoral. It is, however, the way things are in this twisted and backward society.

    Ignorant Community Board hacks will certainly use the highly visible lawbreaking on the part of cyclists as a reason to oppose expansion of our infrastructure. For this reason all of us bicyclists have the responsibility to follow the law (even the stupid and annoying laws), and have the duty to encourage other cyclists to do the same.

    It is a matter of strategy. Bicyclists who break the law are working against the interests of all bicyclists, and are playing right into our enemies’ hands. The time that one can save by blowing lights, by going the wrong way on a street, and by riding on the sidewalk is not worth the loss of our bike infrastructure.

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