Ferreras Joins Corona Families to Demand Action From de Blasio on 111th St

Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland brought more than 80 people from Corona and Jackson Heights to the steps of City Hall this morning. Photo: David Meyer
Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland brought more than 80 people from Corona and Jackson Heights to the steps of City Hall this morning. Photo: David Meyer

More than a year after DOT first proposed a redesign of 111th Street in Corona to make it safer for residents to access Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the city has failed to follow through and implement the project.

Today, parents and children from Corona and Jackson Heights joined Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland on the steps of City Hall to say they’re tired of waiting. They called on Mayor de Blasio to move forward with the project, which will narrow the wide, two-way roadway while adding safer pedestrian crossings and a protected bike lane alongside the park [PDF].

“We are demanding, we are urging, we are pleading that the time is now,” said Ferreras-Copeland. “I want to be clear: This is not a favor, this what we deserve. And if other communities can have bike lanes, so can we.”

Crossing 111th Street is the most direct way to access the park coming from the neighborhoods to the west, but it’s a dangerous street. With two northbound car lanes and three southbound, 111th is more like a divided highway than a neighborhood street. The distance between crosswalks is as long as 1,500 feet — more than a quarter-mile. And without safe space for cycling, 84 percent of cyclists ride on the sidewalk.

“It affects me deeply to see mothers that have to run across the intersection simply for lack of a cross-light,” said Vero Ramirez of Mujeres en Movimiento through a translator. “It is us and our children who give life to the streets and the parks.”

“Our school is feet away from 111th Street. Our children and parents walk this street everyday,” said P.S. 28 PTA President Miriam Sosa. “This has been our biggest concern for years.”

Under DOT's plan, 111th Street would received a protected bike lane, new pedestrian crossing and additional parking spots. Image: DOT [PDF]
The DOT redesign of 111th Street would reduce motor vehicle lanes while adding a two-way protected bike lane, pedestrian crossings, and curbside parking. Image: DOT
The 111th Street redesign arose from a series of workshops organized by the Queens Museum, Immigrant Movement International, Make the Road New York, and Transportation Alternatives in 2014. Many of those advocates were on hand today, years after Ferreras secured capital funds to make the redesign happen.

Despite the broad-based support for the project, DOT has let local Assembly Member Francisco Moya delay action. Moya has insisted that vehicle lanes on 111th Street cannot be narrowed as the redesign calls for, because traffic to Mets games and the U.S. Open is too intense. Video of the street before last year’s World Series indicates that the argument has no basis in actual traffic conditions.

Nevertheless, last December DOT reps told Streetsblog the agency was conducting a traffic study of the corridor during major events, and that the data would be presented in the spring. In the spring, agency reps said the presentation to CB 4 would not happen until the fall.

CB 4 leadership has failed to act on the plan as well. When activists from Make Queens Safer testified in favor of the project at CB 4 in February, Chair Lou Walker denied that 111th Street inhibits park access and said he was “getting a little tired of hearing about” the bike lane.

So in May, 160 demonstrators from Mujeres en Movimiento, Make the Road, and TA marched down 111th Street in support of the project.

In Queens: 111 Moms Shut Down 111th Street for 111 Seconds from STREETFILMS on Vimeo.

When Queens CB 4 failed to support the second phase of the Queens Boulevard redesign, Mayor de Blasio overruled them, giving DOT the green light. The mayor has not taken a similar stand on 111th Street.

Today, Ferreras-Copeland said the delays have gone on too long.

“We were asked to galvanize members, we did that two years ago. We were asked to fund this, we did that three years ago. We were asked to have more community impact, we did that with several meetings,” she said. “We’ve done everything that this administration has asked us to do, and now it is time that they do what they have to do. The time is now.”

Update: Mayoral spokesperson Austin Finan sent this response.

We are encouraged by continued community support for safety enhancements on 111th Street and we continue discussions with stakeholders on this important proposal.

  • Reader

    A tale of two cities, right Mayor de Blasio?

  • You know, 20th Avenue in Astoria got their protected cycle track fairly quickly. Wondering why the diverse community (with broad support from so many) is taking so long??? And this one really came from the community, kids, parents and advocacy groups. Here’s 20th, let’s make 111th Street look the same:

  • Simon Phearson

    The difference is that 20th Avenue doesn’t go anywhere. It’s an easy place to put a protected bike lane, and it had unprotected lanes before.

  • Well for many, many people it goes to Astoria Park and takes you to some of the new stores, shopping center, brewery on Steinway. That’s pretty huge. Sure, 111th Street I would argue is even more important than 20th, but saying it “doesn’t go anywhere” is quite erroneous. For some people it does.

  • Simon Phearson

    Well for many, many people it goes to Astoria Park and takes you to some of the new stores, shopping center, brewery on Steinway. That’s pretty huge.

    Right, it’s not an arterial road that connects most of the people who are driving or biking places. It’s a limited-use road, with a limited-use bike lane. It’s nowhere near as important at 111th.

    And you’re exaggerating its pull. 20th Avenue might serve a slice of Steinway and northern Astoria, when traveling to or from Astoria Park, but for most in this neighborhood, Jackson Heights, etc., a number of other routes will be more direct and, for cyclists, safer. For the purposes you cite, it basically serves a wedge of people north of 21st Avenue and east of Hazen/north of GCP, if that. The main function of this road for local residents seems to be car storage.

  • van_vlissingen

    Does 111th fit the definition of an arterial road? The XXL size only defines it between the LIRR and Corona Ave.

  • Simon Phearson

    Maybe not. But it’s more useful than 20th Avenue in any case.

  • 20thLaneIsHereToStay

    Damn your vendetta against 20th Avenue is starting to be legend among some of my friends. LOL! I mean it is already there and functioning well and the more lanes we have like it the better. (It royally sucked before with all the double parking in it, especially people taking their driver’s tests.) Would you actually suggest getting rid of it?

  • Simon Phearson

    I would suggest an infrastructural solution for 20th Avenue that makes sense for that street and neighborhood. I would also suggest putting protected lanes on other streets in Astoria instead of investing so much monetary and political capital in 20th Avenue, such as on 21st, 31st, and Steinway streets, and then on Ditmars and Astoria Boulevards. Those would serve cyclists going to places throughout those neighborhoods and beyond, whether they’re going to the park or not (but they would serve park-goers, as well).

    I don’t like the 20th Avenue lane because it begins/ends abruptly, requiring east-bound cyclists to jog across traffic if they’re continuing east on 20th Avenue or if they want to turn south on any cross-street. Those are all now difficult and cumbersome maneuvers. If you’re starting near 20th Avenue and you just want to go west to the Park, I’d agree – it’s a great lane. But that’s the only perspective from which it makes sense. It was an easy win by the advocacy community and an easy sell for DOT. Give us real, useful infrastructure, not symbolic concessions.

  • Maggie

    “we continue discussions with stakeholders on this important proposal.”

    Taking the mayor’s spokesperson at his word, I’m curious what he substantively means. Which stakeholders? What discussions?

  • Reader

    People who drive and park cars

  • The Milquetoast

    I’d say just stop worrying about this lane so much. It is exists. People are using it. Just advocate for lots of other ideas. Remember sometimes a lane like this will make others easier in Astoria. Not many recall that NYC DOT’s first attempt at a separated bike lane about 8 years ago was for 9 blocks on 9th Avenue. Most people thought it was a terrible 1st choice, but they knew what they were doing. They put in a bike lane they knew would succeed very well and not affect traffic at all. Then they used that success to branch out.

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