Karen Koslowitz Walks Back Her Pledge to Support a Safer Design for Queens Boulevard

With the city ready to redesign Queens Boulevard in her district, Koslowitz is losing her resolve.

Council Member Karen Koslowitz, far right, said in 2015 that she would support "whatever it takes" to make Queens Boulevard a safe street. Photo: Ben Fried
Council Member Karen Koslowitz, far right, said in 2015 that she would support "whatever it takes" to make Queens Boulevard a safe street. Photo: Ben Fried

Two years ago, Council Member Karen Koslowitz stood with people who’d lost loved ones to traffic violence and said the city should do “whatever it takes” to turn deadly Queens Boulevard into a “boulevard of life” — even if that entailed the removal of travel lanes or parking spaces.

With the city ready to redesign Queens Boulevard in her district, however, Koslowitz is losing her resolve. She now says Queens Community Board 6 should decide what happens with the next phase of this major street safety project — and members of the community board have already signaled their opposition.

In the past two years, the city has overhauled 2.5 miles of Queens Boulevard service roads with expanded pedestrian space and protected bike lanes. The redesign made a difference: 2015 and 2016 were the first years in a quarter-century without any fatalities on Queens Boulevard. And more people are bicycling on the thoroughfare, as the city builds out a low-stress bikeway on the borough’s main east-west corridor.

The expanded pedestrian space, bike lane, and new mall-to-mall crosswalk at Queens Boulevard and Van Loon Street. Photo: David Meyer
The expanded pedestrian space, bike lane, and new mall-to-mall crosswalk at Queens Boulevard and Van Loon Street. Photo: David Meyer

This year, DOT hopes to extend a similar redesign east to Rego Park, in Koslowitz’s district. The agency is scheduled to present its plan for Queens Boulevard from Eliot Avenue to Yellowstone Boulevard at the next Queens Community Board 6 transportation committee meeting.

The support of City Council members Jimmy Van Bramer and Daniel Dromm was essential for the first two segments of the redesign, especially last year, when Queens Community Board 4 voted against a Queens Boulevard bike lane and was overruled by Mayor de Blasio.

Local representatives will need a stiff spine for the next round of improvements, which are expected to claim more parking spaces than the prior two installments. But Koslowitz is walking back her 2015 promise to support “whatever it takes” to fix Queens Boulevard.

Members of Queens Community Board 6 have already signaled hostility toward the project, and Koslowitz now says CB 6 should decide what happens next. Responding to a resident who contacted her office about the redesign, Koslowitz wrote earlier this month:

If the only question here is will a bike lane provide extra safety for cyclists, then there would be no issue in my mind. But, the reality is that in order to create these bike lanes, over 200 parking spaces will be lost. The lack of parking situation in this neighborhood is already beyond critical. Couple that with the economic impact the loss of parking spaces will have on local business and one can readily see that there is a downside to installing these bike lanes.

So much for “whatever it takes.”

Experience in New York City and elsewhere, by the way, shows that projects which subtract motor vehicle parking to improve pedestrian safety and bicycle access can bolster retail sales.

Koslowitz’s legislative and communications director Michael Cohen told Streetsblog yesterday that “in general, she’s not opposed to the installation of bike lanes,” but did not take a position on the Queens Boulevard project.

It’s a far cry from the role Dromm played last year when the city rolled out the Elmhurst section of the redesign. Even though Queens CB 4 declined to endorse the project, Dromm unequivocally supported it, and the mayor decided to move forward.

By ceding the decision to Queens CB 6, Koslowitz is not staying neutral. She’s letting known opponents of a much-needed safety overhaul shape public debate. That’s not what she promised two years ago.

  • AMH

    She evidently has not considered the economic impact that an increase in cycling will have on local businesses.

  • Reader

    In Karen Koslowitz’ moral calculations, how many parking spaces equal one human life? Would be a good question for her to have to answer.

  • Max

    This district is filled with elderly citizens and families with young children. It’s imperative that Queens Blvd gets redesigned to better calm and organize motor traffic and help connect the two neighborhoods that this moat currently disconnects.

    Anyone know the date/time of the next Queens Community Board 6 transportation committee meeting and if it is open to the public? Having grown up in Rego Park, the redesign of Queens Blvd is near and dear to my heart.

  • The loss of parking space is “beyond critical” but the loss of life for pedestrians & cyclists I guess isn’t as big a priority?

  • JudenChino

    Jesus Christ, it’s always car parking. How pathetic. Do they not realize that it’s easier to get off a bike and park nearly anywhere to buy shit. When I’m on my commute, I can literally hop into any store on my route, with ease, without having to search for parking. You desperately need a safe E/W route for bikes. Queens Boulevard is it. There are thousands of people who want safe bike routes in Queens and do not want to have to rely on cars, in part, because parking is such a bitch.

  • Bluewndrpwrmlk96

    Thurs Apr 20th @ 7:30p. Usually they are at 80-02 Kew Gardens Road, the glass building on Queens Bl and Kew Gardens Road. CB6 seems to be pretty streamlined with street improvements. Makes sense since Beadle is CB6 transportation chair and also on the Transportation Alternatives Queens committee.

    http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/queenscb6/pdf/Meeting%20Dates%204-17.pdf

  • Komanoff

    I believe that just out of reach of the photo, to the left, is the sidewalk on which two laborers, Manchit Cheng, 59, and Wang Mu Lin, 41, were run over and killed early in the morning of Nov. 11, 2013, by 24-y-o Leonid Redko.

    From the Queens DA’s Dec. 9, 2015 press release, http://www.queensda.org/newpressreleases/2015/December%202015/redko_10_30_2015_sen.pdf, announcing the prison sentence of up to nine years:

    District Attorney Brown said that, according to the criminal charges, Redko was driving a
    2014 yellow Chevrolet Camaro at more than 100 miles an hour westbound along the Queens Boulevard service road, near Broadway, on the morning of November 11, 2013, when he lost control and hit a phone kiosk and a lamppost before the vehicle rotated and jumped the curb, fatally striking two individuals, Man Chit Cheng, 59, and Wang Mu Lin, 41, on their way to work.

    With a bike lane on the service road, perhaps even the depraved Redko might have confined his speed to double digits and not “lost control” and Messrs. Cheng and Lin would still be alive.

  • Lex Luthor

    There are over a million registered automobiles in the borough of Queens and they have rights too. Meanwhile, bicycles are not a significant form of transportation in that part of the borough. It is a community of families who need and use their cars.

  • Lex Luthor

    So tired of carpet-baggers trying to tell me what’s good for my community.

  • gneiss

    The idea that retail success is defined by parking is so ingrained in our political discourse that people rarely stop and think about the underlying assumptions that go into that statement. For example – if parking were the only reason why people go shopping somewhere, there shouldn’t be a crisis in retail suburban shopping malls, but rather in our urban centers instead.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    You’ll still be able to use your car, and be less likely to run someone over with it or be run over yourself. Stop fearing change.

  • Reader

    Or the economic impact getting killed has on people.

  • gneiss

    I’m still searching for the part of the Constitution that grants rights to automobiles, maybe you can help me find it?

  • AMH

    All the more reason to redesign Queens Blvd for safety, so those families don’t have to fear for their lives. Its current status as the “Boulevard of Death” might explain why bicycling is not as popular here as it could be.

  • JudenChino

    What is your community?

  • JudenChino

    Maybe there’d be less registered automobiles if residents had alternative mobility options. I don’t own a car because my neighborhood has good transit access despite the fact that many of my neighbors act like having a private parking spot is like oxygen. I could have a car, of course, but it’d cost a lot of money, I’d have to deal with ASP and insurance costs. It’d be a huge pain in the ass. Why do you want to make life more difficult for your neighbors. Better bike infrastructure means less people in cars competing with you for parking.

  • Bluewndrpwrmlk96

    Wanted to clarify, it will be the full board’s monthly meeting on Thursday. The project mentioned in the agenda is not related to Queens Blvd, but street improvements in front of the 112th Precinct. May still be a good chance to meet the key people and talk issues one-on-one.

    Here is the agenda:
    http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/queenscb6/pdf/Agenda%20-%20April%2020.pdf

  • Riddley_Walker

    She lied.

  • J

    Wow. What utterly despicable cowardice! People are dying and she’s fighting for parking spaces. She literally values public space used to store private property more than the lives of her constituents. Despicable.

  • Wilfried84

    My community is New York City. You get to drive in my neighborhood, and I get to ride my bike in yours (and I do).