Queens CB 11 Plans Secret Meeting to Delay Northern Blvd Safety Fixes [Updated]

The board voted for the project last month after public meetings, but an internal faction still hopes to undermine the redesign.

The DOT project calls for six miles of protected bike lanes on Northern Boulevard and other streets near Joe Michaels Mile. Image: DOT
The DOT project calls for six miles of protected bike lanes on Northern Boulevard and other streets near Joe Michaels Mile. Image: DOT

Earlier this year, Queens Community Board 11 voted in support of a DOT safety project that would create several miles of protected bike lanes linking to the Joe Michaels Mile bike path. There were multiple public meetings about the redesign, which is set to move forward, but now members of the board are planning a closed meeting on Monday to hear objections to it, Streetsblog has learned. (Update: After we published this post, CB 11 said the meeting will be open to the public and posted the location and time on its website.)

The DOT plan calls for six miles of protected bikeways, including a stretch of two-way bike lane on Northern Boulevard, one of the most dangerous streets in Queens. In 2015, a driver struck and killed Michael Schenkman, 78, as he tried to bike onto Joe Michaels Mile from Northern Boulevard, prompting the city to create a plan for safer access.

Community Board 11 voted for the project 18-11 last month. But a faction on the board remains opposed to the Northern Boulevard changes, which would replace a rush hour traffic lane/off-peak parking lane with a barrier-protected two-way bike lane, and wants to prevent them from being implemented.

CB 11 chair Christine Haider confirmed that the transportation committee will be holding a closed meeting on Monday to discuss “some suggestions that have come to our attention regarding the project.” She refused to discuss what those suggestions were, why the project is being revisited after the board’s earlier vote, or why the committee meeting will not be open to the public.

“It’s not a public hearing,” she said. “It’s a simple committee meeting that doesn’t require a public meeting.”

When the full board discussed the project in June, transportation committee co-chair Bernard Haber objected to repurposing a lane of Northern Boulevard for bike travel, arguing that the bikeway should take right-of-way from the Alley Pond Golf Center instead. That would negate the safety benefits of slimming down an overly-wide street, and it would take more time and money to implement, DOT said.

The board settled the matter publicly with its vote of support that night. Now some members want to revisit that decision out of public view. How’s that for local democracy?

While the intent is to hold a closed-door gathering, if you’re concerned about safety on Northern Boulevard, you can still tell the board what you think of this maneuver on Monday at 7:30 p.m., 46-21 Little Neck Parkway. The council member who represents the area and appoints people to CB 11 is Paul Vallone, who can be reached at (718) 619-8611.

Update: Haider called Streetsblog later this afternoon and said the meeting is now listed on the community board’s calendar and open to the public. In fact, she said, it was always planned as a public meeting. When I pointed out that this contradicted what she told me earlier in the day, she said there’s a difference between a “public meeting,” which this will be, and a “public hearing,” which this will not be. I asked what the difference is, and she said “the whole world is invited” to a public hearing, and ended the call before I could get the definition of a public meeting.

Whatever you make of that exchange, the board has now given the public about 72 hours notice about this Monday evening meeting.

  • John Maier

    The only non-public meetings a community board can have are ones in which Staff HR issues are being discussed, other than that ALL community board meetings are covered under NY Sunshine laws! http://www.nfoic.org/new-york-foia-laws

  • Reggie

    Section 105 of Article 7 of the New York State Public Officers Law states (emphasis added):

    Conduct of executive sessions.
    1. Upon a majority vote of its total membership, taken in an open meeting pursuant to a motion identifying the general area or areas of the subject or subjects to be considered, a public body may conduct an executive session for the below enumerated purposes only, provided, however, that no action by formal vote shall be taken to appropriate public moneys:
    a. matters which will imperil the public safety if disclosed;
    b. any matter which may disclose the identity of a law enforcement agent or informer;
    c. information relating to current or future investigation or prosecution of a criminal offense which would imperil effective law enforcement if disclosed;
    d. discussions regarding proposed, pending or current litigation;
    e. collective negotiations pursuant to article fourteen of the civil service law;
    f. the medical, financial, credit or employment history of a particular person or corporation, or matters leading to the appointment, employment, promotion, demotion, discipline, suspension, dismissal or removal of a particular person or corporation;
    g. the preparation, grading or administration of examinations; and
    h. the proposed acquisition, sale or lease of real property or the proposed acquisition of securities, or sale or exchange of securities held by such public body, but only when publicity would substantially affect the value thereof.

    None of the above seem to apply in this case.

  • Adrian Horczak

    This project will provide safety benefits and should improve the LOS at the for some of the phases at the intersections. The community showed overwhelming support and the members voted for the project to proceed. These people seem so evil for tirelessly trying to stop such a great project. Don’t they have anything better to do!

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The DOT project calls for six miles of protected bike lanes on Northern Boulevard and other streets near Joe Michaels Mile. Image: DOT

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Word is that committee co-chair Bernard Haber wants to revisit his suggestion to implement the Northern Boulevard bike lane using land currently occupied by Alley Pond Golf Course, which was already rejected by DOT as too time-consuming and expensive without providing the safety benefit of narrowing all the asphalt currently devoted to motorized traffic.

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This was the community’s reaction to the @NYC_DOT proposal @MelindaKatz @StreetsblogNYC pic.twitter.com/JyyXFroWwK — Jaime Andrés (@jaimeamonc) May 12, 2016 Tuesday night’s meeting on the redesign of Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst was one of the uglier exercises in petty community board obstructionism in recent memory. Queens Community Board 4 District Manager Christian Cassagnol said the safety of cyclists […]