Queens Community Board 11 Got Up to Some Monkey Business Last Night

One member of the board is dead-set against repurposing street space on high-speed Northern Boulevard so people can safely bike to Joe Michaels Mile.

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

At a hastily-arranged and under-publicized meeting last night, the Queens Community Board 11 transportation committee took up DOT’s plan to put a protected bike lane on Northern Boulevard approaching the Joe Michaels Mile bike path, an issue that full board already settled last month with an 18-11 vote in favor.

The DOT plan, which would repurpose a rush hour parking lane on a stretch of Northern Boulevard to make way for a two-way protected bike lane, doesn’t sit well with CB 11 transportation co-chair Bernard Haber. Haber wants to maintain the existing number of car lanes on Northern Boulevard while expanding the sidewalk into Alley Pond Golf Center and making it a shared path for biking and walking.

It’s an idea that Haber floated before last month’s vote. At the time, DOT reps pointed out that in addition to requiring an expensive and lengthy capital project, it would erase the benefits of narrowing one of Queens’ most dangerous streets. And Haber himself has admitted that his concept would require the relocation of street lights and the removal of trees on NYC parkland.

This alternative proposal floated by CB 11 transportation co-chair falls short of DOT's plan on a number of counts. Image: Eastern Queens Greenway
Bernard Haber’s concept would cost more, take longer, and do less to improve safety than the DOT plan he wants to stymie. Image: Eastern Queens Greenway

Last night, Haber, a retired transportation engineer who has, according to his LinkedIn page, served on the board for 47 years and 11 months (which checks out, even though it predates the current incarnation of the community board system), spoke for 30 minutes about his concept.

CB 11 chair Christine Haider then motioned to send a letter to DOT suggesting it consider Haber’s concept, which passed with no committee discussion or public input, a person who attended told Streeetsblog, despite an overflow crowd who mostly supported DOT’s plan.

Last night’s meeting was publicly scheduled and announced only after Streetsblog reported that CB 11 leadership was planning to hold it in secret.

Haider, the board chair, said during the meeting that she didn’t view the letter as a request for DOT to delay construction of the protected bike lane, according to a post on the Eastern Queens Greenway blog, but Haber saw things differently. After the vote, he said DOT should delay action on the plan that was earlier approved by the board.

Streetsblog has a request in with Haider and CB 11 to clarify the content of the letter.

  • Driver

    Maybe you missed it, but the reason this lane was requested is to provide safe access to dedicated recreational space, the space Michael Schenkman was killed trying to get to.
    http://nyc.streetsblog.org/2016/08/25/ta-calls-on-de-blasio-to-act-after-driver-kills-cyclist-78-on-northern-blvd/
    You know what is an intolerable inconvenience? Being killed by an inattentive driver.

  • Lex Luthor

    I respect your response. As a resident in Woodside, where one of these misbegotten lanes was placed on Queens Blvd, also being a lifelong city resident, driver and car owner since I was 21 and user of every form of transportation available in this city, I know when my comments fit and when they don’t.

    The Community Board (CB) system is a sham, as is the “community requested” aspect of bike lane emplacement. The game has been repeated throughout the city and working around real community engagement really angers voters and drivers, which are often the same, since our voter registration is often coupled with DMV interactions. It amounts to gaming the system against the community because CBs are appointed by officials too scared to go against the Mayor and if they do, they are only advisory.

    Creating congestion in neighborhoods that are car dependent is abusive to those communities. There is no other way to put it. Recreational cycling during the brief recreational season is no reason to inconvenience an entire community year round.

    In Woodside we are lucky to have the 7 train, but do you know how often service is disrupted, often for entire weekends, cutting off entire and very populous neighborhoods? We are car dependent for local needs and going into Manhattan or other boroughs, which yes, is a real thing.

    The bike lanes on Queens Blvd are absurd relative to actual transportation needs, as are the lanes currently in question. There is no way to sell this that actually makes sense to the people who inhabit the boroughs.

  • Lex Luthor

    My condolences to the family of the deceased, but that doesn’t make this a good idea. Unfortunate things happen. It’s part of being alive. It doesn’t make it everyone else’s fault. It doesn’t mean we should try to prevent every possible bad thing that can happen because we can’t.

  • Lex Luthor

    Exactly. Especially, when it only serves a recreational use.

  • Black335GT

    Yea, I drove one. I had a friend who had one for about 2 months. Then he got tired of how slow it was and traded it for a Corvette (which subsequently got sold for a Camry. Dude doesn’t know what he wants).

  • Black335GT

    Right, there are back ups with all the lanes, so taking one away is going to make things worse.

  • Lex Luthor

    Okay, so a Prius is never going to compete with a Corvette, but it seemed comparable to non-hybrids. Nice that your friend has options to keep switching out.

  • Driver

    Statistically speaking, of course.

    When someone brought up actual statistics in opposition to the premise that being in a car makes you safe, you called it out of context.
    If you want to see some numbers, check out the monthly streetsblog report.
    http://nyc.streetsblog.org/2017/06/20/nyc-drivers-injured-1250-pedestrians-and-cyclists-in-may-and-killed-seven/
    If you regularly follow this blog,or you can check the archives, you will see that many pedestrians are killed in the crosswalk with the right of way, and sometimes they are killed on the sidewalk. It is a similar situation with cyclists. Although some are killed by their own carelessness, many are killed by the carelessness and reckless behavior of drivers.

    I agree that pedestrian and cyclist inattention is a problem and that personal responsibility is important, but it is nowhere close to the danger that driver inattention presents. Inattentive pedestrians and cyclists primarily pose a danger to themselves. Inattentive drivers pose a much greater danger to all those around them. Talk about ignoring the elephant in the room.

    Most of these observations are made by me as a driver. I drive a truck in NYC for a living and commute and travel mostly by car. I am inconvenienced by bike lanes. I also recognize their importance, and that the people who use them are no less important that you or I. Sure they may be fewer in numbers, but that does not mean that they are not entitled to safe passage through our city. Streets like Queens Blvd and Northern Blvd are important thoroughfares because they cross geographical barriers like highways, train tracks, and waterways (Northern Blvd). Forcing cyclists to compete with highway like conditions for the sake of convenience and slightly less traffic is grossly selfish.

  • Driver

    A corvette is about as practical in the winter as a bicycle.

  • Driver

    You won’t find a better audience for the community board sham argument than on Streetsbog. This proposal was no community board sham, but a neighborhood drive and petition to push the community board to approve this proposal.

    I live in Eastern Queens where we are pretty much all car dependent unless one is traveling into Manhattan. The CB’s don’t give a shit about bikes.

    As far as Queens Blvd goes, I’ll bet that the proliferation of Uber and other ride share apps as well as the waze app created far more traffic than the bike lane.

  • Lex Luthor

    You are right. Bicycles register next to nowhere on a CBs list of priorities. I am sure some in the community think this is a good idea, and even the right thing to do, but it doesn’t work for the majority.

    As for the QB lanes, the traffic congestion happened overnight–as soon as the lane of traffic was taken and the redesign emplaced. The purpose of street redesign is to create congestion or “traffic calming,” which is the official term. It is not to create useful bike lanes. I bike all over the city and I often do not use bike lanes and prefer traffic.

    You seem like a nice guy, so I will tell you what this is really about. Gentrification and helping out developers, which is bad for everyone in this city. De Blasio pushed for his affordable housing plan, which was really just a set of tax incentives for developers in exchange for a minimal percentage of “affordable housing.” Part of the deal was that developers don’t like to build parking garages–it isn’t profitable enough, but law requires it, when there are environmental impacts, i.e. strains on parking, so the Mayor said okay. He has since attempted to remake the transportation universe by reducing road space and parking, except that those things exist for a reason. The infrastructure can handle so much.

  • Lex Luthor

    You said, “I agree that pedestrian and cyclist inattention is a problem and that personal responsibility is important, but it is nowhere close to the danger that driver inattention presents. Inattentive pedestrians and cyclists primarily pose a danger to themselves. Inattentive drivers pose a much greater danger to all those around them. Talk about ignoring the elephant in the room.”

    Problem is, the driver gets the blame for non-driver recklessness–I was being polite about inattention. Drivers are not very inattentive at all–they can’t afford to be. However, they are not miracle workers. My heart has nearly jumped out of my throat on more than one occasion when I nearly killed pedestrians doing crazy things–not everyone has the reflexes of a cat! Not even AI would solve these problems.

    On the latter point, I would agree with you, if there was any practical necessity to cause so much inconvenience and especially since the focus of the project is redesign, not accommodation.

  • Driver

    “Drivers are not very inattentive at all–they can’t afford to be.”
    Sorry, you are dead wrong on this one. I drive a truck all day and can see down into peoples vehicles. It is absurd how many people text and scroll while driving. For those that aren’t actively driving and scrolling, the second traffic slows down just a little, the phone comes out. The livery cars have multiple devices that they are constantly checking. It is an epidemic. If you do not think it is a problem then you are not paying attention.
    Another even more disguising problem that I often see is a complete disregard and lack of respect for people on foot and on bicycles by drivers. I see drivers treat people on bicycles and pedestrians in the crosswalk as if they do not even exist on a regular basis, passing too closely or worse, deliberately threatening and forcing them over. As a driver you must realize that there are some practically homicidal nut jobs driving among us.
    I understand where you are coming from, I had pretty much the same mindset years ago when I stumbled across this blog and was upset about the inconvenience of the newly installed 1st Ave bike lane. Stick around for a while and read the daily stories and comments. You might get a different perspective on the real dangers and who is really impacted.

  • Just a guy

    How is this out of context?

  • AnoNYC

    All the money spent on bicycle infrastructure citywide wouldn’t be a drop in the bucket for the MTA. That new infrastructure has though promoted more bicycling which has relieved other modes of transportation.

    One of the best ways for the MTA to get more cash is congestion pricing. Solves several problems.

  • AnoNYC

    While there have been lane reductions in several locations, these changes are not responsible for congestion. The traffic has always existed; but now we have areas where people can more safely bike, bus lanes, and calmed traffic.

  • AnoNYC

    Not everyone feels the way you do.

    Using rainy days as an excuse to limit infrastructure that promotes activity more positive for the society. Blah.

  • AnoNYC

    Does anyone have the AM/PM traffic totals per lane? This stretch of Northern Blvd doesn’t even register as a choke point in my experience.

  • Andrew

    Stop trying to argue with geometry. Traffic congestion exists because cars take up a lot of space. If you encourage more people to drive, then more people will try to cram more cars into virtually that same space.

  • Black335GT

    Have you been on Oceania Street. between the LIE and 75th Ave lately? They put in a bike lane there by the curb, moved the parking lane out into the street and have 2 narrow lanes for driving. You think that was a good idea? Its a complete clusterfuck. I see many head-on collisions happening in the next few years because of it. Pure stupidity.