Queens CB 11 Chair Asked DOT to Scrap Northern Blvd Bike Lane That Her Board Endorsed

Board chair Christine Haider sent a letter to DOT attempting to negate the full CB 11 vote. DOT says it's moving forward with the project.

Queens CB 11 chair Christine Haider says Northern Boulevard needs all this asphalt to move cars. Photo: Google Maps
Queens CB 11 chair Christine Haider says Northern Boulevard needs all this asphalt to move cars. Photo: Google Maps

In an 18 to 11 vote this June, Queens Community Board 11 endorsed DOT’s plan for a two-way protected bike lane on Northern Boulevard by the Joe Michaels Mile bike path. Come the fall, the project should add a total of six miles of new protected bike lanes (most of which are not on Northern), creating safe access to the path while calming traffic.

Despite the board already reaching a decision, CB 11 chair Christine Haider is trying to put a stop to the project. Egged on by transportation committee co-chair Bernard Haber, Haider is arguing that the June vote shouldn’t count.

Haber, who has sat on the community board since the early 1970s, doesn’t want the Northern Boulevard bike lane to claim space from motor vehicles. He has another idea — put a shared biking and walking path on the sidewalk so Northern Boulevard can keep all six lanes of asphalt for car traffic.

At a hastily-arranged meeting of the transportation committee last month, Haider rushed through a motion, with no discussion, to send a letter to DOT asking the agency to again consider Haber’s design proposal for Northern Boulevard. She told people at the meeting that the letter was not a request to delay implementation of the project, but the actual text of the letter says otherwise [PDF].

The letter is, in fact, a blatant attempt to reverse the outcome of the board’s earlier decision supporting DOT’s plan for Northern Boulevard and “fully develop and implement” Haber’s proposal instead. Haider says the board’s June vote was the result of “poor” process. That vote was a model of propriety, however, compared to the process that produced Haider’s letter.

In June, the full board reviewed DOT’s proposal at a well-attended public hearing announced far in advance, listened to testimony from people outside the community board, and sided 18-11 in favor of the city’s plan.

In the attempt to negate that vote, Haider followed a very different playbook. The committee meeting was not publicly announced until 72 hours beforehand, and only after Streetsblog reported that Haider planned to hold it behind closed doors. At the meeting, the public was not allowed to testify — only Haber was permitted to make his case. And then, after a vote of the committee, not the full board, Haider sent DOT a letter that contradicted assurances she had made at the meeting that she did not intend to reverse the June vote.

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 a barrier-protected, two-way bike lane on a stretch of Northern Boulevard connecting to Joe Michaels Mile. Image: DOT

The Northern Boulevard project arose from the advocacy of local businesses and neighborhood associations, following the vehicular killing of Michael Schenkman, 78, while he attempted to access Joe Michaels Mile on his bike. DOT made clear at the June meeting that Haber’s alternate proposal would be too costly, complicated, and time-consuming without delivering the safety benefits of narrowing Northern Boulevard’s excessive traffic lanes.

It’s the removal of a traffic lane, more than any purported flaws in the process, that motivated Haider’s letter, which concludes: “We cannot accept the permanent reduction in the westbound truck and passenger vehicle lanes on Northern Boulevard.”

DOT, meanwhile, says the project is moving forward as presented and approved by the board:

Community Board 11 voted to support DOT’s safety improvement project for Northern Blvd and the agency plans to proceed with implementation later this summer. We will review and provide feedback on CB 11’s recent conceptual plan. The Northern Blvd project brings safety benefits to all road users and will provide an improved connection for the Douglaston and Bayside communities to the heavily utilized Joe Michaels Mile.

  • Larry Littlefield

    A switch from taking a lane to an expanded sidewalk/bike path would be feasible were it not for all the process requirements, hearings and lawsuits.

    Including, of course, the community boards. They have met the enemy, and they are it. Unless the counterproposal is a red herring that they’d end up fighting for years after having recommended it.

  • Reader

    It’s crazy that people are allowed to serve on community boards for 40 years or more.

  • Reggie

    Community boards became operational on January 1, 1977 so if someone has served on one “for 40 years or more,” they are a charter member, of which there are very few. Not to mention, the report above says nothing about how long Haider and Haber have been on CB11, nor does it make a correlation between their tenure and the actions described. Plenty of specific (see above) criticisms can be made about individual (see above) community boards but it seems to me that some of the critics are as ignorant as they assume some/most/all board members are.

  • Haber’s tenure dates to the previous incarnation of the community board system.

    http://www.nytimes.com/1974/11/10/archives/housing-is-fought-in-bayside-proposal-trimmed-down.html

    There’s a strong consensus that mandatory turnover is a good thing that prevents the rot of our elected institutions over time and makes them more responsive. Why should community boards be treated any differently?

  • Reader

    There are people on community boards who’ve been there for 20+ years. That also seems like a bad idea, even if some of those people hold positions we generally agree with.

  • Reggie

    As a former community board member, I understand mandatory term limits only one way, as cover for borough presidents and council members who are too scared to remove poorly performing members. Those elected officials have now all the power they need but they are too afraid of being criticized for their decisions. Mandatory term limits removes the thoughtful with the calcified based solely on years of service. It could not be more simplistic.

  • mc

    There is an entire unused center lane from end to end of this stretch of northern boulevard. Why not have the bike lane run down the middle, with jersey barriers on either side? Or if that isn’t feasible then shift everything over one lane from the north side of the road. A handful of left turns would have to go but the impact on thru traffic, parking and bus stops would be zero. And having the bike lane cross the parkway ramps like that is going to be a very high-stress situation for riders: think a really long and scary mixing zone. They often do not, but DOT really has enough space here to do a lot better.

  • Vooch

    Those areas that embrace active transportation will thrive and prosper. Those areas that cling to the failed robert moses model will stagnant.

    It’s rather simple

  • “Those areas that cling to the failed robert moses model will stagnant.” So true. My dad worked with Bernie Haber in the early 1970s. Enough said.

  • By the standards of his day, Haber was a progressive. This is not his day

  • Vooch

    a humorous video of what the East side could have been w/o the FDR & Moses