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2 Queens Community Board Members Hold Up a Safety Project for Thousands

2:54 PM EDT on June 3, 2015

Are two Community Board 4 members enough to stop a redesign of this Corona speedway? Photo: DOT [PDF]
Are two Community Board 4 members enough to stop a redesign of this Corona speedway? Photo: DOT [PDF]
Are two Community Board 4 members enough to stop a redesign of this Corona speedway? Photo: DOT [PDF]

The transportation committee of Queens Community Board 4, which covers Corona and Elmhurst, is comprised of three people. On Monday evening, two of them showed up to a meeting -- that's quorum, apparently -- and they really, really did not want any changes to 111th Street.

Here's the backstory: The Queens Museum, working with Immigrant Movement International, Make the Road New York, and Transportation Alternatives, began working last year with local residents to make 111th Street -- a multi-lane speedway dividing Corona from Flushing Meadows Corona Park -- safer and more beautiful. In July, the groups hosted a Vision Zero workshop to gather suggestions. In September, they organized a daffodil planting on the 111th Street median.

The effort garnered the support of Council Member Julissa Ferreras, who allocated $2.7 million in discretionary capital funds for a street redesign. Earlier this year, DOT presented its plan, which would reduce the number of car lanes to make room for wider medians, a two-way protected bike lane, and parking. The plan also includes new crosswalks.

The CB 4 committee members were not pleased. They feared that reducing the number of car lanes on this extra-wide street would lead to traffic congestion, and asked DOT to come back.

The agency tweaked its plan, moving a bike route in the proposal from 114th Street to 108th Street. DOT measured traffic during special events, and concluded that any congestion could be mitigated by adjusting signal timing, rerouting traffic bound for Citi Field, and working with NYPD to deploy traffic agents.

On Monday evening, DOT presented the revised plan [PDF] to the committee of two -- James Lisa and Ann Pfoser Darby. (Joseph DiMartino, the chair of the committee, was not there.) Ferreras came to show her support for the plan.

Lisa and Darby didn't care.

"From the get-go, they were not at all even interested in hearing the presentation," said Transportation Alternatives Queens organizer Jaime Moncayo. "They didn’t really seem to be even interested in any changes that DOT had made to the plan."

“They were adamant that the only reason to do this was to add bike lanes," Moncayo said. "They kept insisting to DOT that they come back with a design that puts the bike lanes through the park."

Ferreras was taken aback. "That it’s only two residents who make the recommendation is startling," she said. "The community board members also have a responsibility of representing all those interests in the community. You shouldn't vote on the community board just on your [own] behalf."

“I feel that the members had already made their mind up on this project," Ferreras said. “They said it wasn’t enough. Nothing was enough. They didn’t want the bike lane. They didn’t think I talked to everyone in the community."

One of the committee members claimed that Ferreras only talked to immigrants. “I felt blatant disrespect,” she said. “This is a project for everyone in Queens. It was a very unpleasant and frustrating meeting, but not one that we can’t overcome.”

Opponents have begun organizing a petition against the plan, and have gained the backing of Assembly Member Francisco Moya, who "has expressed that he will do everything to block this project," Ferreras said. (Moya's office has not yet responded to a request for comment.)

The plan is likely to go before CB 4 at its next general board meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. on June 9 at VFW Post 150, 51-11 108th Street. Ferreras said she is also requesting a special meeting about the proposal in July, and is aiming for it to be installed "as soon as possible."

“They want to keep it exactly like how things are," Ferreras said of the opponents. “My focus now is to make sure that this project gets done. We’re going to continue to listen to residents' voices. But I am clear that we need a complete street on 111th Street."

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