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Ann Pfoser Darby’s Out at Queens CB 4, But It Will Take More to Reform Community Boards

3:59 PM EDT on April 7, 2017

Ann Pfoser Darby, facing the camera, was first appointed to Queens CB 4 in 1987 and held her seat for 30 years, until she was canned for cheering on deportations. Photo: Juan Restrepo

Ann Pfoser Darby won't be deciding transportation policy in Queens anymore. Borough President Melinda Katz rejected Darby's application to retain her seat on Community Board 4, which she had held since 1987, the Times Ledger reports.

Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland and others had demanded Darby be removed from the board after she made bigoted comments about immigrants while objecting to a bike lane for 111th Street by Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

Katz did the right thing removing Darby from the board, and Mayor de Blasio has directed DOT to move forward on 111th Street after years of CB 4 obstructionism. But the problems with this community board -- and others -- are bigger than a single member.

Hundreds of local residents demonstrated for the 111th Street project, and it will make the street safer for thousands more. But it was held up because a member of an old Queens machine family -- James Lisa -- casts a critical vote on CB4 and got his political chum, Assembly Member Francisco Moya, to throw his weight behind the opposition.

Though DOT will install a bikeway on 111th Street, other key features -- including crosswalks -- were dropped from the redesign in order to gain Moya's endorsement. So parents and children who walk and bike the street will still be exposed to unnecessary risk.

The danger of letting local power brokers on community boards decide how streets should work is not hypothetical: In the past two years, two New Yorkers lost their lives after DOT shelved projects to appease board members in Brooklyn and the Bronx.

This week Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul White issued a statement lauding de Blasio for his decision to make improvements to 111th Street, and urging the mayor to prioritize public safety over community board politics.

"Just as he has defended the DOT’s redesign to transform Queens Boulevard from the once-notorious 'Boulevard of Death' into a Boulevard of Life," said White, "and as he has now done with 111th Street, Mayor de Blasio must continue, in Queens and across the city, to stand up for the principle that lifesaving street safety redesigns must be implemented as a matter of policy in the Vision Zero era, and cannot be allowed to be delayed or derailed by a handful of unrepresentative community board members."

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