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.

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Council Member Karen Koslowitz, far right, said in 2015 that she would support "whatever it takes" to make Queens Boulevard a safe street. Photo: Ben Fried

Karen Koslowitz Walks Back Her Pledge to Support a Safer Design for Queens Boulevard

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Two years ago, Council Member Karen Koslowitz stood with people who'd lost loved ones to traffic violence and said the city should do "whatever it takes" to turn deadly Queens Boulevard into a "boulevard of life" -- even if that entailed the removal of travel lanes or parking spaces. Now that the city is ready to redesign Queens Boulevard in her district, however, Koslowitz is losing her resolve.