U.S. Rep Joe Crowley Goes Full NIMBY on Skillman and 43rd Avenue Bike Lanes

Crowley claims to be listening to the “community,” but plenty of his Sunnyside constituents want to see the redesign happen.

Soon to be ex Congressman Joe Crowley — still fighting, still wrong. Photo: Flickr/Office of NY Governor Andrew Cuomo
Soon to be ex Congressman Joe Crowley — still fighting, still wrong. Photo: Flickr/Office of NY Governor Andrew Cuomo

Congressman Joe Crowley — the powerful Queens Democratic Party boss angling to replace Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House — has weighed in on a pressing matter of national significance.

Crowley is against DOT’s plan to make Skillman Avenue and 43rd Avenue safer for biking and walking by adding protected bike lanes, he said in a series of tweets this afternoon.

Replete with the obligatory feints toward supporting “biking as a healthy, affordable transportation option,” Crowley’s Twitter thread couched his opposition to the safety overhaul in the language of fair-minded reasonableness while calling for “major and fundamental changes,” which he of course did not specify.

Is it reasonable to call for the city to scrap plans for protected bike lanes on streets with a history of fatal and life-threatening crashes? Only if you value on-street car storage more than the well-being of your constituents.

Last year, one cyclist was killed and another severely injured in the span of 10 days at the intersection of 43rd Avenue and 39th Street. Between 2012 and 2016, drivers injured 61 people walking in the area that’s in line for safety upgrades, according to DOT.

DOT’s plan relies on techniques that have substantially reduced traffic injuries on New York City streets. It would repurpose about 115 parking spots to make room for parking-protected bike lanes and pedestrian safety improvements. That’s provoked some backlash from merchants, which has led local Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer to vacillate on the redesign.

It’s not clear what prompted Crowley to weigh in on a local street safety project. But he is facing a primary challenge, and yesterday afternoon his opponent, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, called the bike lane “a good idea.”

Both Crowley and Ocasio-Cortez appear to buy into the argument that repurposing a few parking spots per block will threaten the bottom line of local businesses. But those concerns have proven unfounded. On retail streets where protected bike lanes have been added, like Columbus Avenue in Manhattan, the initial fears of merchants were not borne out by sales tax receipts.

Crowley claims to be listening to the “community,” but plenty of his Sunnyside constituents want to see the redesign happen. This evening, people who want a safer Skillman and 43rd will form a “human-protected bike lane” at 43rd Avenue and 39th Street. The action starts at 6:15.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG