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Queens Blvd. Safety Upgrade Mysteriously Delayed in Forest Hills

12:01 AM EDT on September 28, 2018

This block of Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills was supposed to have protected bike lanes by now. Jessame Hannus/Twitter

Call it the "Boulevard of Stasis."

The last phase of the Queens Boulevard redesign, which DOT said would begin in July between Yellowstone Boulevard and Union Turnpike in Forest Hills, has stalled — and cycling advocates are worried that the city may renege on its commitment to an already successful street safety project that includes protected bike lanes and other improvements.

"The longer it goes on without something happening the more worried I get that that decision is going to get walked back. That’s what makes me nervous about the delay," said Jessame Hannus of Rego Park. "It would be a real betrayal of all the years and years and years of work and outreach."

The Forest Hills segment is slated to be the fourth and final phase of safety fixes on Queens Boulevard, which was once dubbed the "Boulevard of Death" because of the number of fatalities that occurred there before drivers were reined in — 195 between 1990 and 2015. Since DOT begin redesigning the street in 2015 no pedestrian or cyclist has died on it, and one driver was killed.

The redesigned Queens Boulevard. Photo: NYC DOT
The redesigned Queens Boulevard in Woodside. Photo: NYC DOT
The redesigned Queens Boulevard, circa 2017, with bike lane. It doesn't go far enough. Photo: NYC DOT

Pedestrian injuries are also down 63 percent along the already completed areas, yet the Forest Hills segment was opposed by Council Member Karen Koslowitz, a few businesses and  Community Board 6, which voted 23-11 against the project. One business in particular, Ben's Best kosher deli in Rego Park, blamed its long-anticipated closure on the bike lanes installed in 2017 — and not, as some critics pointed out, that the restaurant is selling expensive, high fat nostalgia food in a changing neighborhood.

But DOT — buoyed by Mayor de Blasio's commitment to seeing through the multi-year, $100-million redesign — told CB 6 in May and June that it would move forward with the project regardless of the board's vote.

Hannus and others fear that DOT's inaction on the corridor means it has changed its mind and given in to opponents. The agency has not responded to Streetsblog's inquiries — today and in August — about what is happening (or, more accurately, not happening) on the stretch.

"I do feel like they might just not do it at all, and I don’t know why," Forest Hills resident Yehuda Pollack said. "It’s not like they put out a statement that said we’re not doing this for these reasons. They’re just not telling.

"I love riding on Queens Boulevard in Rego Park. It’s just really easy to do that and feel fine," Pollack added. "In Forest Hills right now, it doesn’t feel fine."

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