Rep. Joe Crowley Just Can’t Stop Complaining About Queens Bike Lanes

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

Soon-to-be-former Congressman Joe Crowley doesn’t know when to walk away — he’s still citing falsehoods and conspiracies to fight a street safety program implemented by the city along Skillman and 43rd avenues in his district.

In a Sept. 12 letter to Mayor de Blasio, Crowley mentioned a Twitter photo (that he did not provide), plus unstated “significant issues for parents” as evidence that issues with the paired protected bike lanes are “undeniably manifested.”

“Emergency responders … must now navigate acute congestion on Skillman Avenue,” he wrote (letter is at the bottom of this post). He did not mention that congestion is caused by cars that illegally park.

Crowley’s letter was cited Monday night by members of Community Board 2, who are still fighting the protected lanes that are making cyclists and pedestrians safer in Sunnyside, and are providing a link from the life-saving improvements on Queens Boulevard to the Queensboro Bridge.

Members of the board cited another easily debunked video that made the rounds on social media showing a fire truck unable to turn left onto Skillman Avenue from the firehouse on 51st Street on Sunday night.

After the video was posted on Facebook, opponents of the bike lanes suggested that the video was evidence that there is “blood on [Mayor de Blasio’s] hands.”

Like Crowley’s over-reaction, the critics were easily debunked: The firetruck was impeded  because two drivers chose to park illegally on new pedestrian space that was created as part of the street-safety improvements.

Rather than blame the drivers, members of Community Board 2 blamed DOT Borough Planner John O’Neill, who attended the meeting.

“No one knows what this is,” board member Dorothy Morehead said, referring to the  pedestrian areas that drivers seem to think belongs to them.

“They’re the pedestrian islands,” O’Neill said.

“But people are parking on them,” Morehead replied. “How about just get rid of it? You know we’re trying for that.”

Community Board 2 Chairwoman Denise Keehan Smith said Crowley’s letter was evidence that the community opposes the street-safety improvements, which cause “congestion” that is actually caused by the drivers and parents who double-park in front of P.S. 11 on Skillman Avenue, making what advocates call “the de Blasio stop,” so named because the mayor once said it’s OK to park in bike lanes.

“He wrote a second letter to the mayor on Friday saying that this is problematic, someone is going to get seriously injured or even die,” she said.

She even claimed — without evidence — that a cyclist had killed a dog.

Claims that bike lanes impede emergency vehicles have been debunked over and over, in New York and in other cities, including this hilarious episode in Baltimore. 

Enlightened public officials don’t try to get in the way of Vision Zero improvements. At the National Association of City Transportation Officials convention in Los Angeles on Monday, Portland Fire Chief Mike Myers said he always supports street safety and urban vitality projects because they increase public health and reduce fires.

“I support whatever pedestrian enhancements they need,” he said. “Whatever the city wants, we will not obstruct the urban redesign. The intent is to design a more vibrant city to improve public health.”

In a question-and-answer session, Myers was repeatedly asked why other public officials don’t get it.

“I can’t speak for other cities, but I want ever firefighter in Portland to know our responsibility is Vision Zero,” he said. “If the city wants to narrow an intersection … we are there to help support it. It’s a mind change and a philosophy shift.”

Such “shifts” don’t seem likely in Queens.

Then again, Crowley lost his primary election to Alexandra Ocasio Cortez days after he had complained publicly about the city’s proposal for Skillman and 43rd avenues. It was a fitting end to Crowley’s rise in the House, and particularly ironic given that he had just released a campaign video in which he didn’t even bother to get out of his car.


Joe Crowley Letter to Mayor de Blasio by Gersh Kuntzman on Scribd

  • Jacob

    More evidence that DOT is systematically neglecting to manage its curb space. This is nearly identical to what happened on Dyckman Street. Oversubscribed curb space + removal of double parking space = conflict. Just charge more for parking and create some loading zones!!

  • LovingTheLanes

    Every single traffic problem that exists in Sunnyside now is blamed on the bike lanes. The other day I was biking and some drivers were backed up for about four blocks on 43rd and one pointed and said it was due to the bike lanes. About four blocks later the real culprit: a double-parked ice cream truck was selling to a large group of children.

    This group of anti-environmentalists and defenders of free & illegal parking have to grow up. A few years from now they’ll finally realize all their anger and energy was for naught. Even now I am seeing more people biking on Skillman.

  • I see fire trucks blocked all the time in Jackson Heights on 82nd street, 34th Avenue, 37th Avenue, etc etc and it is all because of drivers in traffic. Only one thing will truly stop a firetruck and it is cars blocking their path. Many of the folks in Sunnyside must have been hiding under a rock since the 1980s.

  • AL/AN

    “No one knows what this is,” board member Dorothy Morehead said,
    referring to the pedestrian areas that drivers seem to think belongs to

    “this” is an area of road adjacent to a fire hydrant (in front of TJ’s Asian Bistro & the laundromat) which is why it is diagonal lines and not open space. Before the street redesign that hydrant space was routinely blocked by cars. Those illegally parked cars did not impede the trucks turning from 51st. Now the illegally parked cars (adjacent to the same fire hydrant) clearly do block the trucks. So: ticket the cars.

  • BrandonWC

    DOT should also put flex posts in the striped area

  • Simon Phearson

    There is some truth in the fact that the DOT is laying down a lot of paint that drivers are just ignoring, because they are “low-cost” materials that are “quick to implement,” and so much-celebrated here, but functionally useless.

    Pedestrian islands should be concrete. No parking zones should be set off by bollards. Drivers don’t get the message otherwise. If you just lay down some white lines and tan paint, it’s just free parking for the willfully ignorant.

  • kevd

    “much-celebrated here”

  • Simon Phearson


    The editors behind Streetsblog are 100% in favor of low-cost, quick-to-implement street redesigns when the alternative is the status quo. You won’t detect a single note of doubt that paint-on-pavement redesigns will prove ineffective or easily ignored by drivers. They love the stuff. It makes it look like the bike network is expanding rapidly.

    Sure, they’ll call for permanent materials when they cover stories of people injured while using painted-on infrastructure, but it’s not like that’s a consistent position they take.

  • AstoriaBlowin

    They don’t need to just use concrete, it seems like it takes years and huge expense for the city to do something as simple as a concrete pedestrian island. Why they don’t use the same stuff that NYC already uses for bus islands,, and do temporary bump outs that at least visually signal that the space is off limits to drivers?

  • snrvlakk

    Flex posts are always destroyed when snow plows come by. They are insanely expensive (given what they are), so that’s not gonna be a long term fix.

  • Rider

    The facts are less important here than the feelings. I get the impression that many of the long-timers in that neighborhood are so enraged over the bike lanes because they took space that was formerly devoted to their big toys–SUVs and the like–and gave it to other, (in their opinion) alien and less deserving groups–teenagers, delivery cyclists, transients, and yuppies. There was an unprotected bike lane in that location before, which the long-timers actually liked because they could use it to double park, even when the double parking caused congestion that blocked emergency vehicles. It is only when the space got taken away from them that they became so emotional over congestion.