Cars Get Police Protection at Rally for Full Travers Park Plan

On Saturday, cars headed to Koeppel Mazda drove on a portion of 78th Street that the city promised would be a park. But the city has reneged on the deal. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.
On Saturday, cars headed to Koeppel Mazda drove on a portion of 78th Street that the city promised would be a park. But the city has reneged on the deal. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Kids to cars: Boooooo!

Hundreds of Jackson Heights residents, and scores of children, angrily protested the continued use of 78th Street by a politically connected car dealership that has halted plans for a long-promised, block-long greenspace between 34th Avenue and deadly Northern Boulevard.

Council Speaker Corey Johnson joined local reps Danny Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer and other elected officials on Saturday in condemning the dealership for appropriating space meant for a park — and for city agencies allowing it.

“It’s inconceivable that this dealership, which has an entrance on 77th Street, by the way, gets police protection when children are supposed to be using that space,” Dromm told Streetsblog after the rally. The council member added that he learned only on Wednesday that cops would be out in force to protect the dealership — and had told Dromm that protesters would be arrested if they interfered with the operation of the dealership by exercising their right to civil disobedience, as some had at an earlier rally.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Dromm said.

To this day, it remains unclear how Koeppel Mazda has been permitted by the Department of Transportation to use a curb cut on a block that had been set aside years ago as a park. The Parks Department has not returned calls from Streetsblog. The Department of Transportation has said it is seeking a compromise, but agency Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told Streetsblog last month that she believes Koeppel is exercising its legitimate property rights.

“I wish she hadn’t said that because someone with the city clearly screwed up,” said Dromm said, who said he may sue the city to force it to exercise its eminent domain power to simply seize the remaining portion of the block. He said he was reluctant to go that route because it would be timely.

“We just want the mayor to end this tomorrow,” Dromm said. “If he really believes in Vision Zero, all he has to do is choose kids over cars.”

Speaker Johnson took the same approach in his remarks at Saturday’s rally.

“We believe that 78th Street should be car free,” Johnson said, referring to the long-promised plan. “This mayor talks about Vision Zero, talks about doing the right thing for communities, but this has been a project has spanned over a decade and over $13 million has been invested in upgrading Travers Park and in pedestrianizing this street. So for Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Trottenberg and [Parks] Commissioner [Mitchell] Silver to go back on promises that were made to this community is unacceptable.”

Corey Johnson added his voice to supporters of a pedestrianized 78th Street. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.
Corey Johnson added his voice to supporters of a pedestrianized 78th Street. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

The rally came one day after Dromm excoriated Trottenberg at a Council hearing for failing to simply put the street off limits to cars, as initially promised. Trottenberg said the situation was “unique” because “the property changed hands” just as the city was finishing the project.

“We’re very sorry for the situation and understand your frustration. This is something that is being trying to worked out at the highest level,” she had said Friday.

Perhaps that’s why residents were so stunned to see on Saturday that the northern end of 78th Street had been reconfigured to give cars their own barricade- and police-protected driveway into Koeppel Mazda.

“I couldn’t believe that the NYPD was taking sides with the car dealership,” Dromm said.

Koeppel Auto Group sent a statement to CBS2 saying it would accept a compromise that includes physical barriers to protect children but allows the dealership to still use the curb cut.

In the statement, Koeppel said it was a “victim.” The dealership claimed it was not aware of plans for the park when it finished construction of its dealership earlier this year.

 

  • Rtagg

    Was this a rally for a car free space or a political event? How many of those electeds and alleged activists are running for office? They wouldn’t be there if it didn’t serve their campaigns.

  • Benito Broccolini

    wow, you’re saying that people who want to win democratic elections tend to support things that are widely popular, and vice versa? and you think that’s a bad thing? amazing point. also, corey johnson has only been in office 3 months, so he’s not really running for anything. again, you are amazing.

  • Nawc77

    Who made the curb cut? Like private houses, the curb can not be cut by the home owner as it belongs to the city.

  • r

    Even if it’s pandering, let’s thank goodness that politicians now get that it’s beneficial to pander to people who care about safe streets. They used to just ignore us completely.

  • Rtagg

    You’re wrong there about Johnson. He’s running for Mayor, VanBramer for Borough President, Cabán for District attorney… the list goes on.

    My point is, none of those people would be there if there wasn’t something in it for them. Instead of going for the photo op, couldn’t some of these elected officials use their positions to actually do something to resolve this situation?

  • Jacob

    And all curb cut permits are revocable.

  • Vooch

    Why can’t the car dealer enter/exit off Northern Blvd. or 77th street ?

    Google Maps shows they have street access on 3 sides.

    They have a big parking lot that is on 77th & Northern. That would be the sensible way to enter/exit this property

  • 6SJ7

    At the time of construction the builder files for a curb cut permit. My house’s 1960 C of O describes it as a ‘driveway permit number’. Other C of Os may call it a ‘curb cut permit’ or something similar. Current property owners may apply for a curb cut permit but it’s a potentially expensive process:
    https://www1.nyc.gov/nyc-resources/service/1478/curb-cut-permit

    This new house in my neighborhood has filed plans for two curb cuts:
    http://a810-bisweb.nyc.gov/bisweb/BScanJobDocumentServlet?requestid=9&passjobnumber=520357177&passdocnumber=01&allbin=5171238&scancode=SC171220041

  • 6SJ7

    I don’t know if that’s the case. Nothing in the curb cut application says anything about revocability but I’m not a lawyer…

  • Hmmm over half of the electeds there are not running for anything. ANd the rest had a connection to the event. So not buying any of that. Not at all.

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A Car-Free Street Grows in Queens

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Back in 2008, Jackson Heights residents banded together to win car-free Sundays on 78th Street, creating a new, temporary public space for children and families in one of NYC’s most park-starved neighborhoods. This year neighborhood activists aimed much higher: They wanted to make the street car-free 24-7 for the entire months of July and August. […]