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Mayor on Queens Boulevard: ‘What’s The Harm’ in Studying What DOT Already Rejected?

Mayor de Blasio clowned around with Billy Idol at an anti-idling campaign kickoff at City Hall on Thursday. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

One day after he condemned car culture at a street safety rally, Mayor de Blasio admitted that he is considering a less-safe alternative for the completion of the Queens Boulevard bike lane out of "respect" for a Queens Councilmember who made a "personal appeal" to the mayor to save space for cars at the expense of cyclists.

Hizzoner said he would consider Council Member Karen Koslowitz's proposal to reroute the bike lane into the median of Queens Boulevard rather than in the service road where the existing portion sits — even though it has been rejected by the Department of Transportation — because he hadn't been aware that Koslowitz had proposed it.

"No one presented the alternative to me previously. That's a mistake in this whole process here. That's on the bureaucracy," he said at an unrelated press conference with rock star Billy Idol (yes, we reporters sometimes get a momentary respite from the daily stories about the latest dead child or wealthy community that wants the city to spend $11 billion so that highway pollution goes somewhere else).

"The Council Member made a personal appeal to me to consider an option," Hizzoner continued. "Since no one had ever told me about the option before, I said, 'I'm going to respect you and your role in the process. We'll consider it and we'll consider it quick.' If she says this might be another way of achieving the same goal, what's the harm of giving it a look?"

There's no "harm" in a quick look, of course, since DOT typically doesn't start its street reconstruction process until the spring. But advocates said there would be serious harm if the mayor sided with Koslowitz on her call to retain a lane of the Queens Boulevard service road between Yellowstone Boulevard and Union Turnpike for parking and divert the existing first three phases of the bike lane, from Roosevelt Avenue to Yellowstone, into the median.

"The center median idea has been rejected for years," said Peter Beadle, a Queens Community Board 6 member and cycling activist. "This tired fantasy of car drivers has been around a long as there has been talk of fixing Queens Boulevard. It's the classic, 'Use the center median and stay away from our parking!' There's no actual thought or engineering behind it."

The new bike lane on Queens Boulevard.
Cycling has doubled while pedestrian and cyclist injuries have dropped where DOT redesigned the Queens Boulevard service roads. Photo: NYC DOT
Cycling has doubled while pedestrian and cyclist injuries have dropped where NYC DOT redesigned the Queens Boulevard service roads. Photo: NYC DOT

Beadle and others also pointed out that the parking on that stretch of Queens Boulevard was installed in 2001 as a way of calming traffic on a two-lane service road that had itself become a speedway running alongside the infamous "Boulevard of Death."

"But now we have a much better toolbox for traffic calming and active, sustainable transportation: a bike lane," Beadle said.

Jon Orcutt of Bike New York hoped that this would be the last time he would be quoted in a story like this.

“This should be a very short review, since DOT’s been working on Queens Boulevard for years," he said. And hopefully that will end political intervention into the street design process.”

The mayor did say the work on Queens Boulevard — stalled since July, 2018 — would be completed this year. But he did not say in what form.

His slowdown of the Queens Boulevard project comes in stark contrast to the comments the mayor made on Wednesday when he signed a council bill to hold reckless drivers accountable.

“For a long, long time our society worshipped at the altar of the automobile and worshipped the false idol and it led us down a very dangerous road, a road of acceptance that we never ever should have followed. But I think people are waking up really, really fast,” the mayor said.

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