The Final Phase of the Queens Boulevard Safety Redesign is On Ice For This Year At Least

Queens Boulevard in its early days. File photo: Stephen Miller
Queens Boulevard in its early days. File photo: Stephen Miller

The de Blasio administration has abandoned — at least for this year — the completion of its signature Vision Zero project, announcing on Tuesday that the Forest Hills portion of Queens Boulevard will not be made safer for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.

The last phase of the four-stage project was all set to be completed this year — until Mayor de Blasio intervened in February and ordered one last review of the project to accommodate Queens Council Member Karen Koslowitz, an opponent who was pushing an already-rejected design for the segment between Yellowstone Boulevard and Union Turnpike [PDF].

“What’s the harm of giving it a look?” the mayor said at the time. “We’ll consider it and we’ll consider it quick.”

Not quick enough — within a month, the de Blasio administration would find itself consumed by the coronavirus pandemic, and would begin slashing line items from the Department of Transportation budget left, right and center (well, central Queens, at least).

At a City Council hearing on Tuesday, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg delivered the bad news:

“There were some things we were trying to wrap up with that project before corona hit — with a design firm and state overseers,” she said, adding that it’s “on bit of a pause.”

“I don’t have totally clear answer when we move forward with that project,” she added.

Koslowitz had asked the mayor to consider a design that would to retain a lane of the Queens Boulevard service road for parking and divert the protected bike lane from the existing three phases of the project — from Roosevelt Avenue to Yellowstone Boulevard — into the median. Advocates said that plan is dumb.

“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 failure of the city to complete the Queens Boulevard — which DOT had said would be done in 2019, but it became part of complex negotiation between the mayor and Koslowitz over siting a jail in her district — is a stunning defeat for all road users, but mostly for the mayor himself. The first three phases of the project have reduced crashes dramatically. City statistics show that injuries from crashes dropped by 24 percent and pedestrian injuries were down 55 percent after the first phase was completed between Roosevelt and Eliot avenues.

City officials have long argued that protected bike lanes make roadways safer for all users. When such lanes are not installed, by definition, the roadway is less safe. Koslowitz did not immediately return a call seeking comment for why that’s OK.

Cristina Furlong of Make Queens Safer called the news “a surefire punch in the gut to Central Queens advocates as well as new cyclists!”

“Riders in Queens are basically being fed to the sharks, while city leaders brag and boast about the benefits of cycling,” she added. “It’s an embarassment to have shown up every single time DOT asked, and worked at countless tables, spoken at countless meetings, and promoted Queens Boulevard through many rides, including our 100+Women’s Ride, and a rally at Borough Hall with Families for Safe Streets and Council Member Koslowitz only to see these same elected officials who encouraged us, ravage every gain we’ve achieved.

“If not for Council Member Koslowitz’s stall tactic — and Mayor de Blasio’s willingness to abide it — we’d already have hundreds of new riders on Queens Boulevard,” she added.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Construction Begins on First Phase of Transforming Queens Blvd

|
The redesign of Queens Boulevard, long one of New York’s most notorious death traps, is underway. “Queens Boulevard is tragically legendary. We all became used to the phrase ‘the Boulevard of Death,’” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference this morning marking the start of construction. “That is a phrase we want to banish from the […]

On Queens Boulevard, de Blasio Lays Out 2016 Street Safety Agenda

|
Mayor Bill de Blasio outlined his 2016 street safety agenda to the City Hall press corps this morning, after DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg led a short walk by a redesigned section of Queens Boulevard. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton was a no-show for the second year running. Noting that traffic deaths declined to a historic low in 2015, the […]

Two Events This Weekend Build on Momentum for Safer Queens Streets

|
There are a couple of events focusing on safer streets in Queens this weekend. Make Queens Safer will host a pedestrian safety town hall Sunday afternoon, with Congressman Joe Crowley and Assembly Member Francisco Moya. Representatives from the 108th and 115th Precincts were invited to the meeting, along with DOT and the Department of Education. […]

DOT Overrides CB 10, Advances E. Tremont Safety Project After Cyclist Death

|
DOT will implement a road diet on the stretch of East Tremont Avenue where a motorist killed cyclist Giovanni Nin in June. Last year DOT had dropped the project in response to a hostile reception from Bronx Community Board 10. In early 2015, DOT proposed a number of improvements for East Tremont between Williamsbridge Road and Bruckner Boulevard [PDF]. The plan would reduce […]