CYCLE OF RAGE: Supposedly Progressive Assembly Member in Queens Wants More Cars in Her District

Assembly Member Jenifer Rajkumar (inset) wants more parking where the city has barred it. Photo: Google
Assembly Member Jenifer Rajkumar (inset) wants more parking where the city has barred it. Photo: Google

She’s proud … of making climate change worse.

Queens Assembly Member Jenifer Rajkumar boasted to the media this week that she has devised a plan to create dozens of new parking spaces for her Woodhaven constituents — a plan that would, by definition, make congestion, safety and pollution worse for her constituents.

“Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar To Meet With Queens DOT Commissioner on Lack of Parking in Woodhaven,” read the headline on a press release Rajkumar, a former lawyer and CUNY professor, sent me late last week. The press release itself speaks volumes on Rajkumar’s priorities:

I am proud to announce that I will be meeting with Department of Transportation Queens Borough Commissioner Nicole Garcia on Monday, Aug. 30. I will lead Commissioner Garcia on a walkthrough of Woodhaven to demonstrate firsthand my plan for increased parking in the neighborhood. Lack of parking has been a longstanding problem in Woodhaven, including for the 1,200 families at the Forest Park Cooperative.

After extensive community input, I have developed a plan to convert to parking the vacant park space at the corner of 98th Street and Park Lane South, as well as the extended median striping on the Woodhaven Boulevard Service Road [pictured above]. I have also proposed locations for diagonal parking to open up more parking spots.  I look forward to a productive meeting with Commissioner Garcia, and am hopeful that the City will work with us to resolve the parking scarcity once and for all.

That’s a weird bit of self-congratulations for a lawmaker whose own website boasts endorsements from a host of progressive groups (and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards), and talks about her support for long-suffering bus riders who have to “wait long times for the transportation they need.” (The website does not talk about road violence, even though in 2020, there were 1,516 reported crashes in her Assembly district, roughly four per day, injuring 73 cyclists, 88 pedestrians and 491 motorists, and killing two pedestrians and three motorists.)

Of course, scratch the surface of many outer-borough “progressives” and you quickly reach the core of their beliefs: car drivers must be served. Indeed, Rajkumar recently said she wants to delay congestion pricing, which is a tolling scheme that would generate revenue from drivers on behalf of the very transit users Rajkumar claims she supports. (Of course, she supported congestion pricing back in 2016, when she was seeking a Manhattan Assembly seat, but that’s ancient history, right?)

After receiving the press release above, I immediately contacted Rajkumar’s legislative aide (whose number was on the press release) and asked to attend the walkthrough. I was told that media was not invited, so I asked to interview the Assembly Member by phone. This request — repeated several times over the next few days — was denied.

I wanted to ask her a few things about her concern for neighborhood drivers:

Here's a piece of Forest Park that Queens Assembly Member Jenifer Rajkumar wants to turn into parking. Photo: Google
Here’s a piece of Forest Park that Queens Assembly Member Jenifer Rajkumar wants to turn into parking. Photo: Google
  • Why was she “proud” to stand up for Woodhaven car owners — who are significantly wealthier than their transit-using neighbors — in their fight to claw more public space away from the rest of us?
  • Does she believe that residents’ use of cars is contributing to global climate change?
  • Does she believe that people should change their personal behavior to combat climate change — or will it just go away if we keep driving as much as we do?
  • Why does she think parking is a “longstanding problem”?
  • What was the extent of her “community input”?
  • What on earth would compel her to seize a green, oxygen-producing portion of Forest Park (pictured) for parking?
  • What is “parking scarcity” — and why should city taxpayers have to solve it on behalf of entitled drivers?

That last question is important because the city did not create “parking scarcity.” According to the Census bureau, the Woodhaven portion of Rajkumar’s 38th Assembly district added 42 households between 2010 and 2018 — but at the same time, residents acquired roughly 520 more cars. So it’s not the city’s fault that it’s difficult to find free car storage in Woodhaven — it’s the residents’ fault.

It’s unclear if the city is taking Rajkumar’s parking plan seriously. I reached out to Garcia several times and only got this response: “This meeting was requested by the Assembly Member, so I defer to her and her office” for comment.

So since Rajkumar isn’t commenting, I will: This plan needs to end up in the dustbin of history … where we will all end up if pollution-causing plans like this go forward.

Gersh Kuntzman is the editor of Streetsblog. Sometimes he writes the Cycle of Rage column, which are archived here.

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