By Bill Parry
After a brief tour of the new Queens Boulevard bike lane in front of the Razi School in Woodside Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio offered praise for the city Department of Transportation.
Just six months into the first phase of its $100 million Queens Boulevard Reconstruction project its new bike lanes were recognized as being among the best in the country by a national cycling group.
More importantly, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg produced a chart that showed there were no fatalities on Queens Boulevard in 2015 when the phase one redesign began, and just two in 2014 when the speed limit was lowered to 25 miles per hour.
The chart shows there were 185 fatalities on Queens Boulevard between 1990 and 2015 with a single-year high of 24 in 1993.
“When we talked about Vision Zero starting in 2014, one of the things we said in my team was we were not going to allow any street in this city to be called the Boulevard of Death anymore,” de Blasio said. “The notion that somehow that had been tolerated for years was absolutely unacceptable to us and it had to be changed. It had to become a boulevard of life.”
But one 25-year resident of Woodside has a different name in mind. Community advocate and safety consultant Bill Kregler believes that if changes are not made to the boulevard’s redesign plan, it will become known as the “Road to Ruin.”
During a walking tour with DOT officials and community leaders last week, Kregler handed Trottenberg a 35-page detailed report, complete with 116 photographs, that he authored. The report documents the deterioration of the service road driving lanes that have been neglected as construction of the bike lanes became the DOT’s priority.
“In their rush to create a commuter lane for cyclists, and removing travel lanes along one of the busiest roadways in the city for the first time, they’ve created a mess with potholes, cracking asphalt and sinking and collapsing of the service utility cover, because all that traffic is being forced into one overused lane,” Kregler said. “Since its implementation, vehicles have slowed to a crawl during the morning and evening rush hours, creating bottlenecks, and motorists peel off dangerously down our side streets, creating a safety hazard for our children and seniors. Woodside is getting the shaft here and it is becoming a dangerous situation.”
Kregler said Trottenberg did not seem to be pleased to receive his report, although a DOT spokesman confirmed it was being reviewed. Kregler is a former housing cop turned firefighter who went on to become a fire marshal and current president of the Fire Marshal’s Benevolent Association. He also spent 10 years on the Community Educational Council as a representative of the borough president.
Kregler emphasized that he believes in the bike lanes, but that their location was poorly conceived and this is affecting the quality of life along the boulevard in Woodside.
“I offered my services to the commissioner to walk with two union engineers, not managers, but they don’t want to do it,” Kregler said. “I may have ruffled some feathers, but the fact is they didn’t have to take away traffic lanes, they could have put the bike lanes by the sidewalk. It’s not too late to fix this design because nothing is permanent until they start pouring the concrete. Then it will be everyone’s problem as they move further east for Phase 2 and 3 beginning next year.”
Kregler is not alone as many residents spoke out against the project at a recent Community Board 2 meeting. The DOT is still conducting “very careful analysis” and tweaking the timing of lights to help traffic flow better.
“Certainly, Queens Boulevard has seen a big change,” Trottenberg said Tuesday. “I think a lot of people are still adjusting to some of the changes and one of the things we say in this project—it’s still in its operational phase, so we’re still working with the community board and elected officials.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr