By Bill Parry
Mayor Bill de Blasio is overriding a decision by Community Board 4 to approve Phase 2 of the Queens Boulevard $100 million redesign Tuesday night.
While the board voted 31-1 with two abstentions to approve the safety upgrades, Chairman Louis Walker made a motion to approve without the bike lane component, setting off a chaotic scene inside the ballroom of Italian Charities of America.
“A lot of you think I don’t like bikes, but I do,” Walker said. “But I don’t think Queens Boulevard is necessarily the place for a bike lane. Put it on Woodside Avenue or Grand Avenue. This is not a park, this is a very heavily traveled vehicular roadway.”
The mayor fired back midday Wednesday.
“I respect those who disagree with us, but in the end, the safety of our neighbors and our children is the fundamental responsibility we have in this work,” de Blasio said. “Today, I have instructed the Department of Transportation to move forward on the next phase of safety enhancements to Queens Boulevard, including a protected bike lane for cyclists.”
The modified CB4 vote came after a city Department of Transportation presentation of the plan, which includes the elimination of 88 parking spots along the commercial corridor. During the question-and-answer session that followed, A. Redd Sevilla of the New Life Fellowship Church complained that Elmhurst’s large immigrant community had been left out of the DOT’s outreach effort.
But the mayor has made the board’s issues a moot point.
“Achieving Vision Zero means protecting the lives of everyone on our streets whether they are walking, in a wheelchair, in a car or on a bike,” de Blasio said. “We are committed to ending the senseless loss of life on our streets, and there is no more potent symbol or example of that transformation than Queens Boulevard. Working together, we will close the book on the Boulevard of Death and make this roadway a Boulevard of Life.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr