After three years of community meetings and presentations, the project to add safety upgrades to 111th Street in Corona is no closer to being implemented.
On Tuesday, dozens of residents rallied in front of City Hall to demand that Mayor Bill de Blasio expedite the process.
Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland bused in mothers, children, avid cyclists and parkgoers to explain why the street that connects Flushing Meadows Corona Park to the rest of the neighborhood is in need of improvements.
“To me this is very simple,” Ferreras-Copeland said. “The community board for decades has been asking for improvements along 111th Street. As an immediate response I allocated $2.7 million for this improvement. There are not many places in this city where bike lanes are already funded and we have to face this delay.”
She also collected 1,600 signed petitions from residents and community leaders to deliver them to de Blasio.
Ferreras-Copeland provided funding for the project in 2013 and since then, the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the councilwoman have met with the Community Board 4, the FDNY, the NYPD, five elected officials and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and has held two Town Halls.
From September through October 2015, the DOT also collected traffic data during major events like the U.S. Open and MLB games at the request of the community board.
According to Streetsblog, the transportation committee for Community Board 4, which consists of three people, opposed the improvement because they argued the street would be congested during baseball games and major events.
De Blasio introduced Vision Zero in 2014 and 111th Street was included on his agenda for streets that needed improvement. According to the DOT, the corridor averaged six traffic-related serious injuries per mile during 2009 through 2013.
There have been 17 pedestrian crashes, 22 bicycle crashes and 93 motor vehicle crashes on the corridor between 43rd Avenue and Corona Avenue during that time.
“It is absolutely impossible to cross 111th Street without having to look ahead of you, to the side, behind to figure out how to cross safely to a park,” Ferreras-Copeland said. “People are headed to the only green space that we have in the community.”
Currently, pedestrians must walk 94 feet to get from the western to eastern sidewalk. About 884 bicyclists use the corridor during a weekday and 84 percent of them ride on the sidewalk since there is no designated bicycle lane, the DOT found.
The westbound peak hour vehicle volume on the corridor averages 349 vehicles during a weekday while eastbound volume averages 335 vehicles.
The DOT is proposing to remove one westbound and eastbound travel lane to add parking and two-way protected bicycle lanes instead. An additional four crosswalks would be installed at 47th Avenue, 49th Avenue, 54th Avenue and 55th Avenue and median tip extensions and safety islands would expand pedestrian space.
Veronica Ramirez, a Corona resident and member of Mujeres en Movimiento, said she worries for her daughter’s safety when they visit Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
“As a mother..I am worried for the safety of my daughter and of my community,” Ramirez said. “You have the power to prevent a death. It affects me deeply to see mothers that have to run across the intersection simply for the lack of cross lights.”
P.S. 28 PTA President Miriam Sosa said the school is feet away from 111th Street and that parents and children cross that street every day.
“This has been our biggest concern for years,” Sosa said. “As an early education school with a special needs program, it is urgent that all the safety proposals for 111th Street be implemented as soon as possible before another accident happens.”
De Blasio approved the improvement project along Queens Boulevard in May 2016 despite lack of approval from Community Board 4 so it is unclear why this project, while fully funded, has not gotten any closer to being implemented.
“We are encouraged by continued community support for safety enhancements on 111th Street and we continue discussions with stakeholders on this important proposal,” said mayoral spokesperson Austin Finan.
QNS reached out to Community Board 4, but emails and calls were not returned as of press time.