By Bill Parry
The city Department of Transportation will begin implementing its safety plan to redesign 111th Street in Corona this Monday morning after Mayor Bill de Blasio gave the project a green light. Community Board 4 tabled the plan last month with members demanding more safety measures such as crosswalks, stop signs and traffic signals on the dangerous thoroughfare.
Mayor Bill de Blasio decided to bypass Community Board 4 and go ahead with plans to redesign 111th Street along the western edge of Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
The mayor, speaking at a town hall meeting Wednesday at IS 61 Leonardo Da Vinci on 50th Avenue in Corona, answered a question from a member of Mujeres en Movimiento, a collective of primarily immigrant Latina mothers. The group has advocated and marched for safety improvements on 111th Street since City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeleand (D-East Elmhurst) funded the redesign with $2.7 million is 2013.
“I’m comfortable that the right thing to do is move ahead with our efforts to protect people on 111th Street,” de Blasio said. “We will continue always to work with community leaders and community boards as we go along. But this plan is ready to move, so we’re going to move it.”
It is not the first time de Blasio has ignored CB 4 and pushed ahead on a major project. Last May, the board voted to allow the second phase of the Queens Boulevard reconstruction project, but without the protected bike lanes. The mayor ordered the DOT to install them anyway.
CB 4’s leadership declined to comment. Borough President Melinda Katz supports CB4’s demand for enhanced safety measures, offering her suggestion for the city to add corresponding street lights to newly created crosswalks.
“There have been productive conversations since Community Board 4 first raised concerns regarding safety,” Katz’ spokeswoman said. “We look forward to keeping focus on these issues and hope the community board is continuously consulted throughout the plan’s implementation.”
The plan will reduce the number of car lanes while adding a two-way protected bike lane, pedestrian islands that cut the 94-foot crossing distance in half, and 25 new parking spaces.
“Mayor de Blasio’s announcement that the implementation of Vision Zero on 111th Street will move forward is a victory for our community and will save lives,” Ferreras-Copeland said. “For too long, 111th Street has been dangerous and residents of Corona deserve a safe way to enter Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Now a solution is on the way. Our community worked hard to make their voices heard and persisted alongside me for three years to demand these safety improvements. I look forward to working with the Department of Transportation to complete this important safety project quickly.”
State Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-East Elmhurst) was a critic of 111th Street’s redesign. In the DOT’s original proposal, the thoroughfare would have been remade into one lane in each direction for vehicular traffic. Moya was opposed because of the heavy traffic during events inside the park and at Citi Field. A compromise was reached in October for two southbound lanes.
“From the beginning, my issues have always been centered on the flawed process the city used in their approach to our community and this project,” Moya said. “While I support the compromise plan, I support the right for the community board to be heard and respected. They are members of the community who volunteer their time, working to create the best quality of life for neighborhood residents, and their voices are just as important as any other.
“I think the mayor should respect the institutional role community boards have and allow them to at least vote on the redesign before taking executive action. I urge both sides to cooperate in the interest of the community. With an estimated cost of around $500,000 to paint the new conditions of the redesign, I look forward to seeing what plans exist for the remainder of the $2.7 million in capital funding that has been reportedly allocated.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr