Longtime community board member from Corona gets the boot for racist bike lane remarks

Photo by Angela Matua/QNS

Updated April 5, 12:45 p.m.

Making ignorant remarks during a debate over a bike lane proposal got a Corona woman thrown off the community board she has been a part of for 30 years.

Ann Pfoser Darby was not reappointed to Board 4 for the 2017-19 term, according to a spokesperson for Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. Darby, who made headlines in March for making racist comments about a proposed bike lane on 111th Street in Corona, had served on the board since 1987.

The 82-year-old Corona resident was at a Board 4 Transportation Committee meeting when she said “once Trump removes all the illegals from Corona, there won’t be anybody to ride bike lanes.”

Her comments drew criticism from Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, who funded the 111th Street plan proposed by the Department of Transportation (DOT), and Ferreras-Copeland later got into a debate on social media with CB 4’s chairperson Damian Vargas who said the councilwoman’s comments served to “further a political agenda.”

After Pfoser Darby made the comments, Katz said, “these types of comments by public servants are never acceptable.”

In subsequent interviews with several media outlets, Pfoser Darby doubled down on her comments and in an interview published by The New York Times on March 31, she said, “I said the truth — the bike lanes are made specifically for the people who come into the country illegally.”

Katz made appointment decisions at the end of March in time for the new board term on April 1 and decided not to renew Pfoser Darby’s application for reappointment. Sharon Lee, a spokesperson for Katz, said the borough president “never disclose[s] why any application – whether former members or first-time applicants – is denied.”

Juan Restrepo, a Queens organizer for Transportation Alternatives, attended the meeting where the inflammatory remark was made and said Pfoser Darby did not understand the role of a community board member.

“I don’t think she understood what it means to represent a community,” Restrepo said. “Ann Darby has been on this board for 30 years and this isn’t the first time that she’s made comments that were … you could attribute a variety of different words.”

Transportation Alternatives, a nonprofit that advocates for more bike and pedestrian-friendly streets, collected the signatures of residents who approved the plan to present to CB 4.

“I don’t blame or mar community board reps for not being able to do this legwork on their own,” he said. “They have their own lives, duties, families. We did the legwork. We said, ‘people support this’ and the project was stalled for two years.”

He added that the organization was relieved that Mayor de Blasio “unilaterally acted” at a town hall meeting in Corona to approve the plan, despite CB 4 recommendations. Restrepo said that the project would “save lives.”

“Community board members like Ann Darby were not acting on behalf of their community and all you have to do is look at her previous statements and you can read between the lines or [take them at] face value and [the comments] clearly indicate that she injected her dogmatic belief into policy she was advocating for,” Restrepo said. “That’s not how you’re going to facilitate good community relations.”

DOT proposed two plans to CB 4 and the board has had the opportunity to vote for or against the plan several times. At the most recent board meeting in March, where dozens of bicycle advocates attended to speak in support of the plan, the board moved to table the vote. DOT first presented the plan to the board in 2015 and tweaked it after listening to board recommendations.

Work on 111th Street, which provides access to families visiting Flushing Meadows Corona Park, will start this summer.

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