By Mark Hallum
Douglaston Civic Association President Sean Walsh has sent a letter to the Queens Department of Transportation commissioner about the proposal to bring Vision Zero improvements to northeast Queens.
A three-point plan by DOT to place protected bike lanes on Douglaston Parkway, Northern Boulevard and a link between Joe Michaels Mile and the Greenway did not score high marks at Community Board 11’s June meeting. Fears that protected bike lanes would block parking for business access and that a reduced lane on Northern Boulevard would create traffic standstills were cited.
“They are critical arterial roads,” Walsh said in the letter to Commissioner Nicole Garcia, referring to Northern Boulevard and the Long Island Expressway. A fire 15 years ago ravaged Alley Pond Park, nearly destroying homes and causing severe traffic delays. “The need for a full set of three traffic lanes on Northern is critical for events such as these, as well as our day-to-day traffic flow.”
Walsh also pointed out that the north side of Northern Boulevard is often used for parking during the day by customers, business owners and employees visiting the business district, and that a bike lane might have negative effect on the neighborhood’s economy.
CB 11’s June meeting was a battleground between those in favor of overhauls to northeast Queens roadways to accommodate bicyclists and those against such improvements because of the impact they could have on parking and businesses.
The plan to take a lane from the north side of Northern Boulevard to create a protected bike path while reducing the speed limit from 40 mph to 30 mph passed CB 11 with a narrow vote, while the proposal to create a protected bike lane along Douglaston Parkway was held until CB 11 could reconvene in September. The last section of the plan passed and will connect Joe Michaels Mile to the Greenway by a path along the edge of Alley Pond Park.
Many board members were skeptical that the changes to Douglaston Parkway would be an improvement at all and claimed the bike lane would only block business access. DOT is revising this section of the plan, which will be voted on in September.
Walsh claimed his community was not informed of the proposal before the June CB 11 meeting where the vote took place, but the community board’s former district manager, Susan Seinfeld, who retired that month, confirmed that residents and business owners had been notified.
The civic leader said his organization would like to speak to representatives of DOT to discuss alternatives to the bike lane proposal.
“We in the community as cyclists know this location very well,” Walsh said. “We are, however, strenuously opposed to the plan as presented. But we have an alternative, which will achieve what you seek to accomplish. We hope we can meet with you to discuss this in further detail. I have enclosed a petition from the merchants opposing your proposal as creating an economic hardship.”
Northern Boulevard between Douglaston Parkway and 223rd Street has been the site of 210 injuries in the past seven years, including the 2016 death of Flushing’s Michael Schenkman, 78, who was killed biking along Northern.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall