By Sean M. Walsh
An Open Letter to Queens DOT Commissioner Nicole Garcia:
I am writing to you as president of the Douglaston Civic Association on behalf of our 3,000 families. The current proposal presented by DOT at the May 17 Community Board 11 meeting has serious public safety and traffic issues, as well as public comment violations.
Let me begin by saying we support your endeavor to expand bike lanes. We in the community as cyclists know this location very well. 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. You have already received a letter from the Douglas Manor Association in opposition. In addition, you have received a letter from Community Board 11 to reconsider, based on Mr. Haber’s alterative proposal suggested by DCA.
We endorse CB 11’s comments and hope we can expand on those issues at a meeting with you and your staff. Northern Boulevard along with the Long Island Expressway are the only truck and car east-west routes. The Grand Central Parkway is an east west route for car traffic only. They are critical arterial roads. This was most clearly demonstrated about 15 years ago when a fire engulfed the entire alley from the GCP through the LIE and Northern Boulevard. The fire threatened houses on both sides of the alley. This urban forest fire caused all eastbound and westbound traffic to Northern Boulevard. The result was a parking lot of all roads east, west and north, south, including the center emergency center lane onto Northern.
East of the Creek, we had no fire or police response due to a gridlock of traffic, and we had two fire engines locked in traffic and unable to put water on the fire. Fortunately, the wind changed and the houses were saved. 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. Our businesses now use the northbound lane of Northern for parking during the day. Traffic backs up to the bridge from the CIP every morning, which would mean, under your plan, westbound traffic on Northern would be down to one lane during the morning rush. I have some video demonstrating these points.
I need to raise one other matter, and that is the way in which this proposal was presented. The community was not given notice, and at the last CB 11 committee meeting, a representative of our civic was barred from the meeting violating the Sunshine law. The CB meeting was to be informational, but turned into voting meeting.
We see that the Manhattan biking community was fully aware of the meeting and had the plans well in advance of CB meetings. We try to be reasonable and work with city departments, but we will not accept being excluded on matters that affect our neighborhood. We look forward to meeting with you.
Sean M. Walsh
Douglaston Civic Association President