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Community Board 11 rescinds June vote approving Northern Boulevard Vision Zero improvements

The decision to bring protected bike lanes to Northern Boulevard were hotly contested at the September meeting of CB11.
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Community Board 11 came back from summer intermission with a bang Monday as an issue involving bike lanes re-emerged as even more controversial than before.

The city DOT proposal to take a lane from the north side of Northern Boulevard between 223rd Street and Douglaston Parkway to create a protected bike path, while also reducing the speed limit from 40 mph to 30 mph, passed with a narrow vote in June. But it was rescinded by the community board at the Sept. 11 meeting in favor of an in-house proposal to widen sidewalks to allow shared space for pedestrians and bicyclists above the curb-line.

The new CB 11 motion passed almost unanimously, but the ball is still in the Department of Transportation’s hands as to whether or not the agency moves forward with the plan or keep to its original design.

“DOT mentioned they are prepared to move forward with the bike lanes as they were originally presented to us in June and they would be willing to look at this CB11 plan in the future as a capital project for significantly more money,” Joseph Marziliano, the district manager of CB11, said.

While the DOT proposal would take a lane from westbound traffic and put up Jersey barriers to keep bicyclists out of harm’s way, CB11 suggested widening the sidewalk to create a shared path for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Bike advocates argued for the DOT’s plan, which was in accordance with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative that marked Northern Boulevard as among the 10 percent most dangerous corridors in the city. But residents were concerned that taking a lane of traffic away would create a nightmare for motorists.

Tempers flared as members of the community board and DOT’s Richard Gippetti went back and forth over the cost and practicality of CB11’s proposal with many in attendance divided over the issue. One member stood up and walked out of the meeting prior to the vote to rescind the June vote.

A prominent member of the bicycling community in Queens was killed riding his bike on Northern Boulevard in August 2016. His death triggered the initiative to have Vision Zero improvements visit Bayside and Douglaston, where many people on two wheels connect between the Brooklyn-Queens Greenway. The loss of Flushing’s Michael Schenkman, 78, became the rallying cry of many at the meeting in favor of the improvements. A number of those were members of Transportation Alternatives, an organization pushing for more bicycle-friendly roads.

DOT’s plan for Northern Boulevard is the missing piece of the puzzle in a larger effort to connect Douglaston Parkway, the Joe Michaels Mile and the Brooklyn-Queens Greenway.

“DOT is open to continuing the discussion about board member Bernard Haber’s concept,” a DOT spokesman said. “However, DOT’s plan, which incorporated much of the board’s previous feedback and received a vote of support this summer, allows the agency to immediately deliver critical safety benefits for the community and all street users,”

Marziliano said it was not clear how DOT would proceed with either proposal at this time, but Gippetti argued vigorously in favor of the agency’s plan during the meeting.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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