One Douglaston group remains firmly against a city-proposed bike plan, and is asking residents against the project to speak up.
The Douglaston Civic Association (DCA) sent out a message via email “urging [locals] to flood Mayor de Blasio’s office with calls opposing the plan” on Sept. 22. The controversial protected bike lane, which the DOT began working on earlier this week, would run along Northern Boulevard from 223rd Street to Douglaston Parkway.
The bike plan initially received Community Board 11 (CB11) approval in June with a narrow vote. However, upon further consideration of the plans, the board decided to rescind its initial support and instead present its own plan in July. Transportation Committee co-chairperson Bernard Haber, a retired engineer, proposed that cyclists and pedestrians share a widened sidewalk, eliminating the need for one westbound lane of traffic to be taken away.
On Sept. 11, Haber presented his proposal to the full community board and DOT officials, who said his alternate plan could run up to $10 million and take approximately five years to complete.
Tensions between those opposed to and in favor of the DOT plan mounted when counter-protesters showed up to a Sept. 18 press conference organized by state Senator Tony Avella, who spoke in favor of CB11’s proposal alongside DCA President Sean Walsh.
“DOT’s consistent pattern of lying and declining to make their plans available is reprehensible. In an age when the average citizen no longer trusts government, we have witnessed a city agency lie and bully our community,” Walsh said on Sept. 22.
In the same email urging the call to action, Walsh listed a number of concerns with the DOT plan. The elimination of a westbound lane of traffic to accommodate the bike lanes would increase traffic and have an adverse impact on local businesses due to eliminated parking, he said. Walsh also alleged that the protected lanes would inhibit snow removal and interfere with emergency vehicle access.
The civic president also took a shot at the organization Transportation Alternatives, who have been very vocal in their support of the DOT’s plan.
“So-called progressive groups such as Transportation Alternatives have tried to intimidate and create media attacks against the community by spreading lies,” Walsh said. “They are not really interested in biker safety. We want a bike lane, and we have provided an alternative at a similar construction cost two feet from the city’s death trap.”
Juan Restrepo, Queens Organizer for Transportation Alternatives, declined to comment on Walsh’s remarks. The organizer instead pointed out that the family of Michael Schenkman, the 78-year-old cyclist who was struck by a car in the area and killed last summer, has also been vocal in their support of the plan.
“My father did not have five years to wait,” Peter Schenkman wrote in a statement. “The families of Bayside, Little Neck and Douglaston do not have five more years to wait. The DOT needs to implement these bike lanes now.”
A spokesperson for DOT said work on the project has begun and is anticipated to be completed in the next few weeks. The city agency’s plan has received support from local groups, including the Douglaston Local Development Corp., Douglaston Village Chamber of Commerce and Westmoreland Association, and all safety improvement projects are designed with emergency access in mind.
“DOT is currently implementing critical safety benefits for the community and all street users by installing the two-way protected bike lane on the north side of Northern Boulevard, which will add vital traffic calming along this Vision Zero priority corridor while creating a safer route for pedestrians and cyclists traveling between Bayside and Douglaston,” the spokesperson said.