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Bike lanes on Northern Boulevard continue to cause division

Workers install Jersey barriers along Northern Boulevard to create bike lanes which have split the community in heated debate.
Photo by Michael Shain
By Mark Hallum

At its meeting this week, Community Board 11 was still grappling with the city Department of Transportation’s choice to push through their protected bike lane proposal.

Vitriol was exchanged as the microphone made its way between members blaming one another for the lack of success of the alternative proposal introduced by Bernard Haber, of the Transportation Committee. The proposal was designed to create space for bikes above the curb line as opposed to the DOT proposal to take a lane from traffic and reduced the speed limit on a section of Northern Boulevard between Douglaston Parkway and 223rd Street.

“Most of the board members saw the DOT proposal for the first time right here,” Haber said. “They had no time to study the details of the full proposal.”

CB 11 initially approved the DOT proposal in June, rescinded the vote in September and approved Haber’s plan in the same meeting.

At Monday’s meeting Haber introduced the idea of approving a resolution that openly opposed the DOT not giving board members the proper amount of time to study the plan before it was forced through and informing DOT of poor safety measures where the barriers begin such as proper signs.

As of Wednesday, the DOT was still installing the Jersey barriers and had to finish painting lines.

Joan Garippa, a board member,said a car had already driven into the barriers on the eastern end of the bike laneand skidded to a halt on top of one of the barriers.

Janet McEneaney accused one member of the community board who had worked with DOT to draft its proposal of “pulling a fast one” and “hustling the vote onto the agenda” for the June meeting.

The vote to approve the DOT bike lane proposal came at the June meeting and was hotly contested between residents concerned about worsening traffic conditions and bike advocates who wanted to see safety improvements on the thoroughfare following the August 2016 death of Flushing resident Michael Schenkman, 78. CB 11 initially approved of the plan, but used the summer recess to draft its own proposal, Haber’s brainchild, which was to widen the sidewalk on the north side of the street to allow space for bikes

When September rolled around, CB11 voted to rescind the June motion and passed Haber’s proposal instead. DOT claimed the Haber’s plan would be costly and would take up to five years to implement.

DOT, however, began work on Northern Boulevard just days later, repainting lines, reducing the speed limit and putting up Jersey barriers to protect the bike lane.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) sided with the community board and protested DOT’s bike lanes at Alley Pond Gold Center, which was crashed by counter-protestors happy to see the city agency acting on behalf of bicyclists.

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

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