Douglaston civic group aims to sue DOT over Northern Boulevard bike lanes

Douglaston civic group aims to sue DOT over Northern Boulevard bike lanes
Photo by Michael Shain
By Mark Hallum

The Douglaston Civic Association is aiming to sue the city over its launch of bike lanes on Northern Boulevard between Bayside and Little Neck, contending that the layout of the plan will cause more accidents than it prevents.

DCA President Sean Walsh announced the decision at Monday’s Community Board 11 meeting and said he would like to see Gov. Andrew Cuomo remove the city’s right to manage state highways within its limits.

“The city is failing in a number of ways on Northern Boulevard,” Walsh said. “We have a bike lane situation where they’ve put no reflectors up, no signs until after the seventh accident.”

CB 11 meetings have been the scene of turbulent discourse over the city DOT’s disregard for the advisory board’s proposal to safeguard bicyclists along the corridor in favor of its own plan, which in September took away a lane of westbound traffic for a Jersey-barrier-protected path and lowered the speed limit.

“The city has aggregated its responsibility to produce safe highways and streets,” Walsh said. “They don’t care what they do. They don’t know what they’re doing. They are quite ignorant and stupid in their procedures.”

The death of Flushing resident Michael Schenkman, 78, in the summer of 2016 motivated DOT to create a protected bike lane on Northern Boulevard, which is a Vision Zero priority.

Schenkman, an avid bike advocate, was struck by a motorist, and his demise spurred activism from organizations such as Transportation Alternatives.

A spokesman for the city agency could not directly respond to the claim that a lawsuit was heading its way, with meager details coming from Walsh, who would not expand further on the grounds, but the spokesman defended the need for the bike lane.

“The impetus for these safety enhancements was the death of a cyclist on this high-crash stretch of the corridor, which saw 15 vehicle passengers, pedestrians and cyclists injured in 2016 alone,” the spokesman said. “Given the NYPD’s crash stats, and given that none of the recent incidents Senator Avella and Assembly Member Braunstein cite has resulted in injuries, it is important to give roadway users time to acclimate to the new traffic-calming measures. We remain committed to working with the community, monitoring the project and making adjustments, if needed.” The spokesman referred to state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside).

DOT unveiled the bike lane proposal at the June CB 11 meeting, where it was approved by a vote and later rescinded at the September meeting after he summer recess. The board voted in favor of an in-house proposal to widen the sideway on the north side of the road instead, but DOT forced the proposal through.

A contentious protest led by Avella was met with counter-protests from bike advocates in favor of the lanes, and Braunstein came out against the installment in an early December release.

In the Jan. 8 meeting, the community board also voted unanimously in favor of co-naming 210th Street between 58th Avenue and Horace Harding Expressway as Armenia Way, paying homage to the Armenian community in Bayside.

The Rev. Abraham Malkhasyan, of the Armenian Church of the Holy Martyrs, brought up the request at the meeting, saying that about 2,000 Armenians call the area home, having settled there since the 1950s.

Community Board Chairwoman Christine Haider voiced her own support for the effort, saying her son had been welcome to attend day care at the church despite being from a different background and religion.

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