By Mark Hallum
The majority vote at Community Board 2’s June 7 meeting went against the city Transportation Department’s revised bike lane proposal for Skillman Avenue and 43rd Avenue in Sunnyside.
But some residents believe the de Blasio administration will move forward with the hotly debated proposal despite the neighborhood advisory action against creating a protected bike lane, which would eliminate about 120 parking spaces.
“Bike people, relax. It’s going to happen. You’re going to get protected bike lanes no matter how you vote, that’s a fact,” Woodside resident William Kregler told attendees at the packed meeting before turning to address the opponents of the proposal. “Now for the rest of you… save some dignity and pride for yourselves, people. Just vote this down, the mayor will disregard you like they did [with other projects]. You know it. And save your face for your neighbors so they don’t have to say, ‘Why did you do this to our neighborhood? You destroyed it.’ Put the black hats on the [city officials].”
The community board rejected the proposal by a vote of 27-8.
But this was not DOT’s first go-around with the community on this proposal.
So far, the city agency has gone back to the drawing board and come back with two revised proposals since November 2017, retaining parking from the original plan and this time eliminating 120 parking spaces compared to the 158 spaces in the original plan.
“That’s 8 percent on 43rd and 7 percent [retained] on Skillman,” Sean Quinn, DOT’s director of the Office of Bicycle and Pedestrian’s Programs, said. “We heard you, went back to the drawing board, we designed a corridor that is appropriate for this neighborhood, we worked to restore as much of the parking from the plan that also allows us to install the safety measures that we need to make this project successful.”
The project area on Skillman and 43rd avenues takes aim at the corridors between Roosevelt Avenue and Queens Boulevard and will pull parking away from the curb, while creating shorter pedestrian islands than originally proposed, which will also make for sharper turns and force motorists to slow down.
The two corridors came under scrutiny by the de Blasio administration and the Vision Zero initiative after cyclist Gelasio Reyes was killed by a drunk driver in April 2017 at 43rd Avenue and 39th Street, which was just one of many incidents in the area.
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) responded to Reyes’ death by calling for safety improvements for cyclists in a press conference days after his death.
DOT, at a March town hall, said it counted 1,400 bikes at the intersection of Skillman and 43rd Avenue on a single weekday in May 2017, which many audience members scoffed at in disbelief and brought angry disagreement from speakers.
Between 2012 and 2016, 283 people were injured along these two corridors, including 34 bicyclists and 61 pedestrians, according to DOT, with the remainders being motorists.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall