By Bob Harris
Central Queens businesses are under attack by the city Department of Transportation as it removes parking spaces along Queens Boulevard and adds bike lanes. These changes are supposed to spur bicycle riding but have instead caused a drop in business for stores along Queens Boulevard with the fear that local businesses will go out of business. Already, Ben’s Best Delicatessen has closed due to loss of business since people can’t park so they can patronize the store.
When the city adds a designated bike lane to an area, it takes away parking spaces, which is the worst thing one can do to any community in Queens. This is hurting businesses and thus the economy of Queens. How bad things will become will be seen in the coming months. There are about three spots on each block where delivery trucks can park during the day while delivering to stores. If a customer parks in one of these spaces, the driver gets a big ticket. The tickets and the lack of parking are driving customers away. There are plans to reduce the loading zone hours down from 7 p.m. to 4 p.m. but will the signage be clear enough so that people will not get tickets?
The whole idea of this plan is to get people to ride bicycles and yet to cut down on accidents and injuries and deaths. The city currently releases figures which say that accidents and deaths are down, but when one drives along Queens Boulevard, one sees few if any bicycles in the bike lanes at any given time. In fact, one can see delivery trucks or cars double parked on the street so that traffic has to go into the bike lanes in order to keep moving.
The DOT keeps on adding to the problem. It now wants to extend the bike lanes eastward along Queens Boulevard to Union Turnpike. Sadly, this project will take away 220 parking spaces on this one-mile strip. This will be horrible for an area already short on parking spaces. The same problems for shopkeepers and car drivers should happen here that have happened to the west and hurt businesses. This is going on in the Community Board 6 area, which has voted against the plans.
In Sunnyside, Community Board 2 has voted against similar plans on Skillman and 43rd avenues. A large public hearing brought out people for and against the plan with the same arguments made for protecting people from accidents as opposed to hurting neighborhood stores.
In eastern Queens, there is another bike lane proposal along Utopia Parkway from 26th Avenue down to the Grand Central Parkway. While the loss of parking near stores does not seem to be a problem here, the narrowing of the road to one lane seems necessary and is a worry. Then the proposal to make the median an area of flowers seems improbable since the city does not take care of the trees and tree pits along other median strips in Queens.
Even further to the east along Northern Boulevard, the Douglaston Civic Association recently held another march against the protected bike lane that was built on the north side of Northern Boulevard. Community Board 11 has made another proposal to replace this bike lane. This area of Northern Boulevard has very heavy traffic, which is made worse by the loss of one lane of traffic for the bike lane.
It seems that while trying to solve one transportation problem, the city has created more problems. Let’s hope for a solution.
Good and bad news of the week
There has been much talk about immigrants, who they are, why they come and what good are they to a country. It seems that the rescue of the Thai boys’ soccer team was made easier due to an immigrant named Adul Sam-on, 14, who left Myanmar. He speaks five languages and acted as the interpreter for the Wild Boars, as the boys’ soccer team is called. His parents sent him to Thailand for a better life and he helped save the lives of 13 people.