After a three-year delay, the city will finally move forward with the final phase of its Queens Boulevard Vision Zero project, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday, May 13.
Construction will begin in July along the so-called “Boulevard of Death,” with bike lanes from Yellowstone Boulevard to Union Turnpike with completion scheduled for November.
“Queens Boulevard, tragically, was synonymous with the problem of horrible deaths on the road, pedestrians, motorists, cyclists. Queens Boulevard — I don’t have to remind people who’ve been here a while — it used to be called the ‘Boulevard of Death’ and people would say it almost without even thinking about it. It had become so common, which is tragic unto itself,” de Blasio said. “When we put Vision Zero into effect, one of the things that I knew we had to do, and it would take time, but we would get it done, is address Queens Boulevard once and for all. And as we’ve done each stage, it has had a remarkable impact.”
The mayor blamed the COVID-19 pandemic and the lack of federal approval for the lengthy delay but admitted that opposition from Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz also played a role.
“I think she honestly felt that what she was proposing was a better approach for the community,” de Blasio said. “And we carefully — truly carefully — listened to her, thought about it, looked at it, but came to the conclusion that it wasn’t workable and that the original plan was fair. I think there were some adjustments made, but it’s based essentially on the original plan.”
Koslowitz spoke against the Queens Boulevard plan during a town hall meeting in February 2020 when she asked the mayor to reconsider the proposal for the 1.2-mile stretch through Forest Hills.
“I am not against bike lanes,” she said during the forum. “What I am not for are the bike lanes along Queens Boulevard that are taking away hundreds and hundreds of parking spots. We cannot afford, because of our businesses, to lose all these parking spots.”
Following the mayor’s announcement, Koslowitz maintained her opposition to the project.
“The city needs more bike lanes to accommodate today’s cyclists and the anticipated expansion of future cycling,” Koslowitz said. “While I am pleased that the city is moving forward with the extension of bike lanes on Queens Boulevard, I am disappointed that Phase IV plan does not protect cyclists, nor does it minimize the loss of parking spaces. The objective of protecting cyclists while minimizing the loss of parking spaces has been accomplished in other parts of the city.”
One day earlier, de Blasio announced the city will expand last year’s outdoor dining initiative by creating extra space for diners, cyclists and pedestrians.
The new “Open Boulevards” program will be implemented on Ditmars Boulevard in Astoria from 33rd Street to 36th Street and Woodside Avenue in Elmhurst from 76th Street to 78th Street.
The streets will be closed to vehicular traffic during designated hours when they will be transformed into outdoor dining areas. Open Boulevards will feature cultural activities, community-based programming, landscaping and art installations in addition to restaurant seating.
“The Open Streets program offers much-needed recreational space to Queens residents looking for ways to enjoy the outdoors and experience the vibrancy of our neighborhoods,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said. “The Open Boulevards program is a natural expansion of Open Streets and is a great way to make these destinations even more attractive. I encourage Queens residents to visit our Open Boulevards to enjoy more of what our great borough and city have to offer.”