The Department of Transportation is looking to create a bike boulevard on 39th Avenue in Sunnyside starting this summer.
Last week, the DOT met with Community Board 2 to pitch a plan for the street. The board voted 21 in favor and 11 opposed in a letter for support of the plan. The goal of this project is to slow down cars and limit traffic volume along the street, allowing for a bike- and pedestrian-friendly environment.
The DOT is looking to convert an open street to a bike boulevard in each borough. The 39th Avenue project will in part help reach the citywide goal of creating 30 miles of protected bike lanes annually.
The bike boulevard will be between Barnett Avenue and Woodside Avenue. Currently, 39th Avenue is a busy two-way street with a shared bike route. At the Barnett entrance, the DOT will make a one-way street to reduce traffic.
But not everyone on the boulevard is convinced about the plan.
Oswaldeo Calle, one of the owners of Donatos Pizzeria on 39th Avenue in Sunnyside, said he is worried about losing longtime customers.
“I understand that it’s great for the community and for the young people who are going to travel this avenue, but for my business, I don’t know how I’m going to survive it here,” Calle said.
Calle has had the business for 33 years now and worries about the sudden change to the street he’s been on for decades.
“I have [had] customers for a long time. Maybe they will stop coming,” Calle said. “A one-way [street] is good, but if you’re put in my shoes, you would know and feel that I would lose customers.”
Lisa Deller, the Community Board 2 chairperson, said she feels that people didn’t have a fair chance to voice their opinion before this plan got momentum.
“I live in that community and I feel like the timeline for presenting this didn’t involve community participation,” Deller said. “It’s sad to me that people don’t feel heard. It’s a plan for the future that I want my neighbors to feel included in.”
But DOT spokesperson Brian Zumhagen said the plan was crafted with community feedback.
“In keeping with Mayor de Blasio’s State of the City commitments, the Bike Boulevard design proposal is informed by our ongoing engagement with, and feedback from, the community board and other neighborhood stakeholders,” Zumhagen said.
Julie Won, another Community Board member and lead candidate for City Council District 26, said she supports this plan. Won lives on 39th Avenue and doesn’t share the same worries other residents have.
“That boulevard has had a lot of speeding,” Won said. “There’s not a lot of crosswalks for children or seniors. In order to protect seniors and children, we need to create crosswalks.”
Won said the reason protecting pedestrians is so important to her is because she was hit by a car last fall while she was commuting on her bicycle in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
“In 2020, we saw a tremendous bike boom,” Won said. “As we have more people riding, we have to make sure that we are making it safe for them to ride throughout our city. We want to make sure we quickly and robustly redesign our streets to protect the most vulnerable road users.”
The department plans to begin implementing the bike boulevard between now and fall this year, according to the DOT.
This story was updated at 11:53 a.m. on Wednesday, June 30.