Old Astoria Neighborhood Association is against city’s proposed bus lanes on 21st Street

21st and 41st Ave 3
The Old Astoria Neighborhood Association is rejecting the proposed bus lanes on 21st Street saying the plan discriminates against car owners. (Photo courtesy of DOT)

The Old Astoria Neighborhood Association (OANA) is giving a thumbs-down to the city’s proposal to implement a bus lane on 21st Street in Astoria stretching from Queens Plaza North to Hoyt Avenue North.

The NYC DOT and MTA jointly proposed the bus lanes which would result in a single lane of through traffic along the corridor that has long been known as a “speedway” for cars and trucks avoiding the toll on the Triborough Bridge and making their way south to the Queensboro Bridge.

OANA created a survey asking area residents and businesses whether they were in favor of bus lanes and more than half of the nearly 700 respondents said they were against the creation of bus lanes, nearly 57%. Only 35% supported the bus lanes with no conditions. Over 90% of the respondents lived or worked in the neighborhood.

As a result, OANA stands against the DOT and MTA’s proposal unless the plans are redrawn so the bus lanes are properly configured so they are integrated with everyone’s lifestyles and don’t discriminate against any group of people. The group says the bus lanes cannot be at the expense of the neighborhood’s economic health and that many residents depend on their motor vehicles for “local household use.”

The DOT presented three options to OANA, but the organization is proposing a fourth, basically having curbside bus lanes operational only during rush hours that would help mitigate the parking removal that may be required.

Additionally, they would prefer that the bus lanes start southbound at Astoria Boulevard, not Hoyt Avenue South, due to the tremendous volume of traffic coming from the Triborough Bridge and the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

OANA says the proposed configuration would force many vehicles down Astoria Park South, creating a hazard for the many pedestrians, bicyclists, scooter and skateboard users from Astoria Park, and forcing traffic into the small residential street of Old Astoria, all the way to Vernon Boulevard.

Following a DOT presentation to the organization last week, OANA was not supportive of the city’s proposal.

“What we find most interesting is that they freely admit that their long-term goal is to make driving a car in New York City almost impossible, making it difficult for people to shop in bulk and create carpools, access destinations in the outer boroughs and away from affordable public transit,” OANA President Richard Khuzami said. “The disabled and older residents may be affected, as their use of alternate transit such as scooters, bicycles, etc. can be limited. This is discriminatory against a significant portion of our population. While public transit options into Manhattan are significant, they are sparse indeed outside to the outer boroughs, tri-state and the rest of the country. And with more people working from home, transit to Manhattan is becoming less significant.”

The DOT says it has conducted robust outreach and will incorporate a number of public engagement elements, including a project feedback portal and a community advisory board. The agency has also worked with local elected officials and spoken with schools, businesses and other stakeholders.

“Our goals are always the same — to get our friends and neighbors moving, and that’s exactly what this project will do,” DOT Spokesman Seth Stein said. “The proposed bus improvements projects here mean faster rides for 30,000 New Yorkers a day. We always take into account community feedback, and we have heard loud and clear that we are developing the right plans here.”

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