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CM Krishnan holds Jackson Heights town hall to tackle ‘Moped Crisis’ at Paseo Park

Council Member Shekar Krishnan urges the DOT to fix Paseo Park’s street design. Photo by Max Parrott

June 4, 2024 By Max Parrott

A Jackson Heights town hall, organized by Council Member Shekar Krishnan (D-Jackson Heights) on Thursday, zeroed in on the issue of illegal moped use in the newly opened linear park on 34th Avenue.

Public testimony centered on residents’ fears over mopeds, defined as small motorcycles or motorized scooters that go up to 40 miles per hour. They say mopeds are overrunning the bike lanes in 34th Avenue’s Paseo Park, where they are legally barred from entering.

Krishnan began his remarks by stating that he believes the problem is fundamentally in the park’s design. Thus, the problem primarily requires the Department of Transportation to redesign the structures that would separate bikes, e-bikes and illicit mopeds from pedestrians throughout the park.

“We can talk about education, and we can talk about enforcement. They’re all pieces of the puzzle. And we’ve heard the updates, but they cannot replace bad design,” Krishnan said before asserting that the NYPD’s increased efforts to impound mopeds for traffic violations over the past year have not improved the conditions in the park.

The residents in attendance were divided between those who agreed that engineering solutions should be the priority and those who wanted more enforcement.

For its part, the DOT announced that in recent weeks, it has been trying to boost NYPD enforcement and traffic education for “micro-mobility” users like cyclists and moped drivers.

Krishnan sharply criticized DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez for his last-minute absence from the town hall despite being advertised in the event’s press release. The DOT was represented by First Deputy Commissioner Margaret Forgione and other officials, who announced an allocation of $88 million for capital improvements to the park. They also detailed plans for a series of community feedback sessions aimed at refining the park’s design. One official outlined proposals to replace some painted demarcations between pedestrian and cyclist spaces with concrete dividers.

In response, Krishnan expressed concern that capital improvements often take years to implement and that the residents of the quarter need solutions quickly.

When it came time for public testimony, many raised concerns on behalf of the children and elders who live in the densely packed residential area surrounding the park.

Rhoda Dunn takes issues with Paseo Park’s design. Photo by Max Parrott

“I’m nervous as a bike rider; I don’t know where I’m supposed to be. I’m also nervous as a pedestrian,” said Rhoda Dunn. “I work with a lot of families in the neighborhood, and I’m actually hearing this quite frequently, that they’re concerned for their children and their children’s safety.”

Josefina Bahamondes, a neighborhood kindergarten teacher, warned of the dangers of bike lane traffic on 34th Avenue. She was hit by a cyclist while jogging two years ago on a stretch without a clear demarcation between pedestrians and cyclists and other micro-mobility users. The accident sent her flying into the air and left her with a slipped disc that has upended her health ever since.

“We need a better design. We don’t need more signs. We don’t need more education. We need design,” she said.

Another resident, Marcela Medina, said that she thought that it was more of an enforcement issue than a design problem.

“There are signs. You have all these things to slow down. I don’t think that’s gonna stop people,” she said.

In spite of Krishnan’s perspective, a spike in enforcement has already started to take effect. Park officials stated that the NYPD’s 115th Precinct has begun a “blitz” of moped enforcement along the park in the last several weeks that has resulted in 137 violations. The enforcement targets mopeds illegally using the space and “cyclists, anybody running a red light, not being careful, pedestrian failure to yield.”

The first of the DOT’s workshops to provide park feedback is scheduled for June 18 at I.S. 145.

Community members expressed their concerns at the town hall led by CM Krishnan. Photo by Max Parrott

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