May 13, 2021 By Allie Griffin
The final stretch of the Queens Boulevard redesign will be completed before the end of the year, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced today.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) will finish the fourth and final phase of the redesign in November — about three years behind schedule. Construction, de Blasio said, is expected to begin in July.
The project, which aims to make the boulevard safer for cyclists and pedestrians, has faced continuous delays. It initially faced resistance from Community Board 6 and Council Member Karen Koslowitz and then there were construction delays due to COVID-19.
The plan calls for a revamp of Queens Boulevard from Yellowstone Boulevard to Union Turnpike. It involves the installation of protected bicycle lanes, shortened pedestrian crossings and other traffic safety features. The plan does involve the loss of about 200 parking spots.
The overhaul is the final phase of the 7.5-mile redesign of Queens Boulevard, from Sunnyside to Kew Gardens, that began in 2015.
The thoroughfare has been called the “Boulevard of Death” for decades for the notoriously high number of cyclist and pedestrian deaths along it.
Pedestrian injuries decreased by 55 percent and total crashes dipped by 19 percent after the first three phases of the redesign were completed, according to DOT data.
Construction of Phase 4 was supposed to begin in the summer 2018 — but the work was pushed back to summer 2020 and now again to summer 2021.
The final phase has been repeatedly delayed due to opposition from the local community board and Council Member Karen Koslowitz, who said the loss of parking spots would hurt small businesses along the boulevard.
Community Board 6 voted against the plan in 2018, also citing the loss of parking spaces.
Koslowitz put forward an alternative plan in February 2020, which de Blasio agreed to review. Her plan, she said, would save the parking spots. Transit advocates, however, said her plan was not as safe as the DOT’s redesign.
De Blasio said today that the DOT is sticking to its original plan, not Koslowitz’s.
“The council member I think honestly felt that what she was proposing was a better approach for the community and we truly carefully listened to her, thought about, looked at but came to the conclusion that it wasn’t workable and that the original plan was fair,” he said. “I think there were some adjustments made, but it’s based essentially on the original plan.”
De Blasio said that construction was expected to take place last year but COVID-19 struck.
“The last stage, the fourth stage of the Queens Boulevard redesign was getting ready to go and then COVID hit,” de Blasio said. “There was an issue with federal approval, [but] we believe now there’s a much better environment in Washington.”
The plan needs to be reviewed by the State Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration before the DOT can move forward with construction.
De Blasio said that with a different administration in the White House and COVID-19 on the decline, he expects construction to begin in July.
“We need these last approvals… but we are ready to go, and look forward to starting in July and being done in November,” de Blasio said.
Bike and pedestrian safety advocates applauded the announcement, but said it was long overdue.
“We are very pleased that Mayor de Blasio has announced that the next phase of Queens Boulevard will be completed by the end of 2021 — but it should never have taken this long in the first place to transform the Boulevard of Death,” said Danny Harris, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives.
“New York City is on track to have the second-deadliest year on our streets since Vision Zero began, and Mayor de Blasio and our next mayor must bring the same life-saving street designs for Queens Boulevard to corridors across the five boroughs without delay. This includes extending the project on Queens Boulevard all the way to Hillside Avenue as was initially proposed.”
DOT needs to monitor and maintain the auto lanes along Queens Blvd., especially along stretches where MTA buses are confined to a single lane. The heavy bus traffic creates deep ruts and potholes that are obstacles to passenger vehicles. A particularly bad stretch can be found westbound between 58th and 50th Streets in Woodside.
For the less than 100 bicyclists who use the bike lanes (including delivery people), Queens Blvd. has always been a hazard to drive and walk across. With the bike lanes, how are ambulances, fire engines and delivery trucks (who double park) going to allow room for regular cars, buses, cabs and other vehicles? Bicyclists don’t pay any money to ride in this city – they don’t gas up, need a license, inspection, registration or even costly insurance. Why should get they get all of these rights and even have lanes paved and painted which are paid for by drivers who do pay those fees?? Big Foot has got to go and I hope whoever is the head of DOT, realizes who supports this city and it’s not the ones on 2 wheels!
Parking and driving in the boroughs will continue to devolve into The Hunger Games. The safety issues are real, but so is the burden being placed on the many car owners in NYC.
Where can one find statistics on injuries and fatalities for bikers and pedestrians?