2017-09-27 / Front Page

Douglaston Civic Urges Residents: ‘Oppose DOT’s Bike Lane Plan’

The Douglaston Civic Association (DCA), upon learning that the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) is planning to rush construction of controversial bike lanes that had not been slated to be installed until next year, has sent an alert to residents urging them to flood Mayor de Blasio’s office with calls opposing the plan.

DOT is planning to install the lanes on Douglaston Parkway from the LIRR to Northern Blvd. and on Northern Blvd. from Douglaston Parkway to 223rd Street just past the Cross Island Parkway.  This will mean removing an entire westbound lane of traffic on Northern Blvd., which will be set off by concrete barriers, thus eliminating fifty parking spots for local merchants, inhibiting snow removal, and causing terrible traffic congestion during the morning rush hour with resulting pollution and interference with emergency access.
Even though DOT’s website does not list this as a “current bicycle route project” slated to be “installed in the current calendar year,” but rather as a “future” project, the city has already marked off the lane on Northern Blvd. and is apparently planning to begin work imminently.
The de Blasio administration is rushing ahead with this even though Community Board 11 has retracted its initial approval of the city plan and instead endorsed a counter proposal designed by its longtime former Chair and past Douglas Manor Association President, Bernard Haber, a distinguished professional road engineer.  The counter-proposal, which would widen the present sidewalk to create a real bike and pedestrian path like the one (“Joe Michaels Mile”) that currently runs from Northern Blvd to Fort Totten, is actually more bike-friendly and environmentally friendly than the city plan.  For a similar cost, this plan is safer for cyclists, without disrupting traffic, polluting the neighborhood, keeping customers from local businesses, or impeding first responders.
The DCA, which represents 12,000 community members, and the Douglas Manor Association support the Community Board plan.  So do a large majority of the merchants along the proposed bike route and in the shopping area around Douglaston Parkway and Northern Blvd., who have signed a petition opposing the city plan and supporting the CB 11 alternative.
DOT’s haste to implement its own plan now in defiance of the Community Board is particularly absurd since, at the very same time, the city Parks Department is closing the Joe Michaels Mile path along Little Neck Bay, which the Douglaston bike lane would link to, for a 1-year reconstruction project.  “Thus, for at least a year, the city’s plan would be a ‘bike lane to nowhere,’ serving no purpose other than to back up traffic and spew exhaust fumes into our community.  It is ludicrous not to use this year to devise a reasonable plan along the lines of the Community Board proposal,” stated the civic.
DCA President Sean Walsh, noting that DOT’s design requires bicyclists to cross two blind Cross Island Parkway entrance and exit ramps onto Northern Blvd., said “The city is building a death trap for bicycle riders and motorists.”  He also pointed out that “Northern Blvd. is one of three main east-west means of access to Northeastern Queens and eliminating an entire lane of traffic could imperil the health and safety of residents by blocking access for first responders.”  He noted that this had happened during the Alley Pond Park brush fire in 2000 when Northern Blvd. was blocked due to the traffic diversion, and that the impact of such an event would be even worse with the loss of a traffic lane under the city plan.
“The DOT is in a rush to complete this plan without community participation, putting bikers and residents in danger,” Walsh said.  He also blasted the agency’s failure to cooperate with community groups, and the “hostile role of the advocacy group, Transportation Alternatives,” according to the DCA statement:
“DOT’s consistent pattern of lying and declining to make their plans available is reprehensible.  In an age when the average citizen no longer trusts government, we have witnessed a city agency lie and bully our community.  So-called progressive groups such as Transportation Alternatives have tried to intimidate and create media attacks against the community by spreading lies. They are not really interested in biker safety. We want a bike lane, and we have provided an alternative at a similar construction cost two feet from the city’s death trap.”

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