All posts by BigBoro

Op Ed on May 21 CB2 Meeting at SCS


“Coming to the Table” reprinted with permission, Woodside Herald, also at http://woodsideherald.com/uploa…/Woodside_Herald_5_25_18.pdf
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Op Ed by Patricia Dorfman
Community Board 2 drew a large crowd of over 115, divided into table groups, for its Safety Meeting on Monday evening, May 21, at Sunnyside Community Services on regarding the Department of Transportation proposal for protected bicycle lanes and safety changes on 43rd and Skillman Avenues in Sunnyside and Woodside.
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Most attendees, no matter their point of view, attended with an expectation of loud disputes, but although most tables featured arguments and spirited exchanges, the event was surprisingly orderly. Board members of the CB2 acted as facilitators at each table to try to allow everyone to speak, pro or con. If opposed, attendees were asked for specific suggestions as to what safety measures might be helpful to submit to CB2.
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Some present from Transportation Alternatives, a pro-bike, anti-car lobby with which the DOT is working, were frustrated because they felt that the meeting was another “delaying tactic” as one mentioned. One complained that the Community Board mind must be already made up to hold such an event. The Board will officially vote on the plan at its Thursday, June 7, regular public meeting, and then the matter goes to Councilman Van Bramer.
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CB2 Chairperson Denise Keehan-Smith scheduled the meeting after the DOT did not conduct second Town Hall after its reduction to 116 of parking space loss, from a beginning at 158. Most in attendance who opposed to the plan did so due to the proposed loss of parking. One woman opposed to the plan spoke gloomily that the proposal as a “done deal” and the Community Board would be toothless in its advisory role.
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Macartney Morris, Transportation Alternatives Queens Volunteer Leader, made a case that despite criticism for a rushed process, the protected bicycle lanes had been progressing incrementally for over ten years. He also reiterated that both Councilman Van Bramer and CB2 Chairperson Denise Keehan-Smith had committed publicly to protected bicycle lanes.
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Chairperson Keehan-Smith stopped attendees from handing out materials beyond their tables. Many of those opposed to the plan, such as QueensStreets.net, an alliance of businesses, churches, schools and over 2000 residents in the area, brought specific suggestions such as staggered signals times, delayed green for drivers, “no through trucks” signs, and enforcement for all. The alliance had distributed over 1000 flyers urging attendance at the event, and asking for online or written petition signatures.
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Chris Wattenbarger, a statistician who lives on 41st Street, created his own print out critiquing each slide of the city’s PowerPoint. Among his points were that narrowed lanes would cause a school bus or large truck to completely block the street, and a own proposal in which no parking would be lost.
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Nicole Garcia, the Queens DOT Commissioner, with other members of her team, observed quietly as did Matt Wallace, Chief of Staff of Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, and members of Assemblyman Brian Barnwell’s staff.
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My own view, (as part of QueensStreets.net) is that bicycles have gained in popularity and riders are understandably demanding more space devoted to their vehicles. The city promotes bicycles, making car use more difficult and costly. But as Western Queens population expands and mass transit worsens; generations of driving residents are simply not able to change their lives quickly by government order.
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Businesses say that without car customers, they cannot survive. Churches, schools, and residents in the proposal corridor, overwhelmingly oppose the loss of parking spots to create more space for bicycles. For the DOT to continue to present data which purports to show Skillman and 43rd as excessively dangerous, and bike use heavy here, weakens the case for what long term might garner more support. If danger is really the issue, why is Northern Blvd. not first up for overhaul? More likely is that the proposal is preparing for volume not yet present.
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The choice of Skillman and 43rd Streets, relatively pleasant byways, seems to have been made because they are still pleasant byways, not because they lawless.
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The avowed intent is, as described by the DOT, to create a seven-mile “bike highway” from Forest Hills to midtown to ease the way for more cyclists. That concept brought joy to bicyclists and made many dream of an active, easier, free, non-polluting, autonomous commute.
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But to drivers, seniors, businesses, churchgoers, workers, many parents, it conjures up a spectacle of masses of cyclists racing through without stopping who largely do not dwell, pray, go to school or trade here. Their gain would be our loss. Parking loss, already scarce, has inflamed and unified opposition.
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Before accepted by most as a common good for the environment, recycling, which forces by law all of us to a devote a lot of time we might prefer to spend doing something else, was also a radical change. But the city took a more resident-friendly and transparent approach in implementation. This process of this proposal has been clumsy. Taking away street space from local use for a bike highway is taken as more usurpation of land by others, already in process. Additionally, the administration still seems to conduct their transport primarily in the way they wish us to move past.
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So let’s us hope that those who mean well with on-the-ground concerns keep talking as they did at the CB2 event. Dan Glasser of Stray Vintage, a store on Skillman, who needs deliveries to operate, said afterward, “It was great to see our neighborhood residents, business owners and cyclists working on ideas to make our streets safer. I hopped around a few tables and had some really productive discussions with a few cyclists.”
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(addendum: GreenStreets.net is not against bike lanes. Most of us like bikes and bike lanes. If a “bike highway” would not make pedestrians feel less safe, or remove parking needed by residents, businesses, churches and schools, we would, in a NIMBY-esque fashion be all for it, such as on Northern Blvd. which is a byway much more in need of safety for all.)

Manny Gomez gathers signatures

“Help me spread the news :
Our Quality of Life in our “Small Town in a Big City” has been challenge by Department Of Transportation propsal.
WE ARE FOR SAFETY, but our residents, small businesses, churches, schools and workers will be affected dramatically.
Join us Monday, May 21, 6:30pm
Our Community Board 2 is holding public meeting to get input & hear our specific safety suggestions:
Sunnyside Community Services
43-31 39th St, Sunnyside NY 11104
See you there!