BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
It’s been nearly two years since Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland (D-Corona) allocated $2.7 million for a safety project for 111th Street – the main pedestrian access to Flushing Meadows Corona Park – and yet nothing has been done. Ferreras-Copeland, Community Board 4 member Jennifer Gutierrez, local residents including children, and the Queens Bike Initiative rallied at City Hall on Tuesday to demand that Mayor Bill de Blasio implement a safety plan.
“It is time to make 111th Street safer,” said Ferreras-Copeland. “We have developed a plan in consultation with New Yorkers who use the street every day, which would calm traffic, create safer crossings and add a protected bike lane. The street should be a gateway, not a barrier, for the thousands of people in Corona, Jackson Heights, Elmhurst and East Elmhurst who use Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The Department of Transportation has heard input about this plan from across the community, and has executed studies to support the changes.
I have allocated $2.7 million towards this project. Now we need action. That is why I joined together with mothers, children, cyclists, workers and representatives from local schools to ask the mayor to bring Vision Zero to Corona and fix 111th Street now.”
In order to get to the park, pedestrians have to walk 94 feet on corners that don’t have crosswalks or traffic lights to give them enough time to get across safely. Bicyclists are constantly competing for the right of way with speeding cars and delivery trucks. The safety redesign would bring additional crosswalks, shorter crossing distances, a protected bike lane, cars driving at slower speeds and additional parking spaces, and would fix the persistent flooding in the area.
Between 2009 and 2013, the DOT reported 17 pedestrian crashes, 22 bike crashes and 93 motor vehicle collisions on 111th Street.
“For too long, the total priority of car culture in NYC has endangered our residents. We’re talking about nine blocks abutting a park in a poor community with little access to public recreation. Our efforts and those of the DOT have been exhausted,” said Cristina Furlong, co-founder of Make Queens Safer. “Yet, despite this three-year struggle that 111th has faced, our community still lacks the protections divvied out to other neighborhoods.”
In March 2015, the DOT designated 111th Street a priority corridor for de Blasio’s Vision Zero Initiative, which has successfully reduced the number of traffic fatalities across the city. In September 2015, the DOT collected additional traffic data during the U.S. Open, MLB Playoffs and the World Series, all of which supported the need for a safety redesign.
“Residents in communities like these throughout New York City are some of the people most at risk from traffic violence,” said Jaime Moncayo, an organizer with Transportation Alternatives who has supported petitioning by local groups. “These underrepresented communities are often not invited to the decision-making that affects them. Here, we see a community that has been leading the fight, and fighting hard for much-needed improvements to their neighborhood. It is time to honor their efforts. Vision Zero street redesigns have come to neighborhoods in the city but have been noticeably absent from some of the communities most in need of investment for the families that live there. To truly have Vision Zero, we must have Vision Zero for everyone, in every community.”
Residents not only gathered in school buses and designed signs to display at the rally, but they also delivered 1,600 petitions to the mayor’s office demanding a safer 111th Street.
“This is a grand entrance to one of our city’s great parks, a gathering destination for Queens residents and increasingly to visitors from outside our borough,” said James McIntyre, leader of the Queens Bike Initiative. “It is about time everyone paid attention. Drivers, bikers and pedestrians must all benefit from a common-sense solution.”
Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400 x144 or firstname.lastname@example.org