BY JAMES FARRELL
Community Board 11 members voted on Monday night to pass a resolution and send a letter to the city’s Department of Transportation voicing their concerns about the agency’s installation of a protected, two-way bike lane along Northern Boulevard between Douglaston Parkway and 223rd Street, despite the board’s disapproval. The resolution was passed as the DOT moves forward with the project and continues a months-long debate over the traffic alterations.
“We strongly oppose the…action of the New York City Department of Transportation of the construction of the unwanted bicycle lane,” said CB 11 Transportation Chairman Bernard Haber, presenting the resolution. He added that the civic associations in the area were not approached by DOT about the plan.
“This whole procedure from DOT is a sham in my book,” he said.
CB 11 initially supported the agency’s proposal, which would convert the northernmost lane of the westbound side of Northern Boulevard into a two-way bike lane. The board cast an 18-11 vote of approval during a June meeting. But after an emergency transportation committee meeting in July, Haber raised safety and traffic concerns about the plan and put together his own proposal, which would retain the third lane of traffic and instead convert the sidewalk into a shared bike and pedestrian path.
On Monday, Haber included in the resolution that, at the June meeting, 26 of 40 members had not seen the proposal ahead of the vote, and “did not realize the substandard safety details on the DOT’s plan.”
At a Sept. 11 meeting, the board rescinded its June decision in a 31-3 vote and, instead, cast its support for Haber’s plan. The move has divided the community, with local transportation activists and cyclists supporting the DOT plan and other civic groups such as the Douglaston Civic Association supporting Haber’s proposal. The DOT is moving forward with its plan, arguing that Haber’s plan would be costly and would take a long time. But the agency has said it will continue to explore Haber’s concept.
Even as the DOT nears completion on the project, the conversation carried into Monday night’s community board meeting, with board members voting on the resolution, engaging in a heated discussion and citing a traffic accident that occurred along the corridor minutes before the meeting started.
Board member Joan Garippa said that she drove by the accident.
“Northern Boulevard was backed up, and when I got to Douglaston Parkway I saw why,” Garippa said. She added that the board needed to “step up” its efforts in combatting the bike lanes.
“Quite honestly, we’re going to have a lot of problems if we already have a car impaled on the stanchion,” she said.
The NYPD initially told the Queens Tribune that they had not received reports of the incident, but later confirmed that a 70-year-old male driver had driven up the bike lane barrier at around 7 p.m. on Monday night. There were no injuries.
The discussion on bike lanes has been, at times, divisive, both in the community and within the community board. Tensions rose briefly during conversations on Monday night.
Board member John Kelly, who has supported the DOT plan, spoke out against the resolution as it was discussed on the floor.
“I am disappointed that we continue to rehash this issue,” he said. He argued that the bike-lane plan had been emailed out to members and was listed on the community board website prior to the June meeting in response to the resolution’s claim that members had not seen the proposal before the meeting.
But board member Janet McEnea-ney accused Kelly of pulling “a fast one” with “subterfuge and deceit” at the transportation committee meeting before that initial June vote.
“You came to the transportation committee,” she said. “You said to the members that we were not going to have a vote on the June agenda for this plan, which none of the members had seen, and yet you proceeded to hustle that vote onto the June agenda.”
Kelly responded angrily and denied all of those allegations, adding that the proposal was discussed at several different meetings and that it wasn’t his fault that members didn’t see the proposal beforehand.
“I think that’s absurd,” he said. “I don’t feel it’s appropriate to speak to other board members like that.”
The board also voted to send a separate letter to the DOT outlining concerns about the project, especially in the wake of the latest accident.
At the end of the meeting, Haber proposed that CB 11 include his plan in its budget priorities.