By JON CRONIN
Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted last week that he was instructing the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) to begin implementation of a protected bike lane on Skillman and 43rd avenues in Sunnyside, despite objections from the neighborhood’s community board.
On July 12, the mayor tweeted, “Nearly 300 people have been injured along Skillman and 43rd avenues in Queens. Two lives have been lost. NYC DOT has listened to voices across the community. I’ve instructed them to move forward with pedestrian safety and protected bike lanes that will save lives.”
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), who would not give his opinion on the matter until after a contentious Community Board 2 meeting in June, said this week that he supported the bike lanes.
“I have always said that safety and saving lives has to be priority number one, and one thing I’ve worked closely with the mayor on is achieving Vision Zero, including supporting the Queens Boulevard redesign and its protected bike lane,” Van Bramer said. “I’ve always said that I support bike lanes and that I support protected bike lanes.”
Regardless, Community Board 2 voted against the proposal on the grounds that it would negatively affect businesses along the corridor as a result of the loss of parking spaces for shoppers.
“There is no question in my mind that this proposal will make 43rd Avenue and Skillman Avenue safer,” Van Bramer said “And while there remain concerns among business owners and some residents about the plan, I respect the mayor’s decision. As the local elected official, I’ll work with the Department of Transportation and the mayor’s office to see that the plan is implemented with the least amount of inconvenience as possible and will monitor its progress and its effect on small businesses.”
Van Bramer said that the contentious issue has divided the community, but he believes that safety must be the first consideration.
“While this process has been difficult and painful at times, the pain felt by family members who lose loved ones to crashes is so much greater,” he said. “We must continue to do everything we can to save lives on our streets.”
Paul Steely White, the executive director of advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, noted that the implementation will connect Skillman Avenue and the bike lanes on Queens Boulevard in Rego Park and, eventually, Forest Hills.
“This is the kind of bold leadership that is required in the age of Vision Zero,” White said. “If we’re going to eliminate traffic deaths in New York City, we can’t allow drivers to dictate the city’s transportation policy.”
A request for comment from Community Board 2 was not returned as of press time. At the June Community Board 2 meeting, members of the board stated that they felt deceived by the DOT when the initial phase of the Queens Boulevard Vision Zero plan was presented because they were told that the plan could be tweaked with community board recommendations—and that never happened.
Reach reporter Jon Cronin via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.