“As we all know, the plan to shut down Main Street with these buses came out from the dark of night. The businesses were never consulted here and it’s going to impact us, so we cannot have this shutdown, not at all,” protester P.C. Cheng said at the city’s Department of Transportation’s July 30 press conference on the proposal to shut off a 0.3 mile stretch to cars to speed up public transportation. “It is not about the Flushing business here — that’s not what they’re focused on. They’re focused on ridership,”
The representative for New World Mall, a multibusiness complex on Roosevelt Avenue off Main Street, joined a number of other area businesses in protest against the plan for fear it will deter customers who come to the neighborhood by car. In the midst of speaking, the microphone was pulled out from Cheng, who continued to shout her opposition to the proposal.
A fellow protester accused the agency of intentionally silencing her. “Are you a communist? Why’d you shut it down? She was speaking and you cut the electricity! Communist!” he shouted before the group delved into “No shutdown” chants.
Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg assured the business representatives that the agency understood their concerns and was willing to work with the community to find a solution.
Modeled after the 14th Street busway in Manhattan, the corridor would run along the northbound side of Main Street between Sanford Avenue and Northern Boulevard and aims to decrease transportation travel time and is scheduled to be implemented immediately. Vehicles would be permitted to enter the busway from side streets for access to the immediate block, but would not be permitted to travel down Main Street, similar to existing regulations previously implemented on the southbound side, which features bus and truck priority between 37th Avenue and 40th Road that resulted in a 23 percent increase in bus speeds between 2017 and 2018, according to the Mayor’s Office.
“I represent all my constituents here, and constituents means not only people that live here, but people who do business here,” City Councilmember Peter Koo (D-Flushing) said. “Right now the biggest problem that we have is we don’t have enough customers. If you completely eliminate car traffic you are eliminating the whole population of customers who drive cars. Right now we need to expand access, not take it away.”
A survey conducted by the Downtown Flushing Transit Hub Improvement District since June 8, the day the city announced the plan, found that the majority of the neighborhood opposed the conversion — as of Aug. 3, only two of 227 Flushing businesses surveyed within the Main Street, Roosevelt Avenue, Union Street, 40th Road and Prince Street area favored the conversion, and over 1,000 Flushing residents submitted their opposition to the busway plan.
“People in City Hall should listen to the people on the street, people who do business around here, they suffer ... Now is the time for them to concentrate on helping us, not to kill us,” Koo continued before adding, “So BLM means what? Business Lives Matter. We’re going to do another movement. Business Lives Matter!” a statement he later apologized for.
A town hall was scheduled for Aug. 3 at which Flushing residents and businesses were encouraged to share opinions, but was indefinitely postponed by the MTA.