Two and a half years after the final phase of the Queens Boulevard bike lanes was originally set to be completed, Mayor de Blasio announced last Thursday that the city will follow through with construction starting this summer.
For many bike and street safety activists, the announcement is long overdue. During his press event, the mayor chalked the delay of the final phase of the project over the past year up to Covid and required state and federal approvals, though de Blasio had agreed to reconsider the Department of Transportation’s plan in February 2020 in response to resistance by Councilmember Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills).
On Thursday de Blasio said, pending the remaining state and federal green light, construction would begin in July and finish up in November.
The delays over the past year date back to a February town hall in Forest Hills, when de Blasio waffled on the plan’s last leg, which is slated to stretch from Yellowstone Boulevard to Union Turnpike, by saying he would formally consider an alternative to the DOT’s plan, after Koslowitz raised concerns over eliminating around 200 parking spots.
De Blasio assured residents that his consideration of a totally new plan would not slow down progress on the redesign. In May 2020, the DOT announced that it would pause the project due to Covid-based disruptions.
Koslowitz wasn’t alone in her opposition. Community Board 6 voted against Phase IV of the bike lanes in 2018 after a number of members expressed concerns over parking and the impact on businesses. To address the parking issue Koslowitz had proposed a plan that would place bike lanes along the medians instead of along the service road, and according to Patch, had continuously pressured the DOT to revisit its plans from the spring of 2018 on.
When de Blasio agreed to consider Koslowtiz’s plan, it was swiftly panned by street safety advocates and neighborhood cyclists, who said that putting pedestrian and bike paths in the middle of the street would create more risks as people had to cross it.
In announcing the new timeline of construction this week, the mayor confirmed that the DOT mostly will stick to its original design, and not Koslowitz’s.
“The councilmember, I think honestly, felt that what she was proposing was a better approach for the community, and we truly, carefully listened to her thoughts about it, looked at it, but came to the conclusion that it wasn’t workable and that the original plan was fair. I think there were some adjustments made but it’s based on the original plan,” de Blasio said at the press event last week.