July 12, 2018 By Christian Murray
Mayor Bill de Blasio has ordered the DOT to move forward with its controversial plan to redesign Skillman and 43rd Avenues.
The mayor’s approval of the plan, which comes with protected bicycle lanes and the loss of 116 parking spaces, undermines Community Board 2 and several elected officials who have announced their opposition to it.
“The DOT has listened to voices across the community,” de Blasio wrote on Twitter. “I have instructed them to move forward with pedestrian safety and protected bike lanes to save lives.”
The mayor added that there have been 300 injuries on the two avenues, citing 2012-2016 DOT data. He noted that there have been two deaths.
The DOT tweeted shortly after de Blasio’s statement that it plans to begin construction this summer.
Nearly 300 people have been injured along Skillman and 43rd Avenues in Queens. 2 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. #VisionZero pic.twitter.com/uFu4pb5CtJ
— Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) July 12, 2018
The announcement comes after months of heated debate since the DOT revealed in November that it planned to remove 158 parking spaces on Skillman and 43rd Avenues to make way for protected bicycle lanes.
Scores of business owners on both corridors opposed the plan arguing that it would hurt their bottom lines because customers would struggle to find parking, and many residents claimed that parking is difficult in Sunnyside as it is—without taking additional spots.
After a groundswell of opposition, the DOT tweaked the plan. In June, it put forward its final plan calling for the elimination of about 116 parking spaces—including a total of 51 spaces on Skillman and 43rd Avenue from 39th Street to Roosevelt Avenue– and the construction of protected bicycle lanes.
The final plan was not only rejected by the Community Board by a vote of 28 to 7 but Congressman Joseph Crowley, Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan and Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer said they opposed it.
Van Bramer, who called for protected bicycle lanes after the death of Gelacio Reyes at the corner of 39th Street and 43rd Avenue in 2017, said when he rejected the plan that it “failed to gain enough support among residents, community institutions, elected officials and Community Board 2.”
However, Van Bramer said at the time that he still supported a protected bicycle lane on 43rd Avenue. “I continue to believe a protected bike lane would make this street safer.”
Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group that actively supported the plan, thanked the mayor for moving ahead with it.
“The plan for Skillman and 43rd Avenues is based on tried and true design standards, and was developed after several rounds of community engagement. This plan is going to save lives, and we commend Mayor Bill de Blasio for putting the safety of New Yorkers ahead of preserving a handful of parking spaces,” the organization said in a statement.
Meanwhile, QueensStreets–a local group comprised of business owners, school representatives and religious institutions–expressed outrage about the de Blasio’s decision. “We are distressed that the mayor would call to move forward on his DOT proposal — publicly opposed by our Councilman, Community Board, Congressman and Assemblywoman.”
Meanwhile, Van Bramer said today that he respected the mayor’s decision.
And while there remain concerns among business owners and some residents about the plan, I respect the Mayor’s decision.
— Jimmy Van Bramer (@JimmyVanBramer) July 12, 2018
“I’ve always said that I support bike lanes and that I support protected bike lanes. There is no question in my mind that this proposal will make 43rd Ave and Skillman Ave safer. 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.”