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Queens Officials Want 75 Miles of City Streets to Be Used for Cyclists and Pedestrians Only

Social Distancing Downtown NYC (Twitter: NYC Mayor’s Office)

April 17, 2020 By Michael Dorgan

Several Queens officials are backing legislation that would ban vehicles on up to 75 miles of city streets to create space for pedestrians.

Council Members Costa Constantinides, Daniel Dromm and Peter Koo are supporting legislation that would block vehicles from certain roads so that the public can use them with enough space to safely socially distance from one another.

They said that there is currently a lack of outdoor open space available for the public to use for exercise and that the new measures are needed as a matter of urgency.

“Right now it’s impossible on many of our cramped streets, which both endangers those who must go outside and discourages others from getting fresh air, said Council Member Costa Constantinides.

The proposal is being introduced by Speaker Corey Johnson and Manhattan Council Member Carlina Rivera who said that the council can no longer wait on Mayor Bill de Blasio to act and instead wants to force the city into action.

“While we want to work collaboratively with the administration to open streets, this issue is so important and so urgent that we are taking legislative action to make it happen ourselves,” Johnson said in a statement Friday.

De Blasio said in a press briefing Friday he would look at the legislation but that he had several safety concerns including the danger of blocking roads that emergency vehicles might need to use. He also said he was not convinced the measures justified the use of law enforcement officers that would be needed to police the streets.

Mayor Bill de Blasio (Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)

De Blasio piloted a similar program on March 27 but scrapped it 10 days later because he felt that police officers could be better used elsewhere.

However, Johnson said that other states and countries have successfully implemented similar measures and said he sees no reason why the program cannot be applied to New York City. Washington D.C., Austin, Cleveland and Denver, and several other cities have shut streets down for the use of social distancing purposes.

The proposal also has the backing of bicycle advocacy group Transportation Alternatives who said that council members are seeking to lead and not play catch-up as the crisis unfolds.

“We call on the City Council and the mayor to implement this plan without delay, and, over time, to expand the program to support the needs of all New Yorkers,” the group’s Communications Director Joe Cutrufo said Friday.

“Streets account for roughly 80 percent of New York City’s public space, and their ambitious open streets program will give 75 miles of streets back to people, their rightful owner, when New Yorkers desperately need them,” he said in a statement.

The legislation is set to be introduced at the Council’s April 22 Stated Meeting, according to Johnson.

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22 Comments

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Wolfsbane

Cg wrote: “Our streets are designed to accomodate vehicular traffic -meaning cars trucks busses ambulances police and fire vehicles….”

Nope. Not true at all. Much of NYC is well over 125 years old. It was designed around horse pulled wagons and coaches. Vehicles that moved well under 10 miles per hour.

It was never intended for vehicles like modern cars, trucks and buses.

Blocking streets with stupidity like bike lanes and in street parks makes them more dangerous and difficult to get around by reducing throughput.

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Queens Streets for LOL

There are 6000+ miles of road in NYC and some people are losing sleep (and $4000) to keep it that way. LOL!

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Sara Ross

I’m all for a lane for food deliveries BUT bicyclists DO NOT: pay for driving lessons, pay for getting a license, pay for registration, inspection, insurance or for a license plate, pay for meters or parking garages, tolls, can go through red lights and stop signs and not get ticketed, do not pay numerous taxes that the city and state collects but nobody knows where it goes, and on and on. I drive down Jewel Avenue and Main Street and I feel like i’m on an obstacle course having to zig zag around man hole covers with streets busted around them, potholes, etc. Going down Queens Blvd., there is basically only 1 lane for cars, trucks, buses, ambulances, fire engines, police cars, in other words, people and businesses who PAY to use the roads. When the mayor goes, I hope pathetic Polly from the DOT goes too.

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Neat rant but...

this is an article about social distancing. Please copy/paste your whine on the next bike article.

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Cg

What is this vietnam ???? Our streets are designed to accomodate vehicular traffic -meaning cars trucks busses ambulances police and fire vehicles…. there is not enough room for skateboards rollerblades, bikes, scooters, unicycles, … this is nonsense. People will continue to be killed and injured and commerce and traffic will All be negatively impacted. Bicycles are for children, they are not a urban vehicular right.

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Anonymous

The bike lanes are a joke! Has anyone noticed since there are bike lanes in the parks seniors can no longer go if they use a walker or walk a bit slower. Why? because the bikers just charge at them, like seniors just don’t belong there

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Do It Right

If you are going to close streets and do it for pedestrians DO NOT let cyclists on those streets. They are more dangerous than the cars

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Gardens Watcher

Ela, closing a bridge or two?? Seriously?? Get used to wearing a face mask. That’s the new normal for the foreseeable future until a vaccine is widely available.

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Salvatore Coppola

Love the way Blasio and the city council are giving away our money to illegal immigrants, this is nothing new , not it is thrown in our faces, give our money away to illegals who criminally came here to this country

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Why has Trump completely failed to deliver one of his central campaign promises?

He said Mexico would make a one-time payment for the wall. He shutdown the government to force taxpayers to pay for it.

3 years later with a Republican senate and not a single inch of wall built.

Trump is soft on border security, and you want to blame de Blasio?! If Trump hadn’t made it SO easy for immigrants to come here this wouldn’t be a problem. Shame you actually believed him.

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Salvatore Coppola

Seems to be that the mayor and all elected City officials especially the city council, forget that they work for the people of New York City, Express too much concern for illegal immigrants than their own native New Yorkers, whose tax dollars happened to fund their entire lives. Stop depending on illegal votes because that is over.

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Salvatore Coppola

City Council has to address lots of problems in this city , and closing streets is not one of them, very low on the totem pole as far as I’m concerned we have so many other problems, with all these transplanted New Yorkers that don’t give a shit about the law in New York,all of a sudden native New Yorkers have to kowtow to these transplanted New Yorkers who think any thing goes

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voting out the mainstream politicians

All of you commenting in favor of restricting people’s freedoms probably contribute nothing to society. Closing streets so people could get exercise ? Why would they close the parks in the first place ? This Is the problem with democrats they copy what some one else is doing in another state or country and think it would apply here different places have different needs, and we definitely don’t need to close streets down.

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Louisa

Do what you have to in order to get younger people to stay and work in NYC. This is what this is really about. Those on benefits and public assistance do no care. They get their shelter, meals and healthcare paid for. How do i know? I am one of them. And i am being honest. I am staying home with my children until there is a vaccine. Bless the working class that can not afford to stay home or work from home and will be forced to work.

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Thank you Costa!

This would be huge.

My wife, an essential worker, was able to use 34th Av. to bike to work for a few weeks. Now she’s back to once every 20 minute packed 7-trains and the even less frequent bus which goes through the epicenter of the virus and ropes off the entire front half of the bus, leaving everyone in the small area two steps up. It is utterly impossible for her to social distance, there are visibly sick passengers (some coming or going from Elmhurst Hospital), and it’s just unconscionable that the mayor is not providing safe streets for those who wish to use alternative means of getting to their essential jobs. Streets across the country have been closed to THROUGH traffic not ALL traffic, and certainly not emergency traffic. New York should be leading on this so it’s good to be represented by enlightened public servants like Costa. Hope you and your family are doing well and thank you for advocating for solutions that will keep mine SAFE!

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Talitha

If this is not implemented i think it will be because the police does not want to be assigned to monitor it. The few that a l see in the neighborhood are sitting in police cars texting, sleeping or using car speakers to harass the public.

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Joey

If streets close to cars and open up to pedestrians the city will need to assign the homeless sweepers to clean up all the PPE. Its a health risk. The virus can last on it for over a week.

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Ela

Closing a bridge or two to vehicles will also help pedestrians and cyclists get to places safer. Hopefully these street closures will be the new normal. I believe that as restrictions are lifted and people try to go back to work the city should do more to get less people on mass transit in order to practice social distancing. Personally i just can not wear a face mask and i am avoiding the subways and biking only when i return to work.

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Gardens Watcher

This is one case that I have to agree with the Mayor. It’s not only EMS that needs access to all streets. There’s access issues for the police and fire departments, and for ConEd emergencies. What about the increased traffic for food deliveries like God’s Love We Deliver, and UPS, Fedex, Amazon, etc.? What about transportation access for the disabled and for sick patients, or for me when I’m delivering groceries by car for my homebound neighbors?

Public health and safety are paramount, and no other city is feeling the pain like NYC. To jeopardize that for the sake of exercise, or to make an equal comparison to other smaller cities is ludicrous. We need our police force to protect us, not babysit blocked-off streets.

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Queens officials?

Are they our kings to do whatever they want without asking to the tax payer residents?

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