Nov. 15, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez
A rally will be taking place this weekend in protest of the Department of Transportation’s controversial redesign of Skillman and 43rd Avenues.
Queens Street for All, the local group that has continuously pushed back against the redesign and its subsequent implementation, will hold the event at 51st Street and 43rd Avenue, by John Downing Park, at 1 p.m. on Nov. 18.
The group, made up of residents, businesses, and other local groups, claims the rally is a way to bring attention to “the dangers and disruption of business” since the protected bike lanes were installed and other changes were made to the roadways.
The roll-out began in August and went into the fall, and follows Mayor de Blasio’s order for the DOT to go ahead with the redesign after it was voted down by Community Board 2 in June.
Residents and businesses, the group says, have since had to experience traffic congestion and “frequent honking in the once quiet residential community” due to the new roadway design.
Queens Streets for All also claims the roadway redesign has residents increasingly fearing for their safety. They referenced an October incident, where an FDNY fire truck could not turn onto Skillman Avenue due to cars parked in a buffer zone.
While the DOT said the problem in this incident was illegally parked cars, the group says the issue is in the prior two-lane roadway being reduced to one lane since the installation of the protected bike lanes. Illegally parked cars in the prior design, they say, wouldn’t have held up the firetruck.
The group also referenced the Uniformed Firefighters Association statement given to the Queens Chronicle last month, where it said “extended bike lanes” have added significantly to response times and delayed firefighters by crucial minutes as a result.
“We are not waiting for there to be a tragic accident in our community,” said Gary O’Neill, owner of Aubergine Cafe and a Queens Streets for All member.
Apart from FDNY and EMS response times and unspecified concerns of “serious injury” as a result of the redesign, Queens Streets for All also claims businesses have seen their revenues fall since the agency began implementing its plan.
“Many of us have put our life savings into our businesses and are now terrified for the future,” said Dorothy Morehead, a real estate broker, Queens Streets for All member, and who is also on the board of Community Board 2.
Queens Streets for All will also once again demand answers from Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, who they say ignored community concerns when he announced his strong support for the DOT’s full redesign over the summer.
Van Bramer, who appeared to be on the fence about the issue during its eight months of deliberation, said in his July announcement that he regretted not being “clear and forceful” about his support early on.
The Sunday event follows a rally held in July by the group following the mayor’s order to put the redesign through.
The redesign, introduced last year, mainly proved controversial in Sunnyside due the number of parking spaces it would eliminate from the two avenues. Those opposed said the loss would both impact resident quality of life and threaten business along the corridor.