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Sunnysiders Gather in Large Rally Against City’s Skillman, 43rd Aves. Redesign, Demand Mayor Come to Neighborhood

Queens Streets For All rally. (Photo: Nathaly Pesantez)

July 26, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez

More than 100 neighborhood residents, business owners, and local leaders gathered at Bliss Street Plaza yesterday to rebuke the city’s plans for Skillman and 43rd Avenues.

The “Save Our Neighborhoods” rally, organized by Queens Streets For All, called on the mayor to reconsider his decision to install protected bike lanes and eliminate 116 parking spaces through the two avenues.

“We have to protect our small businesses, our churches, our civic groups,” said Patricia Dorfman, a Queens Streets For All organizer. “Parking is already a nightmare.”

Rally-goers demanded that de Blasio, who told the Department of Transportation to move forward with the plan despite strong opposition from Community Board 2 and some elected officials, and come out to Sunnyside to meet face-to-face with the plan’s many opponents.

Representatives from the offices of Congressman Joseph Crowley and Assemblyperson Catherine Nolan, along with Assemblymember Brian Barnwell, were at the event in support of the rally-goers.

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, however, was not invited to the rally due to his stance on the mayor’s decision. He said in a recent tweet that he “respects the mayor’s” decision, much to the chagrin of plan opponents.

“The greatest violation right now…is that our mayor, de Blasio, is going against the will of the people,” said Manny Gomez, chairman of the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, later adding, “Please mayor, listen to our voices and meet with us.”

The rally is the latest installment in the tangle of meetings, petitions, letters, and public forums on the issue since the DOT first released its vision for the community eight months ago, prompted by calls to action after the death of a cyclist on 43rd Avenue last year.

The rally’s attendees repeated the same concerns that have been shared since the initial plan was unveiled in November—that the loss of parking spaces along the 25-block stretch of the corridor will threaten businesses and make parking in the area even more difficult.

An attendee at the rally against the city’s Skilman/43rd Aves. redesign. (Photo: Nathaly Pesantez)

Northern Boulevard, they say as of late, is better suited and in need of protected bike lanes more than the Sunnyside corridor.

The redesign’s supporters, however, argue that the plan will make all road users safer and that the parking losses are a necessary sacrifice to obtain those benefits.

Still, attendees at the Queens Streets For All rally claimed that protected bike lanes will actually do the opposite and make the corridor less safe.

Mindy Bichler-Greene, co-president of P.S. 11’s PTA on Skillman Avenue, said the protected lanes to be installed directly in front of the 54-25 Skillman Ave. school will pose a danger to the over 1,000 children who cross the street to enter the building, which the DOT has refuted in the past.

“We’re worried that they’ll get hit by cyclists who don’t yield to pedestrians,” she said.

Others claim cyclists seldom obey the rules of the road, and that the protected bike lanes will wreak havoc on a residential corridor, another point that the DOT has rejected.

“They want to run a bike highway through the community,” said Dorothy Morehead, a real estate broker and member of Community Board 2.

Among the litany of claims and concerns was an air of resentment against the mayor, distrust over the DOT’s statistics and intent behind the plan, and ire against Transportation Alternatives, the group that has been at the forefront of gathering support for the plan.

Several attendees also expressed disappointment at Van Bramer, who they feel did not come out strongly enough against the plan and was too quick to back the mayor’s call.

“The DOT tried to pull a fast one on us, and we’re fighting back,” said Gary O’Neill, owner of Aubergine Cafe, later adding, “I think if a person only listened to TA, one would think the business community doesn’t care about safety.”

He said the goal should still be to create safer streets, but that issues along the corridor can be fixed without a protected bike lane.

“We want to see incremental changes that we can be all in favor of instead of this take no prisoners attitude from the mayors office and from the DOT,” O’Neill said.

The mayor’s office did not say whether de Blasio will or won’t pay a visit to Sunnyside, but provided the following statement: “The City has engaged in significant community engagement around this project. Changes have already been made to the project as a result of that feedback, and the City will continue working engaging the community during and after installation, making adjustments to make it as effective as possible.”

The DOT is set to begin construction work on the project some time in August, and wrap up in the fall.

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68 Comments

Mythoughts

While the protestors may have some valid concerns they also show a lot of arrogance by claiming that they are the true community voice and that the local community overwhelmingly opposes this plan. That is simply not true and is a big turn off for those of us living in the neighborhood who might be sympathetic to their concerns about parking but also care about protected bike lanes.

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rikki

Solution there is the BIG building on 43rd st next to the Lou Lodati playground make that a resident only assigned parking garage, at a minimal cost per year then you wont need so much on street parking.

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Fan of doughboy park

People will still complain. Parking spots are like jail cells or hospital beds — if you make more, they’ll just park more cars in them.

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A

Bicycles should be licensed, insured, registered and identifiable with a visible identification method. Bike riders should follow the rules of the road. Share the road, share the responsibilities.

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Brenda Acosta

I have also been saying this all along. Bicyclists are often reckless in their use of the roads. They need to pay
just as the motorists do. i have seen so many of them running red lights and not yielding to pedestrians.

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Gerry

As a pedestrian I would call that a safe area from these cyclists that think they are immune from following traffic laws.

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VelvetKnight

Then you should support the redesign. Everywhere they’ve been implemented so far has shown a reduction in crashes involving cars, bikes and pedestrians. Both lethal and non-lethal collisions.

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J murray

Very inspiring. I liked when they mumbled and read from notes. Then adopted the chants from the Occupy Movement for their selfish interest.

Once again, it’s 0–4 parkings spaces on a handful of blocks. It won’t be a bike highway, it’ll be the same as it is now, just the lane will be shifted over so cars can’t park in the bike lane, or swerve over and hit a cyclist. Same goes for the bikes, they’ll be more likely to stay out of the car lanes.

Sorry you’re losing a minuscule amount of parking. Like you rally folk are saying, it is a shared street — cars and their owners get 90% of the value of the street. Cyclists and pedestrians aren’t asking for much.

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Immoral society

Well said. Thank you for your thoughts. Unfortunately this neighborhood is filled with selfish simpletons. That will change soon. Thank you mayor for standing up to the village idiots.

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Jheg

Seems peculiar to see a bunch of people who have been complaining about outsiders and bike lanes bringing gentrification standing around listening to Gary who lives in Manhattan and whose cafe is one of the original causes of gentrification in the neighborhood.

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Greg

No, he does not live here. However he has a right to give his opinion, no matter how misguided, since his taxes go toward paying for our streets.

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Just Asking

My taxes go toward paying for our public space also, but so many of these nativists think I have no right to an opinion. How does that work, is Gary’s money better than mine because he agrees with you?

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tootiestooters

Deblasio and his lap dog Little Jimmy Van Bramer could not care less. Jimmy is in the pocket of the developers an is afraid of Big Bad Bill

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Roberto

They have been one for a long time. Jimmy’s little hissy fits against bozo were always an act.

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Just Asking

Seriously? “Big Bad Bill”, you people often refer to him as “Big Bird” and the “Dope From Park Slope”, now he’s the mafia come to threaten you? Which is it? Please get your story straight, I know these accusations are hard to keep straight when you create another one every day, but please try.

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WouldCyde

I think it’s ironic that the protest took place on Queens Blvd under the viaduct aka the only section that’s without bike lanes.

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VelvetKnight

Also ironic: A group calling themselves “Queens Streets for All” when they really mean “just cars.”

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Greg

What didn’t these people understand when the mayor said he wasn’t going to listen to a loud vocal minority? Can’t wait to see construction on the bike lanes get started!!!

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Sassy Lassy

I’m one of the 20% and have been since I earned my driver’s license in 1976. I use my car for nursing work I do all over the city in people’s private home. When not working I visit family, doctors and beautiful places on Long Island and Upstate. I also take lots and lots of my neighbors places they need to go, mostly for free, although if it is a long distance I will accept money for gas and tolls. I have three female friends who never learned to drive who regularly call on me to take them places they can’t reasonably get to themselves. To Costco, for instance to save money on a TV set. To a nursing home on the edge of Queens and Nassau. To a grandchild’s soccer games on Randall’s Island. To their mother’s in Queen’s Village. I filled the backseat and trunk of my car at least four or five times with items from someone’s childhood home in Bellerose and delivered sentimental keepsakes to her five siblings spread around NYC. None of them can afford to drive a car or hire a mover for a few days. I’ve taken neighbors to doctor’s appointments when Access-A-Ride is just too much trouble and effort for them. I’ve taken three people for colonoscopies, where they needed an escort and a safe ride home. I even have a neighbor who borrows the car once a month to take her sick daughter and her grandson to the beach during the season. My husband is a moving man. He invested all he has in a van. He is constantly busy because people who don’t own cars need help from someone who does. So, yeah, I guess we are losers. What good turns has your bike enabled you to do for the sick, elderly and disabled in your circle of friends? I get it, you don’t want people like us around here anymore. But your intellectual capacity and common sense can be called into question when you categorize 20% of your fellow Sunnysiders as “losers.”

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J murray

My bike is one less car on the block so you can have access to free parking.

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SunnysideDRIVER

You sound like a moron. It’s no more than 2 spots PER BLOCK. You actually took the time to write all that drivel? I drive every day and live and park my car in Sunnyside and I literally don’t care at all about this subject. Install it or don’t. 2 spots per block won’t make a difference.

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Immoral society

Go away and never return. I hear there are great nursing homes outside of the city.

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Verdaddy

It takes a lot of nerve, or arrogance, or something for this group to call itself “Queens Streets for All” when its goal is to give cars total dominance over the streets. The streets are public spaces to which everyone, using every mode of transportation, deserves access. We give car owners — and ONLY car owners — the right to half of every street just so they have a place to let their personal property — their cars — sit while they are not being used. Parking, it’s called.
The city sure isn’t going to let ME store any of my stuff in the street. But if it’s a car, that’s OK. Then we give all the rest of the streets to moving cars, so they can spew pollution, kill and maim people, and glom up traffic so that buses and emergency vehicles can’t go where they need to go. Whatever “all” means, it apparently doesn’t include anyone without a car. Why are cars more important than people?

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MG

No one is asking for “car dominance”. There are already bike lanes. Why not put the protected bike lane on Northern Blvd where it is needed?

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Verdaddy

I agree that both Skillman and Northern should have protected bike lanes. Thank you for the support.

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Anonymous

Bike lanes on Northern Boulevard could be configured to have the bikes go off Northern Blvd North of the Queens Plaza area and then South down Crescent Street right to the outer lane of the Bridge avoiding more congestion in the Plaza area. Putting the bike lanes on Skillman and 43rd Avenues just takes the bikes into the Plaza area making the Plaza area even more congested. Now that De Blasio has approved pedal assist bikes that can go 20 to 25 miles per hour (like cars), it is all the more reason to require bikes to have license plates, insurance and helmets and get tickets for violating traffic rules.

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Immoral society

Mg.. I wonder if u can actually read because you do not seem to understand what you read. Stop pretending that you know what’s best. Do you even know your head from your ass?

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WouldCyde

I had the same reaction when I saw those signs. “Queens Streets for All” is just the front. Flip it over and you’ll see “Who Insist on Owning Cars”

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Funnytothink

The total dominance of cars on the streets happened when people realized they liked traveling faster than they could walk or than a horse and carriage could carry them. They liked it so much that as many people as could afford to bought cars and the nation built roads for the cars and people spread out all over. It was fine in the beginning and no one complained. Now the world population has doubled or more we need to adjust. But just as it took decades for cars to replace carriages it will take decades for cars to disappear, or be relegated to the a niche in overall transportation rather than the lead position. Bikes deserve safety on the streets, certainly. But just like every other massive technological change forces behavioral changes, bikers have a lot to learn. Bikers’ arrogance is colossal, if you could see yourselves. It might even be amusing if you all weren’t so very thorny and nasty about it. After all, there you all are in your tight shorts and helmets standing up to the automotive industry, which was central to the dominance of the American economy for most of the last 80 years, and you think you are right! Maybe you are, but instead of going after the industry and government that brought the situation about, you go after individual people. Very cowardly. But, ego being what it is, a couple hundred of you little two-wheeled warriors dare to command millions of two-ton steel vehicles moving down the roads alongside you because you think you should be in charge. It’s comical for God’s sake! Like a little tiny child of the family insisting they be given charge over everything because they think they are smarter than all the adults in the room. Your arguments against public parking, street ownership, etc., are so far fetched that when I retell the stories outside of this tiny corner of the world people can hardly believe it. They uniformly say, “the city has gone totally nuts.” You may be pioneers of change, which may or may not come about, I am no fortuneteller. But to accuse others of arrogance is really, really funny. It just is.

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Alex

And a few smart, data-focused, community-born and bred peeps, that moved back to the ‘hood after college — to keep moving it forward….without caving in to folks who don’t live in the neighborhood but insist that “their” ideas are the “right” ones for everyone. Don’t believe the hype and get informed; by reading up on all sides of the issue. #NoBikeLanesInSunnyside

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Native New Yorker

Sorry, Alex. Sunnyside doesn’t have a moat and drawbridge to keep others out. Why not complain about the outsiders whose cars drive on “your” streets and park in “your” spots, while you’re at it? 🙄

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Alex

First off, I don’t have a car and I never said that I wanted to keep others out of the neighborhood. Read more carefully.
Secondly, my gripe is that many, if not all, of the organizations pro-bike lanes are extremely dismissive of the impact on the people who live in the neighborhood; and I’m not just talking about the parking spots. That’s simplistic thinking.

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Immoral society

Dear dopey
That’s the point. You’re expected to adjust and live more sustainable. Now that the change has come its time for you to adapt.

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Sunnyside res

So you move here from Iowa, where you bike leisurely and expect us New Yorkers to adapt to What YOU want. This is NYC, there’s a certain risk you take riding a bike. You should adapt

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VelvetKnight

I’ve read all sides of the issue. Anywhere these redesigns have been implemented and studied, they’ve been shown to reduce crashes and injuries for cars, bikes, and pedestrians. With no significant impact on traffic flow, and sometimes even improving it.

On the other side, I see the same exact arguments brought up every time, and they never pan out. Any talk of negative impact is anecdotal at best, and requires your taking their word for it.

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Sassy Lassy

Is “ageism” exempt from the category of bigoted behavior now? When did the tide turn from respecting the wisdom of age to beating up people who don’t move as fast as you do? You sound like you believe might is right, the current philosophy spewing from DJT from Jamaica Estates. You could only be less worthy of listening to if you were older than you are now and still say that. Have some humility, it will save you some embarrassment when you look back on your the stupid things you did and said in your life.

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Pass that shammy

Wow, it really is a few grumpy old people who like to keep their cars!

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Native New Yorker

“Get off my parking space!” is this year’s new “Get off my lawn!” 🙄

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Fan of Dough boy park

I’m sorry, I guess only the opinions of your age group count. No arrogance in that.

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Sassy Lassy

Read the comment above about “ageism.” Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool rather than open it up and prove that you are.

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Immoral society

Your wasting your time. Shouldn’t you be plotting your move to Jersey by now ?

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