Dec. 11, 2017 By Nathaly Pesantez
The city will unveil an updated proposal for Skillman and 43rd Avenues safety measures in a town hall next week, a move that comes after a first design presented a month ago caused much alarm for its proposed removal of 158 parking spaces through the two avenues to make way for protected bike lanes.
The town hall will be held on Dec. 19 at Sunnyside Community Services at 43-31 39th St. from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., and is sponsored by Jimmy Van Bramer and Community Board 2. Representatives from the Department of Transportation will also be in attendance to receive feedback on the updated proposal for the two avenues and take questions.
The meeting comes after the DOT presented a proposal to CB2’s Transportation Committee last month for the two throughways, which envisioned bike lanes flush against the curbs and separated by a buffer from the parking lane.
A combined 158 parking spaces through the two avenues would need to be removed under the first proposal to increase motorist visibility and cyclist safety.
The lost parking spaces in the initial proposal alarmed residents who found parking to be difficult enough in the neighborhood, along with business owners who feared losing customers if parking spaces were taken away. A petition was also created by the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce opposing the DOT’s proposal.
The concerns traveled up to the DOT, which has been working on an updated proposal to present to the community since.
“It’s not going to work as they proposed, and they’ve already gone back,” said Denise Keehan-Smith, CB2 chair and head of its transportation committee, at last week’s Dec. 8 meeting. She added that the town hall will be an opportunity for the board to listen to a variety of voices before voting on the updated changes by the DOT.
Patricia Dorfman, executive director of the Sunnyside Chamber, said at the meeting that she has received many emails and calls about the bike lane proposal and its affect on parking.
“Everyone seems to like painted lines,” Dorfman said, referring to the existing bike lanes on the two avenues. “But people are very unhappy to lose even one parking space.”
Larry Smith, executive vice president at Sholom & Zuckerbrot, the brokerage company, urged the board to think about the hundreds of blue collar workers at his Swingline Building on 32-00 Skillman Ave. who would be affected by the loss of parking spaces.
“Employees come from all over Queens, not all of them can come by subway,” Smith said. “They’re basically telling us they can’t continue doing business if they lose all that parking.”
The initial proposal was seen as a success by Juan Restrepo, the Queens organizer for Transportation Alternatives. “This is not a plan that is made to just gloss over safety improvements,” Restrepo told the Sunnyside Post last week. “These are engineers who look at numbers and said it’s feasible.”
In August, Transportation Alternatives also went to businesses on Skillman and 43rd Avenues to ask for their support in bringing protected bike lanes, and received close to 40 letters of support from them. The letters were referenced as a sign of support for the DOT proposal by the transit advocacy group during last month’s meeting.
The board brought up Transportation Alternatives’ effort at last week’s meeting and commented on the fact that no reference was made to lost parking spaces in the letters signed by the business owners.
“We are hearing back from a lot of people who were told they signed something say, ‘I signed what?!”, said Patrick O’Brien, a CB2 board member.
The DOT’s proposal came about after Van Bramer and the community called for enhanced safety measures and an analysis of protected bike lanes on the two avenues in response to two April incidents, one that saw the death of a cyclist after he rode through a red light and was struck by a drunk driver, and another that saw a serious injury just ten days later in the area.
The town hall is free and open to all. To RSVP, email firstname.lastname@example.org.