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Video of Fire Truck Stuck on 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights Sparks More Debate About Open Streets Initiative

A video posted online showing an FDNY truck failing to maneuver a turn on 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights has intensified the dispute between advocates and opponents of the avenue’s Open Streets initiative (Photo: Twitter)

Sept. 22, 2022 By Michael Dorgan

A video posted online showing an FDNY fire truck failing to maneuver a turn on 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights has intensified the dispute between advocates and opponents of the avenue’s Open Streets initiative.

The video, which was posted to Twitter Saturday, shows a firetruck traveling westbound on 34th Avenue and its driver then attempting to make a right turn northbound onto 79th Street. The firetruck is unable to complete the turn due to several new roadblocks put in place at the intersection by the DOT.

The video has generated more than 24,000 views with more than 220 retweets. Queens Councilmembers Robert Holden and Vickie Paladino were among those to weigh in on the video. They both retweeted the video blasting the new layout.

“When every second counts, first responders must not be delayed by barriers placed by the DOT,” Holden wrote.

Paladino panned the situation as a “disgrace” saying that the planners of the new layout “don’t care if emergency services can’t reach you if you’re having a heart attack or your home is on fire.”

However, the DOT, Councilmember Shekar Krishnan as well as an advocacy group for the plan have defended the initiative. The DOT said it consulted with the FDNY before making the changes while the advocacy group Friends of 34th Avenue Linear Park argue that critics are taking the video out of context to “dismantle a visionary and safety-enhancing project.”

The DOT made the changes at the intersection recently as part of the agency’s plans to make the avenue’s Open Street program permanent. The DOT narrowed the intersection using a triangular street demarcation known as a traffic “diverter,” and a large granite block was placed inside the triangle. Planters, boulders and flexible delineators were also put down at the intersection.

Advocates for the open streets plan, known as Paseo Park, argue that the open streets initiative has been a huge success since it creates much-needed public space in the neighborhood. The plan consists of converting 26 blocks from Junction Boulevard to 69th Street along 34th Avenue into a series of pedestrian plazas and traffic-restricted zones, in accordance with a plan released by the Department of Transportation in April.

The agency has long called the avenue the “gold standard” of the city’s Open Streets initiative.

Opponents of the plan, however, say the plan eliminates much-needed parking and makes it harder for emergency vehicles to access local residents. Both sides publicly clashed last week when the initiative’s co-founder said he was the victim of homophobic slurs leveled at him by members of a group opposed to the DOT’s changes.

The Twitter video, which was taken last week, has sparked fierce debate online. Most people who commented on it argued that the changes have slowed emergency response times – and are putting people’s lives at risk.

The FDNY told the Queens Post it was responding to a reported injury at I.S. 145, located on the next block at 33-34 80th St. An ambulance also appeared to be responding to the incident the video shows.

An FDNY spokesperson said that there were no operational issues with the incident.

The 140-second video shows the firetruck traveling west on 34th Avenue before attempting to go around a granite block in order to make a right turn.

The fire truck, which has the number 307 displayed on it, is traveling against traffic since the strip is for vehicles traveling eastbound only. Firetrucks are permitted to go against traffic in an emergency.

However, the firetruck is stopped from completing the turn by a large planter. The truck then backs up slightly and attempts to make the turn again but is stopped by a second planter.

Two firefighters can then be seen jumping out of the truck and helping guide the FDNY driver. The driver eventually backs the truck up and reverses eastward on 79th Street.

Once the firetruck backs up, one of the firefighters can then be seen waving the traffic on 79th Street through the intersection. The incident caused the traffic on 79th Street to back up and — towards the end of the video — an ambulance with its sirens on can be seen caught in the traffic jam.

Throughout the video, the woman shooting the video can be heard criticizing the situation and blaming it on elected officials. The video was uploaded by another resident.

“Our firemen are trying to respond somewhere, but as you can see [they] can’t,” the videographer shouts. “The planters are blocking his way; he can’t back up because of the sticks in the air.”

The videographer calls out the mayor, the governor, the local Councilmember – who is Shekar Krishnan — as well as the chief of the fire department, saying it was a “political issue.”

The woman, who appears to be getting more enraged as the situation unfolds, then comments on the ambulance getting stuck in the 79th Street traffic jam.

“Now look at it, so now traffic is backed up because the truck is trying to back up due to your stupid blocks in the middle of the street that are putting our lives in danger,” she says.

“We’re the ones paying the taxes, we’re the ones voting for you to take care of our lives — and this is what’s happening.”

A photo of the intersection during reconfiguration (Provided by the Jackson Heights Coop Alliance)

The intersection in 2019 before the Open Streets initiative was put in place (Photo: Google Maps)

Holden retweeted the video and hit out at the DOT in a statement to the Queens Post.

“First responders can’t ride scooters to calls,” Holden said. “Putting people’s lives in danger is not progress.”

“The ideological obsession with getting rid of cars and trucks in New York City is not only costing New Yorkers more time and money with slower traffic, more frustration, and incoming congestion charging — but our emergency services also face additional challenges from barriers.”

Paladino also slammed the situation in a three-tweet response to the video.

“The tiny clique of deranged affluent urbanists who inexplicably seem to wield dictatorial control over city planning are quite literally costing lives and making our city more dangerous with their malicious utopianism,” Paladino wrote.

They want their weird little Legoland with closed streets and concrete bollards and rainbow-painted plazas for the junkies to crash out on… when do we start saying no?”

The new road layout from 77th Street to 80th Street (Photo: DOT)

The new road layout from 77th Street to 80th Street (Photo: DOT)

34th Avenue layout (DOT)

The new layout prevents eastbound traffic along 34th Avenue from 77th Street to the 79th Street intersection.

Kevin Montalvo, a spokesperson for Krishnan, told the Queens Post that the DOT’s new design still allows emergency vehicles to access 34th Avenue. Krishnan has been a vocal supporter of the 34th Avenue Open Streets program.

“As this video shows, DOT’s design allows FDNY and NYPD emergency services to access both sides of the street, without the interference of cars, from either direction.”

He also said that the 34th Avenue Open Street has greatly increased safety and accessibility for residents.

“Car-related injuries and crashes are down significantly,” Montalvo said.

The DOT said it had consulted the fire department before reconfiguring the intersection.

“Prior to implementation we developed an emergency vehicle access plan, taking into account FDNY feedback, and with the project now installed we will make any needed adjustments as we observe conditions,” DOT press secretary Scott Gastel told the Queens Post.

“Our understanding from FDNY is there were no issues on the response or operational end of this call.”

The Friends of 34th Avenue Linear Park, an advocacy group in favor of the Open Street plan, said that opponents of the initiative are using one video to attack the new designs.

“People who have never wanted the street to change are now using a single video, with no context, as a pretext to try to dismantle a visionary and safety-enhancing project,” the group said in a statement to the Queens Post.

“Those same people say nothing about the routine delays to firefighters and ambulances caused by vehicle traffic. News outlets do not cover all the emergency services delayed by traffic and double-parked cars because we have come to accept it as part of life.

“In fact, first responders have had exceptionally easy access on 34th Avenue since the street became open space for the community to enjoy.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Jackson Heights Coop Alliance, a group that opposes the Open Streets concept, said the video again raises concerns about emergency response times in the neighborhood.

“In light of the horrific fire that took place only one year ago on 90th Street, where over eight fire trucks were summoned, I doubt any fire truck will fit through this mess,” said Debbie DaGiau, a spokesperson for the group.

“In addition, our beautiful neighborhood now looks like a disgusting obstacle course.”

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30 Comments

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Manny Petty

just another example of liberals not thinking things through and f’ing things up even more. Giving everyone $1,400 = inflation; Pulling weapons out of Afghanistan before people; Dismantling remain in mexico = border chaos; Trashing Amazon = Amazon building headquarters elsewhere; Telling gas industry its over = gas shortage/price spike; No bail / no jail – crime out of control….. dont trust liberals

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quite a dilemma

removing the concrete barriers will be considered racist and anti-concrete. Now what do we do? maybe Biden and the pro-inflation dems can throw 1 trillion towards skinny fire trucks. Roll it into the next inflation reduction bill.

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Tired of the Fox Narrative

There is just too much right wing propaganda posted to this comment stream and it’s obviously one individual posting. Just look at syntax, prose and vocabulary. It’s ridiculously obvious.

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Fox News Derangement Syndrome

Just a little heads-up. Your TV remote allows you to change channels. You don’t have to watch Fox News if it annoys you so much. Try PMSNBC. It’s probably more to your liking.

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Keep Fox tuned in

He needs to see what the enemy is doing like grooming it’s gullible and weak minded viewers to storm the Capitol. The programming at the network is a form of emotional priming coupled with an intense repetitive regimen of buzzword repetition over a 24 hour 7 day a week indoctrination. It obviously works on the anankastic individuals, that’s why it’s done. Look at Jan 6th. Former president Trump said if he repeats a lie enough times his followers will believe it.

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Luna

Well more POC need to speak up that is the only way the media will listen. When whites try to speak against something like Open Streets in this city they are either called a trump supporter, a Robert, a Vickie or a Karen and a Ken. That is why many moved.

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Julia

Great video and thanks for posting. And yes there is some truth to what the woman said in the video. The minute you oppose something in this city you’re either called a racists, xenophobe or homophobe. Open streets is putting the lives of our elderly, disabled, poor and colored communities at risk so people with money have room to walk around drunk and high as residents suffer. To be honest most of us do not live on Open streets but the neighboring ave/streets and beyond are the ones that suffer because of it whether we realize it or not. When it first started they put so many people and children on the open street for photo ops. But now few are using them to walk. I even saw one place setting up beach and lounge chairs and all they sold was coffee. I also thought we were against building walls and putting up fences in this city? Only happens I guess when the rich want to feel protected.

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Adel

New York City is lifting its private sector COVID-19 vaccine mandate on November 1. Commuters are no longer required to wear masks on public transportation. Time to end Open streets and get rid of outdoor sheds that are on the street. Basically out city officials no longer see a benefit to wearing masks or getting vaccinated. Indoor dining is fine.
https://abc7ny.com/nyc-covid-mask-mandate-new-york-statistics/12242966/
https://nypost.com/2022/09/07/gov-kathy-hochul-lifts-mta-commuter-rail-mask-requirement/

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Barbara Judge

I’m not one to normally criticize the FDNY, but that driver was not the brightest bulb. The bollards are designed to fold down (they’re made of plastic) when run over by emergency vehicles. The driver made every attempt to avoid running over the folding plastic bollard – on the way to the scene of the emergency.

This has nothing to do with open streets and everything to do with the driver’s lack of awareness/training.

Let’s use some common sense here. The obnoxious Karen yelling while recording, essentially blocking the truck herself, was certainly no help.

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Nothing to see here

This is reminiscent of a strategy used by the Queens Streets for All anti-bike anti-open streets hate group. One instance does not define a street design. You can be sure the drivers will not make the same error again. Problem solved. No need to build a Facebook conspiracy troll group around something like this.

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Martha's Racist Vineyard

Liberals rarely think things through. Their good intentions are all that matters.

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DeSantis should be charged with misappropriation of funds and enticing criminal behavior

Such a limited vocabulary. Someone posting to comment streams all day long like you should really engage a thesaurus. You’ve literally worn out the words liberal and racist.

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Martha's Vineyard: Migrants Not Welcome

You’re just upset that Desantis exposed rich, white liberal hypocrisy for the whole world to see.

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Gullible Republican Bullies believe in myths fairytales invisible gods and conspiracy theories

Typical Republican ignorance. Republicans are incapable of creating new ideas. Same old playbook and stale ideas. Martha’s Vineyard was reboot of a silly stunt pulled in the 60’s. If you’re gullible enough to believe that stolen publicity stunt shows hypocrisy in the good people of Martha’s Vineyard than you’re banner waving at the altar of idiocy. https://m.dailykos.com/stories/2022/9/16/2123335/-Ron-Desantis-Racist-Stunt-Echoes-Reverse-Freedom-Rides-Black-People-Were-Subjected-To-In-1960-s?utm_campaign=recent

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Trump visited Martha's vineyard on the taxpayer's dime

Just because Trump went to Martha’s Vineyard so much it’s “racist” now?!

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Seems overblown

Why was there no action plan for how to get to the destination? Why take this route? The streets there are on a grid. Could it be that other streets are known to be blocked up with too much car traffic and double-parked cars and trucks and too much space devoted to parking?

Why indeed throw a dozen firefighters and a million-dollar giant fire truck at “an injured student” at a school? Wouldn’t this be a job for a medic on a cargo bike? A cargo bike can carry as much as a pickup truck and is much more nimble in negotiating car-filled streets.

Should the city rethink the size of its fire trucks? Should there be roving medics on cargo bikes all over the city to respond to situations like this? Should police officers get out of their cars and walk the sidewalks and park paths again instead of driving through everything, disconnected and dehumanized?

And finally, shouldn’t we celebrate the fact that this Open Street has reduced injuries and deaths substantially, thus saving us from needing so many emergency services? And has done it passively, with little funding?

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Beentheredonethat

Phew. What a diatribe. Sure.lots of people would like to be put on a cargo bike a peddled to the hospital rather than get in an ambulance with equipment that can save their lives. Heck, they can hold an umbrella over the peddler’s head in the rain, too. great idea. Good God! What is wrong with you folks?

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Anonymous

Cargo bike? Screw that, we could cut it down to roller skates and a first aid kit. We don’t even need our EMTs to be so big. The larger the person the more calories they burn. Cub Scouts on skates is all we really need.

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Maria

The neighboring avenues and side streets of open streets are also a real problem. They are causing traffic jams and delaying emergency response vehicles such as police and firetrucks. People like to compare open streets to street festivals which is not the case. Street festivals are usually affordable, last 3 to 4 days and attended by all walks of life because you can find cheap street food and activities for many. Restaurants and bars are so expensive that open streets has turned into a playground for young folks with money to spend. By the way, the open streets i attended were practically empty. People used sidewalks to get around. No one was on the street. Only people with cars pulling in and out of the parking spaces were on the street. My dentist in Astoria on Ditmars is looking for a new location because no one wants to deal with the traffic and crowds thus they are not booking appointments.

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This is disgusting.

Whomever decided this crap was a good idea will never bring potato salad to the Mensa picnic.

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JoeBama Magoo

this is good news. we need more open streets. the more the merrier. fire trucks and other emergency vehicles should be banned. all motor vehicles should be banned. thank you progressives!

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