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City Shot Down 111th St. Safety Fixes in Corona Amid Delay: Official

By Katie Honan | October 7, 2016 9:28am
 The proposal for 111th Street was first presented in March 2015. 
The proposal for 111th Street was first presented in March 2015. 
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​CORONA — The Department of Transportation shot down suggestions to improve 111th Street from a local politician even though it's been delaying implementing its own proposal to make the street safer — saying they're only still in "discussions" for the plan.

Assemblyman Francisco Moya said the DOT last week turned down his suggestions for safety improvements on the busy thoroughfare along the west side of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, which he'd originally proposed at a town hall he hosted in October 2015.

His alternatives included putting a separate bike lane through Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, entering near 49th Avenue to Corona Avenue; installing a bike lane on the median of 111th Street; or creating a bike lane on the sidewalk.

The DOT cited cost issues and not fulfilling Vision Zero goals as part of their reason for rejecting his plan — which he said would have opened up the city's original proposal to include more community feedback.

"For me, it's extremely important to have this done when all the stakeholders, the people who are going to be most affected by this, have a say in what's going on," Moya said.

"I've been trying to make sure we get those residents involved and let them know what's being proposed."

The DOT identified the street as an urgent "priority corridor" and introduced potential fixes in spring 2015. Those changes included reducing traffic lanes on 111th Street between 46th Avenue and Corona Avenue and adding protected bike lanes and other improvements. But after getting community feedback opposing the plan, they vowed to return with changes, but have yet to do so.

Queens City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland joined local parents and residents Tuesday on the steps of City Hall, where they hand-delivered a petition with more than 1,600 signatures asking the city to make immediate changes. 

"The street should be a gateway, not a barrier, for the thousands of people in Corona, Jackson Heights, Elmhurst and East Elmhurst who use Flushing Meadows Corona Park," she said. 

DOT spokesman Scott Gastel said Thursday that design changes "are all part of an ongoing discussion," but would not clarify who the discussions are with.

He also did not confirm when it would be introduced to Community Board 4, whose transportation committee suggested changes in March of 2015.

Christian Cassagnol, district manager of CB4, said they were under the impression that the DOT would bring the plan back after making the required changes, but they never did."We're waiting for the DOT to come back, they never actually came to us for a full vote," Cassagnol said.

Advocates supported the city's plan to minimize lanes of traffic, create a protected bike lane, and improve pedestrian crossings. But neighbors have criticized it, saying limiting traffic lanes from three to one could cause major traffic jams.

Moms and students continue to beg for action on the street, citing safety concerns.

Roberta Chalian, a mother from Mujeres en Movimiento, a Queens Museum-lead collective of moms pushing for safer streets, asked Mayor de Blasio Tuesday "to think of the security of the children" and everyone else who crosses the street, calling it "scary to cross."