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'What Are We Waiting For?' Street Safety Backer Says as Vote Tabled Again

By Katie Honan | March 22, 2017 8:28am
 Residents in favor of the changes to 111th Street listen in to a Department of Transportation presentation on the plan, which was tabled again by Community Board 4.
Residents in favor of the changes to 111th Street listen in to a Department of Transportation presentation on the plan, which was tabled again by Community Board 4.
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DNAinfo/Katie Honan

CORONA — Members of Community Board 4 again tabled a final vote on the city's Vision Zero plan to add protected bike lanes to 111th Street, sparking outrage from supporters who say the board has been dragging its feet for two years.

Sandra Muñez, a CB4 member who opposed the board's 24 to 12 vote to postpone a final vote on Tuesday, said they needed to stop perseverating and vote as a first step to improve the street.

"This has been going back and forth for years. We have to start somewhere," Muñez said of the city's plan, which was first introduced by the city in 2015. "I lost an uncle to a vehicular accident, and I don't want to lose anyone else. What are we waiting for?"

Supporters of the street safety changes also said they're fed up with the board's inaction.

"This board does not intend to ever vote on 111th Street. You see it as a political football," Cristina Furlong, a co-founder of Make Queens Safer, said at the end of the 2-hour meeting, when CB4 finally allowed public comment.

The controversial street safety change plan sparked a war of words last month after veteran board member Ann Pfoser Darby claimed the area's bike lanes were only used by "illegal" immigrants, and wouldn't be necessary after President Donald Trump deported them.

►READ MORE: Only 'Illegals' Use Bike Lanes in Corona, Trump-Backing Board Member Says

The city's plan has already gone through multiple changes at the request of the board since it was first introduced in 2015.

The issue this time, CB4 members said, was that board members want even more safety measures including crosswalks and traffic lights. Crosswalks were a part of the original plan, but were removed in the current proposal — which includes widening medians for pedestrians at 14 intersections along 111th Street between 46th and Corona Avenues. 

Frustrated community members silently held up signs in favor of the proposal, briefly chanting "Vote! Vote! Vote!" after it was agreed to table any movement on it. Supporters of the plan were only allow to speak at the end of the meeting, which went on for more than two hours. 



Board members who spoke said they wanted safer streets but worried about congestion on 111th Street, a main thoroughfare in the neighborhood. 

Jimmy Lisa — the chair of the transit committee, a 111th Street resident and longtime critic of the plan — said traffic would be brought to a chokehold if they implemented the plan, which limits a lane of traffic.

But a DOT representative said they monitored the street for 84 days, finding excess traffic on only five of them — the two days of the busy Maker Faire, two nights of the Queens Night Market and a Mets game.

Pfoser Darby, who is still a board member pending action from the borough president, refrained from making any more controversial comments and instead urged the board to vote using "logic."

Councilwoman Julissa—Ferreras Copeland urged the city to move forward with the plan regardless of the board's delay.

"The community was not allowed to comment tonight before the board voted to table this plan. However, they spoke loud and clear when we stood over 100 strong on the steps of City Hall demanding that 111th Street be made safer," she said.

"We cannot wait any longer. I urge Mayor de Blasio to move forward with the Vision Zero plan for 111th Street immediately.” 

It's not clear when the 111th Street plan will be brought again to the board. A spokesman for the DOT said they'll "share tonight’s feedback with the full team at DOT and will report back on next steps soon."

But the community board's vote is only advisory: after they voted against changes to Queens Boulevard last year, the city still went forward with the changes.