QUEENS — Community Board 6 voted Wednesday to back the city’s plan to redesign a 1.3-mile portion of Queens Boulevard in Rego Park and Forest Hills, which includes the addition of protected bike lanes while eliminating 198 parking spaces.
Following a presentation from the Department of Transportation, the board overwhelmingly supported the third phase of the project which seeks to overhaul Queens Boulevard between Eliot Avenue and Yellowstone Boulevard.
The first two phases, conducted in 2015 and 2016, redesigned Queens Boulevard in Woodside and Elmhurst, resulting in a decline in cyclist injuries by 42 percent and pedestrian injuries by 49 percent along that section, according to the DOT.
The agency is planning to begin implementing the changes — which will also include safety fixes like stop-controlled slip lanes, pedestrian paths and curb extensions to shorten crossing distances — in June, making the congested and crash-prone thoroughfare, long nicknamed the Boulevard of Death, safer for pedestrians, motorists and cyclists, the agency said.
“We want it to be safe for a grandmother walking with a baby carriage across the street,” said Queens Deputy DOT Commissioner Albert Silvestri. “And what we’ve seen in the last two phases is we’ve significantly improved safety for that demographic. And if it’s safe for that person, it’s going to be safe for anybody crossing the street."
John Dereszewski, head of Community Board 6's Transportation Committee, said that while he supports “90 percent of the things that are going to be done,” he couldn't back the proposal because of the loss of nearly 200 parking spaces.
“We have a very dense area and I think we have a foreseeable problem,” he said.
But Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz, who over the years pushed for a number of safety measures along Queens Boulevard, including installing fences and countdown signals, said that parking spaces along the service road medians, which will now be eliminated in order to create bike lanes, were added there in the 1990s.
"We only had one side parking for many, many years," she said.
She also said that her office received hundreds of phone calls from people supporting the plan, many of whom bike along Queens Boulevard to work every day.
“I’m endorsing this project because it’s going to benefit our community and our neighborhood,” she said. “Let’s have a safe Queens Boulevard.”
The agency also said that the plan creates the footprint for the capital work which would in the future turn the medians on Queens Boulevard into linear parks with more greenery and pedestrian space.
Next year, the DOT is hoping to implement similar changes on Queens Boulevard between Yellowstone Boulevard and Union Turnpike.
SEE THE FULL PROPOSAL TO OVERHAUL QUEENS BOULEVARD BETWEEN ELIOT AVENUE AND YELLOWSTONE BOULEVARD BELOW: