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Protesters and Queens Electeds Clash at 34th Avenue Open Streets Ribbon Cutting Monday

A long-running dispute between supporters and advocates for the 34th Avenue Open Street initiative in Jackson Heights continued Monday as elected officials in favor of the plan were confronted by protesters (Photo: DOT)

Oct. 25, 2022 By Michael Dorgan

A long-running dispute between supporters and opponents of the 34th Avenue Open Street initiative in Jackson Heights clashed Monday when elected officials cut the ribbon to mark the completion of the controversial 1.3-mile initiative.

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Assemblymember Catalina Cruz and Councilmember Shekar Krishnan were heckled during the event to mark the completion of a major redesign of the permanent Open Street initiative.

The project, also referred to as Paseo Park, has seen the DOT convert 26 blocks from Junction Boulevard to 69th Street along 34th Avenue into a series of pedestrian plazas and traffic-restricted zones.

Advocates for Paseo Park argue that the open streets initiative has been a huge success, reducing the number of traffic-related incidents and creating much-needed public space. The DOT and the mayor have long called the avenue the “gold standard” of the city’s Open Streets initiative.

Opponents of the plan say that it eliminates much-needed parking and makes it harder for emergency vehicles to access residents in need.

Video posted online yesterday shows demonstrators clashing with Richards and Cruz during their respective speeches on 34th Avenue, between 79th Street and 80th Street. A group of around 15 protestors had gathered at the side of a podium where the speeches were being voiced.

In one video, a woman can be seen heckling Richards as he speaks.

“What you did is despicable, despicable,” the woman says, referring to the Open Streets plan. “You have not lived with the mess you created.”

In another video, a man can be seen disputing accident statistics put forward by Cruz to justify the Open Streets plan.

Cruz said that 16 residents had been killed by cars in the neighborhood in the last 10 years. The man questioned the statistics and doubted that they exclusively pertained to the 34th Avenue stretch that is now called Paseo Park.

He also asked how many children were among the fatalities.

“Whether they are children or not these are 16 members of our community,” Cruz says, before asking the man to settle down. “Can you just give us 30 seconds, this is what we deal with, people just don’t care.”

Yesterday was not the first time both sides have clashed.

Last month, 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, while a video posted online showing an FDNY fire truck failing to maneuver a turn on 34th Avenue onto 79th Street intensified the dispute between the sides.

Monday’s event was attended by Dept. of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez, former Councilmember Daniel Dromm Richards as well as representatives for the 34th Avenue Open Streets Coalition and Friends of 34th Avenue Linear Park, two volunteer groups in favor of the project.

Krishnan said that the number of crashes has been drastically reduced along 34th Avenue since the Open Streets program was first implemented in 2020.

“As a parent of two small children, I cannot say enough how urgent the issue of pedestrian safety is for New York City families,” Krishnan said.

“If we are going to save lives, we must create safer streets.”

Several hecklers also heckled and jeered at Krishnan during his speech.

The elected officials also held a sign referring to DOT data which found that pedestrian accidents on 34th Avenue were down 41.7 percent from May 1, 2020, to April 30, 2021.

The data is derived from a DOT presentation in April on plans for the 34th Open Streets redesign. The DOT did not respond in time for publication to explain how that figure was determined.

(DOT 34th Ave Paseo Park Design Presentation, page 4)

The officials also used the occasion to announce a new initiative that will extend the hours of Open Streets across the city on Oct. 31. for Halloween.

The initiative, called Trick-or-Streets, will see more than 100 Open Streets closed to traffic from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Richards said the initiative was another example of the benefits of Open Street programs.

“Turning these spaces into spooky hubs of haunted Halloween fun for families next week is yet another incredible example of why the Open Streets program is so great.”

However, some of the protesters at the ribbon-cutting event also took issue with Trick-or-Streets since it would completely shut down Paseo Park for four hours — as opposed to having limited access to the 34th Avenue Open Street.

They say there is already an annual parade for kids on Oct. 31 — which will run along 37th Avenue from 89th Street to 76th Street – and therefore it is unnecessary to close 34th Avenue.

City officials and local volunteers cut the ribbon on the 34th Avenue Open Street Monday (Photo DOT)

Officials and advocates also held a sign referring to DOT data which found that pedestrian accidents on 34th Avenue were down 41.7 percent from May 1, 2020, to April 30, 2021. (Photo: DOT)

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10 Comments

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Lou from Woodside

Take a close look at the ladies and gentlemen in this photo. They represent this neighborhood. Do you want them to represent your neighborhood? If no, then get involved and run or vote them out.

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MV

The protestors were booing when Danny Dromm mentioned the 6 children who had died. The sad deaths of these children due to traffic violence are not a disputable fact. Yet they shouted lies, lies! The fact that there’s a reduction in traffic crashes is only natural given that the street is mostly closed to cars. But that fact was also shouted down. These protestors are willing to chose their own “facts” over scientific evidence and their cars over the common good that benefits thousands of residents who are very happy with open streets. Unfortunately the media loves controversy and continues to elevate 15 voices over the thousands of happy users of the Open Street!

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Good riddance

These people never listen to the community. All they do is ignore them and continue to speak over them. If you complain to the sell out community board they say we’ll get back to you but never do. The cb is useless and never helpful .

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Anonymous

Having 34th St. close from 69 to Junction Boulevard. only brings a lot of traffic to the neighborhood. They should open it for cars ,which that’s why it was made for. we already have a beautiful park.

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paul

I am somewhat neutral on this. I live outside the area but deliver needed groceries to my senior sister who lives in the area. It is a hassle opening and closing four to six gates every time but at least they let me in. A bigger problem are the ethnic parades and thing like the mile run etc. that turns the whole area into a disaster area for everybody except the parade people and it can take you hours to do anything including emergency stuff.

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No parking

Of course you have less crashes when the road is closed! How’s 35th Ave and Northern Blvd stats looking?

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Good riddance

YES!!!
What are the numbers on 35th Ave , 37th ave, and northern blvd????
Guaranteed way up.
34th ave stat is a joke!
41% drop in accidents, with 100% closed street.
That’s a joke! A diversion. This closed street is not working. Probably 10% of the neighborhood wants the street closed

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Van

Both sides make good points. Personally I think most of the people who own cars in the neighborhood rarely depend on them daily and would save money by hiring or renting cars when they need them.

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Javier

No one has respect for anyone anymore because of Elected Republicans’ desire to “own the libs” and spew whatever hateful vitriol they desire, out of their mouths with no consequences. When “leaders” like those do it on National TV, it makes it seem normal and encourages their constituents to act in the same way. Need an example? When Beto O’Rourke crashed a Greg Abbott conference after Uvalde and Abbott was cursing at him in front of everyone on national TV. A SITTING GOVERNOR!!
I have never seen such disrespect and hate towards our fellow man as much as I’ve seen it over the last 14 years, beginning with the Obama hate. I weep for our children because this is what they’ll inherit. A planet full of hate where life means nothing. A literal DYSTOPIA.

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