Oct. 5, 2021 By Michael Dorgan
A group of residents has launched an online petition in opposition to the DOT’s recent installation of a new bike boulevard on 39th Avenue in Sunnyside.
The online petition, which was launched Saturday, seeks to reverse the DOT’s transformation of many portions of 39th Avenue and Barnett Avenue that have been converted into one-way streets. The DOT began making the changes to the avenues last month in order to create space to put down a protected bicycle lane on 39th Avenue.
The petition has garnered more than 500 signatures since it launched less than 72 hours ago on change.org.
The group that launched the petition, called Queens Streets For All, claims that the new designs are dangerous, confusing and were not thought through. They also say that the community was not properly involved in the process.
Their view is counter to the DOT and bike-safety advocates who say that the new layout makes the streets safer for all road users —whether they be motorists, cyclists or pedestrians. The advocates say the measures reduce the number of motorists using 39th Avenue as a through-street and that the changes help prevent speeding.
However, the petitioners argue that the changes are too complex, unnecessary and have instead made the roads less safe.
They are calling on the DOT to reverse the road changes immediately. The petition is addressed to the Mayor Bill de Blasio, the DOT Commissioner, Queens DOT Commissioner, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, State Sen. Mike Gianaris, Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, Community Board 2 and other officials.
“What we have is chaos,” the petition reads. “These short, previously unproblematic and two-way streets are now a mess. Whoever rushed the installation was not focusing on our safety.”
The group claims that the process to approve the plan was “rushed through” via online meetings with little community notice and insufficient input from residents.
The bike boulevard was approved by Community Board 2 in June by a vote of 21-11 during a Zoom board meeting.
The plan, which was conceptually announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio in May, has the backing of term-limited Van Bramer. Julie Won, the Democratic nominee likely to replace Van Bramer, has also expressed her support for the plan.
But the petitioners are far less receptive of the plan.
“The only positive descriptions we have heard, amid shock, anger, disbelief, and confusion, about the redesign, is new and better crosswalks,” the petition reads.
“Otherwise, remove this installation now, and start over, please.”
The new plan has seen the stretch on 39th Avenue between 45th and 47th streets (previously two-way) converted into a one-way street going west. The DOT has also converted 39th Avenue from Woodside Avenue to 52nd Street into a one-way zone—westbound.
The plan has also seen Barnett Avenue—between 45th and 48th streets—converted into a one-way street going east. That section of Barnett Avenue was previously a narrow two-way street.
The DOT says that the new design improves the connections for cyclists traveling between Sunnyside, Woodside, and Jackson Heights — in particular from the 34th Avenue Open Street to the protected bike lanes on Skillman and 43rd Avenues leading to and from the Queensboro Bridge.
The petitioners say that the new layout has only made the roads less safe, more dangerous and infuriated drivers.
The group says said that it now takes more time for drivers to get in and out of the area.
“Some drivers are driving over the curbs in frustration,” the petition reads.
Several residents who signed the petition weighed in with their thoughts on why they want to see the plan scrapped.
“Remove the redesign now! There are serious accidents waiting to happen if this is not reversed,” wrote one petitioner.
“No thought went into this project! It has now become so unsafe for not only cyclists but walkers and cars,” wrote another before labeling the design as an “absolute mess.”
Nicole Garcia, Queens DOT Commissioner, is scheduled to address residents concerns during a Community Board 2 public meeting Thursday via Zoom. She will also be discussing its benefits.