Once known as the “boulevard of death” Vision Zero appears to be making concrete progress in linking cyclists to safe routes along the thoroughfare, and it only took the de Blasio administration a few years.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Thursday as part of Streets Week! that the city Department of Transportation would finish the bike lane which comes to a halt up reaching MacDonald Park as it runs eastward, something safe street advocates have been calling for since the rollout stalled three years ago.
“Not just for a year or two years, for decades, Queens Boulevard, tragically, was synonymous with the problem of horrible deaths on the road: pedestrians, motorists, cyclists. Queens Boulevard – I don’t have to remind people who’ve been here a while – it used to be called the Boulevard of Death and people would say it almost without even thinking about it, it had become so common, which is tragic unto itself,” De Blasio said. “When we put Vision Zero into effect, one of the things that I knew we had to do, and it would take time, but we would get it done, is address Queens Boulevard once and for all.”
DOT Commissioner Hank Gutman, as well as groups such as Transportation Alternatives, are bracing for another bloody year on New York City streets as deaths seemed to reach new Vision Zero-era heights in April with 25 fatalities.
“We are very pleased that Mayor de Blasio has announced that the next phase of Queens Boulevard will be completed by the end of 2021 — but it should never have taken this long in the first place to transform the Boulevard of Death,” Danny Harris, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives, said. “New York City is on track to have the second-deadliest year on our streets since Vision Zero began, and Mayor de Blasio and our next mayor must bring the same life-saving street designs for Queens Boulevard to corridors across the five boroughs without delay.”
Mayor de Blasio claims the final portion of the boulevard was ready for rollout but was put on the back-burner due to COVID-19.
Then-DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said in February 2020 that her crews would be out completing the final stretch of green bike lane once the weather permitted that year, but the celebrations came to a quick halt.
De Blasio waylaid the order at a town hall in Kew Gardens, telling Trottenberg to re-evaluate and go back to the drawing board.
The mayor blames “federal approval” for the bike lane during his Thursday press conference.
“The last stage, the fourth stage of the Queens Boulevard redesign was getting ready to go, but then COVID hit. There was an issue with federal approval. We believe now there’s a much better environment in Washington and much more support for Vision Zero and bike safety,” de Blasio said.
Throughout the history of the public pushing for it’s completion, the excuse given by the administration and DOT officials has always seemed to depend on who was asked. For example, Sean Quinn, the assistant commissioner, told amNewYork last year that it came from complications with the intersection at Queens Boulevard and the Grand Central Parkway.
Opposition from Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz has also remained a suspicion among advocates wanting the project to move forward as well.
The mayor projects the completion date to be in November 2021.