Although the “bike Boulevard’ on 39th Avenue in Sunnyside is not complete, critics are already calling on the Department of Transportation (DOT) to reverse the changes.
An online petition circulated before a virtual meeting of Community Board 2 last week calling for a reversal of the changes garnered nearly 1,200 signatures in a week.
The online meeting was capped at 100 people, with many others complaining about access issues. Over 40 people signed up for the public comment section.
Queens DOT Commissioner Nicole Garcia told attendees the project is not finished, but acknowledged that there has been confusion with the plan.
“It is a work in progress and we are working as quickly as we can to make sure that it gets implemented,” Garcia said of the borough’s first bike boulevard. “What we’re asking is for a little bit of patience. We’re almost there.”
The redesign plan calls for re-orienting the entrances to 39th Avenue and Barnett Boulevard, resulting in one-way streets and a bike network connection.
DOT planner Gretha Suarez said some key implementations are still missing from the bike boulevard, including markings on the road with speed limit messages and a pedestrian ramp.
“We really hope that once we are able to install the road messages, which will alert the drivers and guide all the road users, you will see what you are describing go down,” she said.
CB2 chair Lisa Deller expressed her discontent with the process, urging DOT to have staff on the ground.
“The implementation has really been so disruptive to the neighborhood, regardless of the intent of the end result, DOT has to do better on projects like this,” said Deller. “The confusion and disruption to the people that live in this neighborhood has been so extreme.”
Board member Tom Mituzas echoed Deller’s complaints.
“I would think if the DOT thought this was an important project, we would have seen more people on the ground talking to the neighborhood,” he said.
But other speakers said they were happy with the plan. They called for patience as it completes its rollout.
Philip Leff, a resident of 39th Avenue, said he could see this become a model for other boroughs. Huge Ma agreed, saying, “slower streets are safer streets.”
Others, like Gerald Perrin and Deborah Farley, said DOT’s intention of calming street traffic has resulted in more chaos and confusion.
“I think the design is terrible,” said Perrin. “It’s confusing at best,” added Farley.
Richard Mazda, a lifelong resident of Sunnyside, said he’s circling blocks as he tries to maneuver through the streets. He called the plan “poorly implemented.”
Christopher Mitchell called out a lack of transparency and data given to the community.
“Some people think that everything has been fixed overnight and some people think that everything has gone to hell,” said Mitchell. “If we had objective metrics that are clearly and appropriately collected, we’re starting from an objective place and not a place of personal bias.”
Suarez said that walkthroughs of the boulevard will be made available in the future, with a chance for more feedback to be heard.