After more than two years of delay and drama centered on the local community board, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he is moving forward with a Vision Zero safety overhaul for 111th Street in Corona, Queens. The board’s transportation committee chair, upset after being bigfooted by Blaz, inveighed against the influence the all-powerful bicycle lobby holds over the mayor and Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, the local councilwoman supporting the plan.
“Maybe the group behind the bicycles is forcing to her do this,” said James Lisa, Queens Community Board 4 transportation committee chair. Asked to elaborate, he said, “I don’t have any proof on it. I’m just surmising… You read between the lines.”
“The poll numbers show that New Yorkers support safer streets and protected bike lanes. There’s no dark conspiracy here,” retorted Transportation Alternatives director of organizing Tom DeVito. “Trying to pretend that there’s some nefarious external forces involved is perhaps a comforting delusion for some folks.”
DeVito might try to brush it aside, yet at the precise moment dictated by the two-wheeled conspiracy last night, the mayor made his big announcement about 111th Street at a town hall with Ferreras-Copeland. The councilwoman called on Veronica Ramirez of Mujeres in Movimiento, a local chapter of the bicycle lobby comprised of Latina mothers who began advocating for a safer 111th Street in 2014. She asked the mayor in Spanish whether he would move forward with the plan.
“Sí,” de Blasio said to cheers from the audience. “Not only sí, but claro que sí.”
This is all the proof we need that de Blasio is under bicycle lobby control. Spanish, after all, is a secret coded language used by members of Big Wheel. Just ask Lisa’s community board colleague, Ann Pfoser Darby, who — this one is not a joke — said a month ago that there would be no need for bicycle lanes after President Donald Trump removes undocumented immigrants from Queens.
“I am comfortable that the right thing to do is move ahead with our efforts to protect people on 111th Street,” the mayor said. “We will continue to always work with community leaders and the community board as we go along… But this plan is ready to move, so we’re going to move it.”
The plan, set to be installed this summer, would reduce the number of car lanes while adding parking, pedestrian space, and a protected bike lane — but not crosswalks, which were removed in October as part of a compromise to appease critics.
At forums and community board meetings, DOT traffic engineers have said that 111th Street doesn’t have enough traffic to warrant stoplights, which Lisa favors. Instead, the agency has said, reducing crossing distances and removing excess car lanes are proven to improve street safety.
“It makes no sense to me,” Lisa said. “DOT is being pushed by the mayor and the city councilwoman… She doesn’t even like this part of town. The only time she comes into our part of the community is to dictate policy.”
Ferreras-Copeland hailed the mayor’s decision. “For too long, 111th Street has been dangerous and residents of Corona deserve a safe way to enter Flushing Meadows-Corona Park,” she said in a statement. “Our community worked hard to make their voices heard and persisted alongside me for three years to demand these safety improvements.”
While Vision Zero — or at least a compromised, crosswalk-free version — triumphed in Corona, the mayor has a mixed record when it comes to overriding community boards that oppose traffic safety projects.
When Lisa and the rest of Queens CB 4 asked de Blasio to strip the bike lanes from his Queens Boulevard safety project last year, de Blasio said that the bike lanes weren’t going anywhere. But when community boards in the East Bronx and Sheepshead Bay rejected Vision Zero plans, DOT blinked and shelved the safer designs, implementing them only after two people lost their lives.
Right now, DOT is allowing a mixture of incompetence and opposition at Brooklyn Community Board 9 to stall a bike lane on Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights. Here’s hoping no one gets killed in the meantime.
“Community boards are often used to operating below the threshold of media scrutiny. A lot of the things that happen there, people don’t know about,” DeVito said. “That’s impacted the way a lot of boards have treated street safety issues in the past, where decisions are just made and they’re not really questioned.”
The latest rebuff by de Blasio has offended Lisa so much that he is threatening to move.
“It’s a farce. This is all a farce,” Lisa said. “I’m still mad, and I’m very upset, and I may leave, because I’m not gonna put up with this crap.”