The method that the Division of Transportation makes use of to make metropolis roadways safer and extra hospitable to human beings was revealed — for concerning the thousandth time this 12 months — to be a damaged system of begging automobile homeowners to surrender their entitlement to just about each inch of public house and reluctantly agree to assist save the planet and their neighbors.
DOT officers ventured to Queens Group Board 3’s Visitors and Transportation Committee on Wednesday night time to current an replace on what the company considers “the gold normal” of open streets within the mayor’s COVID-era program to create extra recreation and socially distant gathering locations: thirty fourth Avenue within the coronavirus-stricken communities of Jackson Heights and Corona.
However the board members had been having none of it. Earlier than the DOT received to say a single phrase, Committee Co-Chairman Steve Kulhanek launched right into a broadside designed to ascertain the parameters for the dialogue:
“It’s vital for individuals to grasp that the open road got here into fruition due to the horrible COVID scenario,” he stated. “The town was seeking to do what it may to assist individuals get outdoors safely. And … they kinda simply carried out it. It was not run via the standard channels of evaluation. The mayor and DOT simply kinda did it. We discovered solely by information stories. We had no involvement within the planning of the play road.”
The remark means that board members — who’re imagined to reside within the neighborhoods they signify — didn’t handle to get out of their automobiles to expertise the open road, which has operated 8 a.m. to eight p.m. between 69th Road and Junction Boulevard since Could.
“What we noticed was one thing fantastic,” stated John O’Neill, a DOT official, after Kulhanek’s monologue.
Company colleague Stephanie Shaw known as thirty fourth Avenue the “gold normal” and added that the roadway was an “unbelievable success — and we need to construct on that success.”
Defying her viewers, Shaw laid out a spread of prospects for DOT’s “phased method” to protecting the roadway open to walkers and cyclists. The company stated it hopes to begin with “mild contact interventions” this fall that would result in “everlasting therapies.”
“We’re taking a look at thirty fourth Avenue not going again to the way in which it was pre-COVID,” Shaw stated.
After which … the stall.
A number of board members confronted the company concerning the alleged difficulties drivers are having, a type of misinformation, on condition that drivers can entry any a part of the open road (so long as they keep 5 miles per hour). Others complained concerning the lack of parking areas, although none has been eradicated. One particular person complained that individuals are “hanging out” late into the night time after the roadway reopens to automobiles at 8 p.m., one other piece of misinformation (residents of New York are inclined to “hang around” after 8 p.m. in lots of areas, open road or not).
And there was the common grievance from the board: We weren’t instructed this was going to occur.
“We solely heard about it within the media,” stated one board member. (As a degree of truth, the mayor’s workplace put out press releases repeatedly because the open road program started in Could, updating the mileage within the 70-mile program a number of occasions a month. And as one other level of truth: The open road exists proper there in the midst of Group Board 3; if the board members needed to get extra data, all they needed to do was stroll out the door. Transportation Alternate options and the thirty fourth Avenue Open Streets Coalition have been petitioning for months, too.)
Understanding their viewers, each Shaw and O’Neill promised extra neighborhood engagement going ahead.
Which suggests extra delays.
As described by Shaw and O’Neill, Jackson Heights and Corona residents, whose neighborhoods have among the many least quantity of public house within the metropolis, will now have to attend because the DOT returns to the neighborhood board over many months — doubtless via the whole thing of the remaining days of the de Blasio administration — to have interaction in dialogue, take surveys and seek the advice of stakeholders.
“As soon as we’ve had these preliminary conversations, we’ll come again with extra particular outreach,” Shaw stated.
“Tonight is the primary of an extended sequence of conversations,” added O’Neill.
It’s clear that coming again to this explicit neighborhood board is a idiot’s errand. Slightly than treating town’s finest open road as a present that they had been fortunate to have, the board members who spoke on Wednesday had been nearly universally against even discussing the everlasting open road, which each Council Member Danny Dromm and State Senator Jessica Ramos (who weren’t allowed to talk on the assembly) have demanded be made permanent.
Automotive homeowners — who are the minority of Jackson Heights and Corona residents — complained that residents deal with them with hostility, however one board member, Megan Rockwell, identified that the one hostility she’s seen on thirty fourth Avenue comes from “non-compliant individuals who drive at full velocity. That’s hostility.”
It needs to be famous that residents of the neighborhood stuffed the assembly’s chat room with pro-open road feedback (although it was unclear if the board members had been listening to it; the board’s understanding of know-how appeared restricted — board members’ faces and names had been regularly not seen and it was usually unclear who was speaking. Your authorities in motion.) At the very least one automobile proprietor demanded a “compromise,” failing to understand that the open road — with movable gates to permit for native automobile site visitors and parking — is the comprise. If road security advocates had their method, the roadway can be dug up and planted with timber to create a linear park for residents to take pleasure in eternally.
The assembly was simply the newest in a seemingly limitless sequence of neighborhood board conferences the place DOT officers present as much as promote one thing that will profit a overwhelming majority of neighborhood members — and, certainly, make a roadway safer for all customers — solely to have members of the board exhibit concern just for their very own parochial, four-wheeled curiosity. (It was additionally humorous to listen to board members say they didn’t know something concerning the open road, but interact in an extremely detailed subsequent dialogue about how automobile site visitors flows within the neighborhood — one which confirmed that the board members perceive each burp, spit, site visitors mild and pothole of their neighborhoods once they need to.)
Final week, a Manhattan community board shot down a loading zone for a grocery store as a result of it will take away some automobile parking. And likewise final week, a Queens community board district manager fought to maneuver some Citi Bike docks as a result of she was afraid of shedding parking areas. It’s the sort of factor that delays the method as DOT spends pointless assets making an attempt to appease the forces of yesterday fairly than constructing a greater tomorrow. Activists should battle the identical battle over and over and over, losing assets that could possibly be higher spent on progress, not stagnation.
On this case, the board will doubtless delay any implementation of even Shaw’s “mild” interventions, however, after all, there may be one other various: the mayor could make good on his current chat with Ramos and simply make the enhancements that he reportedly wants to make.
In any occasion, it’s unclear what the subsequent step will likely be … besides loads of discuss.
Native New Yorker. Travel addict. Hardcore thinker. Analyst. Pop culture fanatic. I live in Queens with my wife Linda and our dog Clemenza.