111 Corona Mothers Take Over 111th Street to Call for a Safer Design

Mujeres en Movimiento — a Corona-based group of immigrant Latina mothers — marched on 111th Street this Saturday, calling on NYC DOT and Queens Community Board 4 to move forward with the city’s plan for traffic calming and a protected bike lane on the street.

They were joined by their children, members of Immigrant Movement International Corona, and Queens street safety activists. More than 160 people turned out for the march, which was billed as 111 mothers taking over 111th Street for 111 seconds.

Today 111th Street is a treacherous crossing for Corona residents going to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. With two northbound lanes and three southbound lanes, drivers move at dangerous speeds. DOT’s proposal would calm traffic by expanding medians at crossings, painting new crosswalks, installing a two-way protected bike lane along the park, and reducing the number of motor vehicle traffic lanes to one in each direction [PDF].

NYC DOT first presented a redesign for 111th Street more than a year ago, responding to a campaign organized by IMI Corona, Queens Museum, Make the Road New York, Transportation Alternatives, and Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland. But it is currently stalled with no timetable for implementation. CB 4 has failed to advance the project, and Assembly Member Francisco Moya has tried to block it. DOT will only say that it plans to “return to CB 4 later this year.”

Saturday, some demonstrators marched with their bicycles, while others held signs with messages like “Los calles tambien nos pertenecen” (“The streets belong to us too”) and “Un futuro mas seguro para nuestros hijos” (“A safe future for our children”). At 49th Avenue, the group blocked the street to car traffic and paraded around the median between 49th and 50th Avenues.

Veronica Ramirez of Mujeres en Movimiento speaks to marchers. Photo: David Meyer
Veronica Ramirez of Mujeres en Movimiento speaks to the demonstrators. Photo: David Meyer

Speaking at the entrance to the park, Mujeres en Movimiento founder Veronica Ramirez and other members read from their manifesto. “As women, we used to think perhaps we were better off not being heard, and more so as immigrants because of language or not feeling that we belong here,” they said. “Now, together as Mujeres en Movimiento in IMI Corona, we feel valuable and deserving of the same rights as everyone because we are part of this community in Corona.”

“It’s been really painstaking,” Corona resident Claudia Corcino of the group Ciclistas Latinoamericanos said of the process with CB 4. Corcino bikes on 111th Street every day from her home near Roosevelt Avenue to her job in Forest Hills. “I don’t know if they know that it’s a lot of people [who] bike here, not only for the park but for going to work.

When residents brought up the 111th Street redesign at the board’s February meeting, Chair Louis Walker disputed that 111th is a dangerous barrier between the neighborhood and the park and said he was “getting a little tired of hearing about” the project.

DOT has the power to go ahead with the project at any time — community board positions on street design are advisory, not binding. Instead, the agency is conducting its second study of traffic in the area during major sports events. In the fall, a DOT spokesperson told Streetsblog that new data would be presented in the spring.

Under DOT's plan, 111th Street would received a protected bike lane, new pedestrian crossing and additional parking spots. Image: DOT [PDF]
Under DOT’s plan, presented last April, the removal of car traffic lanes on 111th Street would make way for a two-way protected bike lane and wider pedestrian medians. Image: DOT [PDF]

DOT has another big project before CB 4 this year — the second phase of its redesign of Queens Boulevard. The board is scheduled to vote on that plan tomorrow, and organizers of the 111th Street action encouraged attendees to turnout for the meeting.

The important thing about bike lanes is that they don’t happen in isolation,” Queens Museum Organizer Jose Serrano-McClain told the crowd. “If we support bike lanes on Queens Boulevard, they connect to bike lanes in Corona, they connect to bike lanes all over Queens — including 111th Street.”

The meeting is Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Italian Charities of America, 83-20 Queens Boulevard. The public will not be able to comment until the board has already voted — those are CB 4’s house rules — so supporters are encouraged to bring signs to show their support.