Ferreras Joins Corona Families to Demand Action From de Blasio on 111th St

Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland brought more than 80 people from Corona and Jackson Heights to the steps of City Hall this morning. Photo: David Meyer
Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland brought more than 80 people from Corona and Jackson Heights to the steps of City Hall this morning. Photo: David Meyer

More than a year after DOT first proposed a redesign of 111th Street in Corona to make it safer for residents to access Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the city has failed to follow through and implement the project.

Today, parents and children from Corona and Jackson Heights joined Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland on the steps of City Hall to say they’re tired of waiting. They called on Mayor de Blasio to move forward with the project, which will narrow the wide, two-way roadway while adding safer pedestrian crossings and a protected bike lane alongside the park [PDF].

“We are demanding, we are urging, we are pleading that the time is now,” said Ferreras-Copeland. “I want to be clear: This is not a favor, this what we deserve. And if other communities can have bike lanes, so can we.”

Crossing 111th Street is the most direct way to access the park coming from the neighborhoods to the west, but it’s a dangerous street. With two northbound car lanes and three southbound, 111th is more like a divided highway than a neighborhood street. The distance between crosswalks is as long as 1,500 feet — more than a quarter-mile. And without safe space for cycling, 84 percent of cyclists ride on the sidewalk.

“It affects me deeply to see mothers that have to run across the intersection simply for lack of a cross-light,” said Vero Ramirez of Mujeres en Movimiento through a translator. “It is us and our children who give life to the streets and the parks.”

“Our school is feet away from 111th Street. Our children and parents walk this street everyday,” said P.S. 28 PTA President Miriam Sosa. “This has been our biggest concern for years.”

Under DOT's plan, 111th Street would received a protected bike lane, new pedestrian crossing and additional parking spots. Image: DOT [PDF]
The DOT redesign of 111th Street would reduce motor vehicle lanes while adding a two-way protected bike lane, pedestrian crossings, and curbside parking. Image: DOT

The 111th Street redesign arose from a series of workshops organized by the Queens Museum, Immigrant Movement International, Make the Road New York, and Transportation Alternatives in 2014. Many of those advocates were on hand today, years after Ferreras secured capital funds to make the redesign happen.

Despite the broad-based support for the project, DOT has let local Assembly Member Francisco Moya delay action. Moya has insisted that vehicle lanes on 111th Street cannot be narrowed as the redesign calls for, because traffic to Mets games and the U.S. Open is too intense. Video of the street before last year’s World Series indicates that the argument has no basis in actual traffic conditions.

Nevertheless, last December DOT reps told Streetsblog the agency was conducting a traffic study of the corridor during major events, and that the data would be presented in the spring. In the spring, agency reps said the presentation to CB 4 would not happen until the fall.

CB 4 leadership has failed to act on the plan as well. When activists from Make Queens Safer testified in favor of the project at CB 4 in February, Chair Lou Walker denied that 111th Street inhibits park access and said he was “getting a little tired of hearing about” the bike lane.

So in May, 160 demonstrators from Mujeres en Movimiento, Make the Road, and TA marched down 111th Street in support of the project.

In Queens: 111 Moms Shut Down 111th Street for 111 Seconds from STREETFILMS on Vimeo.

When Queens CB 4 failed to support the second phase of the Queens Boulevard redesign, Mayor de Blasio overruled them, giving DOT the green light. The mayor has not taken a similar stand on 111th Street.

Today, Ferreras-Copeland said the delays have gone on too long.

“We were asked to galvanize members, we did that two years ago. We were asked to fund this, we did that three years ago. We were asked to have more community impact, we did that with several meetings,” she said. “We’ve done everything that this administration has asked us to do, and now it is time that they do what they have to do. The time is now.”

Update: Mayoral spokesperson Austin Finan sent this response.

We are encouraged by continued community support for safety enhancements on 111th Street and we continue discussions with stakeholders on this important proposal.