Queens Boulevard Safety Overhaul in Rego Park Clears Community Board 6 Committee

The project extends walking and biking improvements to Yellowstone Boulevard. The full board is set to vote on it next week.

A rendering of the redesigned Queens Boulevard once it's built out with concrete and street plantings. Image: DOT
A rendering of the redesigned Queens Boulevard once it's built out with concrete and street plantings. Image: DOT

Last night, the public got a look at the next phase of DOT’s Queens Boulevard redesign, which will extend protected bike lanes, pedestrian safety improvements, and traffic calming treatments through Rego Park to Yellowstone Boulevard [PDF]. The project got a thumbs up from the Queens Community Board 6 transportation committee in a 7 to 3 vote.

So far, DOT has overhauled 2.5 miles of Queens Boulevard in Woodside and Elmhurst by expanding pedestrian space and adding bikeways along the service road medians. Once dubbed “the Boulevard of Death,” Queens Boulevard has not had a single traffic fatality since the redesign process began in 2015. More people are riding bikes on the redesigned section, while cyclist injuries have declined.

Those two sections enjoyed strong support from the local City Council members, Jimmy Van Bramer and Daniel Dromm. But Council Member Karen Koslowitz has been noncommittal about the segment slated for a redesign this year, which runs through her district in Rego Park and Forest Hills, implying that she will not speak up for the project if the community board votes against it.

Image: NYC DOT
The redesign template repurposes asphalt in the service roads to make room for a bikeway and expanded pedestrian space. Image: NYC DOT

The next phase extends the same redesign template from Eliot Avenue to Yellowstone Boulevard. To limit traffic cutting across the median bikeway between the main line and service roads, the plan calls for close two slip lanes, just past 64th Road on the south side and between 66th Avenue and 65th Road on the north side.

In addition to repurposing space on the medians and service roads for walking and biking, DOT is beefing up pedestrian space at crossings and side streets, like at 63rd Drive/63rd Road, where 101 pedestrians were injured from between 2010 and 2014:

DOT plans install leading pedestrian intervals and extended medians at the intersection with 63rd Road/63rd Drive. Image: DOT
Image: DOT

Overall, the project repurposes 198 parking spaces that were installed in 2001 as a traffic-calming measure. DOT is also removing parking meters on the south curb between 67th Drive and Yellowstone Boulevard, a predominantly residential area, and shortening meter hours between 62nd Drive and 64th Avenue.

While the committee voted for the project, it wasn’t without some dispute. Committee chair John Dereszewski voted against the plan and made it clear that car storage was his top priority.

“What if every single thing [proposed by DOT] was done except extending the bike lanes and eliminating two hundred spots?” he asked. “What would be, in terms of safety — what would be the difference?”

Dereszewski tried to delay the process, insisting that the meeting represented “the first part of… an extended phase” of the board’s involvement. Ultimately, a healthy majority on the committee did not share that assessment and voted to recommend the project when the full board meets next week.

Even some former detractors, like committee member Steven Goldberg, decided to support the project. “I have to consider the overall improvements that they’re trying to make, and weigh that against the loss of parking that is crucial for some peoples’ lives,” said Goldberg. “By improving signaling, crossing Queens Boulevard, for pedestrians, by making it safer to make turns onto Queens Boulevard and off of Queens Boulevard, they’re making it a little safer for drivers, they’re making it safer for bicyclists.”

Queens CB 6 meets next Wednesday at 7:45 p.m. at 80-02 Kew Gardens Road, and is expected to vote on the project. DOT reps said last night that they hope to begin installation over the summer.

In the fall, the city will begin outreach for the final phase of the project, which will end at Union Turnpike. A concrete build-out of the first phase of the project, in Woodside, is scheduled to begin next year as well.