Queens Boulevard Redesign Coming to Forest Hills in July

DOT's fourth and final planned phase of the Queens Boulevard redesign will extend bike lanes and pedestrian safety improvements east to Union Turnpike. Cycling on last year's segment is up 127 percent so far in 2018.

The new bike lane on Queens Boulevard.
Cycling has doubled while pedestrian and cyclist injuries have dropped where NYC DOT redesigned the Queens Boulevard service roads. Photo: NYC DOT

Safety improvements on Queens Boulevard between Yellowstone Boulevard and Union Turnpike, including an extension of the service road bike lanes, are coming in July. The project is a mayoral priority and will move forward with or without a vote of approval from Queens Community Board 6, DOT Queens Deputy Borough Commissioner Albert Silvestri said last night.

The upcoming project east of Yellowstone is the fourth and final phase of DOT’s Queens Boulevard redesign. This year’s one-mile segment will extend the bike lanes running along the medians of the boulevard’s service roads, creating a five-mile east-west bike connection in the heart of Queens. Expanded pedestrian space and safer crossings are also part of the new phase of the redesign [PDF].

In Rego Park, where DOT redesigned Queens Boulevard last year, the number of people biking on the street is up 127 percent in 2018, according to DOT.

The service roads end at Union Turnpike, and there are no plans to extend the Queens Boulevard redesign further east. The bike lanes will end at a hairy intersection where eastbound cyclists can either continue in mixed traffic onto Queens Boulevard or take the somewhat narrower Kew Gardens Road. To create a workable transition for westbound cyclists coming from Kew Gardens Road, DOT plans to add a one-block contraflow bike lane linking up with Queens Boulevard.

As the Queens Boulevard project has progressed eastward, the politics of parking removal have grown more intense. After Queens Community Board 2 endorsed the first phase in 2014, Community Board 4 refused to support the Elmhurst segment in 2015. The next day, Mayor de Blasio said the project would be implemented anyway.

Last year’s segment in Rego Park did get a vote of approval from CB 6, but it’s received withering coverage in the local press, with a handful of local businesses complaining about the conversion of car parking spots into dedicated space for biking and walking. In November, Council Member Karen Koslowitz told the Queens Chronicle her support for the next phase of the project was up in the air.

But City Hall is not taking any chances on its flagship street safety project. Silvestri said last night that the mayor supports implementation of the next phase of the Queens Boulevard redesign with or without an endorsement from CB 6.

While some committee members expressed skepticism or outright opposition to the redesign, board chair Joseph Hennessy and committee chair Steven Goldberg didn’t want to stonewall the project.

“This plan is going through whether our board is voting for it or not,” Hennessy said. “So there’s no point in taking a vote.”

“This is a mayoral priorirty,” Silvestri responded. “That’s correct.”

Before implementation begins in July, DOT plans to present the plan to the full CB 6 board at its June 13 meeting, which starts at 7:45 p.m. at Key Gardens Community Center, located at 80-02 Kew Gardens Road, Suite 202.