What Will They Do? Incoming Queens Council Members Share Their Transportation Plans
Next year’s incoming City Council is all but certain [certified results here], so we began reaching out to the presumptive new lawmakers from the dozens of districts that will get new leadership on Jan. 1, 2022 to see what transportation priority the incoming lawmaker has at the top of his or her list. Earlier, we looked at the new Brooklyn lawmakers. Today, we examine Queens, the city’s largest and most diverse borough, where 11 districts are getting new leadership.
District 19 — College Point, Whitestone, Bayside, Douglaston, Little Neck, North Flushing, and Auburndale
Tony Avella, a former New York State senator and Council Member, won his old seat from the district’s term-limited Council Member Paul Vallone. Avella — who once held a rally in 2017 calling on the Department of Transportation to stop making Northern Boulevard safer between Douglaston Parkway and 223rd Street, and who infamously accused Mayor de Blasio of fabricating data on traffic crashes — now tells Streetsblog that transit-related issues in his district will be one of his major focuses, specifically rehabilitating the deteriorating roads in College Point. Here’s what he said:
“The roads in District 19, specifically College Point are in a deplorable state. Immediate attention has to be given by the City to resurface the streets and improve safety. I will, as I have done in the past, advocate for easing requirements to obtain new traffic controls, such as traffic lights, turn signals and All Way Stops. There are any dangerous intersections that cry out for additional controls, but have been denied by the Department of Transportation. Speeding conditions and drag racing on some of the major roads remain a significant problem that demands attention by DOT and the Police. Expanding bus service and the creation of additional express lanes is crucial to reducing traffic congestion. Further, I will work towards expanding senior bus transportation options.”
District 20 — Downtown Flushing, Murray Hill, Queensboro Hill
Sandra Ung, who replaces the Main Street busway foe Council Member Peter Koo, did not respond to requests for comment.
District 22 — Astoria, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Woodside
Tiffany Caban, a public defender who was endorsed by StreetsPAC, will succeed Council Member Costa Constantinides, who resigned from his term-limited seat in March to run a non-profit helping kids. Caban, who had narrowly lost her bid against Melinda Katz for Queens District Attorney in 2019, says her top priorities include improving subway station accessibility and making streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists. Here’s what she had to say:
The incoming Council must take a bold, proactive approach to increase access to our public transportation systems, and returning our city streets to pedestrians, cyclists, and communities. One of my top priorities will be increased capital funding, which will go a long way in increasing access to our subway stations. Public transportation is not truly public if it is not fully accessible, and right now too many subways stations in District 22 cannot be accessed by people with disabilities. With just one working elevator in our entire district, our above-ground subway stops are inaccessible to too many of our neighbors. It’s time to invest in fixing and upgrading the current dilapidated elevators and building new ones at every subway stop.
Asked for specifics beyond generalities, Caban added that she would like to see a dedicated bus lane on 21st Street, and better-protected bike lanes that connect to a full citywide network.
More so, investment in public transportation, and basic infrastructure like a bus lane on 21st street, will also significantly reduce the reliance on single-occupancy vehicles — paving the way for a more robust open streets model across our district. We’ve experimented and learned from open streets initiatives in Ditmars and are already taking steps towards more open streets, including on 31st ave from 31st to 35th, I’d also want to look at 20th Street, Steinway, and Broadway for more locations while taking bus re-routing into account. And we must expand existing efforts across D-22, including in Woodside, East Elmhurst, and Jackson Heights. Finally, we also need to be much more intentional in our work keeping cyclists safe. It’s not enough to paint lines on an existing roadway, especially when simple safety measures — like qwik curbs — can save the life of a cyclist; such investments on streets like Crescent Street should never go unaddressed.
District 23 — Bayside Hills, Bellerose, Douglaston, Floral Park, Fresh Meadows, Glen Oaks, Hollis, Hollis Hills, Holliswood, Little Neck, New Hyde Park, Oakland Gardens, Queens Village
Linda Lee, who is replacing term-limited Council Member Barry Grodenchik, said her biggest focus for the district is making public transportation more accessible, which starts with improving bus service. The city must work with leadership at the MTA, she said, to redesign the Queens bus network, including by expanding express service, and building out transit signal priority and dedicated bus lanes to prioritize public transit riders over those in private vehicles. Here’s what she had to say:
The first step in making public transit more accessible in Eastern Queens is to prioritize improvements to the mode of mass transit that does exist in the district — local and express buses. There’s a massive opportunity to engage with the MTA’s Queens bus redesign help make the end result reflect our daily needs. I’ve spoken to hundreds of residents, particularly seniors, during the campaign who said they’d love to take the bus, but can’t walk a mile or two to the nearest line, or the line they used to use was cut. There’s also room for new technologies like traffic signal priority and dedicated bus lanes along major thoroughfares to improve bus speeds while ensuring drivers aren’t getting stuck behind buses weaving in and out of traffic. Expanding express bus service in Eastern Queens is also critical, since so many residents work in downtown Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, yet are forced to drive through traffic due to a lack of transit access.
Other fixes can make a big impact when taken together — expanding MetroCard machines throughout the district to make it easier for seniors and others to access MTA discounts, improving accessibility for seniors and the disabled, and repairing sidewalks and areas near bus stops so they don’t present a hazard to riders during their commute. District 23 is also famous for our green spaces, and so improving bike infrastructure is important, particularly so that both bikers and drivers can remain safe on our streets. I would focus on improving bicycle safety and visibility, which have been a major concern for the community going back years.”
Asked for more specifics, Lee said some of the top thoroughfares she wants to see improved are Union Turnpike, Hillside Avenue, and Jamaica Avenue.
Lee also added that keeping cyclists safe is a top priority, especially around areas like Alley Pond Park:
When it comes to bike lanes, I know that the current alignments by Alley Pond Park along Cloverdale and 233rd in Oakland Gardens have created visibility problems where you have traffic, parked cars, and then a bike lane and sidewalk on the other side. At approaches to intersections, bikers and drivers can’t see each other if a car is parked between them. One example is the 233rd bike path/northern blvd/cross island onramp intersection. I need to learn more about what the preferred alternative there would be, but I’m particularly concerned about areas like that where you have recreational areas and greenways that are attractive to bikers so close to high-traffic thoroughfares and not particularly great visibility.
District 24 — Kew Gardens Hills, Pomonok, Electchester, Fresh Meadows, Hillcrest, Jamaica Estates, Briarwood, Parkway Village, Jamaica Hills, Jamaica
Council Member James Gennaro won the February special election to replace Rory Lancman, who had resigned to take a job in the Cuomo administration. Gennaro said one of his main initiatives is curbing carbon emissions by getting people out of their private cars and onto public transportation. Here’s what he said:
As chair of the New York City Council on Environmental Protection, one of my biggest transportation priorities is to reduce carbon emissions by improving access to public transportation. By expanding public transportation options and making our subways/buses more accessible, we can reduce our carbon footprint and reduce the number of cars on the road. There are areas across my district that would benefit from additional bus stops. Making our streets safer, overall, is also a top priority. Unfortunately, our office sees a lot of complaints about speeding along residential streets. I am committed to working with the New York City Dept. of Transportation to add and enhance safety features throughout my district; as well as NYPD to enforce speeding laws in our communities.
Asked for more specifics, Gennaro’s spokesperson said his office has gotten calls about making Somerset Street safer, and about speeding coming onto and off the Grand Central.
District 25 — Elmhurst, Jackson Heights
Shekar Krishnan, a civil rights lawyer who was endorsed by StreetsPAC, will replace term-limited Council Member Danny Dromm. Krishnan, an early and ardent supporter of the 34th Avenue open street, wants to expand public green space elsewhere in the district, like in other areas of Jackson Heights and Elmhurst, which have been disenfranchised by racial and environmental injustices stretching back to the era of Robert Moses and before. Here’s what he had to say:
Public space must work in service of the public. There is so much that needs to be done to achieve livable, equitable streets and transportation — from improving pedestrian safety to reducing transportation emissions, from building a network of protected bike lanes to rebuilding our crumbling transit infrastructure, and from expanding transit accessibility to expanding open spaces. It is difficult to say that one is more important than all the others because they work together in a transportation ecosystem.
And livable streets are about more than just getting from one place to another. In our neighborhoods of Elmhurst and Jackson Heights, we have been chronically deprived of open public spaces, consistently ranking amongst the worst in the city for public green space. Our 34th Avenue program is the gold-standard for open streets, providing a safe, equitable, and accessible street space for all. I will push to make it into a permanent linear park and work on implementing similar programs in Elmhurst and other communities across the city. The conversion of 34th Avenue into a linear park is an opportunity for a neighborhood far from the centers of city power to illustrate how a people-led movement for safe streets and environmental justice can be a model for efforts citywide.
Krishnan added that thoroughfares like Northern Boulevard are in desperate need of a major overhaul to make them safer and more efficient for bus riders, cyclists, and pedestrians:
“Our neighborhood is the unfortunate home of two of the deadliest roadways in New York — Northern Boulevard and Queens Boulevard. By creating dedicated, protected bus and bike lanes and pedestrian-friendly enhancements like neckdowns and medians we can make the streets safer for people, improve transit access, and reduce emissions at the same time.”
District 26 — Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City, Astoria, Dutch Kills
Julie Won, who was endorsed by StreetsPAC, won the hotly contested open-seat to replace term-limited Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer. Won, who said she sees transportation through the lens of environmental racism after growing up seeing her dad biking to work and her mom getting hit by a car, told Streetsblog that her top priorities include expanding and improving all types of public space amenities, like safe streets, bike lanes, and bus lanes. Here’s what she had to say:
The next City Council must prioritize human-centered infrastructure to provide clean air, affordable mobility, safe streets, and universal accessibility. That means sharply reducing car space and creating truly public seating, public bathrooms, bike parking, bus lanes, bike lanes, Open Streets, garbage bins, and many more trees.
The Council must lower the cost of public transit by expanding the Fair Fares program, funding free bus service, and expanding bus lanes and bus ways. The city must also ensure our streets and transit system are built to be universally ADA accessible.
Paint is not protection. Our bike lanes should be intuitively designed and safe for commuters, delivery workers and families alike. Citi Bike cannot delay coming to my neighborhood any longer and we must expand the system throughout the rest of Queens. I will be pushing the DOT to update its toolkit to end the use of flexi posts, to protect bike lanes with substantial barriers by default, and to use safe, uncompromised intersection designs. For the many delivery workers, street vendors, and people of color, street safety means not only ending traffic violence, but also ensuring fair wages, safe working conditions, and ending police harassment.
Won also added that she wants to see more space on all of the East River spans to address the surge in cycling, and growing climate crisis.
In my district, we must move quickly to double the bike and pedestrian space on the Queensboro Bridge, create a fully protected bike lane and safer pedestrian crossings on Northern Boulevard, and build protected bike connections between the Pulaski, Kosciuszko, and Queensboro bridges. We are also in urgent need of congestion pricing, and must work closely with state and federal officials to reduce the car traffic that has forced District 26 residents to endure some of the worst air quality in the city.
District 27 — Cambria Heights, Hollis, Jamaica, St. Albans, Queens Village, and Springfield Gardens
Nantasha Williams, who was endorsed by StreetsPAC to replace term-limited Council Member Daneek Miller, says that her top priority is expanding service on the Long Island Rail Road and reducing fares to Manhattan from her district. Here’s what she had to say:
In District 27 we are already experiencing a lack of support from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to revive routes on the LIRR and other means of public transportation. We must exam and work towards relieving these issues for our residents. Our top transportation priority for the District is to first address the LIRR services and expand the reduced fare service to Manhattan and Long Island. We must ensure the transportation opportunities are provided to and for all of the residents.
District 29 — Rego Park, Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, Richmond Hill
Lynn Schulman, who replaces term-limited Council Member Karen Koslowitz, said she’d do whatever she can to improve bus ridership, and also make streets safer, like the notoriously dangerous Queens and Woodhaven Boulevards. Here’s what she had to say:
Redesign poorly planned roadways and intersections that risk the safety of our residents including Queens Blvd, Woodhaven Blvd, and Metropolitan Ave. Input better parking management, including the expansion of residential parking permits to all our neighborhoods including Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, Rego Park, and Richmond Hill. Expand Bus Service, especially rapid bus transit like Select Bus Service in our community, on Queens Blvd, Woodhaven Blvd, and Metropolitan Ave. Ease congestion on major roadways like Austin Street and Continental Avenue. Reduce LIRR fares for New York City residents. District 29 has two LIRR stations (Forest Hills and Kew Gardens) and reducing fares would be of great benefit to the community.
District 31 — Arverne, Brookville, Edgemere, Far Rockaway, Laurelton, Rosedale, Springfield Gardens
Council Member Selvena Brooks-Powers, who won the special election, said she wants to increase access to the city-wide ferry system, and expand the bus and protected bike lane network in her district. Here’s what she had to say:
My top transportation priority is to address the transit desert in Southeast Queens, and build a comprehensive network that more efficiently connects my constituents to economic centers and other popular destinations. We are seeing a surge in demand for better options, especially given the high volume of new development underway in the district. I would like to consider new and expanded service patterns for our bus network, increasing access to NYC Ferry, and building more walkable streets. We are working with DOT to establish more Open Streets and identify community partners to keep them operational. We can also improve the quality of the bike lane network. There are a few lanes already where cyclists are separated from traffic – the Rockaway Beach boardwalk, as well as some lanes in and around Brookville and Springfield Parks – and a conventional/shared lane along Beach Channel Drive. But these lanes must be interconnected with other corridors to create a truly useful and safe cycling network.
District 32 — Belle Harbor, Breezy Point, Broad Channel, Howard Beach, Lindenwood, Neponsit, Ozone Park, Richmond Hill, Rockaway Park, Roxbury, South Ozone Park, West Hamilton Beach, Woodhaven
Felicia Singh, who was endorsed by StreetsPAC and replaces term-limited Council Member Eric Ulrich, said she wants to improve bus service and other alternative modes of transportation, like Citi Bike, in her district, which she called a transit desert. Here’s what she had to say:
In order to support the needs of all parts of our district, transportation options need to be safe, reliable and accessible. Only two stations out of 14 in our district are accessible, including at transfer hubs. Increasing elevator access and additional seating, including at bus shelters, will assist elderly, disabled, and pregnant people. I want to see bike lanes with stronger protections and Citibike expansion into Southern Queens. Our city is built for able-bodied people and cars, and we must commit to making our communities safer and accessible for all of us. Reliable transportation means more frequent express train service between the outer boroughs, and to and from Manhattan for working-class and essential workers who commute outside of rush hour time slots. We should also invest in express bus lanes, and expand Fare Fairs to access the ferry system.
Singh added that traffic violence happens too often in the communities she will represent, and wants to make major thoroughfares safer, like Conduit Avenue.
Our district has also experienced far too many tragic losses of life due to traffic violence.We must also prioritize pedestrian safety and center the legitimate concerns of our neighbors. For years, we have been advocating for speed control measures or a traffic light on the stretch of the Conduit from around 79th and 80th street and yet DOT does nothing — even despite the tragic loss of a young woman during a hit-and-run in March of this year, and countless other accidents.