In a tweet, the mayor noted that nearly 300 people have been injured along the Sunnyside and Woodside corridors, including two lives lost.
“[DOT] has listened to voices across the community,” he tweeted. “I’ve instructed them to move forward with pedestrian safety and protected bike lanes that will save lives.”
The plan was devised by the Department of Transportation (DOT) after the death of Gelasio Reyes, who was killed while biking along 43rd Avenue last April.
Street safety advocates, led by the group Transportation Alternatives, celebrated the announcement.
“The plan for Skillman and 43rd avenues is based on tried and true design standards, and was developed after several rounds of community engagement,” Paul Steely White, the organization’s executive director, said in a statement. “This plan is going to save lives, and we commend Mayor Bill de Blasio for putting the safety of New Yorkers ahead of preserving a handful of parking spaces.
“This is the kind of bold leadership that is required in the age of Vision Zero,” he added. “If we’re going to eliminate traffic deaths in New York City, we can’t allow drivers to dictate the city’s transportation policy.”
Many business owners, residents and school communities opposed the plan partly because it will take away 116 parking spots. After months of meetings and hearings, Community Board 2 soundly rejected the plan in June.
Queens Streets for All, an ad-hoc group that includes the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, schools PTAs, and religious and civic groups, released a statement saying they were “extremely distressed” by the mayor’s decision.
They claimed the DOT’s data cited in the mayor’s tweet was “factually wrong,” and asked de Blasio to meet with them in person and to reconsider.
“The loss of a lane of traffic on the two streets, both one-way and only two-lane, would cause congestion and immediate harm to our residents, small businesses, churches, schoolchildren and residents,” the group said. “The city is blindly attempting to push a wholesale and sweeping change without regard to the facts or the wishes and safety of a united community.”
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer also came out against the plan, which he said failed to gain enough support among residents, elected officials and community institutions.
In response to the mayor’s decision, Van Bramer said last Thursday that he will work with the mayor and DOT to ensure the plan is implemented with the “least amount of inconvenience” on small businesses.
“There is no question in my mind that this proposal will make 43rd Avenue and Skillman Avenue safer,” he said in a statement. “And while there remains concerns among business owners and some residents about the plan, I respect the mayor’s decision.
“While this process has been difficult and painful at times, the pain felt by family members who lose loved ones to crashes is so much greater,” Van Bramer added. “We must continue to do everything we can to save lives on our streets.”