Residents Oppose Loss Of Parking Along Vernon
By Assistant Editor
More than 50 residents have signed a petition opposing the loss of neighborhood parking as a result of a plan to create bicycle lanes along Vernon Boulevard.
The city's Department of Transportation unveiled details of its Queens East River Greenway Plan, which would create bike lanes on both sides of the boulevard from the Pulaski Bridge to Astoria Park, several months ago. Both Community Boards 1 and 2 ultimately drafted letters opposing the plan.
The latest petition against the plan comes after several new signs were put in place to identify areas where parking is no longer permitted. About 290 parking spaces have been eliminated, "where studies indicated that the spaces were not utilized during peak residential demand periods (overnight)," according to the DOT. Spokesman Edward Timbers noted that parking will not be removed from busier areas along the stretch, like the Queensbridge Houses and Hunters Point.
Still, many feel the lanes -- which have been demarcated with stripes in certain portions and arrows in others to indicate shared space with cars -- are creating more harm than good. Al Volpe, a member of C.B. 2, feels there should have been more community outreach. "Vernon Boulevard just isn't wide enough," he said, adding that creating lanes on nearby 11th Street would be more practical. He also noted the considerable loss of parking and dangerous conditions created by the lanes.
C.B. 2 Chairman Joe Conley added that DOT should be more responsive to the community's suggestions. "We still have to keep lobbying them," he said.
Both boards also noted that significant development in the area is likely to affect neighborhood parking as well, urging the DOT to take a closer look at the plan.
Timbers said the Vernon project "is following through on priorities laid out in PlaNYC -- managing growth by creating more transportation choices, safer streets for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers and improving the quality of life for New Yorkers by providing safe and easy to access recreation opportunities."
Like several other residents, Don Bilodeau, who lives on Vernon Boulevard, said he doesn't object to the greening plan, but rather the fact that so much parking is being removed without an alternative for drivers. He organized the latest community petition.
"It's a long section of Vernon Boulevard that is affected by this," Bilodeau said, adding that it is already difficult to find parking spaces. He would like to see a plan that accommodates cyclists and drivers, with additional pedestrian safety measures and the opportunity for community input. Bilodeau noted that many of his neighbors were unaware of the plan.
Dionne Fraser, a Long Island City resident who also signed the petition, returned home recently to find a new sign that read "No Standing Anytime" where she usually parks her car. She had been parking farther away from her home, by the neighborhood's warehouses, until someone broke into her car. "Now I'm paying to park in my building because I'm scared," she said, adding that it costs $180 a month to do so.
Noting a lack of transportation alternatives like increased bus service, Fraser said no "ameliorative action" is being taken to provide for the neighborhood's drivers. She also expressed doubts that the bike lanes along Vernon Boulevard would be used frequently, aside from during the warmer weather.
Not everyone agrees. Wylie Norvelle, with the group Transportation Alternatives, said there are many neighborhood cyclists who support the plan. "This is the first bike lane in Long Island City," he said, adding that the area is probably one of the most-heavily trafficked by cyclists in all of Queens.
And until now, they had few options. Emmanuel Fuentebella, a Long Island City resident who rides his bicycle daily, believes DOT has the right idea: "in the future, they see bicycles." Fuentebella, who also owns a car, said there is room for everyone on the boulevard.
In addition to "buffered bicycle lanes," Timber said safety measures will include a new traffic signal, increased signage and improved crosswalks.
Submitted by forrest on July 18, 2008 - 16:41. categories [ ]