Feb. 27, 2020 By Michael Dorgan
An online petition opposing the construction of protected bike lanes along 31st Street has been launched by a number of local business owners and workers.
The business owners argue that the designs presented by the city earlier this month are ill-conceived and will hurt their bottom line—as well as put cyclists and motorists at greater risk.
More than 250 people have signed the petition since it was launched Sunday by Giovanni Dellapolla, owner of Access Auto and Tire Center, located at 38-26 31 St.
The DOT plans to install protected bike lanes on 31st Street—under the N/W elevated line – from 20th Avenue to 39th Avenue, as part of a comprehensive bicycle network in Astoria that includes protected bike lanes on Crescent Street.
The petition, which focuses solely on 31st Street, calls for Council Members Costa Constantinides and Jimmy Van Bramer to rescind their support for the plans and for Community Board 1 to oppose the proposal. They are also appealing to the DOT to end its plan to install the lanes.
Neither Council Member responded to the Astoria Post for comment.
At a public meeting on Feb. 11, the DOT presented its plans for protected bike lanes on both sides of 31st Street– as well as a protected bicycle lane on Crescent Street. The agency said it aims to install the lanes this summer.
The DOT said that protected bike lanes increase safety for all street users and help organize streets. As part of the 31st Street plan, pedestrian safety and transit access would also be improved with floating bus islands and better pedestrian crossings, according to the DOT.
However, the petition claims that the DOT’s plans would instead make the streets more dangerous for cyclists– since many businesses on the busy corridor make deliveries, park equipment by the street and perform other tasks.
Cyclists could be struck by heavy vehicles or moving equipment, the petition argues.
“This could possibly result in serious injuries or even death for cyclists as many of these vehicles are large trucks with poor visibility and large blind spots,” the petition states.
Many business owners added their own statements as part of the petition.
“It’s a bad idea, as well as a safety issue,” Dellapolla wrote. “It will also interfere with my business as it would be a hazard for people pulling in and out. It would be impossible for people and deliveries to stop and come into my shop since they would be interfering with the bike lane.”
The petition says that many business owners would be “crippled” if the lanes are installed.
The Tsampas Family, who own the King Souvlaki – a food truck that has operated on the corner of 31st Street and 31st Avenue for over 40 years – stated in the petition that the bike lanes would devastate their business and the 30 families it supports.
“This bike lane will displace us, costing us valuable time and money, and ultimately put us out of business,” they wrote.
Anthony Gulino, who owns Triboro Iron Works on 31st Street between 38th Avenue and 39th Avenue, echoed those sentiments saying in the petition: “I feel like they’re trying to throw all of us (businesses) out of here.”
Gulino added that his business uses large trucks to unload heavy steel and that they would struggle to make deliveries with the protected bike lanes there. He said that his drivers would have little choice but to block them.
“They will be one hundred percent blocking the bike lane because that’s where my driveways are,” he wrote.
But bicycle advocates believe that the DOT plan will increase safety.
Juan Restrepo, from bike advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, says the arguments in the petition are not borne out by data from similar initiatives implemented throughout the city and is appealing for businesses to engage in the process, rather than opposing any potential changes.
“31st Street has some of the most dangerous intersections in Queens where lots of people cross to get to businesses and the city has a responsibility to fix these intersections and that is why they are engaging in this process,” he said.
“I understand the businesses have concerns but that’s why they need to engage with the city because there could be a potential upside that they’re not seeing.”