Queens Home To Two New DOT Initiatives: Street Seats in Jamaica & Protected Bike Lanes on Queens Blvd.

Street Seats Installed on Jamaica Ave. and New Protected Bike Lanes on Queens Blvd.

By Alicia Venter


The new Street Seats on Jamaica Ave. Photo: DOT

Cycling and public safety initiatives by the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) are being expanded into Elmhurst and Jamaica, the department announced on Wednesday, March 10.

In Jamaica, a new location of the Streets Seats program has been installed on Jamaica Avenue. between 160th Street and Union Hall Street. Approximately 4,500 square feet of pedestrian space has been added to the location, the DOT stated, and it includes planters, granite blocks, tables and chairs.

The Street Seats program has been implemented across the city. Partners apply to the initiative, and the DOT will attempt to reinvent the roadbed along the curb line or on wide sidewalks with seating. The partner selects the design and maintains the Street Seat. The crossing between Jamaica Avenue and Union Hall Street. was shortened as well.

The Downtown Jamaica Business Improvement District (BID) will be the partner managing the newest Street Seats.

“The newly expanded pedestrian space on Jamaica Avenue (between 160th St. and Union Hall St.) has been enhanced with planters, tables and chairs for use by our community. Thanks to the NYC Department of Transportation, we have a new, open space in our district,” the Downtown Jamaica BID shared in a statement to the Leader-Observer. “The pedestrian plaza will be programmed with activities and attractions over the next several months, in partnership with other community stakeholders, and we look forward to bringing attention and energy to the community, to benefit Jamaica’s businesses, its visitors, shoppers and residents.”

Across New York City, public spaces are being renovated to reflect the commitment made by Mayor Eric Adams in his 2023 State of the City, where he outlined a plan to invest $375 million to public spaces across the city.

“A crucial element to any thriving downtown is attractive and inviting public spaces. They help beautify, soften the streetscape, and provide a relaxing spot for shoppers and visitors, as well as people who work in the area,” said Justin Rodgers, president & CEO, Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, in a statement to the Leader-Observer. “Enhancements like this along with efforts of the newly formed Downtown Jamaica BID will elevate the pedestrian experience in the heart of the shopping corridor.”

Along Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst, the DOT has begun the process of hardening the protected bike lane with Jersey Barriers, which are used to separate lanes of traffic.

From 72nd Street to Grand Avenue — a 0.75 mile stretch — these Jersey Barriers will delineate the bike lanes from the traffic-heavy street in an attempt to make bike lanes safer.

In 2022, 3.7 miles of bike lane hardening was implemented on Queens Boulevard. This year, the DOT has committed to hardening 10 miles of existing lanes and five miles of new projects with sturdier barriers, they said in a press release.

Queens is the world’s borough, and delivering high-quality pedestrian spaces and safe cycling infrastructure are some of the ways Mayor Adams and New York City DOT are reimagining the use of public space,” said NYC DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez in a press release. “I thank the hard-working teams at DOT and our community partners for their efforts in beautifying Jamaica Avenue and giving cyclists the protection they deserve on Queens Boulevard.”

Corona Food Bank Cuts Ribbon in Elmhurst

4,200 Square Foot Brick-and-Mortar Food Bank Donated to Non-Profit

By Alicia Venter



As food insecurity continues to rise in Queens, the community stepped up to open a new food bank on Corona Avenue in Elmhurst on Thursday.

The Corona Food Bank, located at 92-21 Corona Avenue, is a 4,200 square foot facility that will serve as a food collection and distribution facility for Community Center Services Organization Corp. (CCSO), a volunteer-run nonprofit organization that has distributed foods, clothes and essentials to Queens residents and asylum seekers since 2020.

The facility will be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Ramos (left) and Argento (center) cutting the ribbon on the new food bank.

The building was donated by Broadway Stages at a 12 month no-cost lease. Valued at over $210,000, the facility has been modified to best serve as a food distribution center.

“It’s my honor to be able to do this,” said Tony Argento, founder of Broadway Stages, at the ribbon cutting. “To donate this space to provide necessities to people who are in need. I hope other well-off people who are doing lots of business here in Elmhurst and Corona can step up and spend some money, donate some money, and make this happen for people in need.”

Broadway Stages is a film and television studio production company located primarily in North Brooklyn. The organization “take[s] pride in being a responsible neighbor, actively supporting economic, social and environmental initiatives that benefit our community,” their website states. They are based in three boroughs across the city, and have more than 100,000 square feet of green rooftop infrastructure on their studios in Brooklyn.

“Thank you so much Tony for stepping up — for being a good neighbor… and doing the right thing, growing this pantry so that we can serve the community and everyone that has been going through a really hard time,” said Jessica Ramos, State Senator for District 13, which includes Corona, Elmhurst, East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights, at the ribbon cutting.

Argento noted that it was “the persistence” of the senator who made this happen, jokingly noting that it was her calling him every week that pushed the efforts forward.

Ramos also noted that the support of Latino Bites, a restaurant at 85-14 Northern Boulevard, and the volunteers, also made this food pantry possible.

“My neighbors have been hit hard by the pandemic and rising prices. Despite the tough times we are going through, people in this community have stepped up time and time again to care for each other, and to demonstrate what it looks like to welcome new neighbors with love and compassion,” Ramos said in a press release. “I’m so grateful to the Argentos, Latino Bites, and all the volunteers who make CCSO possible. I foresee this being so much more than a food pantry. The energy around this location is going to make it a valuable community space that we can be proud of.”

Grand Marshals Announced for Forest Hills Memorial Day Parade

By Alicia Venter aventer@queensledger.com
From Left: Mike Arcati, Joseph Connely, Mary Kehoe, Kevin Kehoe, Robert Schnell. Front: Anthony Sarro
  The grand marshals for the Forest Hills Memorial Day Parade were named on Friday at the American Legion Continental Post #1424. The parade, which will be on Sunday, May 28 beginning with an opening ceremony at 11 a.m., will be led by five notable members of the community who have each shown exemplary service in different ways. “This is a point where we take the opportunity to thank our community and veteran heroes,” said Mike Arcati, commander of the American Legion Continental Post #1424. Parade organizers are having their annual VIP Donors Kickoff at the West Side Tennis Club (1 Tennis Place) on Thursday, May 25 from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. This event allows us to honor past grand marshals and introduce this year’s Grand Marshals to the parade sponsors,” said Walter Sanchez, president of the Kiwanis Club of Forest Hills. The grand marshals are: Community Service Grand Marshal: Robert Schnell Veteran Grand Marshal of the Year: Anthony Sarro Of the Year: Joseph Conley Law Enforcement Honoree of the Year: Kevin Kehoe First Responder Grand Marshal of the Year: Mary Kehoe Anthony Sarro, who will be 94 in July, served in the Korean Conflict a leader of the explosive ordnance disposal team, and was selected as a veteran grand marshal. “I’m not egoistic about it, but I do consider it an honor and it feels good,” Sarro said in an interview with the Forest Hills Times. “You get a little change in perspective of yourself. You feel a little more proud of yourself — without being egotistical.” “If you don’t know what team leader was in the 1950s, those were the Seals before we had Seals,” Arcati said of Sarro. “The Seals teams didn’t start until the 1960s. What these people did was go underwater and diffuse bombs and torpedoes, one of the most dangerous jobs in the service.” Sarro recalled his favorite war story during his speech: when he found the wedding ring of the wife of a fellow service member after she dropped it in the ocean. “I found a mussel sold down here, and I flipped it aside. As the saints would have it, low and behold, there was the ring,” he said, adding that, “Other than that, we blew things up and made a lot of noise.” Sarro’s son, Anthony Sarro Jr., is very proud of his father, attributing who he is to his father, describing him as “an enabler of good things.” “He is a people person. He entertains, he cares, he is wise and is funny,” Sarro Jr. said. Robert Schnell, 61, is the community service grand marshal of the year, and is part of a running list of volunteer organizations. Deemed the mayor of Forest Hills, he is a ​​Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus, first Vice President of Lions Club International and former president of the Men’s Club of Forest Hills. He is notably involved in numerous organizations devoted to the protection of military dogs. After reading a novel called “Top Dog,” Schnell realized the impact that dogs have had both in their service in the military and to the veterans. He volunteers with the Military Working Dog Heritage Museum, K-9 Hero Haven, Military Working Dog Team Support Association — which supports military K9s and their handlers in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard — ​​Leashes of Valor and the US War Dogs Association. Schnell holds the nickname “Mr. Dog,” as his devotion to the protection of war dogs stands alongside him in the American Legion Continental Post #1424 with a wall he ensured would be erected which displays honorable military dogs with their handlers.
Robert Schnell, Mr.Dog, by his wall of war dogs.
Having a service dog drastically helps those leaving the service, drastically reducing veteran suicide, Schnell shared. “The alarming thing is that the war continues and rages on for veterans that are back with us,” Schnell said. Veterans are 1.5 times more likely to die by suicide than nonveteran adults, according to the American Psychological Association. According to the most recent Annual Report from the United States Department of Veteran Affairs in 2022, the average number of veteran suicides per day in 2022 was 16.8. “When you see a veteran, please say thank you for your service and ask them how they are doing,” Schnell said, “They may give you the conditional, ‘okay, I’m doing alright,’ but maybe they will open up to you.” Joseph Connely was selected as a grand marshal for his military service, which began when he was drafted to serve in the Vietnam War. He was selected to be part of the Army Security Agency, whose​ primary mission was to locate Viet Cong transmitters operating in the south. “I was 20 years old when I received top secret crypto clearance. People around me were 19 and 20 years old, and had top secret crypto clearance. We’d never thought of anything like this.” Connely served as Chairman of Community Board 2 until 2014. After 40 years of combined law service with the NYC Transit Police Department, NYC Corrections Department and the NYPD, Kevin Kehoe has been selected as the law enforcement grand marshal of the year. He is currently a lieutenant of investigations at the Queens District Attorney’s Office. A military family — including a father who served in the Korean conflict — gave Kehoe an immense value and appreciation for the military. Holding this position in the Memorial Day parade resonated with him on a personal note. “It’s probably the biggest honor in my life, being selected to represent the law enforcement community as a whole. Not just for New York City, but for New York State and for the country,” Kehoe said. Over 20 years of experience, Mary Kehoe will stand beside her husband as the first responder grand marshal of the year. She is currently a public health nurse as P.S. 101, starting her career as a cardiology nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center. Born in Ridgewood, Kehoe moved to Forest Hills at age seven. “To see the memorial day was always the greatest time. The people, the community, families, all out together. For me to be a grand marshal in this parade I’ve grown up with is absolutely unbelievable. I thank one and all for allowing me to do this. It’s very special to me.” Her father was one of four men who served in the military, and the American Legion Continental Post #1424 was always an important spot for her. “It was always a soft spot in my heart,” she said. Kehoe is among one of the people that helped save the legion when it almost closed in 2018. They have hosted four fundraisers to help support the legion.

Business Improvement Program Expanded into Astoria

By Alicia Venter



Photo: QDA’s Office

A new program designed to enhance safety around shops, the Astoria Merchants Business Improvement Program, was launched on Tuesday by the Queens District Attorney’s Office and the NYPD.

The program focuses on the small group of individuals who are responsible for the majority of harm done to local businesses, with behavior including shoplifting, harassing and threatening customers and store staff.

Businesses who are part of the program can contact the local precinct when an individual is disrupting business, and the responding officers can issue a trespass notice and warn said individual that if they return to the business, they could be arrested.

Since it launched in Jamaica two years ago, 23 notices have been issued; three arrests have been made, according to the Queens District Attorney’s Office.

There is also a business improvement program in Flushing.

“We need to address the few responsible for the vast majority of the shoplifting and vandalism and for it to stop,” said Melinda Katz, Queens District Attorney, in a statement. “Our goal is to protect local businesses, many of them mom-and-pop shops, and the customers and communities depending on them. We should never lose sight of the fact that communities thrive when local businesses thrive.”

Merchants can enroll in the program through the 114th Precinct.

In Jamaica, there are 25 stores part of the program.

“This a great tool for our small businesses who are many times alone in their establishment and fearful of individuals who habitually enter with the sole purpose of causing harm or chaos,” Marie Torniali, Executive Director of the Steinway Astoria Partnership, said in a statement. “This is not about instant arrest; it is a warning to those individuals not to return. Our merchants will be able to breathe a sigh of relief and continue running their business and assist customers without apprehension.”

Downtown Jamaica Jazz Festival Slated for Next Weekend

By Alicia Venter



Jamaica will be host to a celebration of Jazz culture next weekend (May 19 – May 20), thanks to the Downtown Jamaica Jazz Festival.

The flagship event of the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning (JCAL) will begin with an opening reception and performances at 6:30 p.m. at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center (153-10 Jamaica Ave.). Saturday’s full day of performances, set from 12 p.m. – 8:30 p.m., is being moved across the street to the Rufus King Park this year due to an increase in popularity, JCAL shared. The performances for the fourth annual festival will be free for all.

Performers include:

  • Musician and tap dancer Michela Marino Lerman (May 19)
  • Jazz drummer and Grammy nominated Johnathan Blake (May 19)
  • Jazz and contemporary pianist Dabin Ryu (May 20)
  • Vibraphonist Patrici Brennan (May 20)
  • Drummer, Latin Grammy Award winner and Southeast Queens local Marcus Gilmore (May 20)
  • Grammy nominated Saxophonist Jaleel Shaw (May 20)
  • Grammy nominated Percussionist Pedrito Martinez (May 20)

RSVP’s are encouraged — visit jcal.org for more information.

The Downtown Jamaica Jazz Festival is a celebration of jazz heritage in Southeast Queens, and JCAL looks to promote generations of talent from the diverse cultures residing in the Jamaica community.

According to JCAL, the festival provides a platform to emerging performers, citing how the opener of the 2021 festival — Samara Joy — won the Best Jazz Vocal Album and Best New Artists at the 2023 Grammy awards.

Photo: JCAL

More than a Mile of Water Mains Installed in Maspeth

By Alicia Venter



New water mains have been installed in Maspeth, replacing pipes that are over 100 years old. Totaling more than a mile and installed between 61st St. and Hamilton Pl. along Borden Ave. — a primarily residential area adjacent to the Long Island Expressway — the new pipes were a $2.25 million capital project and were completed more than a year ahead of schedule.

Alongside the 5,960 feet of water mains, which were originally set to cost $4.06 million, 19 fire hydrants were replaced and 1,380 square feet of broken sidewalks were replaced. The project was managed by DCC’s in-house construction management team.

“So many Americans have learned hard lessons about the critical importance of water infrastructure,” said Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris in a press release. “I am glad this urgently needed water pipe improvement in Maspeth was done to ensure Queens neighbors have high quality, safe drinking water.”

Construction began in July 2022, and was completed this month, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the NYC Department of Design and Construction (DCC) announced on May 8. It was initially slated to be completed in July 2024.

“Getting high-quality water to every tap across the five boroughs requires regular investments in our infrastructure and by replacing the water mains that had served this neighborhood for a century, we significantly reduce the risk of leaks and breaks,” said DEP Commissioner Rohit T. Aggarwala in a press release.

Photo: DCC and DEP

Donovan Richards Touts What’s “Being Built in Queens” in 2023 State of the Borough

By Alicia Venter



Queens Borough President Donovan Richards promoted Queens’ innovation, infrastructure and his office’s strategic funding through the past year in his “State of the Borough Address” on Friday, April 28.

Held at Claire Schulman Theatre in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Richards focused his speech on the improvements the borough has seen over the past year while providing a glimpse into plans his office has for the future, especially in the Rockaways and Jamaica.

“Years from now, when our kids and grandkids look back on this period of rebirth for New York City, they will know exactly where its renaissance began,” said Richards. “Because that future they will enjoy is being built before our eyes. The city they will inherit is one where equity rules the day, where diversity is embraced, where upward mobility isn’t contingent on your ZIP code. That, my friends, is what’s being built in Queens.”

Investing in Rockaway

Prior to borough president, Richards was a council member representing the Rockaways and parts of southeast Queens.

Self-describing himself as a “biased Rockaway boy,” Richards laid out a long-term plan for growth in the neighborhood, citing systemic issues that he has already addressed there. Since he became borough president, affordable housing developments at Arverne East, Edgemere Commons and Rockaway Village have been built, with residents able to move into the latter already.

In total, 5,000 affordable and supportive housing units have been opened in the three locations, including a number of units set aside for homeless and formerly homeless families.

Arverne East also features a 35-acre beachside nature preserve and 180,000 square feet of commercial and retail space. Using geothermal energy, Arverne East will be the first net-zero community in the city.

That’s what’s being built in Queens,” said Richards. “Communities on the front lines of clean energy, community empowerment and the correction of systemic injustice.”

Health and Hospitals recently opened a $30 million clinic in the Rockaways, a neighborhood that Richards shared has only one hotel for 125,000 people.

“It’s no accident that Far Rockaway families experience heart disease, diabetes and other conditions and higher rates than elsewhere in Queens,” he stated. “That is what systemic disinvestment looks like.”

Richards also called upon the MTA to expand the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) CityTicket — a program that makes the LIRR $5 in off peak hours compared to $12.50 —  to Rockaway as well as bring the Fair Fares program to the LIRR. Across Queens, CityTicket has been expanded. Richards claimed that Far Rockaway not having the same benefits “is what systemic racism looks like.”

The Rockaways will also boast “the crown jewel of the Queens Library system,” said Richards — a $33 million new Far Rockaway branch.

“The Rockaways serve as a blueprint for the rest of the city to follow when we talk about community development,” said Richards. “It’s a blueprint we’re utilizing across Queens.”

Changing Jamaica

Richards launched the Downtown Jamaica Improvement Council with council member Natasha Williams last spring, and called upon the Department of Transportation (DOT) to launch a Jamaica Neighborhood Planning Study to take a “holistic, community-led look at how to make Jamaica the premiere live, work and play neighborhood in the city.”

This is personal to Richards, as a Jamaica native, he shared, stating that giving back to the community is the one thing he wants to accomplish while in office.

“Jamaica is already a key business district and a critical transit hub, but we haven’t even scratched the surface of this community’s potential,” he said, citing a need for affordable housing, infrastructure investments, school seats and open space.

To date, the DOT has committed to investing $55 million to Jamaica street improvement projects, shared Richards.

Improving the Airports

Richards launched the Downtown Jamaica Improvement Council with council member Natasha Williams last spring, and called upon the Department of Transportation (DOT) to launch a Jamaica Neighborhood Planning Study to take a “holistic, community-led look at how to make Jamaica the premiere live, work and play neighborhood in the city.”

This is personal to Richards, as a Jamaica native, he shared, stating that giving back to the community is the one thing he wants to accomplish while in office.

“Jamaica is already a key business district and a critical transit hub, but we haven’t even scratched the surface of this community’s potential,” he said, citing a need for affordable housing, infrastructure investments, school seats and open space.

To date, the DOT has committed to investing $55 million to Jamaica street improvement projects, shared Richards.

Reimagining Creedmoor

The future of the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center campus was raised by Richards in his address, noting the series of community workshops since February to begin the process of redeveloping the campus.

While it’s his office that will have final say, Richards is inviting the community to provide their input on what the 50 acre campus in Queens Village should be transformed into. It is currently being used as a  small inpatient, outpatient and residential service provider for mentally ill patients. Affordable housing is a leading option for the facility.

“We are making our own blueprint for what community development should look like moving forward,” he said. “At the end of the day, Creedmoor represents a transformative opportunity to make a meaningful impact on the lives of Eastern Queens residents.”

Man Indicted for Attempted Murder of Cop in Jamaica

By Alicia Venter



A man has been indicted for the attempted murder of a police officer in a shooting on Jamaica Avenue on April 5.

Devin Spraggins, 22 of Jamaica, allegedly shot rookie officer Brett Boller as he fled him and his partner, officer Anthony Rock. Both officers are 22 years old.

He is facing two counts of attempted murder in the first degree, among other charges, the Queens District Attorney’s Office announced on May 3. He faces up to 40 years to life in prison for each charge of attempted murder if convicted.

The charges claim that prior to the shooting, Spraggins punched a fellow passenger on a bus driving down Jamaica Avenue near 160th St. at around 3:20 p.m. on April 5. The officers were flagged down by the bus driver for assistance, and as they tried to speak to Spraggins, he pushed Rock and fled. In the chase that followed, Spraggins allegedly turned back, firing at both officers and hitting Boller in the leg.

After shooting Boller, Spraggins ran into a parking garage, and was caught on video surveillance removing his black jacket and sweatshirt, fleeing in a white T-shirt. Security camera footage caught Spraggins entered a black Nissan later identified as a Lyft vehicle, at 161st and Hillside Avenue.

He was taken to his a residence on 215st Street in Jamaica, where a search warrant the next day. The discovery of evidence led law enforcement to Spraggins’ Bronx home, and he was arrested at that location.

Spraggins was taken to Jamaica Hospital following the shooting, where he underwent surgery.

“The brazen shooting of a police officer in broad daylight will not go unanswered,” said Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz in a statement. I want to thank the staff from my office that assisted in the investigation with the NYPD and federal law enforcement to quickly apprehend the defendant. We will not let up in our efforts to get guns off the street and keep our officers and communities safe.”

Alongside the two charges of first degree attempted murder, Spraggins also faces two counts of attempted murder in the second degree; two counts of assault in the first degree; assault of a police officer; attempted assault in the first degree; two counts of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree; menacing a police officer; two counts of tampering with physical evidence; obstructing governmental administration in the second degree; and assault in the third degree.”

This investigation was conducted by the NYPD and the US Marshals Fugitive Task Force.

City Sued For Open Streets Program, Plaintiffs Claim Discrimination Against Elderly & Disabled

By Alicia Venter



A collection of New Yorkers filed a lawsuit against the city on Monday, expressing concerns that it discriminates against those protected with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the elderly.

The 12 plaintiffs in Charles v. City of New York share that they are disabled New York City residents, and argue that the Open Streets Program, managed by the DOT and third-party partners, discriminates against seniors and people with disabilities.

“Only the City of New York could come up with a program that promises to eventually choke off 100 miles of public roadways (representing 1.6% of the City’s total street mileage) and 20 miles of public bus lanes, and which robs tens of thousands of disabled City residents of their independence by turning them into shut-ins, and assign it such an Orwellian “Newspeak” name as it has done here: the “Open Streets Program,” the lawsuit begins.

Many of the plaintiffs suffer from disabilities that impair mobility, strength and mobility,  the lawsuit states, and they are reliant on cars for errands, medical appointments and “to generally live their lives independently and with dignity.”

The lawsuit claims that the Open Street Program runs afoul of the ADA and Rehabilitation Act, citing Title II of the ADA which provides that “no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.”

In response, the DOT issued the following statement: “Open Streets enhances safety, accessibility, and equity for a large number of New Yorkers using the roads, including seniors and people with disabilities. The City will review the case.”

Matthew Berman, a civil rights class-action attorney representing the plaintiffs in this case and a partner in the law firm of Valli Kane & Vagnini LLP, shared how the city has not considered the disabled or the elderly in any of their planning. Studies need to be conducted to see if there is a viable solution to have open streets — a term he finds ironic — while not inhibiting the basic needs of some citizens.

“[The city] has closed these streets without giving any thought whatsoever to the negative impact that it has on the disabled,” he said in a phone interview. “What’s happening here is that the disabled who live in our communities are being turned into shut-ins because they are relying on automobile transit to live their daily lives.”

A main concern that Berman describes is that of getting a ride to a doctor’s appointment — an able-bodied person would not think anything of walking two blocks to take a car service, such as Access-A-Ride, Uber or Lyft. However, that is not always an option for the disabled or elderly.

“If you are a disabled person, you can’t walk. You can’t get there. They have to come to your doorstep where you are stuck and stranded where you are,” Berman stated. He also expressed issues with the inability for emergency services, including an ambulance, to have access to these streets.

The city’s “Open Streets 2021 Application” states that, to prevent such issues, there must be a 15 foot emergency lane at all times. If this is not possible, the Open Streets applicant must work with the DOT and FDNY to ensure emergency access at all times.

The 34th Avenue Coalition, which is named as a defendant, submitted their proposal to the city with a graphic representation of how the open street would maintain a 15 foot emergency lane. The lawsuit counters this with an image of the supposed emergency lane inhibited due to immovable concrete blocks and planters.

The Open Streets Program, which the lawsuit repeatedly refers to as the “Closed Streets Program,” was a temporary program during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide safe outdoor spaces for people to gather. It was made permanent by the City Council in 2021.

While the lawsuit works to highlight inequities in Open Streets, there are notable social, economic and environmental benefits.

According to an October 2022 study by the DOT, Open Streets corridors were an average of 19% above their pre-pandemic baseline while control corridors were 29% below — a difference of nearly 50%.

Studies by Transportation Alternatives, a nonprofit that works to reduce the number of cars in the city to promote sustainability and safety, found benefits including redacted traffic violence to accessible public space in deprived communities.

As of April 22, the DOT plans to feature 160 locations, stretching nearly 300 blocks, in the 2023 Open Streets program. This includes 25 new locations and plans to deliver permanent redesigns to prioritize pedestrians and cyclists.

These new locations will be in Bushwick and Brownsville in Brooklyn, and South Jamaica in Queens. There are currently applications for seven new Queens Opens Streets and five new Brooklyn Open Streets.

Berman claims that some cyclists have harassed drivers — the lawyer shared that his office has a video of a cyclist yelling at a paratransit driver pulled to the curb trying to drop off a disabled person.

“The city didn’t spend any time thinking about this issue before they went ahead and said, ‘Nope, the bikers want it. We are going to give it to them. We are going to make these beautiful pedestrian plazas,’” Berman said. “It’s great if you are an able-bodied person to be able to enjoy that space, but the disabled are not provided any accommodations so that they can enjoy those spaces either.”

Accommodations for the elderly and disabled, he expressed, can be compared to the accommodations made for children heading to school. They have been ensured crossing guards — no thought to this kind of solution, or any, has been provided to the disabled and elderly who live along these open streets.

‘Paddle for the Cure NYC’ Dragon Boat Team To Kickstart Season

By Alicia Venter



Paddle for the Cure NYC, the nonprofit dragon boat team of NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst, is kicking off their season on May 13 at the World’s Fair Marina in Flushing. 

In advance celebration of World Oceans Day, anyone over age 15 is welcome to partake in paddling on a dragon boat alongside breast cancer survivors and supporters. 

Meet-up is at 11 a.m., and it will be at the White Dome area of the Marina. The rowing will be for one hour, beginning at 11:45 a.m. Admission is free.

Dragon boating is a water sport similar to rowing, but instead of rowers sitting in single file in boats and using oars with their backs to the direction they are traveling, dragon boaters sit in two rows of 10 and face forward using paddles. 

The sport promotes a positive and healthy lifestyle, which is part of the reason Paddle for the Cure NYC founder and breast cancer survivor Leah Salmorin encourages everyone to join.

“When they are hit with cancer, they are stuck and they cannot do their activities,” Salmorin shared in a phone interview. “I really want to encourage them to be part of our group, because I do believe that water is life.”

Dragon boating season runs through October 15 if weather permits. In the offseason, the organization holds other events, including bowling and fashion shows, including being part of New York Fashion Week.

“It is a group of survivors and supporters, and there is a sense of camaraderie,” shared Salmorin. “Learning from their stories — it is a camaraderie and you make new friends.”

Paddle for the Cure NYC takes their talent beyond the five boroughs, traveling to places such as Pittsburgh to compete. They also are part of numerous festivals and community events, such as the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival held in Flushing in August. 

This year, Salmorin is hoping to qualify for Nationals.

The organization’s mission is to create a sisterhood of breast cancer survivors, provide hope and support to cancer survivors and their families and to unite the community for charitable purposes through dragon boat racing. 

“We are making an impact now,” shared. “It is so great. If you do it from the heart, people will work with you.”

Those between the ages of 15-18 must be accompanied by an adult.

For more information and to register for the event, visit Paddle for the Cure’s NYC’s website or visit their EventBrite. Questions can be sent to info@paddleforthecurenyc.org

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