A fallen member of New York’s Bravest was honored for his bravery and service after he died battling a fire in Ridgewood.
Glendale firefighter William Tolley, 42, fell five stories to his death in April. A 14-year veteran of the FDNY, Tolley left behind his wife Marie and daughter Isabella.
“He gave his life to this work,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Like all members of the FDNY he understood every day he was putting his life on the line, but he did it willingly in service of others.”
An outpouring of support came immediately after his death. The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation pledged to pay off the mortgage on his Long Island home. His fellow firefighters placed a black and purple bunting outside Engine 286/Ladder 135 in Glendale as a tribute.
During the holiday season, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley and local firefighters hosted a tree-lighting ceremony at the Fred Haller Triangle in Tolley’s honor. The tree was also named in his honor.
“Every year, this tree-lighting ceremony is incredibly special,” Crowley said. “But this year held extra meaning. Firefighter Tolley dedicated his life to protecting this community, so it’s only right that we dedicate this to him.”
Bike lane battles on 111th Street, Northern and Queens boulevards
Bike lanes have been a frequent topic of debate at community meetings. Advocates and city officials want to install more to calm traffic and improve safety, while many residents and motorists hate them for slowing travel times, causing confusion, and taking up parking spaces.
Those arguments were front and center when a plan to revamp 111th Street in Corona by adding bike lanes, taking away a lane of traffic and shortening pedestrian crossings was up for a vote. Community Board 4 stalled the project for years. In April, Mayor de Blasio gave the Department of Transportation (DOT) the green light.
Despite the change, detractors are still not convinced. Borough President Melinda Katz said in August that the thoroughfare is still dangerous for pedestrians because of a lack of traffic signals.
That fight spilled over to Bayside and Douglaston in September, when advocates fought for a protected bike lane on Northern Boulevard. Community Board 11 initially voted in favor of the project, but ultimately reversed its decision. Instead, the board supported an alternative proposal to create a shared bike path above the curb on the sidewalk.
DOT added the protected bike lane anyway, angering some locals including State Senator Tony Avella. Weeks after the concrete barriers were installed, Avella and Douglaston civic leaders cited multiple reported accidents where cars rammed into the barriers.
And on Queens Boulevard, the second phase of bike lanes on that street in Forest Hills and Rego Park has been a constant source of contention since they were installed earlier this year.
Residents complaing that with the bike lanes installed, trucks double-parked on the service road to make deliveries to local stores tie up traffic because it is impossible to go around them.
As the city continues to install more bike lanes to accommodate the growing cyclist population, their interests are sure to clash with motorists on and off the road.
Bus collision in Flushing kills three people
An ordinary Monday morning turned tragic when a private charter bus collided with an MTA bus, killing three and injuring 16 people.
The Q20 bus, carry 15 people at 6:15 a.m., was making a right turn onto Northern Boulevard when a Dahlia Travel bus smashed it. The collision spun the MTA bus, impacting the nearby Kennedy Fried Chicken and T-Mobile stores.
A 68-year-old pedestrian, a 55-year-old passenger and the driver of the private charter bus all died in the incident.
“This is a very painful moment,” said Mayor de Blasio. “We know that one of those who was lost was simply walking down the sidewalk on Monday morning, maybe on their way to work, and out of nowhere this happens.”
The National Transportation Safety Board is now conducting a full investigation of the incident, including taking a closer look at the speed of the Dahlia Travel bus. Some reports say the driver, 49-year-old Raymond Mong, who had a history of bad behavior behind the wheel, was going 60 miles per hour.
State lawmakers are now looking into ways to strengthen regulations and protocols for private bus companies to better protect passengers from danger.
Woodhaven SBS finally comes to fruition
Despite three years of protest, the city Department of Transportation (DOT) implemented the Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevards Select Bus Service (SBS) in November. Though it has only been a month, drivers throughout the corridor are feeling its effects.
Even DOT has acknowledged that travel times for motorists have slowed down. Critics of Woodhaven SBS have said the jutting medians near 89th Avenue also present a safety problem for drivers.
For its part, city officials have touted the improvements for the more than 40,000 bus riders who take the Q52 and Q53 to school and work. Queens DOT Commissioner Nicole Garcia also said at a recent town hall that safety adjustments were made at Woodhaven Boulevard and Union Turnpike, the site of 170 crashes and multiple injuries over five years.
Mayor de Blasio, a strong supporter of expanding SBS, said the underlying idea is to isolate a lane on the road to move buses quicker and encourage commuters to take mass transit.
“People are going to want to use mass transit,” he said. “Whenever someone can use mass transit and leave their car behind, that takes one car off the road for everyone.”
The mayor was open to altering conditions and making adjustments “as they go,” especially knowing that traffic has been an issue. Though Woodhaven SBS has been in effect for two months, 2018 will be the year when we see its full effects.
Bob Holden unseats Elizabeth Crowley in close election
In a year when almost all incumbent elected officials won re-election, only one member of the City Council lost: Elizabeth Crowley. In a hotly contested race, Crowley lost to challenger and longtime civic leader Robert Holden by just 133 votes.
Crowley topped Holden in September’s Democratic Primary with 62 percent of the vote. Holden, a registered Democrat, then ran in the general election under the Republican, Conservative and Reform party lines. The district, which includes Maspeth, Middle Village, Glendale and Ridgewood, ultimately sided with Holden by a slim margin.
Crowley’s defeat represented a bigger setback for the Queens Democratic Party, run by her cousin, Congressman Joseph Crowley. Last year, another longtime county favorite, Assemblywoman Marge Markey, was also defeated by a political newcomer.
Both Crowley and Markey lost after the high-profile protests in Maspeth against the mayor’s plan to convert the Holiday Inn Express into a homeless shelter. Holden, then the president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, was front and center in those protests.
The question remains whether Holden will caucus with the Democrats or the Republicans in the City Council. Either way, after nine years of Elizabeth Crowley, District 30 now has a new representative.