Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, a Democrat running against incumbent Assemblyman Michael DenDekker to represent East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and Woodside, is calling for a “Green New Northern.”
The plan would transform the dangerous roadway into a “safety zone” that limits car traffic between 114th Street and Queens Plaza, and would prioritize emergency and delivery vehicles.
Gonzalez-Rojas also calls for establishing a Select Bus Service (SBS) route, installing a protected bike lane throughout the corridor and planting trees and greenery inside concrete medians.
“We must end the ‘Boulevard of Death’ once and for all,” she said in a statement. “I am running for New York State Assembly to be a leader in confronting the major challenges facing our community.”
The Assembly candidate noted that several children have been killed recently crossing the boulevard, and that there are more than 20 schools within a short walk.
She said with the upcoming implementation of congestion pricing, Northern Boulevard will be a less attractive option for motorists and truck drivers looking to get to the Queensboro Bridge.
The “Green New Northern” would build on the success of the 14th Street busway in Manhattan, which similarly restricted car traffic in favor of faster buses.
“I am willing to fight for a better future with cleaner air, safer streets and faster commutes,” Gonzalez-Rojas said. “We can build a coalition of community members to bring about transformative change and improve the lives of everyone.”
Dudley Stewart, co-owner of the Queensboro Restaurant on Northern Boulevard and a Jackson Heights resident, said he is aware of the dangers that the corridor poses on the community.
“It has physically divided the neighborhood for years and has caused many tragic and needless deaths,” he said.
Stewart said it’s time to focus on pedestrians, rather than cars. He added that local businesses like his own will benefit from having less traffic “speeding through” the neighborhood.
“Improving bus service, creating bike lanes and slowing traffic so that pedestrians can finally shop and stroll along the boulevard will be much safer and much better for business,” he said.
Gonzalez-Rojas is the former executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. The Jackson Heights resident is a founding member of New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE) and a board member of the New Visions Democratic Club.
Nuala O’Doherty-Naranjo, president of the Jackson Heights Beautification Group and a former Manhattan prosecutor, is also running for the seat.
On January 26, DenDekker kicked off his re-election campaign with a rally at the Tibetan Community Hall in Woodside.
Among those in attendance were labor union representatives from Local 638 Steamfitters, Local 444 Sanitation Officers, Construction and General Building Laborers’ Local 79 and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3.
Elected officials like State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, Congressman Gregory Meeks, Councilman Donovan Richards and Assembly members Edward Braunstein, Alicia Hyndman and Michael Benedetto also attended the campaign rally.
DenDekker has previously called for changes along Northern Boulevard. In 2018, after the death of nine-year-old Giovanni Ampuero, the state lawmaker asked for the “Barnes Dance” treatment, which gives a red light to all drivers when pedestrians have the green light to cross.
“I welcome the opportunity to discuss my record and accomplishments with my constituents over the next few months,” DenDekker said in a statement.
The Democratic primary will take place on Tuesday, April 28.