Surging Candidate Garcia Supports 34th Ave. Linear Park

Just a coincidence? Former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia is the first of this year’s mayoral candidates to put her John Hancock on a petition calling for the creation of a linear park on 34th Avenue in Queens — and she also tops the latest poll in the see-saw 2021 primary race.

Garcia signed the pro-open space petition on Sunday in Jackson Heights, as she enjoyed a stroll on what the city calls its “gold standard” open street.

“We were very excited when we got word from her campaign that she had signed our petition,” said Luz Maria Mercado, a member of Friends of 34th Avenue Linear Park, which initially formed in hopes of making sure the open street would remain permanent, but has now shifted to advocating for a truly innovative design that maximizes green space in a neighborhood with very little of it.

“I got to meet her and thank her in person, along with many other linear park supporters, when she came to the Jackson Heights Farmers Market on Sunday. She commented on how vibrant our Open Street is. She was well aware of it and had visited before.”

Mercado said the park group is continuing to reach out to all the mayoral candidates.

“We have a sizable contact list and enthusiastic supporters who care deeply about this vision,” Mercardo said. “We canvass and we vote, so we hope more candidates will sign on soon.”

Garcia’s support for the 34th Avenue open street is no surprise. Last week, she told Streetsblog that she strongly objects to a so-called “compromise” group that seeks to reduce the hours, days and length of the Jackson Heights-Corona jewel.

“Thirty-fourth Avenue is lovely; it really is a community amenity now,” she said. “You see little kids on roller skates, kids on bikes, particularly in an area that has so little access to recreational activity. It’s is the right direction for us to be going in. … I want it permanent. I like having it closed to traffic, open to people all the time. I would not reduce their hours; I think it’s been incredibly successful.”

She agreed that some of Mayor de Blasio’s open streets are not as effective because fewer people use them, but that’s not the case on 34th Avenue, thanks to a massive volunteer effort, as Streetfilms has reported.

“The ones I’d want to look at again is where no one’s using it, but that’s not true on 34th Avenue,” said Garcia, who recently visited the area by bike with Streetsblog’s Dave Colon. “You see families, older people, I think it’s been very successful for that community.”

And Garcia’s signing clearly reflects her commitment to doing what the vast majority of voters wants.

New Yorkers of all races and income levels tell pollsters that their lives are better when car traffic is reduced around them. For instance, in a recent survey commissioned by Streetsblog from the respected polling firm Data for Progress, we learned the following:

67 percent of voters said the city was right to close some roadways to traffic to create space for restaurants and people. The support was strong across the board:
66 percent of voters making less than $50,000 and 67 percent of voters making more than $150,000 agreed.
64 percent of Latino voters agreed (versus only 23 percent who didn’t)
The support was also strong in all age groups.

72 percent of voters say they prefer “livable streets that prioritize people’s needs and their safety.”
The number rose to 77 percent among Black or African-American voters.
And 72 percent of voters support livable streets in all income levels.

What is even more interesting is the racial breakdown of that survey. The overwhelming majority of voters who identified themselves as Latino or Hispanic support open streets (and, indeed, a majority — nearly 58 percent — of the people who live in Census blocks that straddle 34th Avenue identify as Hispanic or Latino). No matter how Streetsblog asked the question, we received largely the same answer from these voters, as the charts below show:

Poll: Data for ProgressPoll: Data for ProgressPoll: Data for ProgressPoll: Data for Progress

Garcia is just the latest to support the linear park petition — and the first mayoral candidate to do so. Previously, the linear park earned the support of Queens Borough president Donovan Richards, the neighborhood’s Assembly Member Jessica González-Rojas and Council Member Danny Dromm, one of the candidates to succeed that Council member (Shekar Krishnan), and every day residents — all of whom have penned op-eds for Streetsblog.

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