Updated 3:50 p.m.
Lifelong Howard Beach resident Angelica Katz compares cycling along the Belt Parkway to entering a cave, with animals like raccoons and possums sporadically scurrying around you.
Katz, who has been riding her bike along Jamaica Bay since she was 14, started a petition on Aug. 20 to convince the Parks Department to install lights along the Jamaica Bay Greenway bike path to illuminate the way for bikers and pedestrians.
“It’s not just important; it’s completely necessary,” Katz said. “Once you get off the Marine Parkway Bridge, it is really desolate. It’s dark to the point where you feel like you just walked into a cave and you can’t even see your hand in front of you at night.”
Though the lack of lights has always been a problem, Katz said the recent Jamaica Bay Greenway plan that aims to revitalize the 19-mile route inspired her to start a petition. After contacting representatives associated with the plan, she found that the land consisting of the loop is Parks Department property and that the Department of Transportation (DOT) would be taking care of the construction. Katz was told installing lights along the loop is not in the plan.
“The whole road is going to look beautiful but you won’t be able to see any of it,” Katz said. “It just seems kind of ridiculous. That’s what pushed me over the edge.”
Her petition, which had 64 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon, asks the DOT, Regional Plan Association and National Parks service to “ensure this plan includes adequate path lighting that will create a safe environment for all cyclists and pedestrians while connecting the beautiful and unique parks, wetlands and beaches surrounding Jamaica Bay.”
After 100 people electronically sign the petition, Katz hopes to send it to community boards and parties associated with the plan to show the support that surrounding communities like Howard Beach, Rockaway and Broad Channel have for the plan.
Several people who signed the petition also expressed their concerns in the comments section, including Denise Sodano, a Belle Harbor resident who said she travels the route often and finds it “very dangerous.”
“It’s really comforting to know that it’s not just me, a resident waving my fist,” Katz said. “Everybody who uses the bike path feels like this.”
Planning meetings and workshops took place across communities in southeast Queens this summer to discuss the implementation of the plan and Katz hopes this petition is reflected in the final plan, which will be unveiled this fall.
“Safety is our first priority,” a spokesperson for the Parks Department said. “We are heartened by the enthusiasm for biking in this area, and we are open to exploring the feasibility of installing lights along this path with the Department of Transportation.”