Tag Archives: Boulevard of Death

$100M transformation to turn Queens Boulevard into ‘Boulevard of Life’ begins


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

For Lizi Rahman and all other family members who have lost loved ones on Queens Boulevard, their dream of putting an end to the “Boulevard of Death” is finally starting to become reality.

Rahman — whose 22-year-old son Asif was fatally struck while riding his bicycle home in 2008 — joined Mayor Bill de Blasio, Department of Transportation (DOT) representatives and local elected officials and community leaders on Thursday morning in Woodside to announce the beginning of the $100 million redesign of the busy thoroughfare which has claimed 185 lives since 1990.

“I decided to do everything in my power to get a bike lane on Queens Boulevard so that bicyclists would feel safe and no mother would go through this pain of losing a child,” Rahman said. “There were times when I was discouraged. I almost gave up but then I saw light at the end of the tunnel when Mayor de Blasio was elected. Now my dream is not a dream anymore; it became a reality.”

The first phase of the redesign project, which was unanimously approved by Community Board 2 last month, will focus on the 1.3-mile section of Queens Boulevard between Roosevelt Avenue and 73rd Street, an area which saw six deaths, 36 severe injuries and 591 more hurt in traffic accidents between 2009 and 2013.

“Here is a lesson if ever there was one, on the fact that we had to change things here on Queens Boulevard. We were losing too many good people, and we could avoid those losses. And finally, the actions are being taken to save lives here on Queens Boulevard that should’ve happened long ago,” de Blasio said on Thursday.

Lizi Rahman lost her son in 2008 after he was fatally struck by a truck on Queens Boulevard while riding his bicycle home.

Lizi Rahman lost her son in 2008 after he was fatally struck by a truck on Queens Boulevard while riding his bicycle home.

The redesign of the thoroughfare is expected to decrease drivers from switching repeatedly between the main line and service road. The overall plan will be to get rid of the “highway-like design features” which encourage drivers to speed.

The improvements on the stretch, which will be installed through October, include safer crossings installed along the corridor; pedestrian islands and new mid-block crossings constructed to give pedestrians more time to cross; and the addition of high-visibility crosswalks and new signals.

“We have an obligation to make sure that not one more person loses their life on this boulevard,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said. “We will transform Queens Boulevard into that ‘Boulevard of Life.’ We will make it safer for everyone, pedestrians, cyclists and motorists, all living in harmony and in safety.”

The DOT will also add protected bike lanes with buffers and new pedestrian space along the median next to the service lane in both directions. A raised, concrete bicycle path will be constructed under the overpass on the eastbound service road from 67th to 69th streets.

The project will also include pedestrian ramps being upgraded to be ADA-complaint improving accessibility to those with disabilities, and service roads will be reduced to one moving lane in each direction.

The DOT plans to soon begin the phase of the redesign of Queens Boulevard from 73rd Street to Eliot Avenue, and after from Eliot Avenue to Jamaica Avenue.

“So for all the people who depend on this crucial road, life will change for the better. And we’re going to use every tool we have to continue that work — not just on Queens Boulevard, but all over the city,” de Blasio said.

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First phase of $100M Queens Boulevard redesign to be implemented by August


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Images courtesy of the Department of Transportation

The voices of a concerned community have been heard, and by August, the first segment of the redesign of what is known as the “Boulevard of Death” is expected to be implemented to make it safer.

The city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) announced Tuesday that it would be releasing a detailed preliminary plan to redesign a 1.3-mile portion of Queens Boulevard. The plan is based on community input gathered during a safety workshop held on Jan. 22 in Woodside.

This project, which will be reviewed by Community Board 2 and is expected to be implemented in August, launches the start of the DOT’s $100 million Green Streets initiative, which will cover all seven miles of Queens Boulevard.

The agency plans to hold more public workshops during the fall and winter for the future phases of the initiative, from 73rd Street to Eliot Avenue and from Eliot Avenue to Union Turnpike.

“After decades of crashes, many of them fatal, this corridor has been reimagined and will be redesigned to become a safer, greener and more attractive corridor for residents and businesses, suitable to traverse through the World’s Borough,” DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said.

The first phase of the redesign, which includes the installation of a protected bike lane, covers the 1.3-mile stretch of the thoroughfare between Roosevelt Avenue and 73rd Street.

The agency previously said it decided to focus on this section first because statistics showed there have been six fatalities since 2009 in that particular area.

Some of the features of the first redesign segment include safer crossings, increased pedestrian space and improved intersections. The preliminary plan also looks to calm the traffic on service roads and try to reduce the number of times drivers move between the main line and service roads.

Unique redesigns include a protected bike lane integrated into a widened service road median, with new pedestrian space and median-to-median crossings that “allow for a linear park-like experience,” according to the DOT.

“This work represented a major advancement in the efforts to achieve Vision Zero throughout our city,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said. “Thanks to the work of the DOT, we are seeing significant improvements in traffic safety in western Queens, and we look forward to seeing Queens Boulevard safety improvements thanks to this $100 million capital investment.”

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First safety workshop held for Queens Boulevard


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

Community officials, residents, family members of traffic accident victims and survivors got the chance Wednesday night to give their input on putting an end to fatal crashes on the “Boulevard of Death.”

The Department of Transportation held the first Queens Boulevard Safety Workshop at P.S. 11 in Woodside to discuss the future of a stretch of the busy thoroughfare between Roosevelt Avenue and 73rd Street.

The agency said it decided to focus on this section first because statistics show there have been six fatalities since 2009 in that particular area. Last year, the speed limit on Queens Boulevard was lowered to 25 mph as part of the city’s Vision Zero initiative.

“The Mayor made it clear that improving Queens Boulevard is a priority and so Wednesday night NYCDOT will host a safety workshop to hear the community’s concerns and ideas,” DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said. “That workshop is only the first step in a more comprehensive process to reimagine and redesign the boulevard as a safer, greener, more attractive corridor for residents and businesses.”

During the workshop, over 100 members of the public were able to sit down with DOT facilitators in groups at several tables in the school’s cafeteria. The agency’s representatives then went over the options for improvements that can be done on the thoroughfare and asked that each person draw on a map of Queens Boulevard, provided at each table, any suggestions they have.

Among those present were members of Families for Safe Streets, made up of a group of family members of victims of traffic accidents and survivors.

“We’re really asking for them to take a really bold stand and do a complete redesign of Queens Boulevard,” said Ellen Foote, a member of Families for Safe Streets whose 27-year-old son was killed while riding his bicycle home. “We want to turn the ‘Boulevard of Death’ to the ‘Boulevard of Life.’”

Foote added that with the popularity of Queens increasing, she sees Queens Boulevard as the place to start making changes. She urged the DOT to take the community’s input and statistics and come up with a plan.

“We should make it a model not just for New York City, but the world,” Foote said.

Among the suggestions voiced by the public were creating protected bike lanes and dedicated bus lanes, making street medians longer and wider, adding street regulations to reduce speeding, and increasing the amount of time to cross Queens Boulevard.

Ralph Munoz, a Kew Gardens resident who lost both his mother and brother to traffic accidents, in separate incidents, sees the workshops as positive moves to making the streets safer. He added that he sees many cars speeding near where he lives.

“The [speed limit] law is new. People need to learn. It takes time. But if people want to do it, they can be a very responsible driver. People just need to be more responsible with their car,” Munoz said. “It’s a discipline and it’s a change to keep people safe.”

Munoz is a new member of Families for Safe Streets and says he plans to attend future workshops for Queens Boulevard, especially for the stretch of the strip near where he lives.

“It’s good to be involved and helping with this type of thing because you don’t want other families to go through this,” Munoz said.

The DOT will now take the input from the workshop and use it to come up with recommendations for Queens Boulevard. There are also plans for future workshops for the road.

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Four Queens streets among region’s most dangerous for pedestrians: report


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

As Mayor Bill de Blasio and other local leaders push to lower traffic deaths, a new report has identified four Queens roadways as some of the most dangerous  for pedestrians in downstate New York.

The analysis, from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a nonprofit policy watchdog organization, found that from 2010 to 2012, Woodhaven Boulevard had the most pedestrian deaths with eight fatalities.

It was ranked sixth overall out of 12 counties in downstate New York and the second worst in the city, behind Broadway in Manhattan.

Tied with the 14th most deaths were Union Turnpike, Queens Boulevard and Northern Boulevard, which had five fatalities each.

Union Turnpike and Queens Boulevard, nicknamed the “Boulevard of Death,” were new to the list this year.

Over the weekend four pedestrians, including a 7-year-old girl, were struck in a hit-and-run at a bus stop on Northern Boulevard and 48th Street.

An 8-year-old Woodside boy was killed on his way to school in December when a truck driver, who was operating his vehicle on a suspended license, hit him at the intersection of 61st Street and Northern Boulevard.

On Jan. 15, with the child’s family at his side, de Blasio launched his Vision Zero initiative at the boy’s school.

The mayor and his administration is launching an interagency working group, together with the NYPDDepartment of TransportationDepartment of Health and Mental Hygiene and Taxi & Limousine Commission, to implement the plan, which aims to reduce traffic fatalities to zero within the next 10 years.

Nearly 60 percent of pedestrian fatalities occurred on arterial roadways, multi-lane roads that often have speed limits of 40 mph or more and little pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, according to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign analysis.

“These findings make it clear once again that we need to redesign our most dangerous arterial corridors,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of advocacy group Transportation Alternatives. “We can save lives by building complete streets with protected bike lanes, wider sidewalks and pedestrian safety islands.”

 

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Local advocates march for Queens Boulevard safety improvements


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

Updated, 5:22 p.m

A group of local residents want to make the “Boulevard of Death” a thing of the past.

Regardless of the snow, members of Transportation Alternatives’ (T.A.) Queens Activist Committee and residents gathered Saturday to march down Queens Boulevard during the “Winter Wander” Rally to call for a safer thoroughfare.

The group of advocates, who began the event at New Life Fellowship Church in Elmhurst, spoke about the Zero on Queens Boulevard campaign, calling for a redesign of the strip with pedestrian safety improvements, dedicated lanes for Select Bus Service (SBS) and protected bike lanes.

The snowy march served as the first step in letting people know what they can do to change the busy corridor.

“We’ve been trying to build community support for the city to re-envision Queens Boulevard,” said Jessame Hannus, co-chair of T.A.’s Queens Activist Committee, who carried a sign that read “30 mph” to remind drivers of the speed limit. “We just want to make it clear that this is a neighborhood street and we are all neighbors.”

Hannus said even though many accidents happen on the boulevard, the community just ignores them because they believe it is normal.

According to a “Queens Blvd. Crash Data” map by T.A., there have been 890 pedestrian injuries, 17 pedestrian fatalities, 205 cyclist injuries and 2 cyclist fatalities between 2002 to 2011 on Queens Boulevard stretching from Jackson Avenue in Long Island City to Jamaica Avenue in Jamaica.

“The community doesn’t respond to it,” she said. “It does not have to be this way and it’s not going to change unless we make a fuss about it.”

During the march street safety advocates discussed the history of the roadway, stopping at specific spots pedestrians lost their lives. The “Winter Wander” Rally ended in Forest Hills.

The Zero on Queens Boulevard campaign,  with more than 40 coalition partners and close to 2,000 petition signatures, has a long-term goal of making sure the city allocates funding and energy to change the boulevard on a large scale saving lives and strengthening the local economy.

Councilmember Daniel Dromm, who has worked with the Department of Transportation to implement neighborhood slow zones and other pedestrian safety improvements in his district, also joined the group on the march. In his district three children have also lost their lives in traffic fatalities in the past few months.

“This is a very, very serious issue and we have to continue to stress the seriousness of this because sometimes people dismiss it as just something that doesn’t affect their lives but when you look at the statistics you see that there are more pedestrian deaths than there are murders in the city of the New York,” said Dromm. “I believe in the three E’s:  engineering, education and enforcement on these issues and that’s what we have tried to do in my council district. More needs to be done.”

According to the DOT, there have been decade-long improvements to the seven-mile strip that have re-engineered the streets for enhanced safety. Some of these improvements include pedestrian countdown signals at more than 60 intersections at Queens Boulevard from Queens Plaza South to Hillside Avenue, lowering the speed limit on Queens Boulevard from 35 to 30 mph, installing 15 electronic boards displaying the speed of passing motorists, installing 46,000 linear feet of pedestrian fencing along the entire corridor to prevent jaywalking and many more.

“Safety is DOT’s top priority, in the last ten years, traffic fatalities have fallen borough-wide by nearly 35 percent,” said DOT spokesperson Nicholas Mosquera. “Queens Boulevard saw 18 pedestrian fatalities at its height in 1997 and zero pedestrian fatalities in 2011, the first time this has been recorded, and two last year along the entire seven-mile corridor. We continue to look for ways to enhance safety both on Queens Boulevard and citywide.”

 

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Parents say school rezoning puts kids in danger


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Maps courtesy of the Department of Education

Parents say a District 24 rezoning proposal has crossed the lines.

The Division of Portfolio Planning in the city’s education department presented a rezoning draft, which targets overcrowding, at the Community Education Council (CEC) D24 meeting at P.S. 305 on September 12. But following an incident in which an SUV jumped the curb on Grand Avenue and injured five students, the plan drew heavy backlash from parents in attendance because some students will have to cross dangerous intersections.

Based on the plans, students would have to cross Queens Boulevard, the so-called “Boulevard of Death,” to get to P.S. 229 from the newly expanded northern area. Also, some children that formerly would be zoned for P.S. 229 will be instead moved to P.S. 153, which may force them to cross the Long Island Expressway via Maurice Avenue.

“You can’t even drive down Maurice Avenue, how are [children] going to walk,” said Sinead McGillen, a parent from P.S. 229. “Just leave us alone, we are happy where we are.”

The proposal will adjust zones based on neighborhood populations, and representatives from Portfolio Planning said they are confident every school will see reductions in congestion in future years.

“It’s definitely going to lower overcrowding,” said CEC D24 president Nick Comaianni. “Is it going to be enough? That’s yet to be seen. In my 10 years as president it’s never been enough. You build it, and it gets filled up.”

The zone changes would only affect incoming kindergarten students in the 2014-2015 school year, meaning that current students won’t change schools. Representatives of Portfolio Planning said they are also considering allowing siblings to stay in the same schools if there is space.

The plan was introduced to the parents for their feedback.

Portfolio Planning staffers took note of the troubled streets parents brought up during the meeting and they plan to reconfigure the proposal and meet with the CEC again on September 24.

LIE Crossing PS 153

 

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Pedestrian countdown signals saves lives on Queens Boulevard


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Bye-bye “Boulevard of Death.”

Sixty-six intersections along Queens Boulevard have acquired pedestrian countdown signals (PCS), the latest safety improvement made by the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) throughout the borough. These fixtures, among over 2,100 new countdown signals installed in Queens in 2011, inform walkers of how much time is left before the light changes, keeping them from stepping into oncoming traffic.

“Safety numbers are more than statistics, safety is a nonstop campaign to prevent unnecessary, avoidable tragedies on our streets,” said DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, who announced the introduction of the new PCS devices on Tuesday, January 24. “Though these tragedies are less common for pedestrians on Queens Boulevard today, we do not take these gains for granted and continue to take aggressive steps to make our streets even safer.”

The seven-mile stretch of Queens Boulevard now adorned with PCS devices was once an infamously dangerous street, the backdrop for 18 pedestrian fatalities at the height of its peril in 1997, according to the DOT. Since 2004, there have been one or two such fatalities a year and zero pedestrian fatalities in 2011 — the first time no pedestrian deaths were recorded since 1983, the first year detailed casualty records were kept.

The installation of PCS fixtures are part of the DOT’s Pedestrian Safety Study and Action Plan, an initiative stemming from the study of over 7,000 crashes causing serious injuries or fatalities to pedestrians. The research analyzed the underlying causes of these accidents, discovering that pedestrian crashes are about two-thirds deadlier when they occur on wider streets.

As of October 2011, the DOT installed countdown signals at 842 of these broad intersections throughout the five boroughs of New York City, including major traffic ways such as the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, 4th Avenue in Brooklyn, Hylan Boulevard on Staten Island and Broadway in Manhattan.