In a unanimous vote last week, Queens Community Board 6 passed a resolution [PDF] asking DOT for a complete redesign of Queens Boulevard to improve street safety. The board is the first along the infamous “Boulevard of Death” to request the study, joining a united front of City Council members.
“Our board, like all of the other boards and electeds, is saying to the Department of Transportation, let’s take a closer look at this,” said Frank Gulluscio, district manager of CB 6, which covers Forest Hills and Rego Park. “They’ve tried to do some stuff, but more needs to be done.”
For years, the city has made incremental changes to Queens Boulevard, but it remains one of the borough’s most dangerous streets for pedestrians. The most recent victim was Forest Hills resident Rosa Anidjar, 82, who was struck and killed on Queens Boulevard at 71st Avenue while walking home from synagogue on May 3.
Advocates for a safer Queens Boulevard, led by volunteers with Transportation Alternatives, first spoke with CB 6 about a resolution last month, and were given a chance to present to the full board on May 14. TA volunteers Peter Beadle and Jessame Hannus made the case for the redesign.
Beadle is also a member of CB 6’s transportation committee. “Having Peter on the board was a huge asset,” Hannus said. “It facilitated the whole process.”
Another boost came from Council Member Karen Koslowitz, whose district covers Rego Park and Forest Hills. In February, she and Council Members Elizabeth Crowley, Daniel Dromm, Rory Lancman, and Jimmy Van Bramer wrote a letter to DOT asking for a safety overhaul of Queens Boulevard [PDF].
Advocates are building support in part because they don’t want DOT to lose sight of Queens Boulevard while other dangerous streets get improvements. “They’re really focusing on Northern Boulevard as their poster child for Vision Zero in Queens,” Hannus said. Mayor Bill de Blasio launched Vision Zero at PS 152 in Woodside, just steps from where an 8-year-old was killed crossing Northern Boulevard, and DOT recently proposed new pedestrian islands on Northern in Jackson Heights [PDF].
“I’m excited about what they’re doing on Northern Boulevard,” Hannus said. “It will give a message to the community [along Queens Boulevard] that they can ask for better.” Hannus suggested bike lanes as the type of change DOT might not propose without demonstrated community support. She also expressed disappointment that DOT chose Queens Boulevard as an “arterial slow zone” without dropping the speed limit from 30 to 25 mph, as on other streets in the program.
Hannus hopes that support from residents and community groups will spur action from DOT. So far, advocates have collected more than 3,500 petition signatures and they hope to secure support from CB 2 next.
CB 6 manager Gulluscio emphasized the breadth of community interest in making Queens Boulevard safer. “It’s not just about the bike people. It’s not just about the drivers. It’s not just about seniors crossing the street,” he said. “It’s about all of us.”