CB 6 Joins Council Members Calling for a Safer Queens Boulevard

The loss of life along Queens Boulevard, which functions like a highway running through Queens, is horrific. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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.

On May 3, Rosa Anidjar, 83, was killed on Queens Boulevard in Rego Park. Now, that neighborhood's CB 6 is the first to ask DOT for a safer street design. Photo via DNAinfo
On May 3, Rosa Anidjar, 82, was killed on Queens Boulevard in Rego Park. Photo via DNAinfo

“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.”

  • Emmily_Litella

    If drivers were properly trained, and actually feared getting a ticket for any aggressive behavior, little of this would be necessary. Driving is a privilege, not a right, and until the law is written and enforced to reflect that as a cultural attitude, I am skeptical that we will see significant reductions in crashes.

  • BBnet3000

    Both of these things should happen, but the design of Queens Boulevard is in fact to blame for plenty of these crashes.

    At the very minimum it should be converted into a real boulevard where the sides are only for local access, like Ocean and Eastern Parkways. Those leave something to be desired for cycling though and are really old and shitty designs really.

  • Emmily_Litella

    Good points and I would love to see the street redesigned, but it would be humongously expensive, as well as disruptive. The design process alone would take tens of millions and MANY years to gain community consensus (if that is even possible). The cost multiplies because of the subway. Also, many other streets have much older utility infrastructure that is overdue for replacement. Spending it on some huge Queens Blvd. job just to change its design changes means some other place will suffer. The street does function as a relief valve for the arterial highway system, already jammed to capacity. The second lane that was in the service roads has already been converted to parking in both directions, so I doubt the City will be quick to further reduce capacity. For most of its length there are no parallel corridors that can take on the displaced traffic load. There are a unique set of with QB and the solutions will require major money and political capital.

  • Joe R.

    I concur. I’m often in favor of traffic calming projects but here if we did that there are few places for the displaced traffic to go. This is one case where I might say just let the cars have Queens Boulevard, and lets figure out alternatives to a redesign to let people safely cross. Those could include using the many subway mezzanines as defacto underpasses, and if need be making them handicapped accessible with at least ramps, better yet elevators. Yes, this is somewhat costly, but much less so than a complete redesign of Queens Boulevard. In fact, the only viable redesign I could think of here unless we radically reduce motor traffic would be to just make the center roadway a elevated limited access expressway. While we’re at it, we could hang bikeways under the expressway so bikes can safely traverse the length of Queens Boulevard non-stop (this would be a boon for Queens bike commuters). The brunt of traffic then would be safely grade separated from crossing pedestrians. The service roads could be converted to simple streets. The space in between could be converted to pedestrian/park space. That said, we’re talking years and millions of dollars, plus getting community approval for what would be an eyesore elevated expressway (I would normally say put the expressway underground but we can’t because of the subway). I think the best short term solution is to use the subway stations for pedestrian crossings where they exist, and install pedestrian bridges at regular intervals in between. Given that subway stations are the primary places where most people cross Queens Boulevard, you may not even need pedestrian bridges with this plan.

    And I already know this post will be meet with criticism from a lot of liveable streets advocates, but the fact is given the present lack of alternatives to Queens Boulevard, coupled with the lack of political will to drastically reduce traffic levels, plus the huge costs of any major reconfiguration, our options are really very limited. Queens Boulevard never should have been built as it is in the first place but the fact is it was. At best all we can do is make lemonade out of a lemon.

  • Wi Cho

    NYC is broke.

  • BBnet3000

    1) Slowing down traffic doesnt actually reduce capacity. Cars can be more closely spaced at a lower speed. IIRC peak flow of cars is at around 30mph (though this may be on a highway, not sure if the same speed applies to surface streets)

    2) I could be wrong but a huge portion of these crashes are from drivers turning onto Queens Boulevard, not cars going straight on Queens Boulevard. The turning situation is fucked and thats certainly the cars I felt in danger from when crossing QB, not the ones going straight (who were stopped as I crossed).

  • Joe R.

    The thing is a redesign of Queens Boulevard aimed at making it safer would also have to include narrowing it, and that would reduce capacity. You really can’t make the pedestrian phase longer without creating backups given present traffic levels. The extreme width of Queens Boulevard means crossing pedestrians often get stuck at medians. The only way to fix this is by narrowing the road.

    Yes, turning vehicles are a major problem. Enforcement could mitigate that but I should point out that often so many vehicles are turning it would create massive backups if they yielded. And like a longer crossing phase, we really couldn’t fit in a turning phase. Really, the situation is just a horrible mess with no real quick fix. Things could be made marginally better, but Queens Boulevard as it stands now will always be a dicey street to cross. That’s precisely why I always use the subway to get across.

  • lop

    ‘And like a longer crossing phase, we really couldn’t fit in a turning phase.’

    Yes you can. Right now a lot of lights with turns have the left turn off QB phase after the straight down QB phase (maybe all of them). Swap that, and add a right turn phase onto QB at the cross streets at the same time, plus daylighting intersections to make it easier for peds to cross.

    And if you reduce capacity, then good. Fewer people will drive. No reason to keep encouraging development in the far off neighborhoods whose residents speed down QB and through other neighborhoods to get where they’re going.

  • lop

    ‘ make the center roadway a elevated limited access expressway.’

    Your solution to aggressive motorists is to build them an expensive highway through residential and commercial areas so they can comfortably live far away with their big house and yard?

    Reduce road capacity. Discourage development of far off neighborhoods where everyone drives. Don’t encourage it with a highway.

  • Joe R.

    Yes you can. Right now a lot of lights with turns have the left turn off QB phase after the straight down QB phase (maybe all of them). Swap that, and add a right turn phase onto QB at the cross streets at the same time, plus daylighting intersections to make it easier for peds to cross.

    That’s a great idea which I’ll bet even the people at DOT never thought of. There would be absolutely no conflicts with traffic turning left off QB and right on to QB at the same time. This is an excellent example of the kind of out of the box thinking we need to make our streets better.

  • Joe R.

    Sure, the absolute best way to fix this problem is to reduce motor traffic, no arguments there. If it turns out that this isn’t possible, then my alternative is the only way I’m seeing of creating a safer environment for pedestrians. In fact, if someone in power actually proposed this solution right now it might actually help us both get our wish of less traffic. Why? The people who live in places this expressway would pass through would rightfully fight it tooth and nail. That might get someone in a high place to finally say what until now has been taboo-namely that we can’t accommodate large numbers of cars AND still have safe streets without building awful things like elevated expressways. This is the discussion we need to have. You said it yourself-the development of less dense areas exacts a heavy cost on the denser ones. If we get enough city residents to see that there are only two real ways to get safe streets (i.e. networks of ugly elevated highways OR radically reduced traffic levels), they’ll undoubtedly push for the latter.

    As I’ve said before, everything negative we’re seeing on the streets are merely symptoms whose primary cause is high traffic levels.

  • lop

    When I was in Kew Gardens, a dangerous intersection I always dreaded was Park lane South/Metropolitan avenue. There’s a left turn phase from park lane south heading north/east onto metro going west. Adding a right turn phase for cars on metro (heading east, turning south/west onto park lane), usually coming off the jackie robinson and heading to neighborhoods south of Kew Gardens would be great, and would let them daylight pedestrians at the intersection without impacting throughput for cars turning off metro. it’s a hazardous intersection and helps cut off the park from the community. Cars running the red at park lane, usually going north, at abingdon doesn’t help either. But the cars turning right onto metro are still in highway mode. The last thing they can be counted on is to yield to pedestrians.

    Tried to get Koslowitz, the local council woman, to support it. She’s useless. Her staff ignored me. Only thing I ever got from them was reelection email blasts – the only reason they had my email address was because I was complaining about these two intersections.

    The CB in the area doesn’t support anything to help peds or cyclists. Eventually got fed up with them and moved.

    If anyone is putting together a list of council members to run pro safe streets members against, add Koslowitz to it.

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