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Demonstrators Call for Swift Action From City Hall to Fix Queens Boulevard

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Aaron Charlop-Powers of Families For Safe Streets said DOT should start redesigning Queens Boulevard today. Photo: Ben Fried

When it comes to redesigning Queens Boulevard for safe walking and biking, there's no time to spare. It's a matter of life and death.

Dozens of local residents marched with members of Families For Safe Streets and Transportation Alternatives in the icy cold yesterday to urge swift action from City Hall on its Queens Boulevard safety efforts. They were joined at Queens Borough Hall by Council Member Karen Koslowitz, who said she supports "whatever it takes" to stop the death toll on New York's most notorious urban speedway.

Last week Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said DOT would spend $100 million to reconstruct Queens Boulevard, focusing first on the section in western Queens between Roosevelt Avenue and 74th Street. The extent of the redesign has yet to be determined.

The demonstrators called for bold, rapid action from DOT. "It's heartening to see that budget commitment," said Aaron Charlop-Powers, who lost his mother to a dooring crash on Crotona Avenue in the Bronx. "But [at that rate] it would take 100 years to rebuild the streets of NYC in a way that we would find sufficient. We'd like to encourage everyone involved in this work to move faster. DOT should start on Monday."

With such widespread recognition that the current design of Queens Boulevard is failing, he said, waiting for a lengthy public process will put people's lives at risk. "We are the community," he said. "Failure is waiting until my mother is killed, then adding a bike lane."

During the rally, many speakers paid tribute to Asif Rahman, whose life was cut short in 2008 when a truck driver struck him while he was biking on Queens Boulevard. His mother, Lizi Rahman, began advocating for a safe bike lane and better pedestrian crossings on the street seven years ago.

Koslowitz has lived in the area 53 years. Her district includes several miles of Queens Boulevard between the Long Island Expressway and the Van Wyck. During her first stint in the City Council in the 1990s, nearly 100 people were killed on the street in a ten-year span. "I have to cross Queens Boulevard and so do my children," she said. "From the LIE to Borough Hall, people use Queens Boulevard as a highway. We have to show them it's not a highway, it's a neighborhood."

Council Member Karen Koslowitz, far right, said she supports "whatever it takes
Council Member Karen Koslowitz, far right, said she supports "whatever it takes" to make Queens Boulevard a safe street.
Council Member Karen Koslowitz, far right, said in 2015 that she would support "whatever it takes" to make Queens Boulevard a safe street. Photo: Ben Fried

I asked Koslowitz if she would support rearranging traffic lanes and parking to make Queens Boulevard a safe street. "Absolutely," she said. "Whatever it takes to change the name from the Boulevard of Death to the Boulevard of Life."

Everyone at the event felt acutely aware that the highway-like design of the street continues to put them and their loved ones in harm's way.

"We all have friends and family who use Queens Boulevard," said Tala Haider, 19. "We owe it to them to advocate for change."

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