Simotas Calls on DOT to Make Astoria Park’s Shore Boulevard Car-Free

Assembly Member Aravella Simotas wants Astoria Park to be New York’s next car-free park.

Assembly Member Aravella Simotas
Assembly Member Aravella Simotas

In a letter sent to DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg this week [PDF], Simotas urged the agency to make Shore Boulevard between Astoria Park South and Ditmars Boulevard a car-free space. Shore Boulevard runs along the East River within Astoria Park, and it’s one of the streets park advocates and Council Member Costa Constantinides have prioritized for traffic calming in the wake of the hit-and-run death of 21-year-old Betty Jean DiBiaso.

With her declaration of support for a fully car-free Shore Boulevard, Simotas is taking the next step.

The boulevard is often busy with families enjoying the waterfront, especially on weekends. It’s also a gathering spot for motorcyclists and can attract drag racers.

“One of the great things about Astoria Park is the access it provides to the waterfront,” Simotas said in a press release. “With cars racing up and down Shore Boulevard, families are forced to cross a hazardous barrier in order to fully enjoy this green space.”

Shore Boulevard can be turned into a car-free street without causing anyone a major inconvenience, Simotas said. Overnight parking is already prohibited on the street, which does not abut any homes or businesses.

“By closing this superfluous half-mile section to vehicles we can make Astoria Park safer and better with hardly any effect on congestion in the area,” Simotas said.

Constantinides reiterated his desire for a traffic-calming plan encompassing all the streets bordering Astoria Park. “The area has long been dangerous for pedestrians and our community is in need of action,” he said in a statement. “There are several safety measures that could greatly improve the area, including a car-free Shore Boulevard. I commend Assemblymember Simotas for her dedication to traffic safety and I look forward to working with the community as we form a comprehensive, long-lasting, plan.”

In a statement, DOT said:

We have not yet seen the Assembly Member’s letter, but DOT is always open to working with the community and elected officials on ideas about enhancing safety, particularly at key destinations well used by residents and visitors alike such as Astoria Park. We look forward to discussing this more with stakeholders, such as the Assembly Member, on hearing ideas on addressing their concerns. Any enforcement questions should be directed to NYPD.

Update: Astoria Park Alliance backed a car-free Shore Boulevard in a statement:

Astoria Park Alliance supports Assembly Member Aravella Simotas’ efforts to ensure the safety of Astoria Park users. Astoria Park was created to give park users access to the waterfront. The closure of Shore Boulevard would extend Astoria Park all the way to the water, ensure pedestrian safety, increase programming potential, and fulfill the vision upon which Astoria Park was founded.

  • J

    Good news, but didn’t the DOT just spend millions putting in a bike path along that stretch? Frustrating…

  • Simon Phearson

    It’s okay. The bike path has been completely taken over by pedestrians and debris (i.e., the usual fate of most bike paths), so it should probably continue to serve that function.

  • ahwr

    Except for a little bit right under the bridge which was widened significantly, that space used to be a sidewalk. When you remove pedestrian space (or turn it into a shared use path) do you expect people to just disappear to make room for your bike? Has that worked out well anywhere?

  • Simon Phearson

    There’s a pedestrian path parallel to the bike path for its entire length, and the pedestrian crossings are limited to designated crosswalks that connect to it. As such, there’s no reason for pedestrians to walk along the bike path, which is specifically signed for bikes. It’s worth noting, too, that there are plenty of other places in the park for pedestrians, where cyclists may not go.

    Cyclists are expected and required to stay off of sidewalks and to ride in painted lanes and separated paths whenever they’re available. Why ought we also to accept that pedestrians can just do whatever suits them, including using the infrastructure that cyclists are required to use? Why can’t they be expected to follow the law as often as cyclists are?

    Hey, that makes them sound an awful lot like drivers, doesn’t it. You could make the same argument: When you remove a lane for traffic (or turn it into a bike lane) do you expect cars to just disappear to make room for your bike?

  • ahwr

    It’s a park. People used to walk right up to the edge of it then get on the sidewalk. Now you want to tell people they can’t enter or exit the park where they want and the city put up a fence to try to corral them, sometimes sending them out of the way or up a hill. Who thought that would work out?

    BTW are you sure it’s a bike path and not a shared use path? It’s shared use at least from the north corner heading south to the stairs just before the bridge. When it was being planned years ago I remember it was supposed to be a shared path, maybe that changed.

    Most road space that’s reappropriated for other uses doesn’t affect traffic flow, bottlenecks after the change are the same ones as before. In some cases this improves throughput or travel times for drivers by discouraging excessive merging. Rarely however new bottlenecks are introduced. When that happens I do expect drivers to disappear, or tolerate longer travel times. The auto facility is sacrificed to create a new one, for buses, bikes, pedestrians etc…that leads to a more equitable use of public space. There are minimal pedestrian facilities in the city. In some cases it can make sense to allow bikes access to those facilities, though giving pedestrians priority. To remove pedestrian access completely in order to create a bike highway is usually wrong. Where has it worked out well? From your complaints, it doesn’t seem to have worked well here.

  • BBnet3000

    Frankly a shared use path with that level of use by pedestrians and bikes is a sign of serious incompetence. Restoring the old configuration and closing the road to cars would allow the road to be used by bikes and the wide sidewalk to be used by pedestrians.

  • BBnet3000

    Expect years of “studying it” with a possible partial removal of cars in 2023.

  • JK

    Yes! Car free makes total sense here and has been a long, long time coming. No traffic flow justification, lots of upsides as a safer public space. This is cruising — and drag racing — traffic on a premier piece of NYC riverside.

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