Residents Tell DOT Their Ideas for Safer Streets By Astoria Park

Nearly 60 neighborhood residents came out for a public meeting on Wednesday night to brainstorm ways to calm traffic around Astoria Park in Queens.

Photo: Jaime Moncayo
Photo: Jaime Moncayo

Council Member Costa Constantinides organized the meeting in response to the June 27 hit-and-run death of 21-year-old Betty DiBiaso at the intersection of Ditmars Boulevard and 19th Street, at the park’s northeast corner. State Assembly Member Aravella Simotas and DOT also sponsored the event, which was held at Astoria’s Bohemian Hall.

Following DiBiaso’s death, local electeds and community groups pressed the city to make significant safety improvements in and around the park. In the last six years, several people have been killed while walking in the vicinity, and traffic crashes have caused about 100 injuries.

With maps provided by DOT, attendees split into smaller groups to discuss how to make the streets around the park safer. Among the ideas discussed were installing bike lanes, daylighting intersections, and adding speed bumps, speed cameras, and signalized crossings around the park. The proposal to turn Shore Boulevard, which divides the park at its edge along the East River, into a car-free street also came up.

“Everything is on the table,” Constantinides said. “We’re looking for a complete plan that touches all the streets around the park.”

Simotas is on the record supporting a car-free Shore Boulevard. She said the meeting led to “a substantive conversation about improving traffic safety conditions on the streets around Astoria Park,” with “a wide range of opinions expressed on how best to achieve the goals of a safer and more accessible park.”

Constantinides said he was energized by the fact that, despite people’s many diverging visions for the park, the meeting was respectful and productive.

Transportation Alternatives Queens Organizer Jaime Moncayo agreed. “We saw at this workshop that there’s a desire to improve those streets. It’s just matter of getting it done,” he said. “I think the general consensus was what’s happening now is not working.”

“Five deaths and 100 injuries in five years is a very sobering number,” Constantinides said.

DOT hopes to bring a proposal to the local community board in the coming months, according to a department spokesperson.