After Fatal Hit-and-Run, Queens CB 1 Calls on DOT to Redesign 21st Street

A hit-and-run driver killed a 45-year-old man earlier this month at this on 21st Street in Astoria, where advocates have been calling for traffic-calming for over two years. Image: Google Maps
A hit-and-run driver killed 45-year-old Sean Crume earlier this month on 21st Street in Astoria, where advocates have been calling for traffic-calming for over two years. Image: Google Maps

Queens Community Board 1 endorsed a resolution late last night asking DOT for a “comprehensive redesign of the entire length of 21st Street along Complete Street principles.”

The vote comes after a hit-and-run driver killed 45-year-old Sean Crume walking across 21st Street at 30th Road, where there is no signalized crossing, earlier this month. It was the fourth fatality on 21st Street since 2009, according to Vision Zero View.

The resolution was nearly delayed to next month, according to advocates who attended last night, but the board ultimately passed it at around 10:30 p.m.

With wide lanes and lots of car traffic traveling between the BQE and the free Queensboro Bridge, 21st Street ranks in the bottom third of Queens’ streets in terms of safety, according to DOT [PDF].

Volunteers with Transportation Alternatives’ Queens Committee have been pushing for traffic calming on 21st Street for two and a half years. The campaign has collected 1,600 signatures and 37 letters of support from local organizations and businesses.

DOT responded last year with meager safety improvements: some painted curb extensions and a few tweaks to signals and lane striping, but no major changes to the basic geometry of the street. Agency officials maintained that high rush hour traffic volumes precluded narrowing the roadway and adding bike lanes or pedestrian islands.

Local advocates weren’t satisfied. “We haven’t stopped campaigning,” said TA Queens member Angela Stach. “We have been trying to push our council members to go back to the city and ask for more.”

Stach said advocates are now demanding a fully protected bike lane. “We have enough proof of concept now,” she said. “There’s enough studies of actual projects that have been implemented in the city that bike lanes actually make the street safer for everyone.”

Last night, CB 1 Chair Joseph Risi signaled his support for significant changes, saying that 21st Street needs a redesign on par with recent improvements to Queens Boulevard.

Along with a broad request for safety improvements, the resolution specifically requests changes at the three-way intersection with 27th Avenue and Astoria Boulevard, as well as signalized crossings at 28th Avenue, 30th Road, 22rd Road, 39th Avenue, and mid-block between 34th and 35th Avenues.

New traffic signals won’t necessarily make the street safer — a road diet definitely will. “This [resolution] is really a call to DOT to do everything, and not just fix some things here and there,” said Stach.

  • WalkingNPR

    I’ve given up hope that the DOT would do anything proactively–heaven forbid! But in the age of Vision Zero, that headline ought to read” After Fatal Hit-and-Run, DOT redesigns 21st Street”

    “The Swedish National Road Administration (SNRA) conducts thorough in-depth studies of all fatal accidents. These investigations have been standard practice since 1997. The in-depth studies clarify which aspect of the road transport system failed, thereby causing the collapse in the system that a fatal accident constitutes. Another important aim of the in-depth studies is to increase awareness and commitment among all players in the road transport system, and thereby further improve road traffic safety generic (e.g. road traffic law, vehicle design) and specific to that situation (e.g. road design).”

    The least DOT could do is not be the obstacle to safe roads in NYC.

  • JK

    I lived near 21st Street for six years. With a little imagination, skill and will it could be a great street, a real show piece for Long Island City and Astoria. Why do these neighborhoods tolerate this auto sacrifice zone? It seems like a horror that has fallen out of the sky from a rundown part of suburban Atlanta. (God bless TA Qns. Keep pushing on this.)

  • greenlake101

    Why is accommodating rush hour traffic volumes more important than safety and multi-modality?

  • AMH

    Our attitude toward many auto-related problems seems to be accommodation rather than solutions. Too much traffic? Widen traffic lanes, wave vehicles through red lights, etc. Too much double-parking? Widen parking lanes. Why not actually try to solve these problems by reducing traffic and fixing parking policy? Oh yeah, because that would be hard.

  • J

    In a Vision Zero city, people shouldn’t need to die for DOT to actually make substantive changes to street design.

  • J

    DOT to city residents: “Want safer streets? Someone’s gotta die first”

  • Sean Kelliher

    One of the most ironic things about deBlasio’s Vision Zero is that he won’t touch (1) Move NY or (2) Parking reform: the two things that would do the most to free up space and provide money to aggressively redesign city streets.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    Auto Sacrifice Zone is a perfect description

  • Angela Stach

    Yes, what an apt term, Auto Sacrifice Zone, short ASZ.

  • BootsandMary Whitlock

    Maybe we should legalize e-bikes and cause that inflated traffic to decrease?? We could also remove the tolls on Manhattan to Brooklyn/Queens tunnels? Shocking I know.. but how long ago were those tunnels built?? Maybe they’re paid for by now??? Not sure how safe ebiking through a tunnel would be(fumes 😡 ) but if it could be made safe… why not allow it?

  • JohnDoe

    I cross this street every day to get to and from the subway. it’s a nightmare – people treat it like a speedway and I can barely go a day without seeing someone blow through the red light. Things got a little better after they put the traffic light in a block north of 30th Ave, but there is a vast amount of space for improving the street.


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