On Friday, the Transportation Alternatives Queens Volunteer Committee announced “a huge win on Queens Boulevard.” The DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg announced that the new 25 mph speed limit — just enacted in New York City — will also apply to Queens Boulevard, also known as the Boulevard of Death. Sunnyside Post reports that the new speed limit should be enacted by the end of this year. Queens Boulevard was originally not included in the speed reduction, which started up on November 7th, because it’s designed to accommodate more cars at faster speeds. But the DOT has made the decision to slow the notoriously dangerous thoroughfare down, and it’s likely many more safety improvements are coming soon.
The “Boulevard of Death” may be seeing a major overhaul under the Department of Transportation. Streetsblog hears that “Word on the street is that Queens Boulevard could be the first major arterial redesign initiated by Polly Trottenberg’s DOT.” Apparently, Transportation Alternatives is working on conceptual designs for the thoroughfare before DOT begins community workshops; a DOT source told Streetsblog that the city agency will soon reach out to elected officials and community boards. Not unrelated, Community Board Six called for a total redesign of the boulevard early this summer.
The DOT made some safety changes about a decade ago, but Queens Boulevard continues to be one of NYC’s deadliest streets. Transportation Alternatives and the Community Board have pushed for stricter street safety measures for a long time, and we hope their insistence is about to pay off.
The Department of Transportation is implementing changes at the busy, dangerous intersection of Queens Boulevard and Yellowstone Boulevard, in Forest Hills. Although the community board requested streetscape improvements specifically for Queens Boulevard, drivers aren’t thrilled with the new configuration so far. DNAinfo reports that “residents at a community board meeting complained that one change made last week — a ban on northbound traffic making left turns onto Queens Boulevard from Yellowstone Boulevard — had confused drivers and caused chaos in the area.” The DOT made the change to reduce conflicts with pedestrians and vehicles and “improve intersection operations.” There are new “No Left Turn” signs up to make the changes visible, but local drivers worry that the new measure will push traffic to the side streets, creating a whole new problem. “I think they are just pushing the problem a few blocks away,” one Forest Hills resident told DNAinfo.
The DOT has more streetscape plans in store for Queens and Yellowstone Boulevards, including widened medians, reconstructing a pedestrian safety island and installing parking lane stripes on service roads. The DOT will meet with Community Board Six regarding the proposals next month.
Last week, Community Board Six passed a resolution calling for the complete redesign of Queens Boulevard. As Streetsblog reports, “The board is the first along the infamous ‘Boulevard of Death’ to request the study, joining a united front of City Council members.” You can see the resolution [PDF] — which calls for a comprehensive study on the feasibility of a redesign that involves CB6 — here.
Make Queens Safer and Transportation Alternatives started talking with CB6 about the resolution last month, and then presented one to the full board on May 14th. According to Streetsblog, “Advocates are building support in part because they don’t want DOT to lose sight of Queens Boulevard while other dangerous streets get improvements,” like Northern Boulevard. On top of the resolution, there is a petition calling for Queens Boulevard safety improvements with more than 3,500 signatures.
Although Queens Boulevard — also known as the Boulevard of Death — is getting a slow zone, the speed limit won’t be any slower. DNAinfo reports that the DOT will keep the speed limit at 30 mph, despite lowering the speed limit in other slow zone areas from 30 to 25 mph. Instead, Queens Boulevard will receive new signs to identify the slow zone, changes in signal timing to discourage speeding, and increased NYPD enforcement. The slow zone on Queens Boulevard will begin at Jackson Avenue and end at Hillside Avenue, a 7.4 mile stretch. The DOT plans to install it in July.
According to a DOT spokesperson, “While we will not be further altering the speed limit at this time, we are not ruling out taking a look at a reduction at a later date.” Transportation Alternatives continues to push for a lower speed limit alongside other design improvements along Queens Boulevard, like wider sidewalks, bike lanes and benches.
Today Queens transit advocates will present their first traffic safety presentation on Queens Boulevard, well known as the Boulevard of Death. The New York Daily News reports that Community Board Six will hear the safety suggestions, which include widening the center median to make a protected bike lane, as well as changing the timing on lights at crosswalks. Advocates want to particularly focus on safety for the stretch of Queens Boulevard running through Forest Hills and Rego Park. While the Department of Transportation already made some improvements — like adding parking lanes and fences to slow traffic — safety advocates call these measures “band-aid fixes.”
The presentation to CB6 today will be followed by two Vision Zero Workshops hosted by the DOT on May 21st and May 29th. At those meetings the DOT will accept safety suggestions from the public regarding Queens Boulevard, or any other street for that matter.
It’s no secret that there’s a growing momentum in Queens for safer street initiatives, and a march for a safer Queens Boulevard is coming this weekend. Transportation Alternatives is hosting the “Winter Wander” Rally and Walk along the so-called “Boulevard of Death” on Saturday, December 14th, from 1 pm to 3:30 pm. The event begins in Elmhurst at the New Life Fellowship Church, 8210 Queens Boulevard, with a community discussion about Transportation Alternative’s Zero on Queens Boulevard Campaign. The campaign advocates for pedestrian safety improvements along the corridor, including bike infrastructure and dedicated lanes for Select Bus Service. The
Winter Wander continues with a group walk along the Boulevard toward Forest Hills, as local street safety advocates discuss the history of the roadway and the dangers faced by all those who use it. RSVP for the event right here.
Meanwhile, Senator Gianaris released a statement yesterday in regards to a fatal car crash that happened at the base of the Queensboro Bridge. He is asking that the Department of Transportation improve safety in the area after the DOT did not follow through on his requests for a redesign of the exit ramp. The DOT only added additional signage and minimal barriers to the area. One of those barrier was meant to protect the storefront hit in this crash at 25-06 Queens Plaza South, but it was destroyed in a crash in 2011 and remained vacant ever since. Here is Senator Gianaris’ quote on the matter: “How many more people have to die before the DOT understands that the Queensboro Bridge exit ramp must be redesigned? The city has known that this area is in dire need of traffic safety improvements for years, and the DOT has simply not done enough. I renew my call for a complete redesign of the bridge off-ramp, and implore the city to take swift action before another tragedy occurs.”
Here’s a Twitter shot taken today of the 7-Eleven under construction on Queens Boulevard, right next to the Red Mango outpost at 70th Road. Edge of the City hears that the mega chain will open at this location in February. GMAP
Queens Boulevard is a notoriously dangerous thoroughfare, but after a Bangladeshi immigrant was killed there last week activists are pushing hard for bike lanes, speed humps and speed indicators. DNAinfo reports that Transportation Alternatives started a petition — which already has 1,392 signatures — for the changes. Here’s what it states: “T.A.’s Queens Activist Committee is calling for protected bike lanes, pedestrian safety improvements and Select Bus Service on Queens Boulevard. These critical improvements will save lives, boost local business and dramatically improve local quality of life along the boulevard.” This Saturday, Transportation Alternatives plans to take to the streets of Forest Hills to gather support of residents and business owners. The city enacted some improvements already, including fences and countdown signals. But Transportation Alternatives argues that compared to thoroughfares like Eastern Parkway, Queens Boulevard dedicates a much larger amount of space to cars. More than 70 pedestrians were killed on the boulevard from 1993 to 2001.
The Department of Education has proposed to rezone District 24, which serves Glendale, Ridgewood, Elmhurst, Maspeth, Middle Village and Corona, to address problems of school overcrowding. But some parents worry that the rezoning will force many students into a dangerous commute. According to the Queens Courier, “Based on the plans, students would have to cross Queens Boulevard, the so-called “Boulevard of Death,” to get to P.S. 229 from the newly expanded northern area. Also, some children that formerly would be zoned for P.S. 229 will be instead moved to P.S. 153, which may force them to cross the Long Island Expressway via Maurice Avenue.” Parents are particularly cautious after a recent incident in which an SUV jumped the curb on Grand Avenue and injured five students. The DOE staffers plan to reconfigure the proposal and meet with parents again on September 24th. The zoning change, which will adjust school zones based on neighborhood populations, affects the kindergarten class of the 2014-2015 school year — current students won’t have to change schools.