With its infamous nickname, “The Boulevard of Death,” Queens Boulevard is one of the longest and most perilous roads in the borough. Activists and residents of Forest Hills are pushing the Department of Transportation to re-engineer the road for pedestrian safety.
Queens Boulevard connects the neighborhoods of Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside, Elmhurst, Rego Park, Forest Hills, Kew Gardens and Briarwood. Over 10 to 12 lanes wide and 16 lanes at the intersection with Yellowstone Boulevard in Forest Hills, Queens Boulevard has retained its bad reputation as an unpleasant traffic route for number of years. The most recent Police Department records show 26 collisions with injuries in February, in Forest Hills’ 112th Precinct.
At a recent monthly meeting of Community Board 6, Peter Beadle, a member of Transportation Alternatives and a litigation lawyer, and Jessame Hannus, an insurance broker and bike and transit advocate, presented a PowerPoint of a plan for Queens Boulevard to coincide with Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s Vision Zero plan, which seeks to eliminate traffic fatalities in the city. The main goals of the Transportation Alternatives “Zero” plan include:
- Installing protected bike lanes
- Installing bus lanes that make bus service more reliable and timely
- Building wider medians along the boulevard
- Setting up timing traffic signals to accommodate pedestrians
Beadle said that Queens Boulevard is a danger to all, especially students and elderly.
“Queens Boulevard is not a highway,” said Beadle. “But people see it as it is.”
The main issue, according to Beadle, Hannus and the rest of the members at Community Board 6 is that the Department of Transportation is not taking action to redesign Queens Boulevard.. The city has no current plans for Queens Boulevard, according to the Department of Transportation’s on-line list of current projects.
“What’s preventing the Department of Transportation from acting is that it is a big problem,” said Beedle. “As population rises, more has to be done to assure our safety. It is so important to get your support,” he told the board.
According to Transportation Alternatives, between 2002 and 2011, 890 pedestrians and 205 cyclists have been injured on the street and 17 pedestrians and two cyclists have been killed.
“The design and engineering of roads has consequences,” said Hannus. “Sign our petition for a safer boulevard.”
The Zero Plan has collected 3322 petition signatures to date, along with the support of 194 coalition partners from schools and religious organizations, 171 businesses and five council members.
Advocates believe the plan will allow every pedestrian, cyclist, and driver to know where they belong on the lanes.
Forest Hills residents also spoke up on the present and future of Queens Boulevard.
“Queens Boulevard is very dangerous,” said Johnny Kawasaki, a student at Baruch College. “The lights often don’t offer sufficient time for us to cross. And I don’t like the idea of wider medians because traffic flow will be altered.”
Phyllis Wallace, who waits for her Access-A-Ride daily near Queens Boulevard, said she heard of an accident a few years ago and hopes the city will act on the plan. Norma Cruz and Amy Guarino, who work along Queens Boulevard and in the Queens Center Mall, said they cross two to three times daily.
“It is so crowded,” said Cruz. “There are too many cars and buses making right turns, left turns, and driving in different speed. The plan will not do much. It’s the people behind the wheels.”
Andre Williams, a student at Queens Community College, pointed out a problem with the traffic lights at Queens Boulevard and 63rd Drive.
“There should be a 30 seconds interval between the lights,” Williams said, “I see many cars making turns while pedestrians are still crossing.”
“No matter what we do, the drivers also have to stop using cellphones and the pedestrians have to open their ears,” said Joseph C. Hennessy, chairman of Community Board 6.
(image sources are clickable)