By Bill Parry
Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) held his first press event as the new city councilman for District 22 in Astoria Friday, tapping into the borough’s hot-button topic of the month: traffic safety.
Constantinides called for improved safety measures on a notorious stretch of 21st Street during a speaking event that drew nearly a hundred concerned citizens.
“Three weeks on the job and he’s already bringing us together,” state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said.
“Queens is changing, and with that great growth, there are changes that need to come,” Constantinides said. “This corridor from the RFK Bridge to the Queensboro Bridge needs improved infrastructure.”
He said on that stretch of 21st Street over the last decade there have been seven deaths and 102 people have suffered serious injuries, many of them pedestrians, due to automotive collisions.
“There was a hit-and-run that killed a man on this spot 30 years ago and still this area is in need of safety measures,” Constantinides said.
The area surrounding 21st Street and 33rd Road, where the news conference was held, includes Long Island City High School, the Hanac Senior Residence, the Queensview Nursery School and Kindergarten, the Ravenswood Housing development and Queensview North and East.
“Students, seniors, mothers pushing baby strollers — the streets must be safer for them,” Constantinides said.
The councilman called on the city Department of Transportation to conduct a feasibility study and move to install countdown clocks for pedestrians, well-maintained crosswalks and traffic lights in the area.
The DOT’s slow response has frustrated two other elected officials who were on hand to lend support.
“The DOT has repeatedly denied my requests for enhanced safety measures at this location and has yet to answer my legal demand for a report setting forth the reasoning for declining to take action,” state Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) said.
“We can’t have a city street looking like a highway,” Gianaris added. “I look forward to working together to ensure that everyone who needs to cross 21st Street can feel safe in doing so.”
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), from the neighboring 26th District that includes part of 21st Street, was on hand to lend his support, saying “this is not a highway and cars act like it’s some kind of speedway. It’s too late to put up a traffic light or a stop sign after someone dies. We need Vision Zero on this street and every street so there’s not one more death.”
Vision Zero is a set of comprehensive policies developed in Sweden with a goal of zero deaths or serious injuries due to traffic accidents in ten years time.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718.260.4538.