Activists put up slow zone signs in borough to protest city delays

By Bill Parry

More than 100 safe-street activists posted mock traffic signs in three Queens neighborhoods and seven other communities citywide over the weekend.

Residents joined the safety group Right of Way in placing the signs in locations where slow zones have been delayed by the city Department of Transportation.

“There are currently dozens of communities that have applied for Slow Zones and await groundbreaking while people are dying,” organizer Keegan Stephan said. “These communities knew their streets were dangerous and asked the city to fix them, but were told no or not yet by the last administration.”

Signs that read “Speed 20 is Plenty” went up along 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights as well as in Astoria and Jamaica in the hopes of slowing speeding drivers and reducing pedestrian fatalities.

“If you’re hit by a car going 30 mph, you have a 50 percent chance of dying,” Stephan said. “If you’re hit by a car going 20 mph, you have a 95 percent chance of surviving.”

Last year the DOT approved a plan to create a slow zone on 34th Avenue in Jackson Height between 69th and 82nd streets over to Roosevelt Avenue. The zones use traffic calming measures to lower the speed limit to 20 mph with signs, speed bumps and street markings.

The DOT will meet with members of Community Board 3 in the coming weeks to discuss the implementation of the plan for Jackson Height this summer.

Such delays moved Right of Way to act.

“These delays are largely due to the last administration granting community boards veto power over slow zones,” Stephan said. “If the water supply were poisoned and killing 250 people a year, would you ask for community board approval to fix it? No. The DOT must use the mandate of Vision Zero to revoke the veto power of community boards and begin installing life-saving infrastructure today.”

Vision Zero is the action plan to curb pedestrian fatalities using lower speed limits and using traffic calming methods like slow zones.

State Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) said, “Creating slow zones would almost certainly reduce traffic-related injuries and fatalities. I stand by the notion that even one traffic-related death is one too many.”

Meanwhile, elected officials and members of Make Queens Safer called for the public’s help in finding the killer of a 64-year-old Richmond Hill man who was struck and killed on Northern Boulevard March 8.

The NYPD is still looking for the driver of a black or dark-colored Chevy Blazer that fatally struck Kumar Ragunath while he crossed the street at 40th Road. The father of three and grandfather of six became the second person struck and killed on Northern Boulevard in the last three months. More than 550 people were injured on the boulevard last year.

“Northern Boulevard is one of the borough’s deadliest stretches, and making it safer for all will continue to be a priority for my office,” City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said.

Cristina Furlong, co-founder of Make Queens Safer, called for street redesign in the area.

“That stretch of LIC is like the Wild West of development with greedy property owners measuring square footage with dollar signs in their eyes,” she posted on the Make Queens Safer Facebook page. “It is tragic that a life can be taken without repercussions, detestable that drivers have a steady disregard for our pedestrians or cyclists old and young.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718.260.4538.

More from Around New York