By Sarina Trangle
Before Jessame Hannus found her dream apartment in Rego Park, she knew the neighborhood because of the so-called Boulevard of Death that runs through it.
Since moving to the area in 2006, Hannus said she grew accustomed to avoiding Queens Boulevard by walking on side streets to stores along the road known for a preponderance of fatal accidents.
But Hannus said she and a few dozen others involved with Transportation Alternatives’ Queens Activist Committee are pushing to change that by asking the city to conduct a feasibility study of ways to improve Queens Boulevard. Such inquires serve as precursors to road redesigns and other safety improvements, the group said.
“Queens is more renowned for the Boulevard of Death than it is for our cultural institutions and our diverse neighborhoods,” Hannus said. “By changing Queens Boulevard, you could really change that.”
Transportation Alternatives, an organization that promotes public transportation, walking and cycling, would like the city Department of Transportation to study transforming Queens Boulevard into a complete street.
The term “complete street” refers to roads that offer a separate space for vehicles, bikes and pedestrians and may incorporate more islands for walkers as well as Select Bus Service to minimize buses’ presence on the road, according to Celia Castellan, Transportation Alternatives’ Queens organizer.
Police Department crash statistics indicate six fatal accidents and 492 injuries — involving 32 cyclists and 120 pedestrians — occurred along Queens Boulevard in 2013, Castellan said.
A map of crashes compiled by Transportation Alternatives shows the most — 47 — collisions happened near the corner of Queens Boulevard and Grand Avenue from 2002-11. The boulevard’s intersections with 69th Street, 63rd Avenue, 63rd Drive and 71st Avenue also had more than 30 incidents during that time period.
Just this January an elderly woman was struck by a Q46 bus while crossing Queens Boulevard near 71st Avenue and had to have at least one of her ankles amputated, her attorney said at the time.
Transportation Alternatives has recruited more than 3,300 people to sign a petition calling for the study and solicited a letter of support from City Council members Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) and Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest).
“We stand together and call on the Department of Transportation to make Queens Boulevard one of their key priorities in enacting its Vision Zero initiative,” the letter noted, referencing Mayor Bill de Blasio’s commitment to end traffic deaths and injuries on city streets.
The group has also begun pitching its plan to community boards, which started with Community Board 6 April 9.
CB 6 District Manager Frank Gulluscio said the board seemed to back the endeavor and was considering passing a resolution formalizing its support.
DOT would not comment on the feasibility study, but noted that it had taken steps to improve Queens Boulevard over the past decade, such as installing pedestrian and countdown signals and electronic speed boards.
The agency also said it welcomed feedback from the borough at two Vision Zero workshops planned in Queens May 21 and May 29.
“DOT is always interested in working with Queens residents, community groups and all New Yorkers on achieving our shared goal of creating safer streets for everyone,” DOT said in a statement.
Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.