By Bill Parry
The city has begun introducing improvements, and is proposing many more, to make a two-mile stretch of 21st Street safer connecting Astoria with Long Island City.
The “high crash corridor” from Hot Avenue South and Queens Borough Plaza will be transformed by the city Department of Transportation’s 21st Street Corridor Safety Improvements project as part of May Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative.
City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) made safety along 21st Street such a priority that his first press briefing following his election was on the topic.
“When I ran for office, I heard about the dangers of 21st Street from just about everyone I spoke to,” Constantinides said. “It affects everyone from children to seniors. In a very small area you have Long Island City High School, the Hanac Senior Residence, the Queensview Nursery School and Kindergarten as well as the Ravenswood Housing development and Queensview North and East. It’s the main artery of the community.”
Between 2009 and 2015, five people were killed there, including two pedestrians and one cyclist and 14 were seriously injured between 2009 and 2013, according to the DOT. In February, the agency installed ten LPIs, specially timed pedestrian crossing signals which gives people an extra seven seconds to cross the 60-foot wide roadway.
Later this spring the DOT will install a new traffic signal at the intersection of 21st Street and 29th Avenue along with new crosswalks. There will be improved markings, including 12 painted curb extensions that will be added to nine intersections to shorten crossing distances later in the year.
Each improvement is designed to calm traffic, discourage speeding and allow for safer pedestrian crossings.
“It’s not everything I was looking for, but it’s a start,” Constantinides said. “It will take constant monitoring to make sure the changes are helping pedestrians. We want to make 21st Street a safer place.”
He added that streetlights will be upgraded along the corridor using brighter LED bulbs and he will push for other improvements. “It’s a work in progress. On Monday I received a letter from the DOT that they’re putting out bids for repaving all of 21st Street, they could begin in the spring,” Constantinides said. “This is the beginning of the story, not the end.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr