Mayor announces Queens Boulevard reconstruction project has begun

By Bill Parry

Mayor Bill de Blasio returned to Woodside, where he launched his Vision Zero initiative in January 2014, to announce the first phase of the city Department of Transportation’s $101 million redesign of Queens Boulevard had begun.

Elected officials, DOT and safe streets advocates joined the mayor Thursday at the corner of 61st Street and the boulevard in the shadow of the Big Six Towers.

“We don’t accept that streets like Queens Boulevard have to be dangerous, that children and grandparents have to be taken from their families year after year,” de Blasio said. “And so, shoulder-to-shoulder with this community, we are taking action on one of the most ambitious and complex overhauls ever undertaken by the city. This street has earned the name “Boulevard of Death.’ Today, we begin work on the “Boulevard of Life.’”

He went on to list statistics from the DOT that illustrate just how treacherous the 1.3-mile stretch of Queens Boulevard, from Roosevelt Avenue to 73rd Street, is. Since 1990, 185 New Yorkers have lost their lives on that section alone and 591 were injured in the same five-year period.

The project, approved by Community Board 1 by unanimous vote, will bring safer crossings and crosswalks for pedestrians, protected bike lanes, expanded medians with trees and plantings, and reconfigured intersections that deter speeding and other dangerous behavior. The improvements will be installed through October, followed by the project’s extension further east in 2016.

“This boulevard is the front yard for so many people that live along it. Big Six residents need to cross here everyday to get to the No. 7 subway,” City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said. “It’s our obligation to make sure no one else dies here. No family should ever suffer the loss of a loved one along this major thoroughfare and our city’s $101 million investment into Queens Boulevard sets our city on a course closer to the day when Vision Zero is a reality.”

That is a day that can’t come soon enough for Lizi Rahman, a safe streets advocate from Jamaica, who lost her son Asif as he was bicycled home from work in 2008. He was struck and killed by a truck on the boulevard’s service road at 55th Road.

The poet and photographer was 22.

“If there was a bike lane, perhaps my son would still be alive,” she said while introducing the mayor. “From that day on I’ve done everything I could to get a bike lane so that no other mother would feel that pain.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.