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Simotas gets public feedback on proposal to close Shore Boulevard to traffic

By Bill Parry

Some 80 members of the Astoria community joined City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) and state Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) to discuss traffic safety improvements on the streets surrounding Astoria Park last week.

Following the hit-and-run death of 21-year-old Betty Jean DiBiasio at the northeast corner of the park June 27, Constantinides petitioned the city Department of Transportation for safety improvements in the Old Astoria neighborhood, where five people have died and more than a hundred have been injured since 2009.

“Since long before the recent car crash the streets surrounding Astoria Park have been unsafe for pedestrians,” Constantinides said. “It was clear that the community needed to work together towards productive solutions. Seeing everyone exchange their ideas in a collaborative way was very rewarding.”

Using maps, those in attendance broke into work groups to pinpoint ideas and locations where they wanted to see safety improvements made. Some of the ideas included adding traffic lights, crosswalks, four-way stop signs, speed bumps, speed cameras and protected bike lanes. Eight DOT engineers were on hand and joined in the discussions.

Simotas’ proposal to turn Shore Boulevard into a car-free street, which was supported by Constantinides, was discussed at length throughout the public meeting. More than 1,200 people have signed a change.org petition opposing the closure of the popular, and scenic, half-mile stretch of riverfront roadway.

“The meeting was about all the streets not just Shore Boulevard, but yes, I heard plenty of strong feelings on both sides of that issue,” Simotas said. “I heard a lot of thoughtful ideas about making the streets safer for our children, our seniors, and the working class people that enjoy the park, The notion that nothing needs to change is not rational. We’re all united in the common goal of making the park safer with enhanced access for everyone.”

Simotas said the DOT engineers will put their heads together and formulate solutions.

“I look forward to working with residents, my colleagues and the DOT towards a comprehensive traffic safety plan for Astoria Park that will best serve the needs of all Astorians,” Simotas said.The DOT will bring its proposal to Community Board 1 within a few months, according to an agency spokesman.

Elsewhere in western Queens, DOT workers are connecting the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge bike lanes, which were installed earlier this year, to the newly finished bike path on Queens Boulevard. Officials said work has also begun on the Honeywell Avenue Bridge bike path that will connect Long Island City with Sunnyside.

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

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