By Bill Parry
Shore Boulevard in Astoria Park will become a one-lane roadway with a protected bike lane before the end of summer after Community Board 1 voted overwhelmingly to approve the city Department of Transportation traffic safety plan last week.
Hoyt Avenue North and 20th Avenue will also receive upgrades as part of the plan that was drafted with community input following the hit-and-run killing of 21-year-old Betty Jean DiBiasio in June.
Since 2009, there have been several deaths and over 100 injuries near the park, according to the DOT. In the aftermath of DiBiasio’s death, City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) petitioned the DOT to introduce traffic-calming measures to the streets in and around the park.
“This plan will deeply improve traffic safety throughout Astoria for our pedestrians, drivers and cyclists,” Constantinides said. “The stronger connection between the waterfront, Astoria Park, and residents will be an asset for our entire neighborhood. The updates will bring greater traffic sanity to the streets around the jewel of our neighborhood, Astoria Park.”
Shore Boulevard will have just one southbound lane for motorists as a two-way protected bike lane will replace the northbound traffic lane. There will be no reduction in parking.
In August, state Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) touched off a heated debate when she proposed closing the entire roadway to vehicular traffic.
“I am pleased that by working together we reached a compromise on Shore Boulevard that calms speeding and dangerous driving and preserves vehicle access to the waterfront,” Simotas said. “These welcome changes will improve access to Astoria Park and make our community safer.”
On 20th Avenue, where a DOT study found that 88 percent of drivers speed, the measures include the installation of a two-way bike path. In addition, the width of the traffic lane will be reduced by two feet to discourage speeding. A shorter pedestrian crossing will protect children using the ICYP and Federation of Italian Societies ball fields.
The Hoyt Avenue North redesign will also include the installation of a two-way bike path and the removal of one lane for cars. These upgrades will create a safe bike connection between the RFK Bridge and the waterfront, calm vehicular traffic, and keep pedestrians, bikes and vehicles separate.
“I am very pleased to see these safety improvements in Astoria Park and its surrounding area,” Central Astoria Local Development Coalition Executive Director Marie Torniali said. “While there is more work to be done, the relocation of the bike lane to Shore Boulevard and safety improvements on 20th Avenue and Hoyt Avenue North with no loss of parking is a testament to good things being accomplished when community, elected officials, and agencies work together.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr