Shore Boulevard to become one-way in DOT safety plan for Astoria Park

By Bill Parry

The city wants to make Shore Boulevard a one-way street as part of the Department of Transportation’s redsign of traffic patterns in and around Astoria Park. The proposal, presented to Community Board 1last week, also includes new protected bike lanes in the area.

“The projects create safe cycling connections to Astoria Park while alson calming traffic and we look forward to continue the discussions with the neighborhood as we move forward,” DOT Queens Commissioner Nicole Garcia said. CB1’s Transportation Committee voted unanimously to recommend the plan.

The northbound traffic lane would be removed from Shore Boulevard and the space would allow for a two-way protected bikepath, according to the DOT proposal.

In August, state Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) proposed closing Shore Boulevard to vehicular traffic and turning it into a pedestrian walkway following the hit-and-run death of Betty Jean DiBiasio in June.

The Simotas plan became quite controversial, with more than 1,200 signing an online petition against the plan within days. DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg rejected the idea in November and Simotas said she had brought attention to a pressing issue that led to a neighborhood-wide discussion.

“For too long, the roads around Astoria Park have been unsafe for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists alike,” Simotas said. “The changes announced by the DOT and recommended by Community Board 1’s Transportation Committee will improve access to the park and make our community safer. I am pleased that we reached a compromise on Shore Boulevard that calms speeding and dangerous driving and preserves vehicle access to the waterfront.”

Since 2009, more than a hundred people have been injured on streets around the park, according to the DOT. Other changes proposed include two-way protected bike lanes on 20th Avenue and Hoyt Avenue North.

City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) had petitioned the DOT to make safety upgrades following DiBiasio’s death.

“We are glad to see the unanimous support of this plan from Community Board 1’s Transportation Committee. This plan is a strong first step forward in improving traffic safety around the jewel of our community—Astoria Park,” Constantinides said. “The stronger connection between the waterfront, Astoria Park and residents will be an asset for our entire neighborhood. I look forward to hearing feedback from our community and to continuing our conversation about the streets surrounding Astoria Park.”

The DOT is also studying additional safety measures for the area, including daylighting some intersections by removing parking spaces to allow for better driver sightlines at corners. The DOT also plans on improving pedestrian crossings along the park’s borders, including new speed bumps at 19th Street and Ditmars Boulevard, the intersection where DiBiasio was killed.

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