By Bill Parry
While elected officials and community leaders were celebrating the recent repaving of 21st Street from 47th Avenue in Long Island City to Broadway in Astoria, street safety activists were warning that more needs to be done along the dangerous thoroughfare.
“We have been fighting for the repaving of 21st Street for years,” City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said. “Resurfacing this 20-block corridor means safer transit for everyone, and I am thrilled that drivers, pedestrians and cyclists no longer need to be terrified of unpredictable and unsafe roads up and down 21st Street.”
City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) had been urging the Department of Transportation to improve conditions on the roadway since taking office nearly four years ago. He called the repaving project a win for the neighborhood.
“Many of the lifelong residents at Queensview, North Queensview, and the HANAC Archbishop Iakovos Senior Residence had said they couldn’t recall the last time the street was ever repaved,” Constantinides said. “Crosswalks were uneven and cracked with gaping potholes which made it exceedingly difficult for our senior citizens and families with young children to safely navigate. Now that 21st Street has been freshly repaved, it is better prepared to accommodate the pedestrians, motorists and bicyclists who use it, day-in and day-out, to get around the neighborhood.”
But members of Transportation Alternatives Queens Volunteer Committee have concerns that the smooth new pavement, in the absence of serious traffic calming measures, will only worsen the speeding and carelessness by motorists on the notorious roadway. They have campaigned for traffic improvements between the Queensboro and Triborough bridges since 2013.
“Twenty-first Street along the whole stretch between the bridges needs so much more than repaving to be safe and a less-harrowing experience for all street users,” TA’s Angela Stach said. “It’s an extremely wide neighborhood street that behaves like a highway and virtually separates the community. No pedestrian or cyclist who absolutely has to would use the street —we hear that again and again when we’re out talking to people. Not moving forward with a fundamental change to the geometry of 21st Street — in order to please ‘bridge-shopping’ car drivers who use 21st Street as a shortcut — means to actively put the most vulnerable street users, including the many families with children and elderly, at risk and taking away public space from them.”
After a deadly hit-and-run at 30th Road last year, the committee requested a traffic light that was denied by the DOT. Last April they brought a request for a complete street redesign to Community Board 1.
The board voted in favor and sent a formal resolution and request for the redesign, and while DOT did install a traffic light at the 30th Road intersection, there has been no response to the CB1 resolution to date, according to Stach.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr