Mayor Bill de Blasio visited Elmhurst on May 16 to announce the third phase of the Queens Boulevard redesign that started in 2015.
Community Board 6, which encompasses Rego Park and Forest Hills, voted to approve the third phase of the project that spans from Eliot Avenue to Yellowstone Boulevard. The plan looks similar to the already implemented redesign in Woodside and Elmhurst.
Board 6 Chairperson Joseph Hennessy lost his 65-year-old friend when he was struck at Queens Boulevard and 66th Avenue.
“I lost a friend on Queens Boulevard, Robert Livingston, and my hope is that now the Boulevard of Death will finally become the Boulevard of Life,” Henessey said in a statement. “This is about safety for everyone — plain and simple.”
The Department of Transportation (DOT) will install a protected bicycle lane and pedestrian path, median extensions, stop controlled slip lanes and expanded pedestrian space along the 1.3 miles of the boulevard. There are currently 592 parking spots along that stretch of Queens Boulevard, and the plan will eliminate 198 spots along the service road median.
De Blasio also announced that since the redesign was implemented two and a half years ago, there have been no fatalities. Just 10 years ago, 22 people had died along the boulevard. According to DOT statistics, crashes in the Phase 1 corridor have declined by 14 percent. Pedestrian injuries are down by 49 percent and cyclist injuries are down by 42 percent even though cycling increased by 120 percent.
“What was once a ‘Boulevard of Death’ is no longer — as pedestrians, cyclists and motorists all have become accustomed to enjoying a more vital, welcoming and safe street,” he said.
Lizi Rahman, the mother of 22-year-old Asif, who was killed on the corridor while riding his bike in 2008, also attended the press conference. She has been an advocate for a safer Queens Boulevard since her son’s death, collecting hundreds of signatures from Queens residents to persuade Community Board 4 to approve the redesign along the Elmhurst stretch.
The board voted to approve the plan without the bicycle lanes but the mayor announced last May that he would move forward with the redesign without the board’s approval.
DOT will begin making changes to the third section of the corridor in June. The Department of Design and Construction will work to make the changes along all of Queens Boulevard permanent by constructing wider medians and adding amenities such as trees, landscaping and benches beginning in 2018. The mayor has allocated $225 million for the work.
“The transformation of Queens Boulevard is among the greatest achievements of the Vision Zero era,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “In just a few years, what was once a forbidding highway-like street bisecting communities has started to become a grand and welcoming boulevard worthy of Queens.
Watch the press conference here:
— Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) May 17, 2017