By Bill Parry
Traffic deaths hit an all-time low in Queens during 2017, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday inside the NYPD’s Central Garage in Woodside, not far from PS 152, where he signed initial Vision Zero legislation four years ago.
Queens saw a total of 59 traffic deaths during the year, surpassing its record low of 63 in 2011, and a drop of 9 percent from 65 in 2016, according to City Hall.
Overall, New York City’s pedestrian deaths dropped 32 percent, making 2017 the safest year on record and the fourth consecutive year of declining fatalities under Vision Zero. These reductions run counter to national trends in traffic fatalities, which have risen 13 percent across the country, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“Vision Zero is working. The lower speed limit, increased enforcement and safer street designs are all building on each other to keep New Yorkers safe,” de Blasio said. “Now we must deepen this work. Not even a single tragedy on our streets is acceptable, and we’ll keep fighting every day to protect our people.”
The mayor provided updates including the third phase of the Queens Boulevard redesign, including 2.6 miles of protected bike lanes from Eliot Avenue in Rego Park to Yellowstone Boulevard in Forest Hills. City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) led the push for the first phase of the project that has transformed the so-called Boulevard of Death into a thoroughfare that in 2017 had a third consecutive year without any pedestrian or cyclist deaths.
“Queens Boulevard is proof that long-standing notions of intractable problems can be solved with determination, perseverance and fresh thinking,” Van Bramer said. “I’m really proud of Queens today because Queens is leading the way and Queens Boulevard is leading the way. If you can make Queens Boulevard safe, you can make every street in this city and country safer.”
City Councilman Robert Holden (D-Glendale), who now represents the district where the NYPD depot is located, on 58th Street, argued against many of the street redesigns while he was the longtime leader of the Juniper Park Civic Association.
“I was one of those Doubting Thomases on the civic level,” Holden said. “I was wrong, and I’ll admit that. You can’t argue with saving lives. That’s paramount here.”
He went on to say that while the city made great strides in improving safety and reducing motorist and pedestrian fatalities, there was still more work to do.
“Now that stretches like Woodhaven Boulevard are moving slower and seem to be more congested, cars and trucks have been using side streets to avoid traffic and our neighborhoods have been feeling the biggest impact,” Holden said. “We may be making some roads safer, but we may pay the price on our side streets. The Mayor and DOT must work with local communities to eliminate this compiling safety concern and to ensure there are no unintended consequences from Vision Zero.”
The mayor will continue to urge the Legislature to give the city additional speed cameras in school zones by passing legislation authored by state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst).
“One fatality is one too many, but as a supporter of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero, it is encouraging to see how the plan has been successful in reducing, for the fourth consecutive year, the number of traffic-related deaths on our roads and streets,” Peralta said. “It is my hope that in 2018 we are finally able to pass my proposal to expand the school zone speed camera program. This is all about protecting New Yorkers. Together, we made and are making progress.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr