Fatal accident on Northern Boulevard renews calls for street redesign

After a 70-year-old man was struck and killed on Northern Boulevard in Corona, safe street advocates are demanding the city redesign the dangerous roadway as soon as possible.
Photo by Mark Hallum
By Bill Parry

Northern Boulevard is being called the “New Boulevard of Death” by safe street activists, who have increased pressure on the city to deliver a comprehensive safety redesign along the roadway which claimed the life of a fourth pedestrian this year during the weekend.

An unidentified 70-year-old man was struck and killed at the intersection of 108th Street and Northern Boulevard in Corona just after 5 p.m. Sunday, according to the NYPD.

The 40-year-old woman who was driving the Toyota Highlander eastbound on Northern Boulevard before striking the victim remained at the scene and was not arrested, although the NYPD’s Highway Collision Investigation Squad continues to investigate the collision.

Police said the victim’s identity had not been released pending proper family notification.

The senior became the ninth pedestrian killed on the stretch of Northern Boulevard between Queens Plaza and the Grand Central Parkway since 2017, according to Transportation Alternatives, an organization that advocates for cyclists, pedestrians and public transit users.

“This is a crisis. Northern Boulevard does not protect vulnerable street users, especially seniors, children, and the disabled,” Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White said. “It is devastating, but not surprising, that Queens’ new ‘Boulevard of Death’ has been the scene of at least nine pedestrian deaths since January 2017, including four already this year. Residents along the Northern Boulevard corridor from Long Island City to Bayside are still waiting for that comprehensive, life-saving redesign that Queens Boulevard has undergone in recent years.”

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), who pushed for the first phase of the Queens Boulevard redesign, agreed.

“For years Queens Boulevard was known as the ‘Boulevard of Death.’ But that changed when it received a complete safety redesign that included protected bike lanes,” Van Bramer said. “I supported those changes which has saved countless lives. The carnage on Northern Boulevard is just as unacceptable and this new ‘Boulevard of Death’ must receive the same attention and similar treatment that Queens Boulevard did. The dying must stop on Northern.”

Officials from the city Department of Transportation met with elected officials in May after the death of 9-year-old Giovanni Ampuero, who was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver as he crossed Northern Boulevard at 70th Street in Jackson Heights in April.

Following Sunday’s fatal collision, an agency spokeswoman said, “Since Vision Zero’s launch in early 2014 the de Blasio Administration and DOT have taken an aggressive approach to bringing roadway safety improvements each year to Northern Boulevard, one of the city’s most challenging corridors. But tragically, we are still seeing to much loss of life and DOT pledges to redouble our efforts to make Northern Boulevard safer, including engaging with the local community on a vision for a comprehensive roadway design.”

Safety improvement have included pedestrian safety islands and curb extensions, new crosswalks and improved signal timing to discourage speeding. Still, advocates say the DOT has not done enough.

“The patchwork and reactionary responses from city officials and agencies has got to end. That is the only way we will be successful in reducing the crisis of death on Northern Boulevard,” Make Queens Safer Co-founder Cristina Furlong said. “We need the Department of Education on board to protect the 12,000 school kids who traverse the road for (eight) schools. We need to grant DOT the authority to make necessary and life-changing redesigns without the repetitive stalling actions of individual community board approvals.”

Furlong said that up to 1,200 people have been injured on Northern Boulevard since 2014.

State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) said he was saddened that yet another constituent was fatally stuck by a vehicle on Northern Boulevard.

“Time and time again, we have brought attention to this deadly stretch of road,” he said. “Despite countless calls and meetings with DOT to discuss pedestrian safety on Northern Boulevard, the city has failed to address it. We have asked for safety assessments, called for pedestrian scrambles and reconfiguration of signals for leading pedestrian intervals. Most importantly, we have asked for real action from DOT. Until that happens, we will continue to have tragedies.”

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

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