Beautification, bike paths and lane changes among ideas pitched for a safer Northern Blvd. in western Queens

Photo by Alejandra O'Connell-Domenech

Long paper maps of Northern Boulevard were rolled out onto cafeteria tables at Louis Armstrong Middle School in East Elmhurst on Oct. 15 during a public workshop held by the city Department of Transportation.

Attendees quickly marked up the maps with green and purple doodles of trees after Queens residents were told to make suggestions about how to better improve the concrete-laden, six-lane street.

“When places are more beautiful, people slow down,” said Molly Felde, a Queens resident who lives close to where Northern Boulevard meets the BQE.

Other suggestions were made besides turning Northern Boulevard into the borough’s own Avenue des Champs-Élysées.

Residents wanted more lead time when crossing the street, designated loading zones, bike paths, fewer lanes of traffic, rush hour regulations, shorter pedestrian crossing distances, curbside parking and a plan to educate older drivers. It is unclear about what the latter idea would entail.

Another suggestion was to merely have basic traffic laws enforced on a more consistent level.

The gathering at Louis Armstrong Middle School was the first of three public meetings the DOT will hold to take community suggestions in regards to the roadway that’s been newly nicknamed by activists as the “new Boulevard of Death.” Monday’s meeting was to specifically identify issues on the boulevard between 68th and 114th streets, through Woodside, Jackson Heights and Corona.

The exact areas that will be covered in the second and third meeting have not been finalized, according to the DOT.

“We are looking for the best and brightest ideas,” said DOT Queens Borough Commissioner Nicole Garcia.

Multiple attendees complained about the recurrence of such meetings and a lack of complete transformation.

In this year alone, four pedestrians have died on Northern Boulevard as a result of car collisions. There have been 19 pedestrian deaths since 2009 with a number of the victims being small children. The recent death of 9-year-old Giovanni Ampuero, who was killed while crossing the boulevard with his mother, sparked outcry and prompted a petition to the DOT demanding changes on the street. The meetings are a response to that outcry.

The second DOT public meeting will take place on Oct. 22 at 6:30 p.m. at P.S. 151, 50-05 31st Ave., Woodside. The third will be held on Oct. 29 at P.S. 166, 33-09 35th Ave., Long Island City. All of the workshops begin at 6:30 p.m.

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