Several items were on the agenda as Community Board 6 held its monthly meeting on April 9, but it was clear that the unusually large crowd of spectators was on hand out of concern for the high number of traffic accidents along Queens Boulevard.
Despite additional parking lanes, fences to discourage jaywalking and other changes made in an effort to cut down on fatalities along the so-called “Boulevard of Death,” the thoroughfare remains among the deadliest in the city.
Members of Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group aiming to reclaim the city’s streets from automobiles, were among those on hand last week to talk to CB 6 about making the boulevard safer.
One speaker was Jessame Hannus, who announced that more than 3,000 signers of a petition, along with 194 coalition partners and 171 businesses, support a feasibility study into the deadly situation.
“Queens Boulevard is not a highway, but people treat it like it is,” Hannus said. The high number of tickets issued, the result of speed cameras that have been placed along the strip, she said, indicates “how egregious the behavior is on Queens Boulevard,” which, she added, is better known for the fatalities “than for its cultural institutions.”
Claiming the boulevard “divides the community” and poses “a danger to us all,” Hannus suggested that “the way it is now is bad for businesses” located on it.
A member of the board’s Transportation Committee, Peter Beadle, called efforts to improve safety on the boulevard “a very personal endeavor to me,” as his young son attends a junior high school in the area. Beadle called upon the Department of Transportation “to make it safer for all of us.”
The DOT, he said, needs to do “a complete study” of the boulevard and the surrounding streets. “If you organize it so everyone knows where they’re supposed to be — that’s the goal,” he said, suggesting improved safety is needed for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians.
Beadle indicated that much must be done to rectify the situation, offering six specific suggestions for starters:
• widening the medians which he claims are still too narrow, especially in view of the time it takes to cross what he called “one of the widest boulevards on the planet”;
• improving synchronization of traffic signals, which he believes would “build incentive to stick to the speed limit”;
• raising crosswalks, which, he claims, would force motorists to slow down as they approach;
• adding bike lanes, which, he believes, would “make the road work more efficiently;”
• adding bus lanes, a need he feels is “really big for this community”; and
• having lights change first for pedestrians.
“They all go together like a puzzle,” he said.
Beadle said he plans to visit every community board affected by the boulevard’s safety issues. He wants to make sure the DOT sits down with them all. To that, Hannus added, “We want the opportunity for the DOT to come talk to us.”
“The DOT is a bit afraid to touch this boulevard,” Beadle said. “They need to know it’s okay for them to tackle this street.”
In response to the presentation by Hannus and Beadle, board Chairman Joseph Hennessy suggested the proposals might be too costly to implement, adding, “No matting what we do, it’s the person behind the wheel” who is ultimately responsible for maintaining a safe environment.
Hennessy suggested that “education from the schools all the way up” is necessary.
“We’re not going to let it end here tonight,” he promised of the fight to save lives, but he made it clear that “We need all the facts before we take any position.”
In other business, Lt. Brian Goldberg of the 112th Precinct reported that “everything is good.”
The chairman reported that Borough President Melinda Katz is “very concerned” about maintaining the New York State Pavilion in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
Applications for new liquor licenses by The Austin in Forest Hills, The Other Place in Forest Hills and Tropix Bar & Lounge in Rego Park were all approved by the board. Renewals by Midori Matso, Grill Palace and Danny Brown Wine Bar & Kitchen, all in Forest Hills, and Ural International in Rego Park were also approved.