Twenty-first Street, a major corridor from Queens Plaza to 20th Avenue, is home to major senior and youth developments, including Long Island City High School and The Queens View housing development.
For his first press conference in office, Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) called on the Department of Transportation to address the safety concerns as part of Mayor de Blasio’s “Vision Zero” initiative.
The project aims to reduce the number of traffic fatalities in the city to zero within 10 years.
“This is an extremely important issue for this neighborhood,” Constantinides said. “This is something that needs to happen and it needs to happen now.”
The councilman cited a hit and run that occurred 30 years ago and the seven deaths that have happened since as reason enough to revisit traffic flow along the corridor.
“Astoria is a growing community, our state comptroller was here a few weeks ago to give us an economic snapshot of the borough and it said what we already knew,” Constantinides said. “This is growing both residentially and commercially.”
With the boom Queens is experiencing, the councilman said the infrastructure must keep up with it.
“This corridor is in desperate need of infrastructure improvement,” he said. “This street has to be safe, it cannot be a game of ‘Frogger.’”
Over the past several years, there have been 102 injuries and 100 collisions on 21st Street, according to Constantinides.
“We’re asking for a traffic light on 33rd Road so the residents going to the shopping center aren’t taking their lives in their hands,” Constantinides said. “We’re asking that there are count-down clocks on every intersection on this street. They shouldn’t be left in no man’s land.”
Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) had brought the dangerous conditions along 21st Street to the attention of the DOT several times and each of her proposals was rejected.
“Clearly we’re getting the runaround,” Simotas said. “There has been no study of this corridor at this intersection regardless of the fact that there are more residents, seniors and students trying to cross here. Once the study is done, it will be a no-brainer.”
Under the Vision Zero initiative, the DOT will be asked to study 50 intersections each year and community leaders are hoping 21st Street will make the first cut and have a study completed by 2014.
Al Santora, president of theQueens View co-op board, said the wait for a light has been long enough.
“The councilman was saying that we shouldn’t have another death but I think we’ve already had too many,” Santora said. “These things have been happening right along. This has been happening much too long. Hopefully the study that will be done will bring a stop light or something that will slow this traffic down.”
In 2013, Queens had the highest number of pedestrian fatalities in the city. Many of these deaths occurred along major corridors such as 21st Street and Queens and Northern boulevards.