Frequent collisions and speeding cars are a fact of life in the Dutch Kills neighborhood of Long Island City, but now that there is more pedestrian traffic with hotels and businesses popping up in the former industrial area, residents and politicians want that to change.
State Sen. Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria) called on the Department of Transportation to “implement a traffic plan that makes sense in a growing neighborhood,” at a press conference on July 18.
The conference was held on the corner of 39th Avenue and 29th Street, which lacks cross walks, stop signs or a traffic light, enabling cars and trucks to speed off the Queensboro Bridge.
There have been six or seven accidents within a four-block radius recently and though none were fatal Gianaris and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) want the city to be proactive.
“We don’t want to wait until someone dies for the DOT to take action,” Van Bramer said. “We can’t wait until a child is tragically struck down, or a senior, or a resident or tourist.”
“Too often, the city bureaucracy waits,” Gianaris said. “This is no longer the same neighborhood it was 10 years ago.”
The residents are circulating a petition written by resident Jean Cawley, asking DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan for curb extensions, a speed bump outside a charter school, more four-way stop signs, crosswalks where they don’t exist and repainted ones where they’ve worn away.
They also want a new street design for cars coming off Northern Boulevard crossing 31st Street to travel west on 40th Road and traffic enforcement on 40th Avenue, between 28th and 21st streets, “truly the wild west of cars ignoring traffic rules,” the petition states.
The petition is available at DutchkillsLIC.com.
“We need things that cost negligible amounts and we need them now,” said Dominic Stiller, the president of the Dutch Kills Civic Association.
Dana Frankel, a member of the LIC Partnership, said that there are 22 new hotels in LIC, most of which are concentrated in Dutch Kills.
“We want visitors to feel safe and walk around the neighborhood,” Frankel said.
Adriana Vargas, an employee at the Hotel Vetiver on 39th Avenue, which opened in December 2011, said “there is no pedestrian safety. When you’re walking, the cars don’t stop.”
Fellow employee Chad Davis added that cars often drive the wrong way on one-way streets and trucks barrel through at night.
Frankel predicts that with more development and more businesses coming to Queens Plaza and Astoria, the connections between these areas will become more important.
“I ride my bike and I get scared because there are no stop signs and it is hard to see around parked cars,” Frankel added. “It’s definitely hazardous.”
A resident named Jane said that the cars don’t stop while she walks her daughter to daycare.
Joan Kehoe, 77, was struck by a car while crossing the street about a half a block from her house on 39th Avenue in January 2011.
“The girl came around the corner,” Kehoe said. “I was almost across. I had my foot on the curb and she knocked me over.”
With a broken femur and spinal injury from the crash, Kehoe can’t walk more than a half a block anymore.
“There were always car accidents, even when I was a kid,” Kehoe said. “There were not as many cars, but always a lot of accidents.”