Queens Residents, Elected Officials Ask DOT for Traffic Calming in Dutch Kills

The Dutch Kills neighborhood sits on the northern edge of Long Island City, hemmed in by Northern Boulevard and Queens Plaza, with the East River to the west and Astoria to the north. Dangerous traffic is an everyday presence — and not just on the main arteries nearby. After a number of car-on-car crashes, neighborhood advocates joined with elected officials yesterday, calling on DOT to implement traffic-calming measures.

The aftermath of a May 2012 crash at 39th Avenue and 29th Street in Dutch Kils. Photo: Jean Cawley

Until recently, the area was heavily industrial, but it is seeing a surge in new development. “Now, the neighborhood’s full of hotels, residences, and new businesses,” said State Senator Michael Gianaris. “We see the problems coming. Now is the time to do something before somebody gets killed.”

On Tuesday, Gianaris and Dutch Kills Civic Association president Dominic Stiller walked the problem intersections with WPIX’s Greg Mocker. Just hours after the interviews wrapped, Stiller said, there was a crash. “A car ran the stop sign,” he said. “They just don’t stop at stop signs. We want curb extensions. We want stop signs, and we want speed humps.”

The 114th Precinct has issued 26 speeding tickets, 77 citations for failure to stop at a signal and 25 tickets for failure to yield to pedestrians in May, the latest month for which data is available. “We’ve been in touch with the precinct, but right now what we’re focusing on is mostly traffic safety measures,” Gianaris said.

This week Gianaris sent a letter to Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan [PDF], and he says he’s been in regular contact with DOT’s Queens borough office. “They’ve been responsive. They’re taking it seriously, but we’re just trying to get through the bureaucratic inertia,” Gianaris said, adding that DOT told his office that continued new development in the neighborhood makes it difficult to complete a comprehensive study. “If you wait,” Gianaris said, “It’s going to be too late.”

DOT says it is examining the Queensboro Plaza area and the intersection of 39th Avenue and 29th Street for potential safety upgrades, and has deployed street safety managers near Dutch Kills Park.

Residents had discussed applying to DOT’s Slow Zone program with Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, but decided against it. “We ran into some political opposition to removing parking spots,” Jean Cawley, Stiller’s wife, told Streetsblog. Dutch Kills is included in Community Board 1, which has a history of opposing livable streets projects. Cawley said she hopes to build support for the Slow Zone and apply in the future.