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Posts from the "Queens" Category

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Eyes on the Street: A New Sidewalk and a Safer Crossing in Woodside

Before and after: 37th Avenue at 69th Street, looking east. Photos: Angus Grieve-Smith

Before and after: 37th Ave. at 69th St. in Woodside, looking east toward Jackson Heights. Photos: Angus Grieve-Smith

A simple fix from DOT has made it easier and safer for pedestrians to walk between Woodside and Jackson Heights.

Angus Grieve-Smith posted the above photo on Facebook of 37th Avenue at 69th Street, near Broadway and the BQE, where DOT has added new sidewalk space on the south side of the avenue [PDF].

In the past, pedestrians had to cross to the north side of 37th Avenue in order to make their way between 69th Street and Broadway. To avoid those extra crossings, dozens of people walked in the 37th Avenue roadbed every day.

By removing a pedestrian fence and adding concrete, paint, and barriers, and installing a crosswalk across a BQE service road, DOT created a direct route for pedestrians, shortening the walking distance by 100 feet. More important, people no longer have to negotiate the four crosswalks between the south and north sides of 37th Avenue.

Image: DOT

Image: DOT

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Queens Residents Speak Up for Bus Rapid Transit on Woodhaven

New York City can do better by bus riders and pedestrians on Woodhaven Boulevard, shown here at Jamaica Avenue. Photo: Google Maps

New York City can do better for bus riders and pedestrians on Woodhaven Boulevard. Photo of Woodhaven at Jamaica Avenue via Google Maps

Woodhaven Boulevard is one of the city’s most dangerous roads – eight pedestrians were killed there from 2010 to 2012, more than any other street in Queens. And while bus riders make 30,000 trips on Woodhaven each day, they’re slowed down by congestion and awkwardly designed service roads.

The MTA and DOT are working on a redesign that could dramatically improve both problems by dedicating more space to walking and transit. As the plans are developed and the agencies present the project to the public, residents say there’s a disconnect between who’s speaking the loudest at community meetings and who would benefit from the potential improvements. There are people who support major changes along the Woodhaven corridor, but their perspectives aren’t coming through in the local media coverage.

Toby Sheppard Bloch and his wife, a Queens native, have lived in Glendale near the busy intersection of Woodhaven and Metropolitan Avenue for almost 10 years. They have a 5-year-old daughter. “I drive a bunch. I’m a general contractor, so I’m often behind the wheel,” he said. “Even as a driver, it’s a nerve-wracking road to drive down. There’s a lot of speeding, and it’s very crowded.”

Sheppard Bloch has seen many serious crashes on Woodhaven, and the danger spills over as impatient drivers use local streets as shortcuts. He’s worried about his daughter, who will soon be walking around the neighborhood to meet with friends. He and his wife often take the bus or their bikes to catch the subway at Queens Boulevard. The buses are often overcrowded and slow, he says.

The redesign needs to make a clean break with the status quo, he said. “We’ve committed as much space as we possibly can on Woodhaven to cars,” Sheppard Bloch said. “It’s broken. We need to think about a different approach.”

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Hints About Woodhaven BRT at MTA Reinvention Commission Panel

No room for BRT here, Assembly Member Phil Goldfeder said yesterday to the commission charged with thinking big about the future of transit. Photo: Google Maps

No room for BRT here, Assembly Member Phil Goldfeder said yesterday to the commission charged with thinking big about the future of transit. Photo: Google Maps

The “transportation reinvention commission” convened at the request of Governor Andrew Cuomo kicked off its public hearings yesterday with a panel of experts at MTA headquarters. Appointees, still trying to figure out the commission’s exact role, chewed over some of the region’s big transportation issues in a discussion that mostly lacked specifics. Still, there were a few notable comments, including new information about Bus Rapid Transit on Woodhaven Boulevard from NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

BRT featured prominently yesterday, as panelists highlighted the need for closer collaboration between the MTA, NYC DOT, and other government agencies to bring robust transit improvements to low-income workers with long commutes in the outer boroughs.

“It seems that the less that you make, the further you have to travel,” Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, told the commission. ”My union agrees with the BRT for NYC coalition that we can improve the situation.”

“We are going to look at going to a more full-blown BRT model, let’s say for Woodhaven Boulevard,” said Trottenberg, who also serves as an MTA board member. After the meeting, she said the budget for the project is close to $200 million, higher than the $100 million she put forward at the end of May and suggesting a more ambitious allocation of space for surface transit. Previous Select Bus Service projects, with painted bus lanes, signal improvements, and sidewalk extensions at bus stops, have cost between $7 million and $27 million to build [PDF]. (The full Woodhaven project corridor is about 14 miles — longer than other SBS routes but not dramatically so.)

It’s too early to say what the Woodhaven BRT project will look like — DOT Director of Transit Development Eric Beaton said the agency does not yet have a design for Woodhaven and is continuing to meet with local communities. But in another indication that the city is serious about pursuing a robust configuration for transit lanes on Woodhaven, Beaton said costs for Woodhaven should be compared with projects like Euclid Avenue in Cleveland, or Geary Boulevard and Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco. Those projects feature center-running lanes (the SF busways have yet to be built).

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The Case for Center-Running Bus Lanes on Woodhaven Boulevard

We can rebuild Woodhaven Boulevard as a great transit street. We have the space.

We can rebuild Woodhaven Boulevard as a great transit street. We have the space.

The proposal to improve bus service on Woodhaven Boulevard and Cross Bay Boulevard in Queens is the most exciting street redesign in the works in New York City right now, with the potential to break new ground for bus riders and dramatically improve safety. With as many as five lanes in each direction, Woodhaven Boulevard has plenty of space that can be devoted to exclusive transitways and concrete pedestrian safety measures.

NYC DOT and the MTA are holding a series of public workshops to inform the project, with initial improvements scheduled for this year and more permanent changes coming later. This is a chance for the city and the MTA to build center-running transit lanes that will speed bus trips more than previous Select Bus Service routes, where buses often have to navigate around illegally-parked cars. Critical design decisions could be made this summer.

Kathi Ko at the Tri-State Transportation Campaign has filed dispatches from the first round of public meetings, and she reports that participants ranged from change-averse to eager for “big and bold ideas.”

Of course, it’s the change-averse who sit on the community boards and are getting most of the local press attention. Queens Community Board 9 transportation committee chair Kenichi Wilson told DOT that “the only way I would support” the project is if it doesn’t affect curbside parking, according to the Queens Chronicle. At an earlier meeting, the first vice chair of Queens CB 10, John Calcagnile, predicted that the elimination of parking to make way for interim bus lanes “will have a real negative effect on businesses in the area.”

Experience with Select Bus Service suggests otherwise. Along Fordham Avenue in the Bronx, parking was eliminated and meters were added to side streets in order to run curbside buses for the city’s first SBS route. Merchants objected at first, but three years later, retail sales had improved 71 percent — triple the borough-wide average.

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Which Precincts Are Making Progress on Vision Zero in Queens?

Click to enlarge

The advocates at Make Queens Safer have put together this handy visualization of NYPD enforcement trends in Queens using data scraped from PDFs the department posts online. You can see the big increase in failure-to-yield summonses, a smaller but significant bump up in speeding tickets last month, and a mild uptick in red light tickets. Pedestrian and cyclist injuries are back down to 2012 levels after an increase in 2013.

The precinct-level breakdown is especially interesting. The 104th, 110th, 111th, and 113th precincts are among the borough’s leaders in increasing summonses for failure-to-yield, speeding, or red light running, and all four are also seeing significant drops in pedestrian and cyclist injuries. (There are 17 precincts in Queens.) As Make Queens Safer notes, every precinct is starting from a different baseline, so a precinct that started out with a relatively high level of enforcement may not show up on the list of leaders here. But this is intriguing data and a closer look could reveal more about the link between increased enforcement and better safety outcomes.

Click to enlarge

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Slow Zones, Safer Arterials Win Over CBs in Manhattan and Queens

The scene at last night's Queens CB 3 meeting in Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights. Photo: Daniel Dromm/Twitter

The scene at last night’s Queens CB 3 meeting at Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights. Photo: Daniel Dromm/Twitter

At its annual outdoor meeting in Diversity Plaza last night, Queens Community Board 3 voted to support two traffic safety projects: a new neighborhood Slow Zone in Jackson Heights and nine additional pedestrian refuge islands on Northern Boulevard, one of the borough’s most dangerous arterial streets.

“It was not very contentious at all. It was definitely a big majority,” said Christina Furlong of Make Queens Safer. “Nobody was especially against it.” CB 3 says the Slow Zone passed 25-1, with two abstentions, and the Northern Boulevard improvements won over the board for a 25-2 vote, with one abstention.

The board also asked DOT to extend the Northern Boulevard project [PDF], which will add turn restrictions and pedestrian islands to select intersections along 40 blocks between 63rd and 103rd Streets, east to 114th Street.

The Slow Zone will add 20 mph speed limits and traffic calming, including 26 new speed humps, to an area covering nearly one-third of a square mile, bounded by 34th Avenue to the north, 87th Street to the east, Roosevelt Avenue to the south and Broadway and the Brooklyn Queens Expressway to the west. This area, encompassing six schools, two daycare and pre-K facilities, and one senior center, was the site of 28 severe injuries to pedestrians and vehicle occupants from 2008 to 2012, and three traffic fatalities from 2007 to 2014, according to DOT [PDF].

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Unlicensed Driver Faces Wrist Slap After Killing Queens Cyclist William Faison

Tiffany Delcia Moore struck and killed William Faison at 228th Street and 120th Avenue in Cambria Heights last Friday. She was charged for driving without a license. Image: Google Maps

Tiffany Delcia Moore struck and killed William Faison at 228th Street and 120th Avenue in Cambria Heights last Friday. She was charged with driving without a license. Image: Google Maps

A motorist who was reportedly driving with a suspended license will likely get off with a slap on the wrist after she killed a cyclist in Queens last week.

Reports say William Faison, 53, was riding south on 228th Street in Cambria Heights at around 8:50 a.m. Friday when 26-year-old Tiffany Delcia Moore hit him with a Kia sedan as she drove west on 120th Avenue.

From the Post:

Craig Henley, a relative of Faison, ran to the scene.

“He tried to open his eyes to see me,” he said. “His mouth wasn’t moving. Then he started moving his mouth, like he was trying to breathe.”

Medics took Faison to Jamaica Hospital, but he couldn’t be saved. His brother Marcus went there to see his body and kissed his forehead, relatives said.

“He was a very good son. He took care of me,” Faison’s mother told the Post. “I don’t know how to feel. He was a loving son.”

The Post reported that Moore “collapsed in horror” after the crash, and “was not believed to have been speeding or on the phone.” She was charged with aggravated unlicensed operation.

“He would still be alive if she was not driving,” said Henley. “You do not drive on a suspended license.”

Aggravated unlicensed operation is a misdemeanor that stipulates that Moore drove without a license when she knew or should have known she didn’t have one. Third degree aggravated unlicensed operation is the default charge against unlicensed drivers who kill cyclists and pedestrians in NYC, and it’s the same charge police and prosecutors apply when an unlicensed driver turns without signaling. It carries a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.

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CB 6 Joins Council Members Calling for a Safer Queens Boulevard

The loss of life along Queens Boulevard, which functions like a highway running through Queens, is horrific. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

In a unanimous vote last week, Queens Community Board 6 passed a resolution [PDF] asking DOT for a complete redesign of Queens Boulevard to improve street safety. The board is the first along the infamous “Boulevard of Death” to request the study, joining a united front of City Council members.

On May 3, Rosa Anidjar, 83, was killed on Queens Boulevard in Rego Park. Now, that neighborhood's CB 6 is the first to ask DOT for a safer street design. Photo via DNAinfo

On May 3, Rosa Anidjar, 82, was killed on Queens Boulevard in Rego Park. Photo via DNAinfo

“Our board, like all of the other boards and electeds, is saying to the Department of Transportation, let’s take a closer look at this,” said Frank Gulluscio, district manager of CB 6, which covers Forest Hills and Rego Park. “They’ve tried to do some stuff, but more needs to be done.”

For years, the city has made incremental changes to Queens Boulevard, but it remains one of the borough’s most dangerous streets for pedestrians. The most recent victim was Forest Hills resident Rosa Anidjar, 82, who was struck and killed on Queens Boulevard at 71st Avenue while walking home from synagogue on May 3.

Advocates for a safer Queens Boulevard, led by volunteers with Transportation Alternatives, first spoke with CB 6 about a resolution last month, and were given a chance to present to the full board on May 14. TA volunteers Peter Beadle and Jessame Hannus made the case for the redesign.

Beadle is also a member of CB 6′s transportation committee. “Having Peter on the board was a huge asset,” Hannus said. “It facilitated the whole process.”

Another boost came from Council Member Karen Koslowitz, whose district covers Rego Park and Forest Hills. In February, she and Council Members Elizabeth Crowley, Daniel Dromm, Rory Lancman, and Jimmy Van Bramer wrote a letter to DOT asking for a safety overhaul of Queens Boulevard [PDF].

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Queens Blvd Gets “Slow Zone” Label, But Speed Limit Remains the Same

Yesterday, DOT announced that Queens Boulevard, one of the city’s deadliest streets, would be part of its arterial slow zone initiative that reduces speed limits from 30 to 25 mph. But unlike other streets in the program, Queens Boulevard would have its limit dropped from 35 to 30 mph. Trouble is, the speed limit on Queens Boulevard is already 30 mph, and it’s been that way since 2001.

Nisath Hossain, 58, was killed by a hit-and-run driver last year on Queens Boulevard. DOT says the "Boulevard of Death" will be a "slow zone" -- but the speed limit will remain the same. Photo via WABC

Nisath Hossain, 58, was killed by a hit-and-run driver last year on Queens Boulevard. DOT says the “Boulevard of Death” will be a “slow zone” — but the speed limit will stay the same. Photo via WABC

The discrepancy was spotted by Peter Beadle, a Rego Park resident active in efforts to get DOT to study a street safety redesign for Queens Boulevard. “It’s very strange,” Beadle said. ”I’m hoping it’s just an error. I’m hoping that it isn’t someone trying to be clever.”

The arterial slow zone program “reduces posted speed limits from 30 to 25 mph” on the city’s most dangerous streets, reads DOT’s press release for yesterday’s announcement. “Queens Boulevard, which was previously signed for 35 mph, is similarly reduced by five to 30 mph.” The street is included as one of the 25 corridors in the program.

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer’s office asked DOT before yesterday’s announcement why Queens Boulevard wouldn’t get a 25 mph limit like the other streets. According to Van Bramer’s staff, DOT said it is lowering the Queens Boulevard speed limit to 30 mph because it is currently set at 35 mph in some sections.

Here’s the rub: Queens Boulevard did have a 35 mph limit between Roosevelt and 51st Avenues, but then-Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall lowered it to 30 mph in February 2001 [PDF]. (A Daily News report from the time says the 35 mph zone ran only from Roosevelt to 63rd Street.)

DOT spokesperson Scott Gastel said the press release refers to Weinshall’s action more than a decade ago.

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said that while the arterial slow zone program won’t lower the speed limit on Queens Boulevard, it will bring other components like signs and increased enforcement from NYPD. She added that DOT will take a look at adjusting the signal timing on Queens Boulevard, though its speed limit will remain at 30 mph.

“Our engineers felt like 30 was really the right speed for that street,” she said. “At this time, we are not going to change the speed limit.” A DOT spokesperson later followed up via email to say that the agency is not ruling out reducing speed limits on Queens Boulevard below 30 mph in the future.

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Imagining a New Atlantic Avenue for de Blasio’s New York

atlantic_parking

With the dangerous, highway-like conditions on Atlantic Avenue, much of the surrounding area is under-developed. A chain link fence surrounds this parking lot near Franklin Avenue.

Atlantic Avenue is one of New York’s most prominent streets, and in most respects, it is completely broken.

Stretching more than ten miles, Atlantic cuts through several neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens while functioning mainly as an urban highway for private motorists and truckers making their way east, toward the Van Wyck and Long Island, or west, to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

It is plagued with constant, speeding traffic. The avenue’s wide, highway-like conditions induce drivers to floor it, and as a result Atlantic is one of the most dangerous streets in New York City. When Council Member Steve Levin took a speed gun out to Atlantic, he found 88 percent of drivers were going more than 10 miles per hour over the limit. From 2008 to 2012, 25 people were killed on the 7.6-mile stretch of Atlantic between Furman Street in Brooklyn Heights and 76th Street in Woodhaven.

When the city announced that Atlantic would become the first street in the “arterial slow zone” program, with a 25 mph speed limit and re-timed traffic signals, it was welcome news. Atlantic is the kind of monster that has to be tamed if the de Blasio administration is going to achieve its Vision Zero street safety goals, and the new speed limit is a good first step.

In the long-run, though, Atlantic Avenue and the many other city streets like it will need much more comprehensive changes to not only eliminate traffic deaths, but also accommodate the economic growth and housing construction goals that City Hall is after.

Today, much of Atlantic Avenue is an eyesore, especially along the stretch east of Flatbush Avenue. It’s basically an unsightly speedway, and land values along the eastern portion of Atlantic have historically been depressed. Empty lots sit beside carwashes and parking lots. Grassy weeds poke up through a decrepit median. Some portions fall under the shadow of elevated train tracks — the Atlantic Branch of the Long Island Rail Road, which otherwise runs below ground.

Does it have to be this way? Can’t we imagine an Atlantic Avenue that is an asset to the neighborhoods which surround it, rather than a challenge to work around?

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