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Posts from the Queens Category

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DOT Aims to Create a Walkable Main Street in Downtown Far Rockaway

wants to increase plaza space, trees and expanded sidewalks around Mott Avenue. Image: DOT

The city is looking to increase pedestrian safety and improve public space around Mott Avenue and the transit hub where the A train and several bus lines converge. Image: DOT

Sitting at the convergence of the Long Island Railroad, the A train, and multiple bus and commuter van routes, the area around Mott Avenue in Far Rockaway has the potential to be a thriving downtown for the neighborhood, but it suffers from longstanding disinvestment and its streets aren’t great for walking.

Now EDC is working with Council Member Donovan Richards and six city agencies on small business development, mixed-income housing construction, and public space and streetscape improvements. The project is complemented by post-Sandy boardwalk reconstruction at nearby Rockaway Beach. Here’s a look at what’s in store for the neighborhood’s streets.

In conjunction with EDC, DOT plans to redesign the area around Far Rockaway's downtown transit hub. Image: Google Maps

In conjunction with EDC, DOT plans to redesign the area around Far Rockaway’s downtown transit hub. Image: Google Maps

City Hall’s new budget sets aside $9.1 million in capital funds for street improvements near Mott Avenue. Far Rockaway’s dangerous and uninviting streets are among the challenges the project will address. There were 15 severe injuries in the project area from 2010 to 2014.

DOT wants to give the downtown a “village” feel by making Mott Avenue a pedestrian-friendly main street and building out plaza space on the streets that intersect it.

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Total L.I.C. Street Rebuild to Include Safety Overhauls for Key Intersections

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer alongside the DDC and DOT Commissioners this morning. Photo: David Meyer

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer alongside DDC Commissioner Feniosky Pena-Mora (to the left) and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg (on the right) this morning. Photo: David Meyer

The streets of Long Island City are getting a total rebuild, and as part of the project four major intersections along Jackson Avenue and Vernon Boulevard will get redesigned for greater safety.

Many other intersections could get curb extensions or other traffic-calming treatments as part of the $38.47 million neighborhood-wide street reconstruction. Speaking this morning at the foot of the Pulaski Bridge, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer said DOT will prioritize four intersections: 21st Street and Jackson Avenue, 23rd Street and Jackson Avenue, Vernon Boulevard and Jackson Avenue, and Vernon Boulevard and 44th Drive.

Jackson and 11th Street, a complex multi-leg intersection that pedestrians and cyclists have to navigate to get to the Pulaski Bridge, will also be improved. Once the Pulaski Bridge bikeway opens this spring, there will be a lot more room for walking and biking, and the approach on the Queens side could use an upgrade.

Long Island City’s population is on track to soar as new development hits the market. But sandwiched by the Queensboro Bridge to the north and the Pulaski Bridge and Midtown Tunnel to the south, the neighborhood is often overrun by car and truck traffic, creating an unpleasant and unsafe environment for pedestrians.

In December, Van Bramer, DDC, and DOT hosted a public workshop where local residents and business owners overwhelmingly cited Vernon Boulevard and Jackson Avenue as streets in need of safety improvements. Jackson Avenue feeds into the Pulaski and is the site of several popular attractions, including MOMA P.S. 1, but has few safe crosswalks. In 2015 alone, 31 people were injured on Jackson Avenue within the project boundaries.

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Cement Truck Driver Kills Nancy Ventura, 61, in College Point

A cement truck driver killed Nancy Ventura a block from her Queens home. No charges were filed. Image: WNBC

A cement truck driver killed Nancy Ventura a block from her Queens home. No charges were filed. Image: WNBC

A cement truck driver killed a pedestrian in College Point last week. Accounts differ on how the crash occurred, and police have filed no charges.

On Friday, January 22, at around 9:21 in the morning, 61-year-old Nancy Ventura was crossing College Point Boulevard at 15th Avenue, east to west, when she was struck by the driver, who was southbound on the boulevard, according to NYPD.

Ventura lived a block away from the crash site. She died at New York-Presbyterian/Queens Hospital, police said.

The Daily News reported that, according to unnamed police sources, the victim “was hit by the cement truck as it made a turn onto 15th Ave.,” but the NYPD public information office could not confirm if the driver was turning or not. Photos from the scene show the truck stopped on College Point Boulevard, with the cab facing away from 15th Avenue — so it’s possible the driver was turning off of 15th, but not onto it.

NYPD often releases conflicting details on serious traffic crashes, and information initially provided by police sources often turns out to be wrong. It’s usually not possible to obtain a final NYPD crash report without a freedom of information request, which — if approved — can take months for the department to process.

No summonses or charges were filed by NYPD or Queens District Attorney Richard Brown as of Thursday afternoon, NYPD told Streetsblog. “No charges were expected to be filed,” the Daily News reported.

This fatal crash occurred in the 109th Precinct, where the response to pedestrian deaths is lecturing people on how to walk. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Deputy Inspector Thomas Conforti, the commanding officer, go to the next precinct community council meeting. The 109th Precinct council meetings happen at 7:30 p.m. on second Wednesday of the month at the precinct, 37-05 Union Street in Flushing. Call 718-321-2268 for information.

The City Council district where Nancy Ventura was killed is represented by Paul Vallone. To encourage Vallone to take action to improve street safety in his district and citywide, contact him via phone, email, or Twitter.

StreetFilms
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The Transformation of Queens Boulevard, Block By Block

For many years, New York City’s Queens Boulevard was known as the “Boulevard of Death.” The street cuts through the heart of the Queens, expanding at some points to a chaotic 12 to 16 lanes of traffic — which makes it extremely dangerous for human beings. From 2003 to 2013, 38 pedestrians and cyclists were killed and 450 suffered severe injuries.

Last year, the New York City DOT announced a $100 million dollar commitment from the de Blasio administration to humanize Queens Boulevard and make it safer, a flagship project in the city’s Vision Zero initiative. Instead of waiting until the planned permanent reconstruction in 2018 to make any changes, DOT wanted to build in safety improvements immediately. After holding public workshops with communities along the corridor, 1.3 miles of Queens Boulevard have been redesigned, and the changes are already making a huge difference.

If you’re an urban planner, transportation engineer, or advocate wondering just what can be done with what seems to be an irredeemably messed up street, then this is the Streetfilm for you. We got an exclusive tour of the changes with NYC DOT Deputy Commissioner Ryan Russo, going block-by-block over the creative solutions the DOT team implemented. Queens Boulevard is as complicated a roadway as there is: Nearly every block is different. To add a functional bike lane and pedestrian mall seemed highly unlikely. Yet here it is.

I’ll admit, I’m especially excited about this project since I’ve lived near Queens Boulevard for years. I was skeptical when the announcement was made that I would see any truly life-altering change, and even if the city pulled it off, it would take years and years. But the installation has been swift and extremely well thought out. The service road is noticeably slower, narrower, and easier to navigate for people walking or biking. So much so that I was motivated to document the transformation with this Streetfilm, which I hope will be a learning tool that people can put to use in their communities. If you can put a good protected bike lane on Queens Boulevard, then just about any street in America should be in play.

In 2015, no one was killed on Queens Boulevard.

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Richard Brown: Probation for Hit-and-Run Driver Who Killed Kamil Gorski

The hit-and-run driver who killed Kamil Gorski got probation and $1,088 in fines and fees after DA Richard Brown dropped felony charges and allowed a misdemeanor plea deal.

The hit-and-run driver who killed Kamil Gorski got probation and $1,088 in fines and fees after DA Richard Brown dropped felony charges for a misdemeanor plea deal.

A driver charged with a felony for the hit-and-run death of a Queens pedestrian was sentenced to probation as a result of a plea deal from District Attorney Richard Brown.

Raul Reyes and a second driver hit 36-year-old Navy veteran Kamil Gorski on Metropolitan Avenue on February 3, 2015, according to Brown’s office. Gorski died at Elmhurst Hospital.

Brown did not charge the second driver, who remained at the scene. Brown charged Reyes with leaving the scene of an accident resulting in injury, which is a class D felony, and issued a press release saying Reyes “face[d] up to four years in prison.” Last December, however, Brown reduced the charges, and allowed Reyes to plead to a misdemeanor leaving the scene, which carries a maximum one-year jail sentence.

This week, pursuant to his plea agreement with DA Brown, Reyes was sentenced to three years probation, a $1,000 fine, and $88 in administrative fees for leaving Kamil Gorski to die in the street, according to court records. There is no indication that the court took action against Reyes’s driver’s license.

As Streetsblog reported last month, Gorski is one of several Queens hit-and-run victims whose killers avoided a sentence that included jail time, either because Brown accepted a plea or filed no charges in the first place.

If New York City hopes to get a handle on its hit-and-run epidemic, which results in thousands of injuries and deaths annually, district attorneys will have to send a message that such crimes will not be tolerated. Based on his record of prosecuting traffic violence over the last year, Brown earned a middling C+ in the Transportation Alternatives 2015 Vision Zero Report Card, which said the DA “seems uninterested in protecting the lives of constituents.”

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MTA to Boost Frequency of Q70 to LaGuardia

The Riders Alliance says improved Q70 service could revolutionize travel to LaGuardia Airport. Image: Riders Alliance

Service on the Q70 to LaGuardia will run more frequently — the Riders Alliance says more can be done. Image: Riders Alliance

The MTA announced this morning that it plans to increase service on the Q70 Limited bus to LaGuardia Airport and hopes to roll out Select Bus Service on the route later this year. Riders Alliance Executive Director John Raskin applauded the news as “a great step toward implementing a real airport shuttle from the subway” but said the MTA can do more.

A November report from the Riders Alliance suggested that rebranding the route as a “Free LaGuardia Subway Shuttle” would provide travelers with easy transit access to the airport at minimal cost to the MTA. The proposal contrasts with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s billion-dollar AirTrain to LaGuardia project, which would actually be slower than existing transit options.

The Q70 runs between the 61st Street-Woodside LIRR/7 train stop, Jackson Heights, and the airport. It currently runs every 12 minutes during peak hours and every 30 minutes overnight. Starting this spring, the MTA will increase frequency to every eight minutes during weekday peak and evening hours, every 10 minutes on weekends, and every 20 minutes overnight. The agency says it will roll out off-board fare collection later this year, further cutting trip times.

The Riders Alliance plan calls for a few other steps, including the elimination of fares and improving the branding and signage for the service, which can be hard to find, especially for travelers new to NYC. The November report highlighted the fact that 90 percent of Q70 riders transfer to the subway or LIRR, so making the bus free would have a minimal revenue impact.

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Eric Ulrich Flip-Flops on Woodhaven Boulevard Redesign

After coming out strong for Select Bus Service on Woodhaven Boulevard, City Council Member Eric Ulrich has done a 180.

Eric Ulrich

Eric Ulrich

“The plan that they proposed, it stinks,” Ulrich told the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association, according to the Queens Chronicle. “I don’t think it’s good. I think we have to go back to the drawing board.”

The Woodhaven redesign, which calls for dedicated bus lanes and pedestrian safety infrastructure, enjoys widespread support from elected officials — a roster that once included Eric Ulrich. In April 2014 Ulrich and Joan Byron co-authored an op-ed for the Daily News that called for “world-class” bus rapid transit on Woodhaven, with dedicated lanes and signal priority:

Taking this opportunity to incorporate even more advanced Bus Rapid Transit features will benefit not only those who ride the Q52/Q53, but everyone who drives, walks or rides on this congested and dangerous artery.

Later that year Ulrich told Streetsblog that something has to be done on Woodhaven to prevent traffic deaths and injuries, because “whatever we’re doing now obviously isn’t working.”

So what happened?

Well, the Woodhaven Residents Block Association, which Ulrich was addressing, has been raising a stink about the project for all the usual reasons — that it will slow down traffic and divert motorists to side streets.

According to the Queens Chronicle, Ulrich said he became disillusioned with the plan in part because it would eliminate left turns at Woodhaven Boulevard and Jamaica Avenue. But the left-turn ban helps achieve two goals Ulrich said he supported: faster buses and fewer injuries. It lets buses proceed without waiting for left-turning drivers, and it prevents conflicts between turning drivers and people crossing the street.

At the intersection with Jamaica, 38 traffic crashes resulted in 52 injuries and two fatalities from July 2012 to December 2014, according to Transportation Alternatives.

TA found that more people lost their lives on Woodhaven from 2011 to 2013 than on any other Queens street. A major benefit of the Woodhaven SBS will be physical improvements, like pedestrian islands, to prevent injuries and save lives.

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DOT’s Astoria Park Safety Plan Calls for 3 Protected Bike Lanes

DOT wants to turn Shore Boulevard into a one-way street with a protected bike lane. Image: DOT

DOT wants to convert a motor vehicle lane on Shore Boulevard into a two-way protected bike lane [PDF]. Image: DOT

Last June, a hit-and-run driver killed 21-year-old Betty DiBiaso at the intersection of 19th Street and Ditmars Boulevard, next to Astoria Park. The loss of DiBiaso prompted a neighborhood-wide discussion about the need to improve street safety around one of Queens’ most visited parks, and on Tuesday night DOT showed Queens Community Board 2 its proposals for the area [PDF].

Despite all the pedestrian and bike traffic, streets near the park lack basic traffic-calming features and safe access for people walking or biking. Since 2009, more than a hundred people have been injured on streets around the park.

The plan DOT showed Tuesday calls for major changes to sections of Shore Boulevard, 20th Avenue, and Hoyt Avenue, with new two-way protected bike lanes on those streets. Separately, DOT is studying a number of other possible improvements for the area, including daylighting intersections and improving pedestrian crossings around the park’s borders and adding speed bumps by the intersection where DiBiaso was killed.

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Eyes on the Street: Just Another Brush With Death at a Typical NYC Crossing


The design of 29th Street and 39th Avenue in Long Island City is typical of thousands of New York City crossings: an intersection of relatively narrow streets where drivers are allowed to park to the edge of crosswalks with no design elements to force motorists to slow down.

The combination of poor visibility and lack of traffic-calming features leads to crashes like the one in the video, taken Thursday, when an Access-A-Ride driver sped into a crosswalk while turning left and struck a child with a van’s door-mounted mirror. Luckily it appears the child wasn’t seriously hurt.

Jean Cawley, who sent us the video, has written to DOT officials, including Queens DOT Commissioner Nicole Garcia, several times to ask for traffic-calming measures at this intersection and other locations in the area. Cawley also submitted a petition to DOT from residents of Dutch Kills.

Consistent NYPD enforcement wouldn’t hurt either. The 114th Precinct, where the crash in the video occurred, issues an average of just 23 tickets a month to drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians.

Below are images from a two-vehicle collision at the same intersection that sent a cab onto the sidewalk.

“Cars barrel through our streets in a dangerous manner all day, every day,” wrote Cawley in an email to Garcia, with the video and photos attached. “I hope you will help. DOT’s actions may save a life.”

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Ferreras-Copeland and Peralta to DOT: Fix Northern and Junction

A hit and run driver traveling west on Northern Boulevard killed 17-year-old Ovidio Jaramillo last Tuesday night as he crossed the street from its northern end. Image: Google Maps

The intersection of Northern Boulevard and Junction Boulevard, where a hit-and-run driver traveling west on Northern killed 17-year-old Ovidio Jaramillo last Tuesday night. Image: Google Maps

Following the hit-and-run killing of 17-year-old Ovidio Jaramillo at the intersection of Northern Boulevard and Junction Boulevard last week, local elected officials and DOT Queens Commissioner Nicole Garcia toured Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst streets yesterday with an eye toward safety improvements.

Northern and Junction are wide two-way streets, with Northern being especially large. Both are priority corridors in DOT’s Vision Zero pedestrian safety plan for Queens, owing to high rates of injuries and fatalities.

Yesterday’s tour was organized by Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, and State Senator José Peralta also participated.

Garcia said her team would do everything in its power to make the neighborhoods’ many dangerous intersections safer for pedestrians. “All options are on the table,” she told Ferreras-Copeland.

At the intersection where Jaramillo was killed, Garcia committed to installing a speed camera and said other possible treatments would be investigated. Other intersections on Northern recently received pedestrian islands and left turn bans. Left turn bans at this location would be problematic, Garcia said, since both streets are designated freight routes and turn restrictions could send trucks onto residential streets.

From the beginning of 2012 through October of this year, there were 43 injuries and one fatality at the Northern-Junction intersection. Without a significant reallocation of street space to narrow the roadbed and shorten crossings for pedestrians, it’s hard to see how safety will improve much.

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