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Posts from the "Queens" Category

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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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2 Dead in 3 Days: NYPD Must Slow Drivers to Stem Atlantic Avenue Carnage

Update: WNYC reports that the pedestrian killed at Atlantic Avenue and 85th Street has been identified as William Guevara-Delgado, 26, of Woodhaven.

Two pedestrians have been killed by motorists on Atlantic Avenue in the last week. Both crashes were outside the new 25 mph zone on Atlantic, and both occurred in a precinct that tickets one driver for speeding every two days.

Oscar Pauzhi. Photo via Times Ledger

Oscar Pauzhi. Photo via Times Ledger

On Wednesday, April 23, an unidentified man was hit by the driver of a box truck at Atlantic and 85th Street at around 3:40 in the afternoon. According to NYPD, the 53-year-old driver was traveling westbound on Atlantic and the victim was crossing north to south. The victim was wearing jeans only, NYPD told Streetsblog, and was not carrying identification. Police have not yet determined his identity. The Collision Investigation Squad was summoned to the scene and the investigation is ongoing, NYPD said. The department’s public information office did not have details on driver speed or who had the right of way.

On Saturday night, Oscar Pauzhi, 54, was fatally struck by the driver of a Hyundai sedan at Atlantic at 107th Street. The Times Ledger reports:

The driver remained at the scene and was not charged with any wrongdoing, police said. No criminality was suspected, but the NYPD said the incident was still under investigation.

Pauzhi, who was a construction worker, immigrated from Ecuador to the U.S. in 1985 to find work, relatives said.

Family remembered Pauzhi as a hardworking and generous man who did not have time for hobbies as he was often laboring.

“He was really friendly and funny,” said Jamie Minchala, Pauzhi’s niece. “He always cared about us a lot.”

Reports say Pauzhi walked into the driver’s path, but though reckless motorists make Atlantic Avenue one of the most dangerous streets in the city to walk or bike, no accounts that we’ve seen question how the driver failed to see or avoid striking the victim. However, WNYC spoke with a local who said motorists terrorize pedestrians in the area where Pauzhi was killed. “When I cross Atlantic Avenue I make the sign of the cross and pray that I get to the other side,” said Jonathan Kazzier. “A lot of people respect Atlantic Avenue enough not to jaywalk.”

“Every night I wake up to speeding cars, motorcycles,” Kazzier said. “I mean they run rapid. And there’s no police. I don’t know what’s going on. Maybe they’re taking care of other business.”

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Pedestrian Islands Coming to Deadly Northern Boulevard Intersection

The striped median on Northern Boulevard at 61st Street, right, is set to receive concrete pedestrian islands, like those on Hillside Avenue, right. Image: DOT

The striped median on Northern Boulevard at 61st Street, right, is set to receive concrete pedestrian islands, like those on Hillside Avenue, right. Image: DOT

The intersection of Northern Boulevard and 61st Street in Woodside, where an unlicensed truck driver making a left turn through a crosswalk killed 8-year-old Noshat Nahian on his way to school last December, is set for some pedestrian safety fixes after months of work by elected officials and street safety advocates.

Members of Make Queens Safer said they hoped it was the first of many design changes DOT would make to Northern Boulevard, which ranks as one of the most dangerous streets for pedestrians in Queens.

The plan for the 61st Street intersection, first reported by the Daily News, includes the addition of concrete pedestrian islands and the elimination of left turns from westbound Northern Boulevard to southbound 61st Street. It will also adjust signals to increase crossing time for pedestrians and feature new school zone crosswalk markings and signage. DOT has already restricted some on-street parking to “daylight” the intersection’s northeast corner and improve visibility for pedestrians and drivers. Construction is set to begin this month and wrap up within weeks.

Immediately prior to announcing his Vision Zero agenda last January at PS 152, where Nahian was walking to school before he was killed, Mayor Bill de Blasio visited the intersection with Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

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Rockaway Students Want DOT to Use Extra Asphalt for Walking and Biking


Rockaway Freeway, a multi-lane divided road beneath the A train on the Rockaway peninsula, is hardly friendly territory for walking or biking. A group of teens interning with the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance is looking to change that. Their goal: Gather 10,000 signatures on a petition asking DOT to convert some under-used road space, created as part of a traffic-calming project years ago, into a safe place for walking and biking.

“There are two striped buffers that aren’t being used for anything,” said Sebastian Rahman, 15, a sophomore at Scholars Academy in Rockaway Park and an intern with RWA. “People still do use them to get from point A to point B, even though it isn’t really isn’t safe.”

“You have people speeding there,” said intern Kaitlyn Kennedy, 16. “It’s not the safest place to be walking.” A road diet reduced the number of lanes and added the striped buffered areas more than a decade ago, but Rockaway Freeway continues to be a dangerous road: Last December, a teen driver killed one of his passengers and seriously injured another in a late-night crash on the road at Beach 41st Street.

“We saw the Rockaway Freeway as a great opportunity,” Rahman said. After Hurricane Sandy wiped out portions of the boardwalk, he continued, “there was no more connectivity between the east side and the west side of the peninsula.” Together, the student interns have come up with a concept that mixes new planted areas with more space for pedestrians and a dedicated bike path.

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New Vision Zero Details Emerge at Astoria Town Hall

Last night, more than 100 people gathered in Astoria for the latest in a series of Vision Zero town halls bringing together residents,  city officials, elected representatives, and advocates to talk about street safety. New information regarding City Hall’s current thinking about the safety of trucks and large vehicle fleets came to light, and officials also hinted at opening more street safety data to the public.

NYPD and DOT will hand out this flyer at high-crash intersections.

NYPD and DOT will soon start handing out this flyer at high-crash intersections.

While the city continues to flesh out policies, Queens residents affected by traffic violence came to last night’s meeting seeking answers and highlighting areas where the NYPD still needs to improve.

“We haven’t heard from the police yet. It would be nice to find out as much information as possible,” said Satie Ragunath, whose father-in-law Kumar was killed in a hit-and-run while crossing Northern Boulevard earlier this month. “We’d like to know, what can you guys do about accidents that have already happened?”

Deputy Inspector Kevin Maloney, commanding officer of the 114th Precinct, told Streetsblog that the Collision Investigation Squad was unable to find surveillance video of the crash and was broadening its search area, using cameras on nearby blocks in an attempt to identify the hit-and-run driver. “I’ll talk with the detective in charge of that investigation and I’ll be sure he speaks to you,” Maloney told Ragunath.

Chris Vanterpool said he and his 3-year-old son were struck by a turning driver two weeks ago while they were in a crosswalk near their Astoria home. Vanterpool said it was difficult to get information from the precinct after the crash. “I had to make 10 phone calls to get the report number,” he said, and when he wanted to get a copy of the crash report, the precinct required a $10 money order. “It costs $15 at the bank to get a $10 money order,” Vanterpool said.

Maloney, who spoke with Vanterpool about the crash after the forum, told Streetsblog that the precinct tries to focus on speeding, cell phone use, and red light summonses. The five officers in its traffic enforcement division, as well as a handful of patrol officers, are trained to use the three LIDAR speed guns available at the precinct.

“When I was a cop, precinct cops didn’t even shoot radar,” Maloney said. “Since then, the department’s evolved, so it’s something that on the precinct level we take seriously.”

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Who Killed Kumar Ragunath? Police Seek Suspect as Advocates Call for Action

Photo: Jimmy Van Bramer/Twitter

State Senator Michael Gianaris and Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer join neighborhood and street safety advocates to call for the arrest of the hit-and-run driver who killed Kumar Ragunath. Photo: Jimmy Van Bramer/Twitter

Kumar Ragunath, 64, came to New York from Guyana in 1987. Five years later, he and his wife bought a house in Jamaica near Richmond Hill. He loved to play cricket and listen to Indian music, and he kept working through his retirement to help fund college for his six grandchildren. Ragunath had been out of work since August, but recently found a job at the Queens Plaza Holiday Inn.

Photo: Nasha Ragunath via DNAinfo

Photo: Nasha Ragunath via DNAinfo

On March 7 at about 10:25 p.m., he was on his way to his second day of work at the hotel when he crossed Northern Boulevard near 40th Road in Long Island City. Ragunath was outside the crosswalk when the driver of a dark-colored Chevy Blazer in the westbound right-hand lane hit him. The driver kept going. Ragunath was taken to Elmhurst Hospital Center, where he was put into a medically-induced coma and died the next day.

Now, police are offering a $2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the driver who killed Ragunath. Local elected officials, neighborhood advocates and street safety activists gathered today at the crash site to call for Ragunath’s killer to be brought to justice and for safer streets, especially in the growing Long Island City neighborhood and along Northern Boulevard.

Northern Boulevard has a long record of fatalities and injuries: Last year, 8-year-old Noshat Nahian and 3-year-old Olvin Jahir Figueroa were both killed by drivers on the street. Tri-State Transportation Campaign ranked it as the second most deadly street in Queens for pedestrians. Last month, after a curb-jumping hit-and-run driver seriously injured five people at a Northern Boulevard bus shelter, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer called on DOT to make the street a priority in its Vision Zero initiative. As at last month’s event, Van Bramer was joined by State Senator Michael Gianaris today.

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Fixes Set for Dangerous Jamaica Hills Intersection

A rendering shows expanded pedestrian space on Homelawn and 169th Streets at Hillside Avenue Image: DOT

A rendering shows expanded pedestrian space on Homelawn and 169th Streets at Hillside Avenue. Image: DOT

The intersections surrounding Hillside Avenue, Homelawn Street, and 169th Street in Jamaica Hills are on track for pedestrian safety upgrades this spring after NYC DOT’s plan [PDF] received the support of Queens Community Board 8 last week.

With entrances to the F train on all four corners and bus stops served by 17 routes, the busy commercial area is a magnet for people on foot. But Hillside and Homelawn is also one of the most dangerous intersections in Queens, ranking among the worst one percent in terms of crash frequency. From 2007 to 2011, there were 47 motor vehicle driver and passenger injuries, 34 pedestrian injuries, and two bicyclist injuries at this intersection and the four adjacent ones, according to DOT. A 19-year-old pedestrian was killed in May 2010 at Cedarcroft Road and Homelawn Street, according to data compiled by the Tri-State Transportation campaign.

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Current conditions at the intersection of Hillside, 169th Street, and Homelawn. Image: Google Maps

DOT’s plan adds a concrete pedestrian island and striped crosswalk at Cedarcroft and Homelawn, and will also add concrete pedestrian islands to the existing painted median on Hillside at 169th Place and 170th Street. Crosswalks on Hillside Avenue will be upgraded to high-visibility “zebra” markings. Excess pavement where Homelawn and 169th Street meet Hillside will be converted to curb extensions and an expanded pedestrian triangle, which will now extend to form a median refuge on the north side of Hillside.

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In Queens, Parents Push for Safer Streets Near Schools

After 25-year-old Martha Tibillin-Guamug was killed crossing the street in Jackson Heights last week, the 110th Precinct went on the offensive, writing 200 summonses in 72 hours, including dozens for failure to yield to pedestrians. At a traffic safety town hall on Sunday, residents applauded the effort, then asked the police and DOT to do more.

Martha Tibillin-Guamug, 25, was killed by a bus driver in Jackson Heights last week. Photo: NY Post

Martha Tibillin-Guamug, 25, was killed by a bus driver in Jackson Heights last week. Photo: NY Post

The 110th already has a leg up on most other precincts when it comes to traffic safety — it issued 442 failure-to-yield and nearly 3,000 speeding tickets last year — but at the town hall hosted by Make Queens Safer, Congressman Joseph Crowley, and Assembly Member Francisco Moya, residents said it would take more than a ticket blitz to clamp down on dangerous driving.

Dozens of Queens schools have been designated as priority locations in DOT’s Safe Routes to Schools program, for example, but most have not received street redesigns as a result. From 2004 to 2009, DOT implemented street redesigns in areas surrounding 30 schools citywide. Researchers say these types of traffic calming measures could prevent 210 child injuries annually if the city applies them to all 1,471 elementary and middle schools.

I.S. 230 in Jackson Heights has already been identified as a Safe Routes to Schools priority location. Victoria Medelius, president of the school’s parent-teacher association, said traffic safety efforts shouldn’t happen only after someone dies. ”We have to do more than just issue a summons,” she told Streetsblog.

Medelius said one of her son’s classmates was walking to school with his mother last year when a driver hit and injured him. “It shouldn’t be that way. It wasn’t like that for me growing up,” said Medelius, who grew up in Jackson Heights. “Drivers should be more responsible.”

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Two Events This Weekend Build on Momentum for Safer Queens Streets

Northern Boulevard is one Queens street with plenty of room for pedestrian improvements. Photo: Brad Aaron

Northern Boulevard is one Queens street with plenty of room for pedestrian improvements. Photo: Brad Aaron

There are a couple of events focusing on safer streets in Queens this weekend.

Make Queens Safer will host a pedestrian safety town hall Sunday afternoon, with Congressman Joe Crowley and Assembly Member Francisco Moya. Representatives from the 108th and 115th Precincts were invited to the meeting, along with DOT and the Department of Education.

“Pedestrian safety remains a top priority for our communities,” said Crowley in an emailed statement. “In response to the recent uptick in pedestrian injuries and fatalities, we are holding this town hall to hear from Queens residents and get their input on how to make our streets safer. I am encouraged by the advocacy from Make Queens Safer and I thank the organization and Assemblyman Moya for working with us on this very important issue.”

Queens had the highest number of traffic deaths of the five boroughs in 2013 — 93 people killed, including 52 pedestrians — according to a Transportation Alternatives analysis of NYPD crash data. Six pedestrians died and 152 pedestrians and cyclists were injured last year on Queens Boulevard alone, TA said.

On Saturday, TA will be tabling as part of its ongoing “Zero on Queens Boulevard” campaign, which aims to bring protected bike lanes, pedestrian improvements and Select Bus Service to the 12-lane street.

Northern Boulevard has also been called a “boulevard of death.” Make Queens Safer and TA joined City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer and state electeds Thursday to call on Mayor de Blasio to include Northern Boulevard in the first round of Vision Zero safety improvements. “Northern Boulevard stands out as one of the most egregious speedways in Queens,” said Celia Castellan, organizer of TA’s Queens Activist Committee. In addition to engineering improvements on wide boulevards in Queens, Castellan said, the city needs more traffic enforcement and an expanded NYPD Collision Investigation Squad.

Tomorrow’s TA event will be at Queens Boulevard and 71st Avenue, in Forest Hills, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday’s town hall will be from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Renaissance Charter School, 35-59 81st Street, in Jackson Heights.