Greenpoint Avenue has long been a dangerous connection between Queens and Brooklyn. The intersection with Borden Avenue in Sunnyside, where it crosses the Long Island Expressway, is often overrun with drivers heading toward an LIE onramp or exiting the highway so they can get to Manhattan via the free Queensboro Bridge. The waves of traffic make crossing Borden a dangerous mess for people trying to walk or bike around their neighborhood.
“It can be a pretty daunting intersection at the best of times,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, who has lobbied for safety fixes.
In April 2012, a bike rider was struck and killed by a livery cab driver at the intersection, and months later another cyclist was killed in a hit-and-run just blocks away. The deaths spurred action from Queens residents who had long worried about traveling through the area. Steve Scofield and four other volunteers recorded conditions and behavior at the intersection, ultimately producing a list of recommendations to improve street safety. On December 18, they presented their findings to Queens Community Board 2′s transportation committee.
The group suggested adding lane markings on eastbound Greenpoint Avenue to mark where turning and through traffic should go. Currently, “it’s kind of a free for all,” Scofield said.
The group also proposed adding a dedicated left turn signal from westbound Greenpoint to eastbound Borden, as well as adding a leading signal for cyclists and pedestrians headed eastbound on Greenpoint, to give them a jump start on drivers turning to access the expressway. Currently, many cyclists heading east on Greenpoint Avenue illegally ride on the sidewalk on the other side of the street because they feel unsafe on the road, said Jessame Hannus, who presented with Scofield.
The problems at this intersection are also a symptom of the city’s lack of a coherent road pricing system. Much of the traffic is due to drivers using local streets as a shortcut between the Long Island Expressway and the Queensboro Bridge, instead of staying on the highway and paying a toll at the Queens-Midtown Tunnel. Consistent tolls on the East River crossings would cut down on the traffic, Scofield noted. He often sees the intersection of Borden and Greenpoint gridlocked while traffic flows freely underneath on the expressway to the tunnel.