BY TRISHA SAKHUJA
On Jan. 17, Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) called for better traffic and pedestrian safety on 21st Street, home to major senior and youth developments.
The busy street houses IS 126, Long Island City High School, Bishop Iakovos Senior Housing and Queensview North and East. The increase in youth and senior populations, combined with increased commercial and cycling traffic creates a need for improvement of traffic flow and an awareness of pedestrian safety, the Councilman said.
“Traffic flow needs to be improved, whether it’s through better-timed countdown clocks for pedestrians, well-maintained crosswalks, or traffic lights,” Constantinides said. “A DOT traffic study should be conducted to examine the feasibility of these improvements.”
“The increased vehicular and pedestrian traffic along 21st Street is a boon to our local economy,” Constantinides added. “Any additions to our business and residential communities bring benefits to all. We need to work together to make sure our infrastructure keeps up with this increase in traffic. There is no excuse for us not to reduce the number of pedestrian fatalities by vehicles to zero.”
Constantinides was joined by State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria), Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), local advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, Community Board 1, parents from local schools, neighborhood community groups and senior centers.
Steve Scofield, co-chair of Transportation Alternatives’ Queens Activist Committee, which chooses local campaigns and fights for changes on-the-ground in local neighborhoods, said he grew up on 21st Street in the ‘50s, and it was scary then, and it is still scary now.
There have been seven deaths due to vehicular collisions over the last decade and more than 100 injuries due to pedestrians and cyclists on 21st Street, Scofield said.
“We are grateful that Mayor de Blasio has made street safety such a priority so early in his administration and are asking that 21st Street become one of the 50 corridors that he has promised to improve in his first year in office,” Scofield said.
Gianaris said nothing is more important than keeping our streets safe.
“We can’t have a city street looking like a highway in an area filled with senior housing, schools and museums and parks that are citywide destinations,” he said.
Simotas said the Dept. of Transportation has repeatedly denied her requests for enhanced safety measures at this location, and has yet to answer to her legal demand for a report setting forth the reasoning for declining to take action.
A representative from the DOT said “Safety is DOT’s top priority.”
“The agency received a request from the Community Board and will be looking at the location for potential safety and mobility enhancements,” a DOT spokesperson said.
Reach Trisha Sakhuja at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Tsakhuja13.