BY JON CRONIN
To kick off phase three of his Queens Boulevard Vision Zero plan, Mayor Bill de Blasio boasted that there have been no fatalities on the so-called “Boulevard of Death” in the past two years.
However, the mayor noted that in the past 27 years, 185 people have been killed on the boulevard.
“So many New Yorkers have lost their loved ones,” he said. “How did we get used to that? How did it become normal?”
Lizzi Rahman is a member of transportation advocacy group Families for Safe Streets. Her son died on Queens Boulevard in the winter of 2008. She said he was a rapper, poet, and kind man. She said that improvements to the long-dangerous boulevard honors her son’s memory.
“He would smile down from heaven knowing the Queens Boulevard was filled with bicycles,” she said of the bike lanes on the roadway.
The boulevard’s third phase, which entails the area from Eliot Avenue to Yellowstone Boulevard, will begin work in June. Larger capital projects, such as corner bump outs and closing slips between the boulevard and service road, will be phased in at a later date. Community Board 6 approved the project at its May 10 meeting.
De Blasio said that the responsibility for keeping pedestrians, motorists and cyclists safe on the boulevard lay in the hands of city government.
“It turned out [that] a lot could be done,” he said and explained that the speed limit needed to be lowered and better enforcement was required.
Thomas Chan, the chief of transportation for the city’s Police Department, said that the NYPD would increase its focus on people who utilize their mobile devices while driving. He cited education, engineering and enforcement as reasons for improvement on Queens Boulevard. He also reported that accidents are down 22 percent so far this year.
“We are now making it the ‘Boulevard of Life,’” said de Blasio.
Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) said that when her children were young, she used to be terrified at the thought of them traversing the roadway.
“I used to shake when my children crossed Queens Boulevard,” she said.
Nicole Altmix, the city Department of Transportation’s executive director of transportation and manager of the Queens Boulevard project, said that cycling on the boulevard is up 120 percent, which translates to approximately 600 people utilizing the roadway during peak times.
The mayor also stated his preference for city dwellers to take public transportation over driving.
“I would always say, ‘Don’t drive, if you have the choice,’” he said.
The mayor said that he understand that the city’s transportation system isn’t always reliable, but added that delays are not new. He said that such delays are one of the reasons that the city invested $2.1 billion in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s system.
Reach Jon Cronin at 718-357-7400 x125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @JonathanSCronin.