By James Farrell Staff Writer
Elected officials in northeast Queens celebrated and claimed credit for a pair of traffic improvements in their home districts this week.
On Aug. 17, several officials, including state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside), announced that the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) would install a left-turn signal at the intersection of Corporal Kennedy Street and 26th Avenue in Bayside. And on Aug. 21, Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Flushing) and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) announced that the DOT will install a crosswalk across Blossom Avenue on the west side of Main Street in Flushing.
Avella, Vallone and Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside) said in separate statements that the left-turn signal at 26th Avenue, located near the SelfHelp Clearview Senior Center, was a long time coming. The new signal aims to help motorists turn left from 26th Avenue onto Corporal Kennedy Street and into the Bay Terrace community.
Braunstein said that he wrote a letter to the DOT in 2011, when he first took office, requesting the signal.
“Turning left onto Corporal Kennedy Street is difficult for motorists, which has created a hazardous situation for pedestrians, including senior citizens who reside at the Scheuer House or visit SelfHelp Clearview Senior Center,” he said. “This location has had at least one fatal accident in the past, and I am hopeful that the new left-turn signal will improve traffic safety for motorists and pedestrians alike.”
Avella said that he had heard requests for a signal from residents in his district for “almost two decades.”
“Finally, after being denied time and time again, DOT listened,” he said. “I am not sure why it took them so long to address this, but I’m glad that they finally are. Pedestrians and motorists alike will be happy to hear the news that their voices were ultimately heard and that a left-turn signal will finally be installed.”
Vallone also said that he has been requesting the signal, and during a town hall at the senior center last year, the issue came up. He added that he recently pushed the issue with DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg during the “City Hall in Your Borough” events in Queens, when city offices set up shop in the borough.
“If you heard a unified cheer from the seniors of Bayside, it was a cry of victory—this was really the number-one light request we’ve gotten since we entered office,” Vallone said.
For Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, the left-turn signal has been one of his group’s priorities since it formed around 1999. Traffic built up in the area from the nearby Bay Terrace Shopping Center and cars coming off the Clearview Expressway, making the area particularly congested and hazardous for Bay Terrace residents and members of the senior center, Schrei-ber said.
“I think it’s wonderful” he said. “If it saves even one life, then the effort will be worthwhile.”
The new crosswalk at Blossom Avenue and Main Street comes after a push from Rozic, Schumer and other elected officials that began in October 2015. At the time, Rozic wrote to DOT Queens Borough Commissioner Nicole Garcia, citing an incident in which a young couple was struck while crossing the street. Several other elected officials attended a press conference last year calling for new safety measures.
“The Flushing community has consistently advocated for traffic safety improvements in the neighborhood, and I am glad to finally announce DOT’s plan to install a crosswalk across Blossom Avenue,” Rozic said.
Schumer also nudged DOT on the issue several times, his office said.
“For too long, the intersection of Blossom Avenue and Main Street has been a problem-plagued road for nearby residents and businesses,” Schumer said. “A new crosswalk will help ensure the safety of pedestrians frequenting the bustling area by providing a visual cue to drivers.”
The DOT confirmed both traffic improvements and added that the left-turn signal will be completed by the end of September. Community Board 7 has also approved other improvements to the Bay Terrace intersection, including higher-visibility crosswalks and curb extensions. The Flushing crosswalk will be finished in August.