BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
Following the March 5 deaths of a 1-year-old boy and 4-year-old girl in Park Slope, Brooklyn, due to a crash, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and the Hunters Point community took to Center Boulevard this week to call on the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) to implement comprehensive traffic-calming measures in Long Island City before a similar crash occurs in western Queens.
Van Bramer—who has made numerous calls for such measures, particularly near schools in his district—said that the road along the Long Island City waterfront lacks traffic signals, which results in speeding. Van Bramer’s biggest concern regarding Center Boulevard and 5th Street is children in the area and Gantry State Park pedestrians.
“It is clear to everyone here today that this street is not safe for the children and families who cross this street every day,” said Van Bramer. “We can’t wait for a tragedy to happen to make this street safe. DOT must act now before someone is injured or, God forbid, killed. The safety of our children is at stake, and comprehensive safety measures must be implemented immediately.”
The Hunters Point Civic Association presented DOT representatives with a detailed 13-page proposal for ways to make Center Boulevard safer at the association’s monthly meeting last week.
“There are three schools on this street and hundreds of families bring their children to the park on the other side,” said Brent O’Leary, president of the Hunters Point Civic Association. “With no traffic lights and hard-to-see signage and stop signs, this street turns into a drag strip. We are imploring the city to act now before there is an incident.”
Since then, the DOT has announced that it would conduct a study on the 10-block roadway to see if the traffic measures requested by the association could be implemented.
Both the Hunters Point Civic Association and Community Board 2 have called for safety measures in the area. Per CB 2’s request, the DOT will study whether 5th Street could be transformed into a one-way street, since the two-block street already acts as one.
Community concerns regarding Center Boulevard include speeding; an increase in population, especially children; a lack of stop signs; and poorly painted or unpainted crosswalks.
“We want to take additional data, additional counts, at the intersections that the civic, the council member and the community board have flagged for us as being majors concerns,” said Queens Deputy DOT Commissioner Albert Silvestri. “Once we’re done with that, we’d like to come back to the community with some possible treatments that could address some of the concerns.”
In addition to the study, the DOT will hold a town hall meeting in Sunnyside, where it will present an updated proposal for safety improvements on Skillman and 43rd avenues. The town hall will be held at 6:30 p.m. on March 26 at PS 150.
“The community has been loud and clear on the danger and we appreciate the DOT listening and working with us, but now is the time for action,” said O’Leary. “We need measures ASAP before another tragedy happens.”
Reach Ariel Hernandez at email@example.com or @reporter_ariel.