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Astoria residents turnout for DOT street safety workshop following surge in traffic violence this year

It was standing room only at a DOT workshop in Astoria, where residents gave feedback regarding an alarming surge in traffic violence across the neighborhood. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

Sept. 18, 2023 By Bill Parry

The level of carnage on Astoria streets has become so alarming, that it was standing room only at a Department of Transportation workshop, with more than 200 in attendance at the Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens on Thursday, Sept. 14.

Western Queens elected leaders organized the event after a surge of traffic violence during the last six months, including 40 deaths in Queens alone, with some of the most horrific taking place in Astoria.

It was standing room only at a DOT workshop in Astoria, where residents gave feedback regarding an alarming surge in traffic violence across the neighborhood. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

Tamara Chuchi Kao was cycling on Jan. 5 when she was struck and killed by the driver of a cement truck on 24th Avenue. Weeks later, 7-year-old Dolman Naadhum was struck and killed by a woman who ran a stop sign on Newtown Road. In in April, 16-year-old cyclist Jaydan McLaurin from the Ravenswood Houses was struck and killed by an 18-year-old hit-and-run driver from Long Island while he was riding on 21st Street, not far from where the DOT workshop was held.

Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani at the public workshop hosted by New York City Department of Transportation to examine traffic issues on 31st Avenue in Astoria. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

“The fact that we do not have a single open seat in this meeting is reflective of just how important of a priority this is across our neighborhood,” Assemblyman Zohran Mamdani said. “I’ve only been in office for three years and more constituents have died than years I’ve served in the Assembly and those deaths are deaths that can be prevented and they can be prevented by changes in design.”

Mamdani couldn’t find a seat as DOT Queens Borough Commissioner Nicole Garcia led her team as they presented plans to enhance pedestrian, cycling and public space conditions on 31st Avenue between Vernon Boulevard and 51st Street. Garcia said the DOT has been doing public outreach in the community all summer. That stretch of 31st Avenue alone saw a number of severe injuries and fatalities between 2016 and 2020, according to DOT senior program manager Kyle Gorman.

“One death or one injury is really an unacceptable number for us, so we’re really committed to making sure these streets are safe,” Gorman said, adding that more than 2,000 people responded to a DOT community feedback survey and more than 90% were from Astoria, and the most frequently mentioned issues were drivers disregarding traffic signals, the lack of protected bike lanes, double parking, excessive speeding, unsafe intersection and other safety concerns.

“What we want to do on 31st is keep vehicles that don’t need to be there, off the corridor,” said Theodore Wright, director of bicycle and greenway programs at DOT. “Protected bike lanes in Manhattan, they’re large avenues. That was easy to take away a lane, not so easy around here. We have to look at trade-offs.”

It was standing room only at a DOT workshop in Astoria, where residents gave feedback regarding an alarming surge in traffic violence across the neighborhood. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

DOT officials set up tables for residents to give their feedback on three different stretches of 31st Avenue leaving suggestions on sticky notes. DOT will return to the community with a proposal early next year. During their opening remarks, the Astoria elected officials reminded their constituents of the urgency involved in bringing street safety to the neighborhood.

“This is another step for us in a longer fight and battle for street safety but really what we’re talking about is dignity and quality of life and making sure that the next generation doesn’t have to deal with the same issues as we’ve been dealing with,” state Senator Kristen Gonzalez said.

It was standing room only at a DOT workshop in Astoria, where residents gave feedback regarding an alarming surge in traffic violence across the neighborhood. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

Councilwoman Tiffany Cabán said it is her and her colleagues in government job to push the DOT, and it is their constituents’ job to push them. She said a 40% rise in traffic fatalities in Queens so far in 2023 is unacceptable.

“Something’s got to give,” Cabán said. “We have made a commitment together to make sure that we do something. If it saves lives, it’s worth doing.”

Mamdani said the set of priorities they set out during the workshop were urgent and necessary and must be implemented immediately across the neighborhood.

“This is our one moment to advocate for the comprehensive streetscape that we know we need because no one in Astoria just goes across one avenue,” Mamdani said. “It is one thing for us to say it, it is another thing for each of you to say this to every single person who represents you in government.”

State Senator Michael Gianaris said that only by the community and the local legislators working together can lead to positive change.

“Astorians have seen tremendous tragedy on our streets for years, so I am glad the DOT is finally taking the needed steps to improve our safety,” Gianaris said. “I appreciate the many neighbors who came out and participated, the partnership from the NYCDOT that made this happen, and the collaboration with my elected colleagues. Working together, we will keep delivering the improvements our community needs.” 

Additional reporting by Paul Frangipane.

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8 Comments

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Jefferson's Ghost

Add in hundreds of brand new illegal aliens zipping around on electric bikes and now you have a real party!

Reply
Lynn Nevins

Thank you for covering this. The streets in Astoria, and throughout much of NYC, have absolutely become more deadly over the years. As a pedestrian, I can tell you that I encounter constant threats, simply going about my day-to-day business. We have cars running reds. Turning vehicles that often Do Not Yield to me, even though they clearly see me IN the crosswalk. Our narrow side streets allow for cars to park from end to end, from corner to corner, impeding visibility for both pedestrians and drivers who are making turns. (We need Daylighting, now, at all intersections, just as Hoboken has done.) NYPD and DOT do absolutely nothing about all the drivers who double-park in lanes of traffic. In bike lanes. In MTA bus stops. Over entire crosswalks. Astoria drivers think it’s ‘no big deal’…that ‘everyone does it’. But it IS a big deal, as it all creates Deadly Domino Effects. When drivers idle in lanes of traffic (say along Steinway or Ditmars, BOTH of which include bus routes), other cars must Swerve around the idling vehicles, going into opposing lanes of traffic. Likewise for any cyclists on these streets (and since Neither have a dedicated bike lane). MTA buses and their riders, which should receive Priority, are treated like second-class citizens. Drivers are often not just idling in lanes of traffic, but in Bus Stops (i.e., the bus stop near Martha’s Bakery on Ditmars, where many of their customers will illegally idle). When this happens, entire MTA buses are left with no choice but to stop in a lane of traffic next to the bus stop, so that passengers can get on or off. Passengers then often must PASS BETWEEN multiple vehicles that are idling in the bus stop, before they can reach the sidewalk. And the drivers in these idling vehicles continue to sit in the bus stop, feeling ZERO pressure to move. They pretend to have no idea that there is a TEN-TON bus next to them. This is the epitome of selfishness and entitlement, but we created these monsters by allowing for it. Most residents here say nothing to these drivers. It’s all become ‘normalized’. MTA bus drivers are resigned, and don’t even beep at such drivers. NYPD and DOT witness this all the time, and do absolutely nothing about it, which is why drivers continue to behave this way. Because they know they CAN.

As a result, Astoria pedestrians, cyclists and bus riders suffer. We are often maimed or killed as a direct result of selfish, entitled, reckless drivers. The planet is also impacted by additional air pollution caused by riders who think nothing of sitting, parked, with their engines still running.

Another problem are the rampant illegal plates now found on cars on every single block. Cars with missing plates. Fake plates. Plates that are bent so that cameras cannot see all the letters/numbers. Plates with some of their letters/numbers purposefully scratched off. Cars with Illegal tinted windows (which means that peds, cyclists and other drivers cannot make Essential eye contact). Again, this is all out in the open, but nothing is done about it.

These two issues (illegal plates/window tints and scofflaw parking/idling and reckless driving) all go hand-in-hand. Drivers who feel no sense of accountability (by virtue of their hiding their identities behind illegal plates and tinted windows) are very same drivers who endanger all of us by their driving behaviors.

In this respect, NYC as a whole is so utterly behind the rest of the world. ‘World-class city’? I think NOT.

Reply
Lynn Nevins

Thank you for covering this. The streets in Astoria, and throughout much of NYC, have absolutely become more deadly over the years. As a pedestrian, I can tell you that I encounter constant threats, simply going about my day-to-day business. We have cars running reds. Turning vehicles that often Do Not Yield to me, even though they clearly see me IN the crosswalk. Our narrow side streets allow for cars to park from end to end, from corner to corner, impeding visibility for both pedestrians and drivers who are making turns. (We need Daylighting, now, at all intersections, just as Hoboken has done.) NYPD and DOT do absolutely nothing about all the drivers who double-park in lanes of traffic. In bike lanes. In MTA bus stops. Over entire crosswalks. Astoria drivers think it’s ‘no big deal’…that ‘everyone does it’. But it IS a big deal, as it all creates Deadly Domino Effects. When drivers idle in lanes of traffic (say along Steinway or Ditmars, BOTH of which include bus routes), other cars must Swerve around the idling vehicles, going into opposing lanes of traffic. Likewise for any cyclists on these streets (and since Neither have a dedicated bike lane). MTA buses and their riders, which should receive Priority, are treated like second-class citizens. Drivers are often not just idling in lanes of traffic, but in Bus Stops (i.e., the bus stop near Martha’s Bakery on Ditmars, where many of their customers will illegally idle). When this happens, entire MTA buses are left with no choice but to stop in a lane of traffic next to the bus stop, so that passengers can get on or off. Passengers then often must PASS BETWEEN multiple vehicles that are idling in the bus stop, before they can reach the sidewalk. And the drivers in these idling vehicles continue to sit in the bus stop, feeling ZERO pressure to move. They pretend to have no idea that there is a TEN-TON bus next to them. This is the epitome of selfishness and entitlement, but we created these monsters by allowing for it. Most residents here say nothing to these drivers. It’s all become ‘normalized’. MTA bus drivers are resigned, and don’t even beep at such drivers. NYPD and DOT witness this all the time, and do absolutely nothing about it, which is why drivers continue to behave this way. Because they know they CAN.

As a result, Astoria pedestrians, cyclists and bus riders suffer. We are often maimed or killed as a direct result of selfish, entitled, reckless drivers. The planet is also impacted by additional air pollution caused by riders who think nothing of sitting, parked, with their engines still running.

In this respect, NYC as a whole is so utterly behind the rest of the world. ‘World-class city’? I think NOT.

Reply
JD

There are two basic issues at play here as I see it. First, NYPD for the last few years has given up enforcing traffic rules. I’ve lived in NYC for over forty years, I’ve never seen more vehicles run red lights with impunity than I have recently. I suspect this is because NYPD is severely understaffed at present. That needs to change.

Secondly, we all know there are a lot more vehicles on the road today of the two wheel variety. We need to have rules for bicyclists, e bicyclists and scooter riders and those rules need to be enforced. If a bicyclist runs a red light they are endangering themselves and others. If a pedestrian has the light and is crossing in front of an e bicycle it is not sufficient for the e bicyclist to merely honk the horn – instead slow down and stop if necessary. Delivery workers are the worst. Riding on the sidewalk at twenty, twenty-five miles per hour is wrong. Riding the wrong way down one way streets is wrong. Riding without a helmet should not be tolerated.

Create new rules if necessary and enforce the rules that already exist for all vehicles and I think you’ll see a decrease in traffic accidents and fatalities.

Reply
Astoria Pedestrian

DOT projects take years. NYPD should be enforcing traffic laws while we wait for street re-designs to be completed.

Reply
BoriquaGato

“Traffic violence”🤣 You Commies never stop with the rhetorical nonsense. It’s called an “accident.”

Reply
RB

You mean not stopping at signs, going through red lights, speeding, and other aggressive divers is an accident? So there’s no accountability?

Reply
Bill

Let’s get real here. Astoria has been invaded by an army of motor skooters, motorized skate boards and bikes who ignore traffic signals, stop signs and care little for pedestrians. It’s dangerous to step outside one’s house since one of these vehicles will often be speeding on the sidewalk.

The primary focus here in Astoria should be the safety of pedestrians, from children to senior citizens. For some reason, our elected leaders and city officials don’t seem to understand this!

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