June 26, 2015 By Jackie Strawbridge
Astoria residents cheered traffic upgrades to one of the neighborhood’s most notorious corridors on Friday, while calling for further enhancements.
The Department of Transportation joined Councilmen Costa Constantinides and Jimmy Van Bramer, as well as a host of northwest Queens community leaders, to usher in a string of safety measures along 21st Street from Hoyt Avenue to Queens Plaza.
21st Street is one of Astoria’s most dangerous routes, with five fatalities and hundreds of injuries between 2009 and 2013, according to DOT data. With traffic flowing from the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, Queensboro and Triboro Bridges, it is a busy, fast and truck-heavy route.
“For too long, this street has been a real challenge to cross,” Van Bramer said. “Bridges and tunnels on both sides, people rushing to and from, not understanding, not knowing, or maybe even not caring that there are children and families on both sides.”
Upgrades to the route include brighter lighting, painted curb extensions to shorten crossing distance, a new signaled pedestrian crossing at 29th Avenue, as well as 10 Leading Pedestrian Intervals – which give walkers a head start on crossing before vehicles get a green light – that were installed in February.
According to Polly Trottenberg, Commissioner of the DOT, all upgrades will be rolled out “in the next few weeks.”
“This is a residential corridor trapped around a street that functions more like a highway,” Constantinides said. “The minute all of these things are implemented, 21st Street will be safer than the day before.”
After the DOT outlined its plans for 21st Street before Community Board 1 in February, residents and elected officials called for even further traffic upgrades. Some speakers, though pleased with the DOT’s attention to the corridor, reiterated these concerns on Friday.
CB 1 Transportation Chair Bob Piazza said he would like to see traffic signals installed at every intersection along 21st street from Hoyt to Queens Plaza, especially at 33rd road, adjacent to a strip of stores.
“This is a big street with a lot of problems, and we still have a lot of work to do,” Peter Beadle, Queens Committee chairman for Transportation Alternatives, agreed.
Like Piazza, Beadle called for more signaled intersections, as well as for a mid-block crosswalk between 34th and 35th Avenues, so kids can have easier access to Ravenswood Playground.