Oct. 29, 2015 By Michael Florio
Residents voiced their opinions on how to improve traffic conditions around Astoria Park last night, including the controversial Shore Boulevard.
Approximately 75 residents attended a meeting hosted by public officials, breaking up into six groups and coming up with ideas to improve safety conditions around the park.
None of the groups recommended closing Shore Boulevard to traffic on a permanent basis.
Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas introduced the idea of closing Shore Boulevard to vehicles from Astoria Park South to Ditmars Boulevard in August, when she sent a letter on the topic to the Department of Transportation.
Her idea immediately sparked reactions from residents, both for and against it. Just days later, residents started a petition against the proposal on Change.org.
Her proposal would not apply to emergency vehicles, and overnight parking is already prohibited on this stretch.
At last night’s meeting, which was held by Simotas, Councilman Costa Constantinides and the DOT at the Bohemian Hall, some groups proposed compromises for the road.
Two groups recommended closing Shore Boulevard on a temporary basis, such as seasonally, during the day on weekends, or on weekends during the busy season.
Another group recommended keeping Shore Boulevard open, but installing traffic lights and more speed bumps along the waterfront road. This group also recommended increased police enforcement along Shore Boulevard.
Other ideas to improve traffic on Shore Boulevard included creating a highly visible crosswalk in the center of the road, with stop signs. One group recommended installing more crosswalks along Shore Boulevard and 19th Street.
Simotas told the Astoria Post last night that all of the ideas that residents come up with have to be considered, and that she hopes a compromise can be met.
“I hope these planning sessions produce thoughtful ideas on how to improve access and safety of our jewel, Astoria Park,” she said.
“All ideas have to be considered. There are a lot of strong ideas on both sides [of closing Shore Bouelvard to vehicles],” she added.
She also said that improving traffic safety around the park is a large concern of both hers and of all the residents in attendance, and that the DOT should consider all of the ideas that residents came up with at the meeting to make a decision on what is viable and what is not.
“It should be a collective effort,” she said. “No one person should dictate the solution.”
Ideas for other areas around Astoria Park included protected bike lanes on Hoyt Avenue North and “daylighting” several corners on 19th Street, 20th Avenue and 21st Street, which is a prohibition against parking on corners to improve the line of sight for both drivers and pedestrians.
One group also recommended turning both 19th Street and Shore Boulevard into one-way streets.
The family of Betty Jean Dibiasio, a 21-year-old woman who was struck and killed in a hit-and-run while crossing Ditmars Boulevard at 19th Street in June, was in attendance.
Sara Rotger, Dibiasio’s best friend, spoke on behalf of the family.
She told the Astoria Post that the family wants to see improvements to streets all around the park.
“Right now, especially at night, it is dangerous for pedestrians,” she said. “We hope to see an improvement to the general safety, particularly on the corners.”
Rotger added that she was very pleased with the large turnout of last night’s meeting.