Reclaiming the Streets
In November 2003, family members and residents gathered at the second annual interfaith service at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Forest Hills to remember victims of Queens Boulevard. While the number of injuries and victims on Queens Boulevard has dropped in recent years due at least in part to the New York City Department of Transportation’s recent safety improvements, the so called ‘Boulevard of Death’ still claimed victims this year, including two young women who were killed in July when a speeding driver launched his car on top of them while they stood on a median waiting to cross the street. Drivers have killed 84 pedestrians and injured thousands on Queens Boulevard in the last decade.
As part of its second round of safety improvements on Queens Boulevard, the City is tackling the sections between the Long Island Expressway and Van Dam Street and from Union Turnpike to Hillside Avenue. Beginning in May, the City will implement a variety of safety improvements, including longer traffic signals, new striping on certain areas, curbside parking and no U-turn signs and more median fencing to discourage jaywalking. The City made similar improvements in 2001 to the section of Queens Boulevard between Union Turnpike and the Long Island Expressway.
While these are welcome changes that will improve safety, the Department of Transportation has also hinted at other “ambitious projects” to save lives on Queens Boulevard. These other projects should, at the very least, include sidewalk extensions and other engineering changes to traffic calm the motorists who speed along the boulevard. But to really change the equation, the City needs to rebuild the boulevard from the ground up. The City should recreate it as a true urban boulevard, with a wide planted median, no service roads and short blocks, crossed by local streets. An example of this pedestrian- and neighborhood-friendly boulevard design is Broadway in Manhattan north of 73rd Street. This big street enhances the community and still carries large volumes of traffic. Until it is fundamentally redesigned, Queens Boulevard will not be a good place to walk or to live, and drivers will continue to kill and maim pedestrians lost in its enormity.