March 14, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez
The Department of Transportation will embark on a study of Center Boulevard and 5th Street in Hunters Point to see if traffic treatments could potentially be implemented along those roadways.
DOT officials at last night’s Hunters Point Civic Association meeting said the studies will begin sometime this spring.
The initiative comes after renewed requests for traffic calming measures along the 10-block waterfront boulevard were made by the civic group’s President Brent O’Leary and by Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Long Island City). The civic group presented a 13-page document to the DOT on problem areas and potential solutions on the two throughways in December, while Van Bramer called on the agency to implement safety measures there last week.
As for 5th Street, the DOT is looking to see if it can become a full one-way street, a proposal that stems from Community Board 2. The street is almost entirely one-way, save for a near two-block portion toward Borden Avenue.
Calls to put more traffic calming measures along Center Boulevard, however, go years back.
Most of the concerns for the boulevard involve speeding cars, the growing number of families with children living in the area, the densely-packed Hunters Point park, and the additional schools the roadway will see in coming years. The boulevard currently sees stop signs and a couple of brick and painted 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 Albert Silvestri, the Queens Deputy DOT Commissioner. “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.”
Silvestri said the DOT has “heard loud and clear for quite some time” of the community’s concerns on Center Boulevard, 5th Street, and the avenues that cross it. He also explained the process by which the agency handles requests for traffic calming measures.
“They send out an engineer to review,” Silvestri said. “What they’re looking for is volume. They’re looking for vehicle volume, pedestrian volume, cyclist volume—all types of modes.”
He added that engineers also look for conflicts, and take data in AM and PM peak hours, weekdays, and weekends.
“We don’t just go out 3 am and say ‘nobody’s there’ and write a letter and close it out,” Silvestri said. “It’s a pretty lengthy, drawn out, data-driven review.”
In addition, Center Boulevard’s “T-intersection” configuration, which does not produce cross traffic, means a lower volume of cars that don’t reach DOT requirements for all way stops, Silvestri said.
Still, the agency said they’re “looking to throw everything we have” at the concerns.
“We’re fully aware that is a community where people live and work, and they want to go to the park, and they want to be able to cross safely,” Silvestri said.
In a prepared statement, Brent O’ Leary said, “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. We need measures ASAP before another tragedy happens.”
Matt Wallace, Chief of Staff for Van Bramer’s office, said at the meeting that the boulevard desperately needs new traffic measures of any kind, even if the conditions don’t meet DOT requirements for them.
“It is the inconsistency and the expectations of pedestrians as they’re crossing the street that leads to a dangerous situation,” Wallace said. “And the fact that the Department of Transportation—after seven-and-a-half years of Councilmember Van Bramer’s advocacy— believes that there’s nothing that needs to be done beyond a couple of stop signs is just ludicrous to me.”