March 9, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez
Local leaders, parents, and children once more stood at Center Boulevard today to demand that the city install traffic calming measures along the long stretch of road running by the Long Island City waterfront.
Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Long Island City), joined by civic group heads and children from the nearby P.S. 78, called on the Department of Transportation to once and for all install stop lights, cross walks, and other safety devices through the roughly 10-block boulevard, which only features stop and yield signs, and a few brick crosswalks.
“We are here once again to demand that the New York City Department of Transportation, without any delay, without any bureaucratic reasons, make these streets safe and make them safer right now,” said Van Bramer.
The demands to make Center Boulevard safer go years back, and have been renewed in light of the tragic car accident in Brooklyn earlier this week, which saw the death of two children.
While the DOT is not responsible for what happened in Brooklyn, according to Van Bramer, the agency should be acting to prevent those incidents from occurring.
“Traffic calming and good planning is about making sure streets are safe to avoid traffic accidents from happening in the first place,” Van Bramer said.
David Aglialoro, spokesperson for Assemblymember Cathy Nolan (D-Long Island City), said her office wants to see something done. “We are hoping the DOT reassesses and looks at this again,” Aglialoro said.
Along Center Boulevard, where there are several nearby schools, an active waterfront park, and a library set to open next year, the current traffic configuration is simply not enough, residents and leaders say.
“Cars speed all the time on Center Boulevard,” Van Bramer said. “There are no traffic signals, and it’s often unclear whether you should go or whether you shouldn’t go.”
Brent O’Leary, president of the Hunters Point Civic Association, said it’s “by the grace of god” that no one has been hurt yet on Center Boulevard.
O’Leary and his group prepared a 13-page document months ago, which was delivered to the DOT, detailing the traffic calming measures desperately needed on Center Boulevard and other Long Island City streets. Along the boulevard, the group called for high visibility crosswalk markings, speed bumps, pedestrian islands, and more.
“We need your help,” O’Leary directed at the DOT. “We have given you common sense traffic calming measures, and now is the time to act.”
Sheila Lewandowski, a member of Community Board 2’s Transportation committee, said the neighborhood’s pleas to make the boulevard safer date back at least a decade ago. She added that the agency has done several walk-throughs with her and other civic groups over the years, including one about a month ago along Center Boulevard that lasted about three hours.
“We expect the DOT to come back to us with some concrete ways to make Center Boulevard safer,” Lewandowski said. “The time is now—no more gathering of information. That extensive walk-through should be the end of this.”
The DOT has sent traffic engineers to study Center Boulevard many times, but the agency has said that the boulevard does not generate enough traffic to warrant signals and further calming measures. In 2014, the DOT first installed stop signs on 48th and 49th Avenues, and added pedestrian crosswalks there shortly after.
In a statement, the agency said: “We look forward to hearing the community’s suggestions about how to improve this intersection at this week’s meeting of the Hunters Point Civic Association.”
The HPCA meeting is scheduled for March 13 at 7 pm at the New York Irish Center.
Update 3/12 4:33 p.m – Article updated with response from the DOT