Three major roadways in Queens – Northern Boulevard, Jamaica Avenue, and Rockaway Boulevard – will soon have their speed limits reduced from 30 to 25 miles per hour, borough lawmakers and city officials announced last week.
As part of a citywide initiative to drastically curb the number of traffic-related deaths, Mayor Bill de Blasio has unrolled a plan known as “Vision Zero,” which includes reducing the speeds on a number of the city’s busiest roadways from 30 to 25 miles per hour – a speed at which advocates have said makes it more likely for a pedestrian to survive being struck. The speed reduction follows a road being labeled an “arterial slow zone,” a title which has also been slapped on parts of Atlantic Avenue. Queens Boulevard was also announced last week as a slow zone, although its speed limit will remain at 30 miles per hour – though Queens Boulevard will, like the other roadways, land more law enforcement and signage.
“I am pleased to bring the arterial slow zone program to Northern Boulevard, where long crosswalks and high speeds have been an unnecessary reality for too many Queens residents,” DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said at a press conference last week at 33-00 Northern Blvd.
In total, the city has so far named 13 arterial slow zone locations. Atlantic Avenue, from Columbia Street in Brooklyn to 76th Street in Woodhaven, became a slow zone in April. Northern Boulevard, from 40th Road to 114th Street, becomes a slow zone this month. Jamaica Avenue, from the Van Wyck to 224th Street, also becomes a slow zone in May.
Queens Boulevard, from Jackson Avenue to Hillside Avenue, will be designated a slow zone in July; while Rockaway Boulevard, from 75th Street to Farmers Boulevard, will become a slow zone in August.
“These slow zones will save lives,” Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said. “Northern Boulevard and Queens Boulevard are two of the highest trafficked, and most dangerous, roads in Queens. Fighting these tragic and ultimately preventable deaths is a fundamental and moral obligation.”
The push to implement the slow zones comes after a citywide outcry against the pedestrian deaths that lawmakers and residents said have plagued the five boroughs for far too long. Since 2008, there have been 25 traffic-related fatalities on Atlantic Avenue; five on Northern; eight on Jamaica; 23 on Queens Boulevard; and nine on Rockaway.
One such death was that of 8-year-old Noshat Nahian, who was hit by a truck and killed while he was walking to school in Woodside. At the intersection of 61st Street and Northern, the site of the crash that killed Noshat, the city DOT is nearing completion of a major pedestrian safety project to shorten crossing distances and reduce conflicts between drivers and pedestrians.
“Northern Boulevard is a notoriously dangerous street,” said U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Queens, Manhattan). “Already this year, numerous people have been struck by speeding cars, including 8-year-old Noshat Nahian… No one should ever have to endure the heartbreak of losing a loved one who is crossing the street, especially since the solution is so simple. We need drivers to slow down to save lives.”
While some residents questioned the city’s decision to keep Queens Boulevard’s speed limit at 30, Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hill) said the other changes along the roadway – such as increased law enforcement and better signage – will go a long way in reducing fatalities on the road known as the “Boulevard of Death.”
“Not a day goes by without someone narrowly escaping a collision or noticing an unsafe traffic pattern on Queens Boulevard,” Koslowitz said. “By including it as an arterial slow zone, we are ensuring that no one who crosses this roadway feels as though his or her life is at risk.”
City officials are seeking to gain further input on the “Vision Zero” plan, and two public workshops will be held in Queens in May. On May 21, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., a workshop will be held at Bohemian Hall, located at 29-19 24th Ave. in Astoria. Another workshop will be held Thursday, May 29 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center at 153-10 Jamaica Ave. All are welcome to attend.
By Anna Gustafson