After 21-year-old Betty Jean Dibiasio was killed in a hit-and-run at the corner of Ditmars Boulevard and 19th Street last June, many local residents demanded street safety improvements in the area surrounding Astoria Park. The Department of Transportation has since put forth plans for improved safety and access to the park, which has seen over 100 collisions on its surrounding streets since 2009. As presented to Queens' Community Board 1 last night, three of the park's surrounding streets will receive protected two-way bike lanes, along with a host of other safety improvements for motorists and pedestrians alike.
The stretch of Shore Boulevard that marks the park's northwest boundary, currently a two-way street, will be converted to a one-way southbound street, with a protected two-way bike path along the east curb that is separate from the east sidewalk (currently, cyclists and pedestrians share the park path). From Shore Boulevard to 37th Street, 20th Avenue will also get a protected two-way bike path, where it currently has one-way, unprotected bike lanes on both the north and south sides. And on Hoyt Avenue North, from 27th Street to 19th Street, one westbound travel lane will be removed, slowing traffic and allowing for a protected two-way bike lane on the south curb.
Currently, these streets' relatively low traffic flow encourages speeding, said DOT Project Manager Shawn-Paul Macias. This is of particular concern on Shore Boulevard, where many pedestrians, often with children, cross from the waterfront to enter the park. By converting that street to a one-way, DOT hopes to make it much safer and navigable by pedestrians.
Not everyone at Tuesday's meeting was convinced.
Resident Tony Meloni said he's worried that narrowing the travel lanes will cause traffic to back up when drivers drop off passengers at the park, saying that "at some point traffic calming becomes traffic impeding." Meanwhile, Stacy Mazur, who has lived on Ditmars Boulevard near the park for 11 years and frequently uses the Two Coves Community Garden at Astoria Boulevard and 8th Street, said that making Shore Boulevard a one-way street would make her short commute between home and the garden much more difficult.
"I'm not for the idea of making Shore Boulevard a one way," she said. "For me to get home to Ditmars across from the park, that would mean that I'd have to go say on 21st, which already gets backed up, like when PS 122 is letting out, that backs up 21st Street. Going down, let's say 33rd, going northbound, it's horrendous."
Ultimately, CB1 voted in favor the DOT's proposal.
"People have mentioned several times tonight about backing up traffic—I pray to God that this would slow down traffic," said Macartney Morris, an Astoria resident who frequently runs and bikes along the park by Shore Boulevard. "I’ll always worry when I’m running that I’m going to be hit by a car every single time that I cross in between the park and the river. While personally I actually would wish that this proposal tonight was for a car-free Shore Boulevard to bring the park and the waterfront back to pedestrians and make a safer and better New York, I think this is a great compromise."