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U.S. Reps. Nita Lowey (D-Rego...

By Jennifer Warren

Residents along Queens Boulevard have spoken and now the politicians are listening to their demands for tougher safety precautions to halt the string of pedestrian fatalities along the borough’s most dangerous thoroughfare.

U.S. Reps. Nita Lowey (D-Rego Park) and Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) were preparing legislation this week to allocate up to $10 million for pedestrian safety provisions at the most perilous spots in the city.

At a news conference Sunday, Public Advocate Mark Green, who is running for mayor, unveiled a six-part safety recommendation for the boulevard, suggesting “immediate low-cost measures that would protect pedestrians over the long term.”

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who has long deferred the Queens Boulevard issue to the city Department of Transportation, issued a press release supporting recent efforts by the DOT and Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik to make the thoroughfare safer for both pedestrians and drivers.

Since 1993 73 pedestrians have been killed crossing Queens Boulevard, which is seven miles long and 12 lanes wide at some points. Fearful residents have staged marches, held community meetings and appealed to local politicians to put pressure on the city to protect the lives of people who must cross the boulevard.

In early February, an 83-year-old Holocaust survivor was struck and killed while crossing the Boulevard at 82nd Road in Kew Gardens. During last week’s snowstorm two police officers assigned to the Queens transit task force were struck and injured while they changed a flat tire at Queens Boulevard and Main Street.

And Monday morning, a 63-year-old woman was struck while crossing against the light at 46th Street in Sunnyside, police said. She was taken to Elmhurst Hospital with minor injuries and the driver was issued a summons for driving with an obstructed view, said police spokesman Jerry Varson.

Lowey and Weiner, who had planned to announce the proposed legislation Monday, canceled a news conference that had been planned to allow more time to “fine-tune” the $10 million measure, said Weiner spokeswoman Serena Torrey. However, they expect to announce the measure within the next week after conducting a study that found the New York Metropolitan area has the second-highest number of pedestrian deaths in the nation.

The bill, if passed, would give $10 million annually to large cities, such as New York City, for pedestrian safety initiatives. Whether those federal funds would be directed at Queens Boulevard specifically would be in the hands of the local government.

“The city would use it according to where it saw its greatest need,” Torrey said.

Green, during his Sunday press conference, cited traffic solutions developed by the Institute of Urban and Regional Development at the University of California-Berkeley.

“They use a combination of wide medians, tree plantings and narrower access roads to create boulevards where the safety of senior citizens, schoolchildren, persons who are disabled and others who are walking across the street comes first,” he wrote in a letter to DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall.

The six points Green recommended to improve crossing conditions along Queens Boulevard include:

• adding red-light cameras and camera decoys at every intersection;

• increasing pedestrian crossing times from the current 40-second period to at least one minute to cross the 172-foot roadway;

• widen all medians to 12-14 feet by prefabricated curbs;

• set the timing of traffic lights to a 30 mph pace from the current 38 mph, thereby discouraging motorists from chasing green lights;

• delay green lights for cars that are turning by 3-6 seconds, allowing pedestrians to cross;

• installing raised crosswalks on access roads and side streets leading onto the boulevard to slow down drivers while making turns.

Green first proposed the use of red-light cameras and camera decoys for New York City in 1994, his letter said. But it was not until this week that Green pushed for their use along Queens Boulevard.

Asked if his interest in the boulevard was tied in any way to his mayoral aspirations, Green spokesman Steven Sigmund said, “The public advocate has always been interested in pedestrian safety and as a policy and performance monitor over city agencies has a responsibility to look into these kinds of matters.”

Sigmund also noted that with the growing level of public attention to Queens Boulevard, “it’s up to public officials in government to work together to find a solution.”

In recent months, steps taken to improve safety have included median fencing from 67th Road to 70th Road, longer pedestrian crossing times, repainting of crosswalks, and police crackdowns against speeders, jaywalkers and drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk.

The DOT has also installed warning signs where three or more people have been killed that read: “A Pedestrian Was Killed Crossing Here / Be Alert /Cross With Care.” Other strongly worded signs were erected at intersections where fewer than three fatalities occurred.

Reach reporter Jennifer Warren by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 155.

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