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City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) is calling for a traffic light at Queens Boulevard and 80th Road in Kew Gardens, where an elderly man died while crossing what is known as the Boulevard of Death last week.
“Crossing there is very dangerous,” Koslowitz said of the intersection.
Richard Borchers, 76, of Kew Gardens, had just bought a newspaper when he was hit by a marked city Department of Corrections vehicle while trying to cross Queens Boulevard at about 5:30 a.m. Friday, police said. He was taken to Jamaica Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival, police said.
The Corrections vehicle remained on the scene and police said no criminality was suspected. The investigation was ongoing.
Known as the “Boulevard of Death,” Queens Boulevard has long posed serious safety concerns for residents throughout Queens, Koslowitz said.
“The [city] Department of Transportation treats Queens Boulevard like it’s a highway,” Koslowitz said. “They should look at this as a pedestrian-crossing street.”
City officials have said the number of pedestrian deaths along the boulevard has decreased over the years. There were two fatalities last year, compared to 17 deaths in 1993, according to DOT records.
There have been no fatalities at Queens Boulevard and 80th Road for at least the last five years, according a spokesman from the DOT.
The councilwoman said officials are especially concerned about Queens Boulevard because there are numerous senior citizens who live in the apartment buildings that line it — and many of them are unable to cross the boulevard during one light.
Julianne Suarez, 32, of Kew Gardens, said it is a “disaster” crossing the intersection at Queens Boulevard and 80th Road.
“I do it all the time, and it’s definitely scary,” Suarez said. “I’ll try to help old people who are crossing there, too, because it worries me when I see cars zipping by when they’re making turns. I’m surprised people don’t die there every day.”
Elissa Muse, 78, of Forest Hills, said she crosses the intersection when she comes to visit her sister in Kew Gardens a couple times a week.
“I haven’t heard of many deaths here, but I do know people aren’t happy to cross here,” Muse said. “My sister usually tries to stay on her side of the street instead of crossing, but sometimes you can’t avoid it.”
Much of Queens Boulevard runs about 12-lanes wide and reaches a high point of 16-lanes wide at Yellowstone Boulevard in Forest Hills. According to Transportation Alternatives, a group that advocates for safer streets for pedestrians and cyclists, the intersection of 63rd Road and Queens Boulevard is one of the most dangerous in the city and the most risky to cross in the borough. There were 72 crashes involving pedestrians at 63rd Road and Queens Boulevard from 1995-2005, according to Transportation Alternatives.
The second most-dangerous intersection for pedestrians is Union Street and Northern Boulevard in Flushing, according to Transportation Alternatives. There were 66 crashes involving pedestrians at that intersection from 1995-2005, the advocacy group reported.
A number of bicyclists have been killed on the boulevard, and the New York City Street Memorial Project holds annual rides honoring cyclists who have died.
In January, project members honored James Langergaard, 38, who was struck by a vehicle and killed last August at the busy intersection of 69th Avenue and Queens Boulevard.
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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