Simotas Calls on DOT to Make Astoria Park’s Shore Boulevard Car-Free

Assembly Member Aravella Simotas wants Astoria Park to be New York’s next car-free park.

Assembly Member Aravella Simotas
Assembly Member Aravella Simotas

In a letter sent to DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg this week [PDF], Simotas urged the agency to make Shore Boulevard between Astoria Park South and Ditmars Boulevard a car-free space. Shore Boulevard runs along the East River within Astoria Park, and it’s one of the streets park advocates and Council Member Costa Constantinides have prioritized for traffic calming in the wake of the hit-and-run death of 21-year-old Betty Jean DiBiaso.

With her declaration of support for a fully car-free Shore Boulevard, Simotas is taking the next step.

The boulevard is often busy with families enjoying the waterfront, especially on weekends. It’s also a gathering spot for motorcyclists and can attract drag racers.

“One of the great things about Astoria Park is the access it provides to the waterfront,” Simotas said in a press release. “With cars racing up and down Shore Boulevard, families are forced to cross a hazardous barrier in order to fully enjoy this green space.”

Shore Boulevard can be turned into a car-free street without causing anyone a major inconvenience, Simotas said. Overnight parking is already prohibited on the street, which does not abut any homes or businesses.

“By closing this superfluous half-mile section to vehicles we can make Astoria Park safer and better with hardly any effect on congestion in the area,” Simotas said.

Constantinides reiterated his desire for a traffic-calming plan encompassing all the streets bordering Astoria Park. “The area has long been dangerous for pedestrians and our community is in need of action,” he said in a statement. “There are several safety measures that could greatly improve the area, including a car-free Shore Boulevard. I commend Assemblymember Simotas for her dedication to traffic safety and I look forward to working with the community as we form a comprehensive, long-lasting, plan.”

In a statement, DOT said:

We have not yet seen the Assembly Member’s letter, but DOT is always open to working with the community and elected officials on ideas about enhancing safety, particularly at key destinations well used by residents and visitors alike such as Astoria Park. We look forward to discussing this more with stakeholders, such as the Assembly Member, on hearing ideas on addressing their concerns. Any enforcement questions should be directed to NYPD.

Update: Astoria Park Alliance backed a car-free Shore Boulevard in a statement:

Astoria Park Alliance supports Assembly Member Aravella Simotas’ efforts to ensure the safety of Astoria Park users. Astoria Park was created to give park users access to the waterfront. The closure of Shore Boulevard would extend Astoria Park all the way to the water, ensure pedestrian safety, increase programming potential, and fulfill the vision upon which Astoria Park was founded.