After Fatal Hit-and-Run, Queens CB 1 Calls on DOT to Redesign 21st Street

A hit-and-run driver killed a 45-year-old man earlier this month at this on 21st Street in Astoria, where advocates have been calling for traffic-calming for over two years. Image: Google Maps
A hit-and-run driver killed 45-year-old Sean Crume earlier this month on 21st Street in Astoria, where advocates have been calling for traffic-calming for over two years. Image: Google Maps

Queens Community Board 1 endorsed a resolution late last night asking DOT for a “comprehensive redesign of the entire length of 21st Street along Complete Street principles.”

The vote comes after a hit-and-run driver killed 45-year-old Sean Crume walking across 21st Street at 30th Road, where there is no signalized crossing, earlier this month. It was the fourth fatality on 21st Street since 2009, according to Vision Zero View.

The resolution was nearly delayed to next month, according to advocates who attended last night, but the board ultimately passed it at around 10:30 p.m.

With wide lanes and lots of car traffic traveling between the BQE and the free Queensboro Bridge, 21st Street ranks in the bottom third of Queens’ streets in terms of safety, according to DOT [PDF].

Volunteers with Transportation Alternatives’ Queens Committee have been pushing for traffic calming on 21st Street for two and a half years. The campaign has collected 1,600 signatures and 37 letters of support from local organizations and businesses.

DOT responded last year with meager safety improvements: some painted curb extensions and a few tweaks to signals and lane striping, but no major changes to the basic geometry of the street. Agency officials maintained that high rush hour traffic volumes precluded narrowing the roadway and adding bike lanes or pedestrian islands.

Local advocates weren’t satisfied. “We haven’t stopped campaigning,” said TA Queens member Angela Stach. “We have been trying to push our council members to go back to the city and ask for more.”

Stach said advocates are now demanding a fully protected bike lane. “We have enough proof of concept now,” she said. “There’s enough studies of actual projects that have been implemented in the city that bike lanes actually make the street safer for everyone.”

Last night, CB 1 Chair Joseph Risi signaled his support for significant changes, saying that 21st Street needs a redesign on par with recent improvements to Queens Boulevard.

Along with a broad request for safety improvements, the resolution specifically requests changes at the three-way intersection with 27th Avenue and Astoria Boulevard, as well as signalized crossings at 28th Avenue, 30th Road, 22rd Road, 39th Avenue, and mid-block between 34th and 35th Avenues.

New traffic signals won’t necessarily make the street safer — a road diet definitely will. “This [resolution] is really a call to DOT to do everything, and not just fix some things here and there,” said Stach.