Astoria’s Rally For Safer Streets
Astoria residents are hopeful that 2010 rings in not just new tidings but also better traffic safety regulations on 21st Avenue. A seven block stretch on this Avenue, from 21st Street to 28th Street has been the object of much concern over the last two years as rising accidents have made residents nervous for their safety.
A lack of stop signs, speed bumps, or street lights in the area cause traffic to fly by – leaving residents to cross their fingers as they cross the road. They are now hopeful that a recent plea made by Community Board 1 to the Department of Transportation will see a change in status quo.
In 2008, there were 18 accidents in that stretch. 2009 saw 18 car accidents and four deaths – including the fatal accident of 65 year old Konstantinos Stayropoulos. He was killed in November, crossing the street at the intersection of 21st Av and 23rd Street.
Long time Astoria resident, Robert Giunta was a witness. He recalls seeing the elderly Stayropoulos cross the street, only to be hit by an SUV. Mr. Giunta said the detective handling the case told him the driver was not arrested, as Mr. Stayropoulos was “crossing the street at the wrong place.” “What is an elderly person supposed to do,” asked Mr. Giunta, referring to a lack of crosswalks in the seven block stretch. “Is he supposed to go up three blocks or walk down three blocks, just to get across,” he said.
Residents point out that it is not just concern for elderly folks but also children in the area that is pushing them to ask for better traffic calming measures. There are two schools in the area – PS 122 and St. John’s Prep – plus Kid Krazy day care center. “As a mother, you get anxious,” said Kimberly Lancial, an active proponent for better safety measures on 21st Avenue who also has a seven year old son. “There are schools, the day care center and also a lot of Apartments on 21st Avenue.” She pointed out that in summer, youngsters speed their motorcycles down the Avenue as it presents a clear street for their “crotch rockets.” “Luckily, they haven’t had any fatalities, but this clear stretch is really dangerous,” she said, adding that drivers also use 21st Avenue as a bypass to avoid the traffic of Ditmars Boulevard, effectively rendering it the speed lane of Astoria.
In December, concerned residents and community leaders held a rally for a safer 21st Avenue. Democratic District Leader Costa Constantinides, who helped organize that rally pointed out that the community had warned the Department of Transportation of the unsafe stretch. “Instead of being proactive, the Department of Transportation just waited for something bad to happen,” said Constatinides, referring to the fatalities on the stretch. “Hopefully this time, they realize that there needs to be some traffic calming measures on this stretch.”
Robert Piazza, who is on CB1′s transportation committee said that a petition signed by 400 residents was submitted to the CB and the Department of Transportation. “When we look at the area, you will see there is no place an older person can take his time to cross the road, or someone in a wheelchair, or a lady with a baby,” he said.
While the Department of Transportation considers the CB’s request, Constantinides hopes action will be swift. “It will be a victory for us, if the DoT puts in lights and signs,” he said, adding “I don’t want to look at the next victim’s family and tell them we have failed.”
This piece originally appeared in Queens Chronicle