Continuing our series on the worst intersections in Queens, we’re examining the intersection of Northern Boulevard and Union Street in Flushing. Five crashes occurred at the site in 2014, but the location has a particularly grim history.
Transportation Alternatives, a nonprofit that advocates for pedestrian and cyclist safety released a study stating that there were 92 crashes involving pedestrians there between 1995 and 2009.
Both Northern Boulevard and Union Streets are important arterials and receive heavy traffic. Northern Boulevard extends from the Queensborough Bridge to the west deep into Suffolk County in the east, where it is alternatively known as Route 25A. Traffic moves fast and many motorists treat it like a highway. Union Street is not long; it runs from Whitestone in the north into Flushing where it dead ends at Franklin Ave. It runs parallel to Main Street, another choked thoroughfare.
Flushing High School sits atop a hill in the northeast corner of the intersection. The rest of the corners host stores, primarily local businesses and some community institutions like the Flushing YMCA and a church. However, the intersection sits just four blocks away from the transit hub, where the 7 train terminates, LIRR trains stop and more than 20 bus lines run. The main retail corridor, restaurants and malls.
Some of the main issues at the intersection that make it perilous are the long crossing distance for pedestrian, high volume of turning vehicles and the fact that it is slightly skewed. The DOT implemented some improvements, like banning left turns from Union Street, installing curb extensions and modifying the signal timing.
On Feb. 22, 2012, after the changes were implemented, 22 year old Milan Jin was fatally struck by a Q44 bus while crossing Northern Boulevard at Union Street. The bus driver did not realize he’d hit her and kept driving for four blocks. Emergency personnel pronounced Jin dead at the scene.
A similar incident occurred on Nov. 5, 2014 when a 60 year old man was struck and killed by a Q13 bus, while crossing the intersection using the crosswalk. The bus was making a right turn from Union Street onto Northern Boulevard.
Future improvements to the intersection and surrounding blocks are part of the city’s Vision Zero strategy, but there aren’t any projects in the works at the moment. Until those changes are implemented it is highly likely that we will continue to see a high number of car accidents in this very dangerous intersection.