August 12, 2015
Queens Boulevard and 71st Avenue- A Magnet for Car Accidents and Pedestrian Deaths
By Jonathan Damashek
The fifth worst intersection in Queens with a history for car accidents and pedestrian deaths is located along the Boulevard of Death. There were five collisions at the Forest Hills intersection in 2014. The intersection is a complicated one, as the busy thoroughfare of 108th Street hits the boulevard at this spot, bringing traffic from the northeast.
The intersection sits at the center of the neighborhood, but sharply divides it. The subway stop is a major express stop on the E and F lines and the terminal stop for the M and R. The LIRR also stops a block and a half away. About a dozen bus lines cross the intersection. There are retail shops on both sides of Queens Boulevard in addition to community staples like a movie theater, library, banks, pharmacies and restaurants. The area is densely populated and home to a large number of senior citizens as well as families with young children.
An injury summary comprised of data from 2006-2010 ranked the intersection in the 99th percentile for pedestrian injuries. Of the 99 total injuries, 24 were pedestrian crashes.
Bengali immigrant Nisath Hossain, 58 was fatally struck while crossing Queens Boulevard after leaving work at the nearby McDonalds on Sept. 21, 2013 around 10:20 p.m.
84-year old Gertrude Schanbel lost part of her leg when she was hit by the rear tire of a Q64 bus on Jan. 15, 2014. The Woodhaven resident had multiple surgeries and needed months of physical therapy. Technically, both Schanbel and the bus had the right of way, which safety advocates pointed out is problematic. They’ve advocated for Leading Pedestrian Intervals, which would give pedestrians the green to cross before turning cars can go.
Around 8:30 p.m. on May 3, 2014 a woman in her 60’s was struck by a court officer while crossing Queens Boulevard in the crosswalk. She died from a head injury after being rushed to Jamaica Hospital.
Besides the sheer density of vehicles and pedestrians, the long crossing distance is part of what makes it so perilous for pedestrians. Senior citizens often complain to the local community board that the crossing time is too short and that they’re frequently stranded on medians in the middle.
In 2012, the DOT implemented several safety improvements at the community’s request. They widened medians to provide additional refuge for pedestrians and painted wide parking stripes in the service lanes to narrow and calm traffic.
This intersection will be included in the Vision Zero redesign of Queens Boulevard, a project that aims to transform the corridor into the Boulevard of Life. In the interim, it is best to avoid this intersection if possible to steer clear of car accidents and pedestrian deaths.