HUNTERS POINT — Crossing Center Boulevard in Long Island City has become increasingly dangerous as the amount of cars and foot traffic on the roadway has increased in recent years, residents and local leaders say.
A number of new high-rise apartment buildings, the recently opened Hunters Point South Park and new school buildings in the area mean more people are crossing the waterfront street, and locals say clearly marked crosswalks, stop signs and other traffic safety improvements are needed to keep pedestrians safe.
"You really need to be very careful, especially with the kids," said Isabella Masala, a mother of two who lives nearby.
"Cars go pretty fast through here," said another local resident, Rachel Prewitt. "It's a little bit insane how fast they go down the street."
Joe Conley, district manager for Queens Community Board 2, said the board has long been asking for safety upgrades on Center Boulevard, dating back to before many of the high-rise apartment buildings that now dot the street were even built.
"We've been calling attention to this for years," he said, adding they were previously told by the Department of Transportation that their requests didn't meet federal standards.
The need for improvements is even greater now that more people live in and visit the neighborhood, Conley said.
"We've seen such an increase in population and the number of people that are coming to visit the park — it's a destination," he said.
Some intersections on Center Boulevard have stone markings built into the street to serve as crosswalks, but Conley says they aren't clearly marked, leaving pedestrians confused. And the lack of stop signs along the street mean cars tend to speed down the roadway, he said.
"Without stop signs, people think they just have a freeway," he said. "It's an accident waiting to happen."
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said he's also been calling on the DOT to make changes on Center Boulevard for the last two years, asking specifically for stop signs, painted crosswalks and speed limit regulations.
"It is important that we address the traffic safety concerns local residents have shared with my office before it is too late," the councilman said in a statement.
A DOT spokesman said the agency is planning to re-assess traffic safety needs in the area, including plans to re-evaluate 48th Avenue and Center Boulevard — the intersection near elementary school P.S. 78. — for a stop sign or other traffic control device.
"Additionally the DOT, along with its partners, are working on a future capital project to reconstruct Hunters Point streets and other infrastructure to address the recent growth in the area," the spokesman said in an email.
"Traffic calming to make streets safer and work better for all users, especially pedestrians, is a key part of the project."