GR US

Constantinides, Advocates Call for Safer 24th Avenue

The National Herald

New York City Council Member Costa Constantinides at a recent event with members of the Astoria Houses community. (Photo: Council Member Constantinides' office)

ASTORIA – Council Member Costa Constantinides, community leaders, and street safety advocates on October 15 called on the City’s Department of Transportation to drastically improve street safety on Astoria’s 24th Avenue. A particularly dangerous 16-block stretch of the thoroughfare has led to serious crashes in recent years, notably the death of a delivery worker while riding a scooter last month. 

 “For too long 24th Avenue has functioned like a piecemeal highway, with dangerous turns and cars speeding into the middle of intersections to check for oncoming traffic,” said Council Member Costa Constantinides, District 22. “The DOT must look at this avenue, from 21st Street all the way to where it meets the Grand Central Parkway at 37th Street, and determine what measures will improve the health and safety of all Astoria residents.” 

Constantinides made the call at a virtual press conference this afternoon, where he was joined by a representative for Assembly Member Aravella Simotas; Marie Torniali, Chair of Community Board 1; Juan Restrepo, Queens Organizer for Transportation Alternatives; and Julie Huntington of Families for Safe Streets. 

"Fatal crashes are unacceptable and we need to take action to prevent further senseless deaths," said Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris. "I urge the DOT to implement desperately needed safety measures as soon as possible." 

 “As our community keeps growing, we must ensure that everyone feels safe crossing the street,” said Assembly Member Aravella Simotas, District 36. “There’s no question that drivers treat many parts of Astoria as open roads. So, it is prudent and important to study each major avenue and street with an eye towards installing new traffic calming measures and improving public safety. Mariano Canales deserves justice. Astoria’s pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers deserve safe streets and the DOT should meet its responsibility of studying 24th Avenue and making whatever changes are needed to prevent unnecessary, future tragedies. This is the responsible thing to do.”

"Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets support Council Member Constantinides' call for immediate traffic safety improvements along the 24th Avenue corridor in Ditmars Astoria. The death of working cyclist Mario Canales was preventable, and we implore the city to take swift action to ensure this never happens again. We know that improvements like daylighting street corners to improve visibility at intersections, creating protected bike lanes, and other vision zero measures are proven to reduce crashes and save lives." said Juan Restrepo, Queens Organizer for Transportation Alternatives and Chana Widawski, Families for Safe Streets Organizer

Constantinides made a formal request to the DOT in an Oct. 13 letter, in which he outlined some of the overarching problems with 24th Avenue. The Astoria lawmaker noted the two-way thoroughfare still served as a dangerous truck route from 21st to 29th Street, despite measures to prevent trucks from getting stuck as they approach the Triboro Bridge. He followed up on a request from last year that the DOT find an alternative route for large trucks, given the current path’s proximity to an elementary school. 

He and advocates have noted 24th Avenue is also particularly dangerous from 31st to 37th Street. Given the road’s diagonal pathway, on a hill and feeding into Grand Central Parkway. Cars will often speed down side streets, stop deep into the intersection, and look for oncoming traffic. Limited views on the street have presented serious safety risks to pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers. 

These dangerous conditions came to a head on Sept. 23, when delivery worker Mariano Canales fatally crashed his scooter into a minivan at 24th Avenue and 33rd Street. Canales, who lived in Woodside, was heading back to his restaurant at the time of the crash. 

Advocates argued the cluster of unsafe conditions demands a full traffic study. They cited DOT’s past success in partnering with the community to mitigate dangerous traffic on Hobart Street from 30th to 31st Avenues.

Council Member Costa Constantinides represents the New York City Council’s 22nd District, which includes his native Astoria along with parts of Woodside, East Elmhurst, and Jackson Heights. He serves as the chair of the City Council’s Environmental Protection Committee and sits on three additional committees: Sanitation, Resiliency, and Technology. For more information, visit council.nyc.gov/costa.