On the evening of Feb. 9, in a Zoom assembly, 400 leaders from Queens Power, a non-partisan group of houses of worship, unions, schools, and social service organization dedicated to organizing Queens residents, will ask city Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez to reimagine our streets and bus stops. The most pressing issue, as he and Mayor Adams, have emphasized, is street safety. With 273 traffic fatalities last year and deaths up 63% so far this year, there is no time to waste.
Over the past year, leaders from dozens of our member organizations in Queens have painstakingly identified some of the most dangerous streets and intersections in our areas. We have walked our blocks, scoured over maps, and done site visits with the DOT. Thankfully, and in large part due to Queens Borough Commissioner Nicole Garcia and her team’s diligent efforts, we have seen improvement at six unsafe intersections.
However, we have also noticed something that many New Yorkers may agree with us on: the DOT’s process for studying unsafe streets and intersections and implementing solutions is just too slow. One of the unsafe intersections we identified is adjacent to a public school, a half-block away from an American Legion Hall, and two blocks from a Catholic church. We submitted the intersection to the DOT in April; in October a stop sign was finally approved, and it still has not been installed. Over the last 10 months, sure enough, there was a major crash there. Requesting speed bumps or changes to one-way streets is even worse, with starting estimates of over a year.
For Rodriguez to achieve his goal of fixing 1,000 unsafe intersections, he will have to work with the most creative staff at DOT to streamline the review process. We believe that any dangerous intersection or streets submitted to the DOT by local organizations and elected officials should be reviewed and resolved within 90 days.
After safety, Queens residents want to travel around the borough with more dignity and less misery. Waiting for 30 minutes in the rain or the snow for the bus, when a simple shelter could easily provide easy cover, is humiliating and demoralizing.
While in Manhattan 32% of bus stops have shelters, in Queens only 20% have shelters. Over the past year, Queens Power leaders rode 10 bus lines, in both directions, and marked every shelter.
We found that the Q41, which runs through Ozone Park, Richmond Hill, and Howard Beach, has 105 stops and only six shelters. The Q5, which runs from Rosedale to Jamaica and serves some of the New Yorkers with the longest commutes in the city, at one point goes 15 consecutive stops without a shelter. This is an insult to the hardworking New Yorkers who take the bus every day.
JCDecaux, the global company that invented the smart concept of paying for bus shelters through advertising revenue, holds the contract to build and maintain bus shelters in New York City until 2026, and they have reached their legal cap of building 3,500 shelters. We urge Rodriguez to sit down with JCDecaux and come to an agreement on how to build 500 new bus shelters in Queens over the next year (and we don’t mind if they build some in the other boroughs too).
These are concrete results that Rodriguez can deliver for everyday New Yorkers and we are ready to help him do it.
Wright is a Queens resident and a parishioner at St. Clare Roman Catholic Church. Branch is a member of the executive board at Amalgamated Transit Union 1056. They are Queens Power leaders.