Oct. 16, 2020 By Allie Griffin
Local elected officials and safe street advocates are calling on the Department of Transportation (DOT) to mitigate traffic issues along a busy roadway in Astoria where a restaurant deliveryman recently lost his life.
The officials say a stretch of 24th Avenue near P.S. 85 is ridden with truck traffic, while another portion of the thoroughfare has been the site of serious crashes in recent years — most notably the death of 27-year-old deliveryman Mariano Canales on Sept. 23.
Canales was riding his scooter back to the restaurant where he worked along 24th Avenue when he crashed into a minivan that was crossing the block at 33rd Street. The Woodside resident was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital – Queens, but he couldn’t be saved.
Local leaders are calling on the DOT to do a traffic study of the block in light of Canales’ fatal crash.
Astoria Council Member Costa Constantinides penned a letter to DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg on Oct. 13 asking the agency to study 24th Avenue from 21st Street to 37th Street and add traffic-calming measures to protect pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.
“We must respond to a tragedy by preventing more from happening,” Constantinides wrote in the letter. “A traffic study of these 16 blocks could save an untold number of lives in the years ahead.”
Constantinides said Canales’ death was something nearby residents — himself included — worried would happen.
“Many people who live nearby, including myself, sadly worried when this would happen,” he said. “This particular stretch is a nightmare for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers alike.”
Drivers crossing 24th Avenue have poor visibility due to parked cars and often have to drive beyond the stop sign to look for oncoming traffic, the council member wrote. He suggested removing parking spaces adjacent to crosswalks — a practice called daylighting — to mitigate the issue.
Constantinides also noted that 24th Avenue from 21st Street to 29th Street still serves as a dangerous truck route, despite efforts to improve truck traffic. He repeated the request he made last year that the DOT find an alternative route for trucks, given the path’s close proximity to P.S. 85.
The Astoria lawmaker was joined by area officials–Assembly Member Aravella Simotas, Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris and Queens Community Board 1 Chair Marie Torniali as well as Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets–in calling on the DOT to make 24th Avenue safer.
Simotas called for justice for Canales and said the DOT should do the responsible thing by studying the roadway.
“Mariano Canales deserves justice,” she said in a statement. “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.”
Juan Restrepo, Queens organizer for Transportation Alternatives, and Chana Widawski, an organizer for Families for Safe Streets supported Constantinides’ call for safety improvements in the aftermath of Canales’ death.
“The death of working cyclist Mario Canales was preventable, and we implore the city to take swift action to ensure this never happens again,” they said in a joint statement. “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.”