Photo Gallery: Queens Blvd
Ah, the days of innocence! When
this was taken in 1992, nobody was calling Queens Boulevard the
Boulevard of Death, and this corner was not a certified member
of The Loyal Order of Intersections of Motorized Mayhem. Now
of course, Queens Boulevard corners are thought of more like
coroners. I grew up around this intersection, which was centrally
located between all the apartment buildings in which we lived
from my birth until I moved out at age 22. In the decade since
this particular night, the hue and cry over the pedestrian casualties
along the 12 lane highway being traversed here grew by the month,
as literally did the death toll, mostly among the elderly who
were mostly hit either while crossing against lights, or jaywalking
between intersections. A fair number of injuries and fatalities
however are the fault of speeders, or motorists making careless
turns. As I write this on February 17th 2001, in the past three
months alone, at least seven pedestrian accidents have occured
within a few blocks of this corner, one of the most recent occuring
right here when a driver turning onto the boulevard was blinded
by sun glare, so he said.
The most publicized Queens Blvd death to date was in November 2000, when 14 year old Bukharan immigrant Sofia Leviyev, a student at my alma mater Russell Sage Junior High, was run down a scant two blocks from here, and to this day flowery memorials remain on the median island by where she was struck. Unfortunately, even Carl Lewis in his best makeup and a steriod enhanced Ben Johnson would be hardpressed to cross this road on one light, let alone children and the elderly or handicapped. Many try anyway, hoping to complete the last quarter leg, three lanes worth after the light has already gone against them, either out of natural impatience, or due to fear of standing on the islands flanking the center express lanes.
|Moving right along, unlike the eastbound traffic, we skip ahead several years to late May 2000. We're actually just east of 63rd Drive, two blocks to the west, but we're zooming in on 65th Road, represented by the second set of traffic lights, the first being 64th Road. The 30 MPH speed limit sign is all smiles that afternoon, as it was guaranteed to be obeyed, thanks to some construction or obstruction blocking one or more eastbound lanes where the black double arrow sign is. How apropo that an ambulance is part of the procession waiting to pass that sign. At least one imbecile is holding up westbound traffic crossing the middle lane at 65th Road. Whoever it is had to hope the motorcyclist stops like the cars did. An elderly gent on the left heads for the break in the island allowing express laners to shift into the local lanes. He is representative of the pedestrians giving the NYPD, DOT and drivers endless angina, making a dangerous crossing where he ought not be doing so. 64th Road was one of the lesser Avenue-Road-Drivelets, deprived of the opportunity to fully cross the boulevard, as 63rd Drive and 65th Road get to do. 65th was a wierd choice to make a major crossing out of. It is far narrower than either 64th, or the avenue that immediately follows it, 66th Avenue, another crossing deprived soul. 65th traffic also comes flying down towards the boulevard from the south via a dangerously sharp hill, increasing the chances that such vehicles might careen across the intersection faster than the more level 66th Avenuers might if they had the full crossing. It is one of the strangest legacies of our esteemed city planners that the widest sidestreets in this area always seemed to be relegated to an inferior status vis-a-vis their much narrower neighbors. As for 66th, that forgettable street was once called White Pot Road, going all the way back to Pre Columbian days. What a thing to be known as. Sounds like a potty seat or something equally distasteful. No wonder that given to chance to be famous for such an ancient history, or to be a dismembered, overlooked and deadended spur to nowhere, 66th Avenue chose the latter. Good ole 66th. At its southern deadend point by Austin Street, there once stood a garage/service station where my father always had his car serviced in the 1960s, as we lived half a block away. That car always, but always came back with a new leak to replace and outdo the old. I loved being inside the garage though; always smelled of gasoline and in those days the fumes were rich in lead as well as octane. Loved that smell then; probably why I'm so screwed up now. What can I say; this is what memories are made from - and destroyed by. Never let it be said however, that old White Pot forgets where its roots are. A nice big funeral parlor sits at its Death Blvd corner, and it can't afford to relocate when the worst starcrossed corner of all follows one block away at 67th Avenue.|
© 2001, Jeff Saltzman.