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Queens Blvd at Van Wyck Expressway
Photo Gallery: Queens Blvd

Death Blvd

A pedestrian was killed crossing heresouthThe sprawling interchange encompassing the Van Wyck Expressway and the Boulevard of Death also features a guest appearance by the terminating Main Street, which extends north from here for a busy, congested tour of Briarwood, Kew Gardens Hills and Flushing.
The top shot faces west towards the Kew Gardens Courthouse and Queens House of Detention. The second shot turns eastward. The turnoff for the southbound Van Wyck is on the right. Westbound Queens Boulevard can turn left and cut across to that service road without any interference by traffic signals, but that poses few problems when traffic is as light as it was on this sultry Saturday afternoon of May 27th, 2001. Given the current troubles surrounding Death Boulevard, I found it strange that no signs were present preventing pedestrian crossings here. The officially marked crosswalk is half a block to the east, where the southbound Main Street terminates, and that crossing is an official Tier 2 killer.
 The sharp angle at which boulevard and expressway must slide past one another forced the building of a much heavier overpass than other Van Wyck crossings required. The larger girder section was recently painted, but not the smaller. Traffic always seems to be non-existant when I show up, but normally, this expressway is a traffic disaster area. In terms of producing angina, it takes a back seat - hands down, no contest - to the positively evil Cross-Bronx, but that isn't exactly a complement. The vents visible on Queens Boulevard's center median in the top shots are not for the subway; they are for this overpass. It is long enough to need tunnel-like venting. An unusual turn-around lane is provided alongside the boulevard, ostensibly for northbound Van Wyck Service Roaders who suddenly realized they really wanted to go south after all. About the only traffic I've ever seen on it are folks looking for a place to park. For those who enter this turn-about, their next chance to get back where they were is where the southbound service road meets Hillside Avenue, incidently the worst corner in the city for red light running. Local politicians looking for something to make a stink about for their campaigns, staked that corner out and clocked over 50 red runners in a single hour.

vansOf course, nobody in their right mind would run a red light on Queens Boulevard, given the well publicized police presence of late, right? Well, yeah, right! In a very impressive list of corners notorious for red light running, made by these politicos, not a single crossing along Death Boulevard appears. On this Saturday, two large vehicles sat at rest on an overpass median strip, doubtless between calls for shuttling traffic officers in and out of the area. So much for the shrill falsehood that blames red light runners for many boulevard casualties.
signBelow boulevard and expressway sits the subway. Back in the 1930's when the Independent subway reached Jamaica, the future expressway was still a boulevard, essentially continuing Main Street's right of way down towards the wastelands of Idlewild, later to become JFK Airport. All in all, Van Wyck was a boulevard for approximately the first 15 years of the subway's existance. The NY Transit Authority, however, has a long history of denying reality, and for over 50 years now continues to insist that the third most despised expressway in the state does not exist. Never mind that the once bucolic little suburban boulevard is now Interstate 678. The Transit Authority says, "NO! It is Boulevard!" Yes, the newer small signs now dotting the station girders say "Briarwood - Van Wyck". Even there, however, they can't bring themselves to add "Expwy" to Van Wyck's name.

©2001, Jeff Saltzman. All right reserved.