By Emily Drooby
Marianna DiVittorio and her son Leonard make the daily seven-minute trek from their Astoria home, to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, where she has been a lifelong parishioner. It’s a walk that’s filled with fear.
Leonard DiVittorio, explained, “Depending on the time of day, it can be very harrowing to experience.”
That means crossing 21 St., which the church’s pastor, Monsignor Sean G. Ogle, V.F., says locals consider dangerous.
“It’s tremendous traffic,” Monsignor Ogle said. “There weren’t enough traffic lights. It’s a big bus route as well as a truck route but at the same time we have people living here.”
Marianna learned this first hand while crossing the busy roadway.
“I stopped because of this car trying to make this turn and I fell into the middle of the street,” she said.
Marianna credits God for saving her from being hit or killed during the terrifying accident, which left her with a deep worry for others.
She explained, “I expect another disaster, and I don’t want to see it, we came too close.”
This incident happened 20 years ago but the DiVittorios say despite added traffic lights, the street has gotten worse.
Leonard said, “It’s getting to be a very, very, very dangerous situation. We have been fighting for lights on 21st street since we have been living on that side of the street which is way over 45 years.”
That fight has started to work. Mayor Bill DeBlasio announced 21st St. between 50th Avenue and 20th Avenue to be a street the city will target for an upgrade to the city’s Vision Zero program.
During a press conference, Mayor DeBlasio, said, “We got to a point a few years ago where the number of traffic fatalities was almost as many as the number of murders in New York City.”
21st St. in Astoria, one of several new streets across New York City picked as priorities because data showed they were dangerous.
Those streets will have their traffic signal light timing changed to reduce speeding and to give more time for people to cross. The roadways will also be targeted for future projects like speed cameras and beefed-up police enforcement.
Residents have hope. Leonard said, “I am very happy that they have finally recognized something along these lines.” Monsignor Ogle added, “We’re hopeful about these changes and we are watching what else they might want to do in the future after that.”
The traffic signals are supposed to change by the end of this year the other actions could take a few years.