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Posts from the "Flushing" Category

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Anonymous NYPD Sources Blame Another Victim of Motorist Violence

Area of Roosevelt Avenue where a speeding driver killed a cyclist Tuesday afternoon. Image: Google Maps

Area of Roosevelt Avenue where a speeding driver killed a cyclist Tuesday afternoon. Image: Google Maps

A motorist killed a cyclist near Citi Field Tuesday afternoon. The driver was ticketed for speeding, but true to form, anonymous police sources and the media blamed the victim for his own death.

The crash happened on Roosevelt Avenue near 126th Street, under the elevated 7 train on the perimeter of the stadium, at around 12:48 p.m. According to NYPD and published reports, the driver of a Mercury minivan hit the cyclist from behind.

Photos and video of the scene show that the frame of the victim’s bike was snapped into pieces, with the minivan perpendicular to the sidewalk, its windshield shattered. The victim, whose name had not been released by police as of this morning, died at the scene.

The Post and DNAinfo reported that, according to unnamed police sources, the cyclist “cut in front” or “swerved into the path” of the driver. The NYPD spokesperson we spoke to had no such information. The spokesperson said police summonsed the driver for speeding — a crucial detail that was not reported in the press. So once again, unnamed NYPD personnel selectively leaked information that served to blame the victim, and reporters repeated it without question.

At this point the speeding ticket is the sole charge against the driver. The investigation into the crash is ongoing, NYPD told Streetsblog.

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Parents of Allie Liao: ‘We Challenge Drivers to Pause and Ask – Is It Worth It?’


Last month, three year-old Allison Liao was crossing Main Street in Flushing with her grandmother when an SUV driver turned left, hitting and killing the toddler while she had the walk signal in the crosswalk. Yesterday in Jackson Heights, Liao’s parents marched with the families and friends of other traffic violence victims, and made this powerful plea for a safer driving culture.

“The police know the driver was in the wrong,” Amy Tam, Liao’s mother, told the crowd as she wiped away tears. “They issued him two traffic tickets: Failure to yield and failure to use due care. Allie paid the death penalty for crossing the street.”

The family has been in touch with the office of Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, which is reviewing the case but has not told the family how long that process will take. During that period, the family does not have access to evidence collected by the police, including video of the crash. “I’m not sure my wife would want to see, but I want to make sure the police are making the right decision,”  Hsi-Pei Liao told Streetsblog. “From what we keep hearing, they’re saying it’s an accident. I want to see for myself, does it really look like an accident?”

Also marching last night were other Queens parents whose children had been killed by drivers. Prior to the march, the only other parents of traffic violence victims that Tam and Liao had met were Amy Cohen and Gary Eckstein, whose 12 year-old son Sammy was killed on Prospect Park West. “Our kids were killed two days apart, so we connected on a level that’s very hard to understand,” Tam said. “You know, only parents who have lost their child would understand. I don’t know the words.”

We’ll have a full report on yesterday’s demonstration later today.

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Eyes on the Street: Pedestrian Islands on College Point Boulevard in Flushing

Photos: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Clarence took these shots of new pedestrian islands going in on College Point Boulevard in Flushing. “I counted seven or eight between between 33rd and Maple Avenues,” he says.

College Point Boulevard, says Clarence, is “always dangerous to cross.” Two pedestrians have been killed and dozens of pedestrians and cyclists injured by motorists on this segment of the street since the mid 1990s, according to Transportation Alternatives’ CrashStat.

The 109th Precinct, which covers a large swath of Queens to the east and north of Flushing, issued 539 speeding tickets as of August — a significant increase over 2012, when precinct officers cited 262 drivers for speeding all year, but still less than two summonses per day.

Another pic from Clarence after the jump, plus an aerial view of College Point Boulevard before these improvements.

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Dante Dominguez Latest Hit-and-Run Victim in Peter Koo’s Council District

At least four people have been killed by hit-and-run drivers in the City Council district represented by Peter Koo, who likes public plazas but has said safe street infrastructure belongs in the suburbs. Photo: Daily News

A man killed in Queens over the weekend was at least the fourth pedestrian in 2012 to die in Peter Koo’s City Council district, and at least the fourth pedestrian fatality in the 109th Precinct this year. All four crashes were hit-and-runs.

Dante Dominguez, a 45-year-old father of three, was struck by the driver of a black BMW at the intersection of 41st Avenue and Union Street in Flushing on Friday at approximately 11:20 p.m., according to reports. The driver fled the scene.

Dominguez lived upstate and was visiting family, friends told the Post. He was described as ”a great artist, extremely talented, humble, funny and cool.”

Less than two weeks before Dominguez’s death, 76-year-old Victor Florio was killed on Booth Memorial Avenue by a motorist who ran from the scene on foot but was later apprehended. In March, a hit-and-run driver took the life of an unidentified 65-year-old man at 149th Street and 45th Avenue. The MTA bus driver who struck 22-year-old Meilan Jin at Northern Boulevard and Union Street in February did not stop.

Council Member Koo is a fan of public plazas, but he hasn’t had much to say about traffic-calming during his first term, except to declare his opposition to bike lanes, which can improve safety for all street users. To encourage Koo to take action to improve street safety in his district and citywide, which could include lending his vocal support to the Crash Investigation Reform Act, contact him at 212-788-7022 or pkoo@council.nyc.gov. You can also awaken his dormant Twitter account @PeterKoo2009.

The 109th Precinct made headlines in 2009 when an officer driving at high speed slammed into a pedestrian on Queens Boulevard, a suspicious crash that NYPD pinned on the victim. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Brian J. Maguire, the precinct’s commanding officer, go to the next community council meeting. The 109th Precinct council meetings happen at 7:30 p.m. on the second Wednesday of the month at the precinct. Call the precinct at (718) 321-2268 for information.

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How Will Soccer Fans Get to Proposed MLS Stadium in Queens?

A proposed Major League Soccer stadium in the middle of Queens’ largest park might have some cheerleaders in Albany, but lots of questions must be answered before the first game can be played. Perhaps the biggest issue is the stadium’s transportation plan, the details of which — those that have been made public, at least — differ from what neighborhood advocates say MLS is telling them.

Parked cars sit in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park during the recent U.S. Open. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

On Monday, a coalition of groups known as the Queens Coalition for Fairness, including Make the Road New York and Queens Community House, hosted a meeting in Corona. Donovan Finn, an urban planning professor at Stony Brook University, explained to the crowd of hundreds why the current MLS proposal is a bad proposition.

“I’m not necessarily against the idea of a soccer stadium in this part of Queens,” Finn told Streetsblog. “But I do not think that the specific site MLS has chosen is the best choice.”

“I don’t think MLS has really thought the transportation issues through very much,” said Finn.

MLS is proposing a new, 25,000-seat stadium at the current site of the Fountain of Industry, more than a half-mile from the Mets-Willets Point subway station. That’s twice as far from the subway as the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and eight times farther than Citi Field.

The league says it will build an undisclosed number of parking spaces beneath the adjacent Van Wyck Expressway, but that none of the currently-estimated 13 acres of park land taken for the stadium would be used for parking.

Instead, MLS says that most attendees arriving by car are expected to use existing parking at Citi Field, an arrangement that’s likely subject to negotiation with Mets ownership. One potential problem Finn identified with this plan is double-booking Citi Field parking lots and overloading the 7 train, since soccer and baseball seasons occur at the same time of year.

Citi Field parking is up to three-quarters of a mile away from the proposed MLS site. The league says shuttle service to the subway or Citi Field parking lots is not currently part of its transportation plan, though community activists including Finn say MLS has told them otherwise.

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Eyes on the Street: A Safer Northern Boulevard Bridge Entrance

Before and after: The Northern Boulevard bridge path entrance in Willets Point gets a makeover. Left photo: Google Maps. Right photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Riders in the NYC Century Bike Tour last weekend might have noticed a recent upgrade on the bike/pedestrian path on the Northern Boulevard bridge as they navigated from Flushing to Willets Point.

The solid green line is the Flushing Bay Promenade. Connecting to the Northern Boulevard Bridge, to its east, just got easier. Image: DOT Bike Map

There is now a traffic signal where the path crosses a ramp from the Van Wyck Expressway, as well as a two-way connection beneath the Whitestone Expressway connecting to the Flushing Bay Promenade.

Before the upgrade, the location was a hostile one for cyclists and pedestrians. Drivers on the ramp received little indication that the bridge path crossed the roadway. Cyclists who exited the bridge had no bikeway to guide them to the promenade. And cyclists wishing to access the bridge from the west had to illegally ride against traffic.

Now, westbound cyclists are directed to use a new sidewalk, while eastbound cyclists have a contra-flow bicycle lane

In October 2011, DOT presented the proposal to Community Board 7′s transportation committee. The improvements were requested by Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and introduced in conjunction with a new DOT asphalt plant adjacent to the path.

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Cyclist Mireya Gomez Killed by Driver in Queens, No Charges Filed

Roosevelt Avenue west of 126th Street in Flushing, where cyclist Mireya Gomez was killed on Friday, May 11. Image: Google Maps via Gothamist

A cyclist killed Friday evening near Citi Field in Queens has been identified by NYPD as Mireya Gomez, 50.

According to reports in Gothamist and the Post, Gomez was westbound on Roosevelt Avenue at approximately 5:45 p.m. when she was struck just west of 126th Street by the driver of a Nissan Altima traveling in the same direction. Police initially identified the victim as a male in his 40s.

The driver, identified as a 50-year-old man, remained at the scene. It is unclear how he failed to see Gomez as he approached from behind at eye level in broad daylight. Nevertheless, “no criminality is suspected,” an NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog.

There is a discussion over at Gothamist concerning dangerous conditions on Roosevelt Avenue. Another cyclist was killed at Roosevelt and 126th in 2000, and three were injured between 2007 and 2009, according to Transportation Alternatives’ CrashStat. Data show that six pedestrians were also hurt in crashes at the same intersection between 1995 and 2008.

This fatal crash occurred in the 110th Precinct. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Deputy Inspector Ronald D. Leyson, the commanding officer, head to the next precinct community council meeting. The 110th Precinct council meetings happen at 7:00 p.m. on the third Monday of the month at the New York Bethzatha Church of God at 85-20 57th Avenue in Elmhurst. Call the precinct at 718-476-9310 for information.

Gomez is one of at least two people killed in traffic in the city since Friday, with both crashes occurring in Queens. Early Sunday morning, a pedestrian was struck at Greenpoint Avenue and 46th Street in Sunnyside, in the 108th Precinct. Driver Sayesh Avedis was charged with manslaughter, homicide and DWI, according to DNAinfo. NYPD could not yet release the name of the victim.

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Flushing Transpo Project Boosted Safety While Curbing Congestion

This sidewalk extension, part of a broader package of improvements in Downtown Flushing, provides badly needed space to walk along Main Street. Image: NYC DOT

It might not be as bold or attention-grabbing as the overhaul of Times Square and Herald Square, but a set of changes made to New York City’s third-busiest pedestrian intersection is having its own quiet success. In Downtown Flushing, a 2010 project that expanded sidewalks, daylighted dangerous intersections, and introduced numerous turn restrictions is boosting safety even while traffic flows more smoothly, according to a new evaluation from NYC DOT [PDF].

Downtown Flushing’s streets needed an upgrade perhaps more than anywhere else in Queens. The Main Street subway station, fed by 21 bus routes, is the busiest outside Manhattan. In one 12-hour period, DOT counted 97,000 pedestrians on a single block of Main Street. And in 2009, more pedestrians were hit by cars at the corner of Union Street and Northern Boulevard than any other location in the borough.

Few of the changes installed by DOT in July of 2010 reshaped the street, but together, they have noticeably improved how the area’s transportation system functions. In four locations, DOT used paint and bollards to expand the sidewalk, creating 700 square feet of new pedestrian space. At seven locations, parking spaces were removed to daylight intersections and improve visibility. New turn restrictions at five intersections reduced conflicts between automobiles and pedestrians crossing the street, but buses are allowed through at certain locations.

The overall safety effect has been substantial, according to DOT’s recently released evaluation. Crashes with injuries declined by 20 percent in the study area (Prince Street to Bowne Street, 35th Avenue to Sanford Avenue). Total injuries fell by 29 percent. Drivers and their passengers benefited the most from the safety gains, with injuries falling by more than a half. The improvement to pedestrian safety was more modest, with only an eight percent reduction.

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Council, EDC Spend $3 Million to Keep Parking Cheap at Flushing Commons

Q14_Bus.pngThe now-defunct Q14 bus didn't get a reprieve from the City Council, which decided money was better spent on encouraging people to drive. Photo: dj.surf.lfs/Flickr
The Flushing Commons development sailed to a 44-2 vote of approval in the City Council yesterday after the city arranged a set of concessions to local merchants who had opposed the project. Chief among them: $3 million to keep the project's oversized parking lot even cheaper. 

The Economic Development Corporation had already set aside $2.25 million to help Downtown Flushing's many small businesses stay afloat during the mega-project's construction. Many merchants remained opposed to the project, however, arguing that by replacing the municipal parking lot currently on the site, Flushing Commons would keep customers away and drive them out of business.

In response, the city added another $3.75 million to its relief package, $3 million of which will subsidize driving and automobile storage. The money will be used to offer free and discounted parking while Flushing Commons is under construction and to extend a cap on parking prices in the development's 1,600-space garage for an additional two years. 

In other words, a city which ostensibly has a policy to reduce traffic, PlaNYC, has sunk another $3 million to subsidize the use of 1,600 parking spaces in one of the most transit-rich downtowns in the city. We often write about how parking minimums function as a hidden city subsidy for motorists, but this is a signed check made out to the minority of New Yorkers who drive.

That's a scandal in its own right, but then remember that at no point in the run-up to the MTA's service cuts did the mayor or the City Council chip in a little extra.

What else could Flushing have gotten for $3 million in city support? A reprieve from all MTA service cuts, for one thing. Discontinuing the Q14, X32, and X51, along with cutting off-peak service on the Q26 and Q48, saved the MTA a total of $3.1 million this year.

Budgets make government priorities perfectly clear. City Council and EDC had a choice of how to spend $3 million to help bring people to Flushing. They chose cheap parking. 

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Council Mems Display Parking Ignorance at Flushing Commons Hearing

The fight over Flushing Commons shifted to the City Council yesterday, as a key subcommittee turned its attention to the contentious megaproject and the battle royale over parking in booming downtown Flushing. Though the developers propose to redevelop an 1,100-space municipal parking lot and still increase the total amount of parking on-site, that isn't enough for most members of the City Council or the vociferous critics who turned out for the hearing. The pressure on the developer is pushing in only one direction: build more parking and charge less for it.

flushing_commons_6.jpgFlushing Commons will already flood Downtown Flushing with parking, but many are calling for even more. Image: Inhabitat

Council members may show fluency with the policy details of some issues, but yesterday's hearing proved that parking isn't one of them. Basic concepts, like the fact that adding more parking will exacerbate Flushing's grinding congestion, not alleviate it, or that free parking is bad for business, simply haven't begun to penetrate the consciousness of most council members, who wield final authority over major land use decisions. Sustainable transportation advocates have a long way to go in educating our legislators about how parking really works.

In a rarity for the NYC land-use process, where battles tend to focus on building heights, housing affordability, or job creation, parking issues took center stage at yesterday's hearing. Flushing merchants waved signs reading "Give us parking or death" as the Zoning Subcommittee interrogated the development team over the appropriate quantity and price of parking at Flushing Commons.

The proposal for Flushing Commons includes 1,600 parking spaces, with another 200 slated for addition to a nearby municipal lot. That number came straight from the parking-obsessed Economic Development Corporation, which reasoned that Flushing Commons should build not only the number of spaces required by zoning -- around 700 -- but also replace each one of the 1,100 subsidized spaces in the municipal lot it will replace. It's an enormous allocation of space to the private automobile in the heart of downtown Flushing, a neighborhood with the third busiest pedestrian intersection in the city and the busiest subway station outside Manhattan.

Most people who testified, however, believed 1,600 parking spaces would be unacceptably few. Without the ability to park all day at the municipal lot, said one Union Street merchant through a translator, "I have to give up my job. I don't want to lose my job and I oppose this project." Her sentiment was repeated over and over again.

Elected officials responded by calling for more and cheaper parking, seemingly unaware that their position would take a toll on housing affordability, transit service, street safety, and the bottom lines of many businesses.

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