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Posts from the Jackson Heights Category

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Ferreras-Copeland and Peralta to DOT: Fix Northern and Junction

A hit and run driver traveling west on Northern Boulevard killed 17-year-old Ovidio Jaramillo last Tuesday night as he crossed the street from its northern end. Image: Google Maps

The intersection of Northern Boulevard and Junction Boulevard, where a hit-and-run driver traveling west on Northern killed 17-year-old Ovidio Jaramillo last Tuesday night. Image: Google Maps

Following the hit-and-run killing of 17-year-old Ovidio Jaramillo at the intersection of Northern Boulevard and Junction Boulevard last week, local elected officials and DOT Queens Commissioner Nicole Garcia toured Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst streets yesterday with an eye toward safety improvements.

Northern and Junction are wide two-way streets, with Northern being especially large. Both are priority corridors in DOT’s Vision Zero pedestrian safety plan for Queens, owing to high rates of injuries and fatalities.

Yesterday’s tour was organized by Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, and State Senator José Peralta also participated.

Garcia said her team would do everything in its power to make the neighborhoods’ many dangerous intersections safer for pedestrians. “All options are on the table,” she told Ferreras-Copeland.

At the intersection where Jaramillo was killed, Garcia committed to installing a speed camera and said other possible treatments would be investigated. Other intersections on Northern recently received pedestrian islands and left turn bans. Left turn bans at this location would be problematic, Garcia said, since both streets are designated freight routes and turn restrictions could send trucks onto residential streets.

From the beginning of 2012 through October of this year, there were 43 injuries and one fatality at the Northern-Junction intersection. Without a significant reallocation of street space to narrow the roadbed and shorten crossings for pedestrians, it’s hard to see how safety will improve much.

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After Hit-and-Run Death, Queens Pols Blame “Distracted Pedestrians”

Assemblyman Michael DenDekker thinks pedestrians are to blame for the city's hit-and-run epidemic. Photo: David Meyer

At a press conference to call for action after the hit-and-run killing of Ovidio Jaramillo, Assembly Member Michael DenDekker blamed pedestrians for their own deaths. Photo: David Meyer

A hit-and-run driver killed 17-year-old Ovidio Jaramillo at the intersection of Northern Boulevard and Junction Boulevard in Jackson Heights on Tuesday night. In response, Queens electeds held a press conference today at the site of the crash, where they called for laws and education campaigns to stop “distracted pedestrians.”

The driver, who has yet to be apprehended, struck Jaramillo at 10:50 p.m. as he was crossing Northern Boulevard from north to south.

Instead of calling attention to street design that encourages speeding, or state laws that limit the city’s ability to deploy speed enforcement cameras, State Senator Jose Peralta and Assembly Member Michael DenDekker mostly blamed the victims of dangerous driving.

Peralta said he would push for legislation requiring DOT to mount a public education campaign about “the dangers of being a distracted pedestrian.” DenDekker called for crossing guards at every school corner, which he said would be funded by speed camera fines, and talked up a law he has proposed to make texting in crosswalks illegal.

NYPD told Streetsblog there was “nothing whatsoever” in the police account of the crash to suggest that Jaramillo was distracted by an electronic device when he was struck. When pressed on why the proposals focused on pedestrian distractedness, which hasn’t been implicated at all in Jaramillo’s death, Peralta implied that enough had been done to calm traffic. “We have tons of things to hold drivers accountable,” he said. “I’m supportive of Vision Zero, but we need to have more education campaigns.”

DenDekker pushed for his proposed $25 fine for texting in a crosswalk. “The idea of the bill is not to fine per se pedestrians but to change behavior,” he said. “Pedestrians need to be aware of their surroundings.”

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Van Bramer to Car Dealers: Stop Hogging Northern Boulevard Sidewalks

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer isn't shopping for a new car at City Mitsubishi's dealership. He's trying to walk down the sidewalk on Northern Boulevard. Photo:  John McCarten/NYC Council

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer isn’t shopping for a new car at City Mitsubishi’s dealership. He’s trying to walk down the sidewalk on Northern Boulevard. Photo: John McCarten/NYC Council

Walking the car-clogged sidewalks of Northern Boulevard this morning with street safety advocates and press in tow, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer called on two NYPD precincts to crack down on auto dealerships that treat pedestrian space as car showrooms.

“They have a right to make money,” Van Bramer said of the dealerships. “But they do not have a right to block the sidewalks.”

Northern Boulevard regularly ranks as one of the most dangerous streets in Queens. Van Bramer, standing outside PS 152 at the intersection where 8-year-old Noshat Nahian was killed on his way to school in 2013, said parking cars on the sidewalks doesn’t help the situation. “Northern Boulevard is busy enough, dangerous enough,” he said. “We cannot accept pedestrians’ lives being put in danger in order to sell cars.”

PS 152 principal Vincent Vitolo said he has spoken with dealerships next to the school about keeping the sidewalks clear for students. But after brief bouts of compliance, the dealers put cars back onto the sidewalk, blocking the way for kids going to school. “We’re in touch with all the dealerships around us,” he said. “Nobody’s perfect.”

Cristina Furlong of Make Queens Safer said representatives of a Honda dealership told her there was an exception in state law that allows car dealerships to park on sidewalks. The claim appears to be a complete fiction, and police occasionally do ticket the dealers for appropriating sidewalk space.

Van Bramer said his office has reached out to many of the dealerships, and met with the 108th and 114th precincts yesterday about the issue. While the precincts have done some enforcement blitzes in the past, the dealerships remain defiant. The problem is worse on the weekends, when dealers put out even more display cars on the sidewalks.

“There are some problems, some community issues, that ultimately seem intractable and people come to accept them as ‘that’s just the way it is,'” Van Bramer said. “These businesses cannot accept these tickets as a cost of doing business.”

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Queens Residents Launch Campaign for Bike Lanes Connecting Parks

Getting to nearby parks from Jackson Heights is much faster by bike than it is by transit. Now, a group of local residents wants safer ways to make the journey. Map: Queens Bike Initiative

Getting to nearby parks from Jackson Heights is much faster by bike than it is by transit. Local residents are mobilizing for street redesigns to help them safely bike to green spaces. Map: Queens Bike Initiative

Northern Queens residents who want to safely bicycle to nearby parks are trying to convince the city to install new bike lanes in neighborhoods from Astoria to Corona.

It all started with a post by Sergio Peçanha to a Jackson Heights neighborhood forum about two weeks ago. With Travers Park and the adjacent 78th Street play street set for reconstruction soon, Peçanha wanted to bicycle with his kids to other parks instead.

He found there weren’t many options nearby. In fact, advocacy group New Yorkers for Parks says Jackson Heights fails to meet virtually every metric the city sets for park access [PDF]. So Peçanha turned to his neighbors on the forum. “If we had bike paths connecting our neighborhood to parks in Northern Queens,” he wrote, “it could be a huge improvement for the neighborhood.”

Soon, other local residents joined and began calling their campaign the Queens Bike Initiative. “We’ve been doing everything through email. We’re excited to get on the ground,” said Alexia Tate, a Jackson Heights mom who began bicycling a year ago and teaches music classes throughout Queens. She heard about the effort through a parents’ forum.

“It’s growing by the minute,” said James McIntyre, a bike commuter who is moving to Jackson Heights from Brooklyn and works in affordable housing financing. “We want to make it as inclusive as possible.”

The advocates would like to see new greenways and protected bike lanes running as far west as the waterfront in Astoria and Long Island City and as far east as Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The paths could connect residents in Steinway, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and other neighborhoods to nearby parks and provide a safe way to make trips that take a long time by subway or bus.

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Car Dealers Turn Northern Boulevard’s Sidewalks Into Vehicle Showrooms

Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

As a matter of practice, car dealerships along Northern Boulevard, one of the most dangerous streets in Queens, illegally use its sidewalks and curb lanes as a showroom for vehicles. NYPD doesn’t enforce against the appropriation of sidewalks and won’t answer questions about it.

Streetfilms’ Clarence Eckerson recently walked down Northern Boulevard in Jackson Heights and found cars for sale blocking the pedestrian right of way, including the very crosswalk where a turning truck driver killed 8-year-old Noshat Nahian in 2013.

Nahian was walking to PS 152, the school where, later on, Mayor Bill de Blasio chose to first announce his Vision Zero initiative and signed a package of street safety legislation. While the city installed pedestrian islands and banned turns after Nahian was killed, it hasn’t managed to keep the sidewalks and crosswalks clear of cars for sale.

The crosswalk where 8-year-old Noshat Nahian was killed is blocked by a car dealership using it as a display space for its latest models. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

A car dealership displays one of its latest models in the crosswalk where 8-year-old Noshat Nahian was killed. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

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Diversity Plaza Wishes You a Happy Valentine’s Day

In preparation for Valentine’s Day, the Neighborhood Plaza Partnership set up a camera in Jackson Heights’ Diversity Plaza to learn how to say “I love you” in some of the 138 languages spoken in Queens.

Diversity Plaza lives up to its name.  In the video you’ll hear Farsi, Bangla, Hungarian, Italian, Urdu, Basaa, and Tibetan.

Located in the heart of a busy Jackson Heights retail district just one block from a major bus and subway hub, the plaza has been adopted by local business owners, including some who opposed it at first. In the last two years it has hosted an Eid-ul-Fitr celebration during Ramadan and even an outdoor meeting of Community Board 3.

The Neighborhood Plaza Partnership provides technical and financial assistance to organizations that maintain plazas in low-income communities.

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Eyes on the Street: Safer Streets Come to Jackson Heights

New curb extensions are popping up on 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

New curb extensions are popping up on 35th Avenue in Jackson Heights. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

In June, Queens Community Board 3 overwhelmingly supported two traffic safety projects: a neighborhood Slow Zone for part of Jackson Heights and new pedestrian islands on Northern Boulevard. Now those improvements plus multiple Safe Routes to School projects are being installed. Clarence Eckerson Jr. snapped some photos earlier this week as DOT crews poured concrete and installed new signs and speed humps.

The Slow Zone covers the area between 34th and Roosevelt Avenues, with the eastern boundary at 87th Street and the western boundary along Broadway and the Brooklyn Queens Expressway [PDF]. It is bringing 20 mph speed limits and 26 new speed humps to the area, which contains six schools, two daycare and pre-K facilities, and one senior center. Slow Zones are popular with CB 3, where they have already been installed in Corona and Jackson Heights/East Elmhurst.

On Northern Boulevard, crews are installing nine new pedestrian refuge islands at key intersections along 40 blocks between 63rd and 103rd Streets [PDF]. At its June meeting, CB 3 asked DOT to extend the project east to 114th Street with more pedestrian islands. Pedestrian islands have already been installed at 63rd Street, where 8-year-old Noshat Nahian was killed on his way to school last December.

DOT has installed pedestrian islands on Northern Boulevard, including here at 89th Street. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

DOT has installed pedestrian islands on Northern Boulevard, including at 89th Street. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

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In Jackson Heights, Kids Learn About Bike Safety and Document Speeding

On Saturday, Make Queens Safer kicked off the school year with a safe streets fair at Travers Park in Jackson Heights, next to the 78th Street play street. DOT distributed 723 bike helmets, more than half of them to children, and 70 kids swapped out their old bikes for right-sized models provided by Recycle-A-Bicycle. Hundreds of kids also participated in learn-to-ride classes from Bike New York and had their bicycles repaired by the Bike Yard.

At the event, Make Queens Safer hosted a “kid engineers” traffic study, where local students used speed guns on traffic along 34th Avenue. The students documented speeding, red light running, and near-collisions. They found that up to 17 percent of drivers were speeding, with a maximum observed speed of 41 mph.

Council Member Daniel Dromm was one of the adults supervising the kids performing the study. “I applaud Make Queens Safer for putting together this important event,” he said in a statement. “Providing the tools and knowledge on how to safely navigate the streets of our neighborhoods can help reduce accidents and improve the quality of life for all members of our community.”

Can’t get enough bike events for kids? Join Kidical Mass for its September ride along five miles of the Brooklyn waterfront, starting at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday. An RSVP on Facebook is requested.

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Eyes on the Street: A New Sidewalk and a Safer Crossing in Woodside

Before and after: 37th Avenue at 69th Street, looking east. Photos: Angus Grieve-Smith

Before and after: 37th Ave. at 69th St. in Woodside, looking east toward Jackson Heights. Photos: Angus Grieve-Smith

A simple fix from DOT has made it easier and safer for pedestrians to walk between Woodside and Jackson Heights.

Angus Grieve-Smith posted the above photo on Facebook of 37th Avenue at 69th Street, near Broadway and the BQE, where DOT has added new sidewalk space on the south side of the avenue [PDF].

In the past, pedestrians had to cross to the north side of 37th Avenue in order to make their way between 69th Street and Broadway. To avoid those extra crossings, dozens of people walked in the 37th Avenue roadbed every day.

By removing a pedestrian fence and adding concrete, paint, and barriers, and installing a crosswalk across a BQE service road, DOT created a direct route for pedestrians, shortening the walking distance by 100 feet. More important, people no longer have to negotiate the four crosswalks between the south and north sides of 37th Avenue.

Image: DOT

Image: DOT

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Off-Duty NYPD Officer Seriously Injures Child in Jackson Heights Crosswalk

The crosswalk where Chunli Mendoza, age 5, and her mother were injured by an off-duty NYPD officer on Tuesday. Photo: Stephen Miller

The crosswalk where Chunli Mendoza, age 5, and her mother were injured by an off-duty NYPD officer on Tuesday. Photo: Stephen Miller

Just after 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, 5-year-old Chunli Mendoza was walking to P.S. 228 with her mother. They were midway across Northern Boulevard at 92nd Street, just a block away from the school, when they were struck by an off-duty NYPD officer. Chunli was seriously injured and remains at Elmhurst Hospital after undergoing surgery on her leg. Her mother, hospitalized for a foot fracture, was released on Thursday.

NYPD says the mother and daughter were struck by an off-duty officer driving a white pickup truck. The driver has not been charged and no summonses were issued. “We hope the girl makes a full recovery,” an anonymous police official told DNAinfo. “Unfortunately it was a tragic traffic accident.”

Witnesses offered their version of events to reporters yesterday at a rally held by Make Queens Safer at the intersection.

Maria Jose Penaherrera, 37, has a daughter in the first grade at PS 228. She was driving to school that morning and was three cars back from the intersection when the crash occurred. While she did not see a white pickup truck, she does remember a black sedan making a U-turn in the intersection before traffic inched forward and she could see a girl down in the street.

“I knew it was a girl from PS 228 because of the uniform,” she said.

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