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Posts from the "Jamaica" Category

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Fixes Set for Dangerous Jamaica Hills Intersection

A rendering shows expanded pedestrian space on Homelawn and 169th Streets at Hillside Avenue Image: DOT

A rendering shows expanded pedestrian space on Homelawn and 169th Streets at Hillside Avenue. Image: DOT

The intersections surrounding Hillside Avenue, Homelawn Street, and 169th Street in Jamaica Hills are on track for pedestrian safety upgrades this spring after NYC DOT’s plan [PDF] received the support of Queens Community Board 8 last week.

With entrances to the F train on all four corners and bus stops served by 17 routes, the busy commercial area is a magnet for people on foot. But Hillside and Homelawn is also one of the most dangerous intersections in Queens, ranking among the worst one percent in terms of crash frequency. From 2007 to 2011, there were 47 motor vehicle driver and passenger injuries, 34 pedestrian injuries, and two bicyclist injuries at this intersection and the four adjacent ones, according to DOT. A 19-year-old pedestrian was killed in May 2010 at Cedarcroft Road and Homelawn Street, according to data compiled by the Tri-State Transportation campaign.

hillside

Current conditions at the intersection of Hillside, 169th Street, and Homelawn. Image: Google Maps

DOT’s plan adds a concrete pedestrian island and striped crosswalk at Cedarcroft and Homelawn, and will also add concrete pedestrian islands to the existing painted median on Hillside at 169th Place and 170th Street. Crosswalks on Hillside Avenue will be upgraded to high-visibility “zebra” markings. Excess pavement where Homelawn and 169th Street meet Hillside will be converted to curb extensions and an expanded pedestrian triangle, which will now extend to form a median refuge on the north side of Hillside.

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Hit-and-Run Driver Not Charged in Death of Queens Pedestrian Mosa Khatun

A hit-and-run driver who fatally struck a woman in Jamaica last night will not be charged with a crime, according to NYPD.

Police say the driver who killed Mosa Khatun returned after leaving the scene, but did not know she had hit someone. No charges were filed. Photo: Daily News

NYPD says the driver who killed Mosa Khatun returned after leaving the scene, but did not know she had hit someone. No charges were filed. Photo: Daily News

Mosa Khatun, 38, was struck by the driver of a Nissan SUV at the corner of Highland Avenue and 169th Street at around 10:20 p.m., according to NYPD and the Daily News:

Emergency responders rushed to the scene and found the woman on the pavement with traumatic injuries to her body, officials said.

She was taken to Queens General Hospital in critical condition, but died there a short time later, officials said.

The News reported that the driver left the scene and “returned about an hour later to talk with police.” An NYPD spokesperson confirmed this account, and said the motorist, whose name is being withheld by the department, ”Wasn’t aware she’d hit someone.”

It is not clear why the driver returned to the crash site if she did not know a crash occurred. Nevertheless, while NYPD issued summonses for careless driving and failure to yield to a pedestrian, police filed no charges for leaving the scene. As of this morning, approximately 12 hours after Mosa Khatun was killed, NYPD had concluded its investigation.

Leaving the scene of an injury crash is a class D felony in New York State, punishable by up to seven years in jail. Yet drivers in New York City routinely escape penalty simply by claiming they “didn’t see” their deceased victims. As in this case, rather than allowing the justice system to determine innocence or guilt, police and prosecutors often decline to pursue charges.

According to Transportation Alternatives, of some 300 investigations conducted by the NYPD Collision Investigation Squad in 2012, around 60 involved hit-and-run drivers, and just 15 of those investigations resulted in arrest. In December the City Council passed legislation requiring NYPD to post quarterly reports on hit-and-run crashes that result in “critical” injury.

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No Charges Filed for Pedestrian Deaths in Jamaica and East New York

NYPD says the department doesn't know who had the right of way when Sheila Rivera was fatally struck by a driver on Pennsylvania Avenue at Glenmore Avenue in East New York. Image: Google Maps

Editor’s note: As we were finishing up this story, Gothamist reported that a 36-year-old cyclist was killed this morning in Claremont, and that another cyclist struck by a truck driver in Downtown Brooklyn earlier this month has died from his injuries. We will have more on these fatalities in a future post.

Two pedestrians were killed by motorists in Brooklyn and Queens Monday. No charges were filed by NYPD in either case, and as usual, other than a routine bit of victim-blaming, details on these deadly acts of vehicular violence are scarce.

At approximately 7:20 p.m., 50-year-old Sheila Rivera was hit by the driver of a Honda SUV as she crossed Pennsylvania Avenue at Glenmore Avenue in East New York, according to Gothamist and the Daily News. Gothamist reported that Rivera lived seven blocks from the scene. She died at Brookdale Hospital.

The driver was reportedly traveling north on Pennsylvania Avenue at the time of the crash. It is not known how fast the driver was going, or who had the right of way. The NYPD public information office had no specifics on how the crash occurred. No summonses were issued and no charges were filed.

Sheila Rivera was killed in the 75th Precinct, and in the City Council district represented by Erik Martin Dilan.

At approximately 7:50 p.m., a man reported to be in his 40s was struck by the driver of a Honda SUV on Jamaica Avenue near 180th Street. Police told Gothamist and the Daily News that the victim was crossing mid-block. He was pronounced dead at Jamaica Hospital. As of this morning his name had not been released by police. NYPD said no summonses were issued and no charges were filed.

This unidentified pedestrian victim was killed in the 103rd Precinct, and in the council district represented by Leroy Comrie.

Note that despite department policy that purportedly prohibits the release of information on traffic crashes, NYPD again offered details that point to the culpability of one of the dead victims, and nothing more. While police readily leak to the media that a pedestrian was struck by a motorist outside a crosswalk, driver speed is virtually never disclosed. If the pedestrian was struck while walking in a crosswalk, information on right of way is nearly impossible to extract.

A 2012 study by Transportation Alternatives found that 60 percent of fatal New York City pedestrian and cyclist crashes with known causes were the result of motorists breaking traffic laws. A 2010 DOT pedestrian safety report revealed that for serious crashes to which contributing factors were assigned, only 21.5 percent placed primary responsibility on “pedestrian error/confusion,” with the vast majority caused by driver inattention, failure to yield, and excessive speed.

Regardless of data showing that most pedestrians and cyclists struck by motorists were following traffic laws, those who read and watch daily coverage of NYC traffic crashes are left with the impression that most incidents are either blameless acts of nature or are precipitated by irresponsible behavior on the part of the injured or deceased victim.

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Five Killed in Four Days: Holiday Season Marked by Pedestrian Deaths

Maria Beria, Aileen Martinez, Sheena Mathew, Ronald Sinvil, Miguel Torres

In separate crashes in Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx, city motorists killed five pedestrians between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Four of the crashes, which took the lives of a child and three young mothers, were hit-and-runs.

At approximately 8:45 a.m. on December 28, 11-year-old Miguel Torres of Jackson Heights was crossing at Northern Boulevard and 80th Street, in the crosswalk and with the light, when he was hit by the driver of a dump truck.

Miguel was on his way to participate in a school field trip to Grand Central Terminal when he was killed. Olga Gonzalez, who witnessed the aftermath of the crash, told the Post: “It was so bad, when the ambulance guy came, he was crying … The car hit [Miguel] so hard his shoes came off. I just saw a little kid in the middle of the street, and I just started crying.”

The driver, who did not stop, was later located by police. To the dismay of Miguel’s grieving family, no criminal charges were filed. From DNAinfo:

“They’re just giving him summonses,” [Miguel's aunt Yolanda] Ardezzone said. “I think he should get more than summonses — jail time, so this won’t happen to another child.”

A spokeswoman for the NYPD said that although the police originally stated the child was involved in a hit-and-run, police were actually able to track down the driver at the scene.

“It appeared the driver was unaware they struck someone,” said the spokeswoman. No criminal charges had been filed by Sunday, but she said the case was still under investigation.

In New York State, a driver must know or have reason to know that he or she has caused injury in order to be charged for leaving the scene of a fatal crash. Even when police and prosecutors muster the will to bring charges — no sure thing by any means — an admission that the motorist “didn’t see” the victim serves as a reliable defense. From the Daily News:

A few hours after the incident, police found the driver of the 1988 truck in Park Slope, Brooklyn. He told police he didn’t know he had hit someone, tested negative for alcohol and had a valid driver’s license. Police said no criminal charges will be filed.

No charges, though according to the same Daily News story: “A police source said the truck’s rear wheels struck the boy, though a second source said the boy may have first been struck from the front end of the truck.”

If Queens District Attorney Richard Brown does indeed pursue a criminal case against Miguel Torres’s killer, it is a virtual lock that leaving the scene would be the top charge. Minus evidence of intoxication, a city motorist who kills a pedestrian or cyclist is practically guaranteed to escape charges for taking a life.

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Queens Pedestrian Maleka Begum, 54, Killed by Bus Driver Making a Turn

A 54-year-old woman was killed by a bus driver in Jamaica Saturday night.

Maleka Begum was crossing the street at Hillside Avenue and Merrick Boulevard at around 8 p.m. when she was struck by the driver of a Nassau Inter-County Express bus, according to the Daily News.

Maleka Begum. Photo via Daily News

“She was crossing with my sister and the bus just hit her and drove through her body,” said the victim’s tearful son, Motiur Chowdhury, 31. “He shouldn’t drive the bus. He shouldn’t drive at all.”

Police have ruled out criminality on the part of the bus driver, a 52-year-old man, who was turning off Hillside onto Merrick when he hit Begum. Cops were investigating the accident Saturday night.

Witness Mohammed Sarwar, 51, of Rockaway Beach, said Begum had the walk signal and the accident was “100 percent the bus’s fault.”

The driver would have been making a left turn from Hillside onto Merrick, according to a NICE route map. If the driver had a green light and Begum had a walk signal, as the witness indicated, the bus driver killed Begum while violating at least one traffic law. Yet NYPD “ruled out criminality” within hours.

NICE is operated by Veolia Transportation, which replaced Long Island Bus after Nassau County execs decided they didn’t want to pay for MTA bus service. With Veolia routes extending into the city, this crash raises the question of whether the private company’s drivers are as safe mile-per-mile as MTA drivers.

Begum was at least the second city pedestrian this month to be killed by a motorist making a turn. On October 3, Staten Island senior Margaret King, walking in a crosswalk in broad daylight, was fatally struck by a driver who was turning left from a fast food parking lot. As we wrote last week, such deaths are commonplace. But among city pols, notably council transportation chair James Vacca and speaker Christine Quinn, the mounting human toll has yet to arouse a sense of urgency comparable to that elicited by, say, sidewalk bicycling, which normally results in zero fatalities per year.

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DOT Proposes Five Ped Refuges For Hillside Avenue in Queens

One of the most dangerous streets in Queens is slated for a safety upgrade, with the Department of Transportation proposing five new pedestrian refuge islands along Hillside Avenue [PDF]. The intervention is a relatively modest one, however, with no narrowing of the roadway and fewer pedestrian refuges than a previous proposal for the corridor.

Hillside Avenue at 197th Street in Queens. DOT has proposed replacing the painted median with a solid pedestrian refuge. Image: NYC DOT

Hillside Avenue badly needs the safety improvements. On the 1.5 mile stretch between 172nd and 199th streets, an average of 84 people have been injured in traffic crashes every year, putting Hillside in the top five percent of most dangerous roads in Queens, according to DOT.

Image: NYC DOT

The five pedestrian islands, proposed for the intersections of 172nd, 175th, 187th, 197th, and 199th Streets, should make it easier for pedestrians to safely make it across the wide street. Hillside has two traffic lanes in each direction. During rush hour, the parking lane in the peak direction is converted into a moving lane as well.

While the upgrade will make walking safer — DOT projects as much as a 46 percent reduction in pedestrian crashes — the impact of these islands may be smaller than in other locations. At each of the proposed locations, Hillside already has a striped median where the refuge island would be installed. The islands won’t narrow the roadway.

Hillside Avenue was previously targeted for safety improvements under DOT’s Safe Streets for Seniors program. In January 2010, DOT presented Queens CB 8 with a proposal to install eight pedestrian refuges at an overlapping but not identical set of intersections. Those refuges were not built, according to a DOT spokesperson, though a leading pedestrian interval was installed at two intersections under the Safe Streets for Seniors program. Seemingly, these five refuge islands are an alternate proposal to the larger number put forward two years ago.

Queens civic activist Pat Dolan, herself an advocate for improved transportation options for senior citizens, was killed by a driver while crossing Hillside at 198th Street last November.

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Leroy Comrie Weighs in on New Jamaica Bus Lanes

Jamaica rep Leroy Comrie. Photo: NY Observer

With thousands of bus riders per hour traveling each direction on Archer Avenue, DOT’s proposed bus improvements for Downtown Jamaica are some of the most important street redesigns on the table right now. But previous bus improvements in this part of Queens have been politically vulnerable — a proposed Select Bus Service route along Merrick Boulevard was scuttled after local merchants fought against it in 2007. So, for one perspective on the political prospects of the project, we checked in with Council Member Leroy Comrie, who represents Jamaica and hosted an open house on DOT’s proposal Tuesday night.

While Comrie told the Daily News that he’s not pleased with the part of the proposal that calls for converting segments of Jamaica Avenue to one-way traffic flow, in a phone call with Streetsblog he seemed willing to support the expanded bus lanes if merchant deliveries can be integrated into the plan.

The council member said that Tuesday’s open house was a success. The “free-flow discussion, more like a charrette” showed that DOT was open to suggestions, he said. Comrie himself has some recommendations for DOT, though so far he’s only made them informally. One question, he said, is “whether or not the bus lanes would be impacting during the non-rush hours that would prohibitively affect the businesses from getting deliveries.”

Comrie distinguished those concerns from the merchant fears of losing curbside parking that torpedoed the Merrick Boulevard SBS. On that route, he said, “most of the businesses, their prime time for customers was during the morning and evening rush.” Comrie is more concerned with off-peak delivery access as opposed to peak hour customer parking. Comrie said he hadn’t heard much from local businesses about the proposed bus lane changes yet.

Comrie also urged DOT to make sure that both public and private transit (dollar vans) were able to speedily access Jamaica. “What are we going to do to try and work the van traffic through and give them some dedicated space also, since they are here and people will use them?” he asked.

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DOT’s Jamaica Plan: Unclog Queens Transit Hub With 1.4 Miles of Bus Lanes

Plans call for doubling the mileage of bus lanes in Jamaica. Image: NYC DOT

We missed these when they were first released in late March, but DOT has come out with its preliminary recommendations for improving bus service in downtown Jamaica [PDF]. The plan calls for adding roughly a mile and a half of new bus lanes and beefing up an equal amount of existing lanes. It would also redesign two intersections and create new pedestrian space.

Anything that helps buses move quickly, smoothly and reliably through downtown Jamaica would be an enormous boon to Queens transit riders. Jamaica is both a subway hub and a job center unto itself, with 47 different bus routes running through the area. Archer Avenue carries more local buses than any other road in New York City, according to the DOT, with a staggering 180 buses per hour in each direction.

Along Archer, the existing bus lanes between 150th and 160th Streets will be visually strengthened, getting a coat of terra cotta paint and new signage. The eastbound lane will be extended on both ends, from Sutphin Avenue to Merrick Boulevard.

Similarly, along Jamaica Avenue the existing lanes (serving 90 buses per hour in each direction) will get the new paint and signage as well as expanded hours of operation and some new turn restrictions. The westbound lanes will be extended from Parsons Boulevard to Sutphin.

New dedicated lanes on Merrick Boulevard and 165th Street will help buses enter and exit the 165th Street bus terminal.

Currently, camera enforcement is not an option for these bus lanes, since the state law which enabled bus cams on Fordham Road and First and Second Avenues only applies to officially designated “Select Bus Service” corridors.

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