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Posts from the Queens Category


Queens Community Board Chairs Care About Parking More Than Housing

Give it up for Queens community board chairs. Thanks to a vote last night, we now have a crystal clear expression of their priorities. Nothing is more important than parking.

In a city without enough housing to go around, where rising rents are squeezing people in more neighborhoods every year, the community board chairs have taken a bold stand: Parking must come first, before all of this affordable housing nonsense.

City Hall’s big affordable housing plan, which broadly speaking lets developers build more housing while compelling them to set aside some units for people earning below a certain threshold, got a vote from the Queens Borough Board on Monday. (The borough board is composed of the chairs of all the borough’s community boards.) The plan went down in a 12-2 vote, which thankfully is only advisory in nature.

One piece of the plan is the reduction of mandatory parking minimums for subsidized housing near transit. This is the provision that the community board chairs could not stomach, reports Politico’s Sally Goldenberg:

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Richard Brown: Probation for Accused Unlicensed Hit-and-Run Killer

A driver charged with felony hit-and-run and unlicensed driving got probation and a few days of community service for a crash that killed a pedestrian, as a result of a plea deal with Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.


Queens DA Richard Brown

On the evening of February 22, the unidentified victim was crossing at 76th Street and Woodside Avenue, in a crosswalk and with the right of way, when Valentine Gonzalez hit her with a box truck while turning left. NYPD told Gothamist and WPIX Gonzalez fled the scene and was apprehended a short distance away.

According to court records, the top charge against Gonzalez was leaving the scene of an accident resulting in injury, a class D felony with penalties ranging from probation to seven years in jail. He was also charged with operating a motor vehicle while unlicensed, operating an unregistered vehicle, and a violation of code Section 19-190 — the Right of Way Law — which is an unclassified misdemeanor.

In September Brown allowed Gonzalez to plead guilty to the Right of Way Law charge. The law carries a fine of up to $250 and a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail. Court records indicate Gonzalez was jailed for four months after his arrest.

Earlier this month Gonzalez was sentenced to three years probation and five days of community service, according to court records. Gonzalez was also fined $88. There is no indication that the court took action against Gonzalez’s driving privileges.

Richard Brown, whose leniency toward drivers who kill and injure people is well-documented, was recently elected to another term after running unopposed.


Residents: Protected Bike Lanes a Must for Queens Boulevard Phase 2

Dozens of Queens residents packed into a room at an Elmhurst school Thursday night to brainstorm a design for the second phase of Queens Boulevard’s transformation from a high-speed roadway to a safer street.

By the end of the meeting, there was a resounding call for protected bike lanes and a beautification project that would indicate to drivers that Queens Boulevard is a local road, not a highway. Residents should expect concrete changes as early as 2016.

The city began construction on the first phase of the project, between Roosevelt Avenue and 73rd Street, last summer. Phase one included protected bike lanes, more pedestrian space, and other design changes to reduce speeds on the boulevard, where 185 people have lost their lives since 1990. Now DOT is soliciting input for improvements to be implemented between Eliot Avenue and 74th Street.

“We do not have a plan yet but we want to continue progress and we want everyone to help us with their suggestions,” said Nichole Altmix, DOT deputy director of research and safety.

Two main problem areas identified by residents last night were the Queens Center Mall, which attracts high volumes of car and pedestrian traffic, and the exit and entrance ramps for the Long Island Expressway. Adding to the chaos, Woodhaven Boulevard intersects with Queens Boulevard along the expressway ramps.

“You see the ramps with all this other stuff going on and think you’re going to die,” said Bob Moleti, who commutes by bike into Manhattan for work. “While biking on Queens Boulevard you have to haul ass and really try and match the speed of cars because that’s safer. But in the morning you just can’t go that fast. They’re really flying.”

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NYPD Precinct Where Driver Killed Ally Liao Announces Walking Crackdown

Council Member Peter Koo, Congress Member Grace Meng, Deputy Inspector Thomas Conforti, Assembly Member Mike “Don’t Call Me” Simanowitz, and Assembly Member Ron Kim

Council Member Peter Koo, Representative Grace Meng, Deputy Inspector Thomas Conforti, Assembly Member Mike “Don’t Call Me” Simanowitz, and Assembly Member Ron Kim want to ticket people for walking in a precinct where traffic enforcement is lax and law-breaking drivers keep killing.

An NYPD precinct in Queens where law-breaking drivers have killed several people this year has announced a crackdown on walking.

On Monday, Deputy Inspector Thomas Conforti, commanding officer of the 109th Precinct, stood with Assembly Member Mike Simanowitz, Assembly Member Ron Kim, U.S. Representative Grace Meng, and City Council Member Peter Koo to tout a “plan to increase ticketing against pedestrians who jaywalk,” DNAinfo reported. The precinct’s campaign is “supported by local politicians who say pedestrians who violate the rules of the road endanger themselves and others,” wrote reporter Katie Honan.

The 109th Precinct is where a motorist hit 3-year-old Allison Liao and her grandmother as the two walked hand in hand in a Main Street crosswalk, killing Allison. The driver assumed full responsibility for the crash.

The precinct will spend a couple of weeks instructing people on how to walk, then ramp up enforcement against those who do it incorrectly.

“Elected officials are going to start getting phone calls when people start getting summonses, I know it,” said Simanowitz. “Don’t call me. I’m not going to agree with you. If you’re crossing in the middle of the street, you’re wrong, you’re endangering yourself, you’re endangering others, you’re endangering drivers.”

“Cross at the green, not in-between, and hopefully we will be able to reduce the number of traffic fatalities,” Simanowitz said. Whatever that means.

Motorists have killed five people walking in the 109th Precinct in 2015. Of those victims, three were killed by hit-and-run drivers and one was in a crosswalk crossing with the signal. According to DNAinfo, Monday’s announcement was prompted by the death of 84-year-old Agalia Gounaris. Gounaris was fatally struck on Main Street at Kissena Boulevard on November 5 by the driver of a casino bus, who police later tracked down in Connecticut. Witnesses said multiple people ran over Gounaris as the octogenarian laid in the street.

Police and elected officials blamed Gounaris for “walking mid-block.” But if Gounaris wasn’t crossing at the corner, it may have been because she felt it was unsafe.

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This Is 111th Street Right Before a World Series Game at Citi Field

Residents of Corona are still waiting for DOT to implement a road diet and two-way protected bike lane on wide and dangerous 111th Street by Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The city unveiled the plan this spring in response to a campaign from the Queens Museum, Immigrant Movement International, Make the Road New York, and Transportation Alternatives. Julissa Ferreras, the local City Council member, is a big supporter of the project, but when Assembly Member Francisco Moya came out against it, DOT curled into a ball. The street remains a speedway.

Moya’s opposition rests entirely on his contention that 111th Street needs to be designed like a highway all year long so it can handle peak Mets traffic when the team plays at Citi Field. Here’s how he put it in June:

111th Street is a high traffic road, which suffers from massive spikes in congestion during the numerous cultural and sporting events in the surrounding area, including Mets games and USTA tournaments. There is little doubt that DOT’s proposal to reduce car traffic to one lane will result in slowed traffic and increased congestion, but I am also deeply concerned with the possibility of an increase in accidents and air pollution for the immediately surrounding area.

A DOT traffic study found that Citi Field and U.S. Open traffic doesn’t affect this part of 111th Street much at all, but in a classic delay tactic, Moya’s chief of staff insisted on a “study over the whole peak summer.”

Well, it was October, not summer, but volunteers with TA and Make Queens Safer went out and got video of 111th Street during the peak of the sports traffic peak, the biggest event in the history of Citi Field — the World Series. They recorded these videos in the lead-up to games three and four, which both started at 8:05 p.m., with the stadium filling up well before the first pitch.

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Joe Addabbo Tells Voters to Fight Bus Lanes on Street Where He Drives Daily

The overhaul of Woodhaven Boulevard in southeast Queens promises to make buses faster and more reliable while preventing injuries and deaths on one of the most dangerous streets in the city. Naturally, State Senator Joseph Addabbo is mobilizing constituents to oppose the project and keep Woodhaven the way it is.

Joe Addabbo, Jr.

Addabbo has been agitating against the project most of the year, writing in the Queens Chronicle this April that “[r]ush-hour traffic would suffer significantly and, as someone who sits on that roadway every day during those times, I shudder to think it could get worse.”

In an email to constituents yesterday, Addabbo rattled off the typical litany of horrors you hear any time the city proposes repurposing street space from cars to other modes of travel: intolerable congestion, traffic diverted to other streets, plummeting sales for local business, and, somehow, even more danger for people on foot.

Woodhaven Boulevard and Cross Bay Boulevard have such a high rate of traffic injuries and fatalities because the current design is geared only toward moving as many cars as possible. On some stretches, the street is wider than 150 feet. As a result, speeding is rampant and people get hurt on a daily basis. From July 2012 to December 2014, eight people were killed in crashes along the proposed BRT route, and 1,432 were injured, according to city stats compiled by Transportation Alternatives.

The Woodhaven BRT design concept calls for pedestrian islands to shorten crossing distances. The reduction in general traffic lanes and left turns to make room for dedicated bus lanes, spun as a negative by Addabbo, is expected to yield substantial safety benefits, as fewer drivers weave dangerously across lanes and try to shoot through gaps in oncoming traffic to turn left.

For the 30,000 passengers who ride the bus on Woodhaven and Cross Bay daily, trips are projected to get 25 to 35 percent faster, according to DOT and the MTA. Prior experience with SBS projects suggests this will be good for local businesses. On Fordham Road in the Bronx, bus ridership increased 10 percent and retail sales shot up 71 percent after the implementation of SBS.

In opposing the Woodhaven project, Addabbo is bucking the political consensus on the City Council. Earlier this year, seven council members called on DOT and the MTA to consider “full-featured BRT” on Woodhaven and Cross Bay. Among the signatories was Eric Ulrich, who holds the council seat that Addabbo vacated.

DOT and the MTA have been hosting workshops about the project since last year and will be launching a fresh round of public meetings this fall. Construction is currently scheduled to begin in 2017.

Here’s the full message from Addabbo’s office telling his constituents to oppose the project:

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Civil Suit Compels Man Who Killed Ally Liao to Stop Driving for 5 Years

The corner where Allison Liao was killed was named in her honor. Photo: Families for Safe Streets

The corner where a driver failed to yield and killed Allison Liao was named for her. Photo: Families for Safe Streets

A bereaved family has done what NYPD, city district attorneys, and the New York State DMV usually fail to do: impose meaningful sanctions against a reckless driver, who in this case took the life of 3-year-old Allison Liao.

Ahmad Abu-Zayedeh failed to yield the right of way when he struck Allison as she walked hand in hand with her grandmother across Main Street in Flushing on October 6, 2013. The DMV found Abu-Zayedeh at fault for the crash, but revoked his license for just 30 days.

Allison Liao

Allison Liao

NYPD summonsed Abu-Zayedeh for failure to yield and careless driving, but filed no criminal charges. The DMV later threw out the tickets. The chief vehicular crimes prosecutor for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, Charles A. Testagrossa, wrote off the crash as a blameless “accident,” and said Abu-Zayedeh was proceeding with a green light. In stories that are still online in their original form, the press falsely reported that Allison “broke free” from her grandmother, implying the victims were at fault.

As is common when drivers injure and kill people in NYC, civil court was the victims’ only available venue to hold the motorist accountable. This month, Allison’s parents, Amy Tam and Hsi-Pei Liao, settled a suit with Abu-Zayedeh. Under the terms of the settlement, Abu-Zayedeh surrendered 75 percent of his net worth, acknowledged complete responsibility for the crash, and signed a notarized agreement to not drive or apply for a license for five years [PDF].

Attorney Steve Vaccaro, who represented the Liaos, told Streetsblog that extended loss of driving privileges and fines that are calculated as a percentage of the driver’s assets are the norm in other countries. “What we’ve attempted to do in this settlement is to bring that much more serious approach toward accountability for reckless driving to the United States in the context of this civil suit,” Vaccaro said.

“It reflects a comprehensive approach toward justice that victims’ families increasingly are taking in these types of cases, and has the potential to change the way drivers regard the risks of reckless driving,” said Vaccaro, who noted that an insurance settlement is the standard civil penalty for a serious crash. “If there are risks like having to make a public apology, having to forgo driving for years, and now with the Right of Way Law, which very much was passed in the wake of and because of Ally Liao’s death, criminal penalties, perhaps drivers will start to get the message about their awesome responsibility to drive safely.”

As members of Families for Safe Streets, Amy Tam and Hsi-Pei Liao have worked with other victims to draw attention to New York City’s reckless driving epidemic, and to advocate for legislative reforms intended to make streets safer.

“It’s been an honor to represent the Liao family,” Vaccaro said. “They should be regarded as heroes by all parents and all New Yorkers for their sacrifice and stance against traffic violence. This settlement, which I consider unprecedented, is due to their perseverance and willingness to make a comprehensive notion of justice their overriding goal.”


Trucker Who Killed Cyclist Anna Rodriguez Charged With Manslaughter

The truck driver who killed a cyclist in Queens yesterday was charged with homicide after he tested positive for cocaine.

Image: WNBC

Image: WNBC

NYPD said Dennis Forceri, 57, drove a tractor-trailer into 34-year-old Anna Rodriguez while making a right turn at 56th Road and 48th Street at around 8:45 a.m. Rodriguez suffered trauma to her head and body and died at Elmhurst Hospital.

WCBS reported that Rodriguez lived in Ridgewood and was a single mother with a young son.

A motorist, Eddie Ewald, told WCBS the area where the crash occurred, in a warehouse district, is “extremely chaotic” during morning hours. “Everybody’s speeding through here,” Ewald said.

“The car is not really paying attention to you, making turns when you’re right next to them, pulling into parking spots,” said cyclist Daniel Salvatierra. “It’s terrifying.”

DOT’s Vision Zero data map shows crashes are common on 56th Road, with many injuries to motor vehicle occupants, a sign of high-speed collisions.

Police initially said Forceri was charged with driving with a revoked license. He was later charged with first degree vehicular manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, driving under the influence of drugs, aggravated unlicensed operation, failure to yield, and careless driving, according to Gothamist and AMNY. Forceri’s case did not turn up in a search of online court records early this afternoon.

NYPD has not yet released the name of the company that owns the truck Forceri was driving. Serious crashes caused by unlicensed or impaired commercial drivers are not unusual in NYC. There should be sanctions for companies that allow such drivers behind the wheel.

This morning Public Advocate Letitia James issued a statement on the most recent series of pedestrian and cyclist deaths at the hands of reckless drivers:

Over the past eleven days, five pedestrians and one cyclist were killed by motor vehicles in New York City. We must continue to work together to achieve Vision Zero, which requires good street design, education, and enforcement. Too many innocent New Yorkers are dying on our City’s streets and sidewalks, and we have a moral and civil responsibility to use every tool in our arsenal to make our City safer.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown is known for pleading down cases against drivers who kill people, rather than taking them to trial, even when defendants are accused of committing high-level felonies like aggravated vehicular homicide and manslaughter. Streetsblog will follow the case against Forceri as it progresses.


Allegedly Unlicensed Truck Driver Kills Cyclist in Sunnyside

Image: WNBC

Image: WNBC

An allegedly unlicensed tractor-trailer driver killed a cyclist in Queens this morning.

The victim, a 34-year-old woman, was riding west on 56th Road in Sunnyside when the driver hit her while turning right onto 48th Street, according to NYPD and Gothamist. The crash happened at around 8:45. NYPD had not released the victim’s identity as of this afternoon pending family notification.

Police charged the truck driver with driving with a revoked license, an NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog. The department withheld the driver’s name.

The Post reported that the victim died at Elmhurst Hospital.

56th Road at 48th Street. Image: Google Maps

56th Road at 48th Street. Image: Google Maps

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No Charges or Tickets for Driver Who Ran Red, Killed Woman on Sidewalk

A driver ran a red light yesterday evening, crashing her SUV into another car, mounting the sidewalk and striking three people at a bus stop in Richmond Hill, Queens. Meena Mahabir, 52, was killed. Her 2-year-old niece was critically injured, and the toddler’s mother was also hospitalized. The driver does not face any charges and has not received any traffic tickets after the crash, NYPD said this afternoon.

This driver, being aided by EMTs, does not face any charges or traffic tickets after running a red and killing a woman on the sidewalk. Image: WCBS

NYPD has not issued so much as a traffic ticket to the woman who ran a red and killed a woman on a Queens sidewalk yesterday. Image: WCBS

Just before 6 p.m. yesterday, police say, the unidentified 43-year-old driver ran a red light at 108th Street while driving west on Atlantic Avenue in her white Mitsubishi SUV. In the intersection, she collided with a northbound Kia driven by a 23-year-old woman. Then the Mitsubishi driver crashed into three people at a bus stop.

Mahabir was pronounced dead at Jamaica Hospital. She was at the bus stop with her two-year-old niece, who was critically injured, and the girl’s mother, 48, who is in stable condition. Both drivers were also taken to Jamaica Hospital in stable condition.

Mahabir lived a block away from where she was killed, according to police. Witnesses say she tried to save her niece by throwing her out of harm’s way. “She screamed,” witness Miriam Sierra told WABC. “Saved the baby’s life, yeah she really did.”

“The older woman had tire marks, a lot of cuts and marks,” witness Norman Alsaivi told WNBC.

A police sergeant and officer happened to be at the scene when the crash occurred, WABC said, and police are now looking at surveillance video from nearby businesses. NYPD says the investigation is ongoing.

WABC closed its report from the scene with a shot of one of the intersection’s traffic signals, located in the median. “You can see that it’s sort of off-kilter. It’s somewhat at a diagonal,” ABC’s Josh Einiger says in the segment. “The driver told investigators that she did not see the red light and DOT [is] right now looking into whether that light may have played a role. She also said she was looking into sun glare from the setting sun.”

Other drivers had no trouble seeing the intersection’s multiple red signals. “I was at the red light for two seconds and [the car] passed me so it was definitely a red light,” witness Norman Alsaidi told WABC.

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