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DA Richard Brown: $500 Fine for Hit-and-Run Driver Who Injured Senior

Pursuant to a plea deal with Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, an allegedly unlicensed and impaired motorist who reportedly has a history of reckless driving arrests was sentenced to a small fine and probation for running over a senior and trying to flee the scene.

richardbrown

Queens DA Richard Brown

William Stafford “plowed his 2005 BMW into an 89-year-old man” at 25th Avenue and 44th Street in Astoria last October, the Daily News reported.

He stopped and tried to drive away, but horrified witnesses said they stopped him from speeding off.

The senior, known in the neighborhood as Benny, was bleeding from the ears.

Stafford was arrested two times before, once for driving on a suspended license in 2008 and once for drunk driving in 2009.

Brown charged Stafford with felony assault, felony leaving the scene, operating a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs, aggravated unlicensed operation, and other offenses. But in May, Brown dismissed the top charge — felony assault — and allowed Stafford to plead guilty to one count of misdemeanor leaving the scene.

Stafford could have gotten a year in jail. On Monday Judge Dorothy Chin Brandt sentenced him to a $500 fine and three years probation, plus $88 in court costs, according to court records.

Richard Brown, who has a horrendous record of failing to prosecute drivers who hurt and kill people, is currently running unopposed for another term. He has held the office of Queens DA since 1991.

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Construction Begins on First Phase of Transforming Queens Blvd

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg visit work crews on Queens Boulevard this morning. Photo: Stephen Miller

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg visit work crews on Queens Boulevard this morning. Photo: Stephen Miller

The redesign of Queens Boulevard, long one of New York’s most notorious death traps, is underway.

“Queens Boulevard is tragically legendary. We all became used to the phrase ‘the Boulevard of Death,’” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference this morning marking the start of construction. “That is a phrase we want to banish from the lexicon. So work has begun. Work has begun to remake Queens Boulevard into the Boulevard of Life.”

The first phase of the project includes protected bike lanes, median crosswalks, and expanded pedestrian space. Image: DOT [PDF]

The first phase includes protected bike lanes, median crosswalks, and more pedestrian space. Image: DOT [PDF]

The redesign [PDF], which builds upon changes made more than a decade ago, adds protected bike lanes, expands pedestrian space, and redesigns ramps to reduce speeds on the boulevard, which has claimed the lives of 185 New Yorkers since 1990. “The actions that are being taken to save lives here on Queens Boulevard should have been taken long ago,” de Blasio said. “We’re going to change the whole configuration of Queens Boulevard to make traffic move more slowly and more smoothly.”

Lizi Rahman’s son Asif was killed while bicycling home from work on Queens Boulevard in 2008. She was the first person to speak at today’s press conference. “After his death, when I visited the site, I was shocked to see that there was no bike lane on Queens Boulevard. And I couldn’t help thinking if there was a bike lane, my son would still be alive,” she said. In the years after Asif’s death, Lizi kept asking officials for a bike lane on Queens Boulevard. “There were times when I was discouraged,” she said. “I almost gave up.”

“A lot of times change doesn’t happen because there isn’t enough willingness to challenge the status quo, to challenge bureaucracies,” de Blasio said. “It’s unacceptable to have any street known as the Boulevard of Death.”

Read more…

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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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Ferreras: “My Focus Is to Make 111th Street One Hundred Percent Safe”

Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Council Member Julissa Ferreras, left, listens in during a workshop about a plan for 111th Street yesterday. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

A grassroots effort to improve safety on extra-wide 111th Street in Corona yielded a DOT plan for a road diet, better pedestrian crossings, and a protected bike lane this spring. Then two members of Queens Community Board 4 stymied the proposal, at least for the time being. To keep the project moving forward, Council Member Julissa Ferreras has organized two neighborhood town halls this month.

Nearly 50 people turned out yesterday afternoon for the first meeting at the New York Hall of Science. DOT gave a presentation before splitting participants into small groups to get feedback on the proposal [PDF] and hear concerns about safety on 111th Street, which widens to become a multi-lane divided road alongside Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

The heart of the plan is reducing the street to one motor vehicle lane in each direction and adding a curbside protected bike path next to the park. With fewer car lanes, speeding will be reduced and crossing the street to get to the park won’t be so challenging.

Most attendees were in favor of the change. “It’s going to be safe for me and my kids,” said Delia Tufino, who began bicycling a year ago as part of a program launched by Immigrant Movement International and the Queens Museum. “I think it’s important to bring the community out,” she said of the workshop.

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Hunter Students Offer a Multi-Modal Vision for Queens Boulevard

The students propose bus lanes, curbside protected bike lanes, and a large median park for Queens Boulevard. Image: Hunter College

The students propose bus lanes, protected bike lanes, and a linear park in the median of Queens Boulevard. Image: Hunter College

About a year ago, the Transportation Alternatives Queens activist committee approached the Hunter College urban planning program about Queens Boulevard. The advocates wanted help jumpstarting real-world changes on the street known as the Boulevard of Death.

It was just a few months after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his Vision Zero initiative to eliminate traffic deaths. If there was ever going to be an ambitious redesign of Queens Boulevard, this was the time to make it happen. The TA activists wanted to show people how Queens Boulevard could be transformed.

“One of the obstacles we always faced was, ‘Okay, how would you do that?'” said TA Queens committee co-chair Peter Beadle. “There was a real inertia to overcome.”

So the advocates got to work with a small team of Hunter graduate students under the leadership of professor Ralph Blessing. Over the course of two semesters, they surveyed people on the street, hosted workshops, reviewed crash and traffic data, and crunched Census numbers.

Then something interesting happened. In January, DOT announced that it would make Queens Boulevard a Vision Zero priority and hosted a workshop to gather ideas for how to redesign the street.

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Eyes on the Street: Vernon Boulevard Gets Bike Lane Barriers

New concrete barriers are being added to Vernon Boulevard in Queens. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

New concrete barriers are being added to Vernon Boulevard in Queens. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Biking in western Queens is getting a welcome upgrade.

The two-way bike lane on Vernon Boulevard has not had any type of protection from traffic since it was installed in 2013. The lane was frequently obstructed by drivers who used it as a parking spot.

Now, DOT is installing barriers along the bikeway to keep cars out. The project received the most votes on Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer’s participatory budgeting ballot.

Concrete Jersey barriers are going in along much of Vernon Boulevard, while some sections are getting flexible plastic bollards. There will also be short sections without barriers to accommodate turning trucks or to make room for passengers boarding buses.

The barriers, which are in the process of being installed this week, aim to fix problems like this. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

The barriers, which are in the process of being installed this week, aim to fix problems like this. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Two other sections of Vernon Boulevard that won’t receive barriers are the gaps in the bikeway at Queensbridge Park and Rainey Park. With curbside parking along the park edges, cyclists either have to shift to sharrows on Vernon Boulevard or use more circuitous waterfront paths in the parks.

Installation of the barriers is currently underway and expected to wrap soon.

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Want to Drive Thru Corona to the US Open? Francisco Moya’s Got Your Back

Assembly Member Francisco Moya is worried that anything less than two lanes each way will lead to gridlock for drivers going to tennis tournaments in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Photo: Google Maps

Assembly Member Francisco Moya is worried that anything less than two lanes each way will lead to gridlock for drivers going to tennis tournaments in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Photo: Google Maps

Assembly Member Francisco Moya opposes a DOT plan for safer walking and biking on 111th Street next to Flushing Meadows Corona Park. In a statement, he said it will slow down people driving through the neighborhood he represents on their way to professional baseball games and tennis tournaments.

Assembly Member Francisco Moya. Photo: NY Assembly

Assembly Member Francisco Moya. Photo: NY Assembly

“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,” Moya said in the statement. “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.”

DOT studied traffic conditions during five days in April and May, counting cars during a Cinco de Mayo celebration in the park, two Queens Night Markets, and eight Mets games, including this season’s home opener. The agency found the increased traffic was mostly north of the area slated for the road diet and could be ameliorated by adjusting signal timing and keeping traffic bound for Citi Field on the highway [PDF].

“We still don’t feel that that’s sufficient,” said Meghan Tadio, Moya’s chief of staff. “We think that, really, if we’re going to limit the traffic lanes to one lane in each direction, we need to have a full study during the summer months… We would take them and their numbers as reality if they took time to do the study over the whole peak summer.”

The street handles no more than 350 cars in each direction during a typical rush hour, according to DOT, a volume that can easily be handled with a single lane each way.

“It would be insane if we went around designing streets for three or four specific days of the year,” said Transportation Alternatives Queens organizer Jaime Moncayo. “You’re basically inconveniencing the people who use the street year-round for the people who use it two or three times for an event.”

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Queens CB 2 Votes Unanimously in Favor of Queens Blvd Protected Bike Lane

Queens Boulevard will be redesigned this summer before being reconstructed in 2018. Image: DOT [PDF]

Queens Boulevard will be redesigned this summer before being reconstructed in 2018. Image: DOT [PDF]

Big changes are coming to Queens Boulevard in Woodside this summer after a unanimous vote last night from Queens Community Board 2 for a DOT redesign.

The plan will add protected bike lanes and expand pedestrian space on 1.3 miles of the “Boulevard of Death,” from Roosevelt Avenue to 74th Street [PDF]. Six people were killed on this stretch of Queens Boulevard between 2009 and 2013, including two pedestrians and one cyclist, according to DOT. Over the same period, 36 people suffered serious injuries, the vast majority in motor vehicles.

DOT plans on implementing the design in July and August with temporary materials before building it out with concrete in 2018. It’s the first phase in a $100 million, multi-year project to transform the notoriously dangerous Queens Boulevard between Sunnyside and Forest Hills.

“It was an incredibly important and, dare I say, historic moment for Queens and for the safe streets movement,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer. “Having a bike lane on Queens Boulevard — I can remember several years ago, people saying to me, ‘That is the most pie-in-the-sky, ridiculous harebrained notion ever. It’ll never happen.’ But, you know, it’s gonna happen. It’s happening. That is seismic, in terms of the shift in where the thinking has gone.”

“We have come up with what I consider to be one of our most creative and exciting proposals that this department has ever put together,” Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told CB 2 last night. “It’s going to greatly enhance safety. It’s going to make the road more pleasant and more attractive for pedestrians, for cyclists, for the people who live and have their business on Queens Boulevard. And it will keep the traffic flowing, as well.”

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2 Queens Community Board Members Hold Up a Safety Project for Thousands

Are two Community Board 4 members enough to stop a redesign of this Corona speedway? Photo: DOT [PDF]

Are two Community Board 4 members enough to stop a redesign of this Corona speedway? Photo: DOT [PDF]

The transportation committee of Queens Community Board 4, which covers Corona and Elmhurst, is comprised of three people. On Monday evening, two of them showed up to a meeting — that’s quorum, apparently — and they really, really did not want any changes to 111th Street.

Here’s the backstory: The Queens Museum, working with Immigrant Movement International, Make the Road New York, and Transportation Alternatives, began working last year with local residents to make 111th Street — a multi-lane speedway dividing Corona from Flushing Meadows Corona Park — safer and more beautiful. In July, the groups hosted a Vision Zero workshop to gather suggestions. In September, they organized a daffodil planting on the 111th Street median.

The effort garnered the support of Council Member Julissa Ferreras, who allocated $2.7 million in discretionary capital funds for a street redesign. Earlier this year, DOT presented its plan, which would reduce the number of car lanes to make room for wider medians, a two-way protected bike lane, and parking. The plan also includes new crosswalks.

The CB 4 committee members were not pleased. They feared that reducing the number of car lanes on this extra-wide street would lead to traffic congestion, and asked DOT to come back.

The agency tweaked its plan, moving a bike route in the proposal from 114th Street to 108th Street. DOT measured traffic during special events, and concluded that any congestion could be mitigated by adjusting signal timing, rerouting traffic bound for Citi Field, and working with NYPD to deploy traffic agents.

On Monday evening, DOT presented the revised plan [PDF] to the committee of two — James Lisa and Ann Pfoser Darby. (Joseph DiMartino, the chair of the committee, was not there.) Ferreras came to show her support for the plan.

Lisa and Darby didn’t care.

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Richard Brown: No Charges for Driver Who Killed Boy on Neighborhood Street

A driver fatally struck 8-year-old Sincere Atkins as he played outside his grandmother’s apartment on Sutphin Boulevard. Image: Google Maps

A driver fatally struck 8-year-old Sincere Atkins as he played outside his grandmother’s apartment on Sutphin Boulevard. Image: Google Maps

An 8-year-old boy hit by a driver on a neighborhood street in Queens on Memorial Day died from his injuries. NYPD and Queens District Attorney Richard Brown filed no charges.

Sincere Atkins was playing with his cousin outside his grandmother’s apartment, on Sutphin Boulevard near 125th Avenue, when a 21-year-old man hit him with a Toyota Corolla, according to reports.

A witness told the Post the driver, whose name was withheld by NYPD, hit Sincere “so hard it knocked his shoes across the street,” an indication the driver was probably speeding. Officers from the 113th Precinct, where Sincere was killed, issue an average of about one speeding ticket a day.

The crash happened on a street flanked by apartment buildings and a park, on a sunny spring day when kids were out of school — an environment where motorists should know to drive with care. “This is a very busy street,’’ a witness told the Post. “There are so many kids here. There should be a speed bump or something.’’

Reporters from the Post and the Daily News blamed the child, saying he “ran into traffic” and “darted” into the street.

Sincere died from head trauma on May 29, the News reported. “The driver of the car was not charged with a crime,” the News said.

The crash that killed Sincere occurred in the City Council district represented by Ruben Wills, and in Queens Community Board District 12.

Sincere Atkins was at least the third child age 14 and under killed by a New York City driver in 2015, and the 11th child victim since January 2014, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog.