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Hit-and-Run Drivers Killed Three Victims in Four Hours on Sunday [Updated]


Fatal Park Slope hit and run by Gothamist

Correction: Park Slope Stoop reports that the Park Slope victim was walking, not riding a bike. The copy in this post has been altered accordingly.

Hit-and-run drivers killed three New York City pedestrians within a few hours on Sunday.

Jose Contreras, 63, was struck by the driver of a black SUV as he crossed Webster Avenue at E. 175th Street, near the Cross Bronx Expressway, at approximately 1:30 a.m., according to the Times and WABC.

A hit-and-run driver killed Jose Contreras on Webster Avenue in the Bronx. Photo via WPIX

A hit-and-run driver killed Jose Contreras on Webster Avenue in the Bronx. Photo via WPIX

WABC reports:

Contreras was celebrating his sister’s 80th birthday and pulled over his car, his family said. He was going back in to check on his family because they were taking awhile to get out of the catering hall, and was crossing the street when he was hit.

“I left my father in the car, and I figured that’s where he would be when I came back out,” Joseph Contreras, the victim’s son, told the Post. “But when I came back out, he was in the middle of the street, laying in his own blood.”

Contreras died at Saint Barnabas Hospital.

At around 4:40 a.m., 48-year-old Besik Shengelia was retrieving items from his SUV on 111th Street near 109th Avenue in South Ozone Park when he was struck by a driver who left the scene. The make and model of the vehicle that hit Shengelia is unknown. He was pronounced dead at Jamaica Hospital.

WABC, which reported that Shengelia worked for Uber, spoke with witnesses, including a woman who stopped other drivers from running over Shengelia after he was hit.

“It’s a shame that people was driving by and nobody stopped. National Grid saw me stopping traffic, and they came and helped us,” says [Sonia] Ramirez.

“The street does have a problem late at night with people speeding up and down the street, basically, and something needs to change around here,” eyewitness David Moore says.

The Post reported that Shengelia was “a former commander of the Georgian navy during the country’s 2008 war with Russia” who moved to the city with his family.

About 20 minutes after Shengelia was struck, the driver of a Nissan Altima ran a red light and hit a pedestrian in Park Slope.

Read more…

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Donovan Richards Wants Safer Conditions at Deadly Rosedale Intersection

Motorists injure dozens of people a year at the Queens intersection where a driver killed 16-year-old Alexa Smith. Image: DOT Vision Zero View

Motorists injure dozens of people a year at the intersection of Conduit Avenue and Francis Lewis Boulevard, where a driver killed 16-year-old Alexa Smith. Image: DOT Vision Zero View

City Council Member Donovan Richards wants DOT to put speed cameras at the Rosedale intersection where a hit-and-run driver killed a teenage girl earlier this month — a request the city may not be able to fulfill due to restrictions imposed by Albany. Richards also urged DOT to make physical improvements to protect people from speeding drivers.

Donovan Richards

Donovan Richards

Alexa Smith, 16, was crossing Conduit Avenue at Francis Lewis Boulevard in the crosswalk just after midnight on February 11 when she was hit by the driver of a vehicle believed to be a dollar van. Her killer did not stop to summon help or render aid. Smith was pronounced dead at Jamaica Hospital.

South Conduit Avenue is a high-speed road slicing through RosedaleThe speed limit on the avenue is 40 miles per hour where it crosses Francis Lewis Boulevard. Drivers injure dozens of people every year at the triangle formed by Conduit Avenue, Francis Lewis Boulevard, and 243rd Street, according to DOT crash data.

Locals interviewed after Smith’s death told the press that reckless drivers make crossing the street a life-and-death proposition, a point repeated by Richards at a press event last Friday.

From the Times-Ledger:

Richards said he would call on the Department of Transportation to add speed cameras at the intersection, which would have helped identify the perpetrator of the accident. He said additional pedestrian safety measures have also been suggested to ensure that residents will no longer have to risk their lives to cross this busy intersection.

“As Vision Zero spreads a wider net of pedestrian safety across the city, we also need the Department of Transportation to look at dangerous intersections such as right here at Sunrise and Francis Lewis,” said Richards.

“This is why we need speed cameras to slow drivers down and to hold them accountable for when they break the law. We also need the DOT to look at pedestrian-focused crossing signals that will ensure that they can cross the street without having to worry about frantic drivers trying to beat the light,” he said.

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If NYC Builds the Streetcar, It Will Run Right Through Flood Zones

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Map of streetcar route: NYC mayor’s office. Map of flood-prone areas: FloodHelpNY.org

As others have noted, the proposed Brooklyn-Queens streetcar route would run right through city- and FEMA-designated high-risk flood zones. This raises questions about how the streetcar infrastructure and vehicles would be protected from storm surges, as well as the general wisdom of siting a project that’s supposed to spur development in a flood-prone area.

Yesterday, reporters at City Hall’s streetcar press conference asked how the city would plan for future flood events along the streetcar route. Neither de Blasio nor the city officials at his side could explain how the streetcar plan would specifically address flooding — no details were given about where the vehicles would be stored or how the power supply would be shielded. Instead, the mayor started out by taking a very wide view of the situation.

“This city is deeply committed to the goal of reducing emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050,” the mayor said. “This is one of the ways we do it — get more and more people onto mass transit. Get them out of their cars. Use transportation that does not create harmful emissions. That’s why the BQX is such a powerful idea in terms of the environment to begin with.”

De Blasio then argued that the city’s flood resiliency efforts, which includes some measures to fortify areas like Red Hook against future storms will ensure that waterfront neighborhoods are sufficiently protected. “We’re going to be in a very different situation than we were a few years ago when Sandy hit,” he said.

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Safer Streets for Corona and Elmhurst vs. Queens Community Board 4

111th Street would receive a two-way protected bike lane, expanded pedestrian space, new crosswalks, and added parking. But CB 4 members are worried about reducing the number of car lanes. Image: DOT [PDF]

DOT’s plan would calm traffic on 111th Street by adding a two-way protected bike lane, pedestrian space, crosswalks, and parking. Image: DOT [PDF]

This could be a big year for safer street designs in Corona and Elmhurst. DOT’s plan for a protected bike lane on 111th Street is poised to improve access to Flushing Meadows Corona Park, and the agency is expected to move ahead with the second phase of its Queens Boulevard redesign. The way things are shaping up, however, it looks like DOT may have to take the initiative without waiting for Queens Community Board 4 and chair Louis Walker to sign off on these projects.

On Tuesday, two local residents spoke in favor of the 111th Street safety improvements [PDF] at a CB 4 meeting. Martin Luna said that when he and his family bike or go to the park for baseball practice, getting across 111th and its highway-like design is nerve-wracking. “If something happened to me it’s nothing, right, but my kids are more important for me,” he said. “We don’t feel safe in this area.”

But Walker denied that dangerous conditions on 111th are an impediment to park access. “We have access to the park. Don’t say that we don’t have access to the park,” he said. “The park’s not closed, it’s open all the time. It’s very used.”

luna

Martin Luna, left, says he doesn’t feel safe crossing 111th Street with his kids to get to Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Photo: Luke Ohlson

Walker was not in the mood to listen to people talk about the plan, which would narrow the traffic lanes and add a two-way protected bike lane along the border of the park. “Just remember, it has not been presented to us — whatever the latest official plans are — and we’ve not voted on it, so that’s the end of that discussion for now,” he said. “I frankly am getting a little tired of hearing about [111th Street], when it hasn’t been presented to us. When it is presented to us we will see what is presented and debate it at that time.”

DOT already presented a plan for 111th Street to CB 4 twice last year, but board members have so far failed to advance it. The department has also conducted two traffic studies because the board is worried that 111th Street can’t handle traffic from major sporting events if the car lanes are trimmed. (Video captured by Transportation Alternatives volunteers during the World Series suggests this is an imaginary problem.) In addition, Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland hosted multiple public design workshops with DOT last summer.

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Hit-and-Run Driver Kills 16-Year-Old Girl on 40 MPH Queens Speedway

The speed limit is 40 on the segment of Sunrise Highway where a hit-and-run driver killed a 16-year-old girl. Image: Google Maps

The speed limit is 40 miles per hour on the segment of Sunrise Highway where a hit-and-run driver killed a 16-year-old girl. Image: Google Maps

A hit-and-run driver killed a teenage girl in Rosedale early Wednesday morning.

The 16-year-old victim was crossing Sunrise Highway at Francis Lewis Boulevard in the crosswalk at around 12:15 a.m. when she was hit by the driver of a van, who was traveling east on the highway, according to Gothamist. The Daily News reported that the vehicle was a dollar van.

The girl was pronounced dead at Jamaica Hospital. Police had not released her identity as of Wednesday afternoon, and no arrests had been made, NYPD told Streetsblog.

WCBS reported that the speed limit on Francis Lewis Boulevard is 25 miles per hour, but it’s 40 mph on Sunrise Highway.

Krystina Tucker and her 5-year-old daughter cross there almost every day, CBS2’s Janelle Burrell reported.

“I’ve had a couple incidents where I’m almost hit walking with her to school,” Tucker said.

“They just fly around it [the turn] … there’s cars stopped at the light, they don’t want to wait.”

Another local said motorists often speed on Sunrise, making it more dangerous to cross.

“You have to stop and look around otherwise to cross someone is going to kill you,” [Jean] Charles said.

Even with the crossing light, residents say getting across the four lanes of traffic and the median can be difficult.

“Because it’s so wide, by the time you reach halfway in the road the light’s amber so you have to run to get across,” said Shelline McCook.

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DOT Aims to Create a Walkable Main Street in Downtown Far Rockaway

wants to increase plaza space, trees and expanded sidewalks around Mott Avenue. Image: DOT

The city is looking to increase pedestrian safety and improve public space around Mott Avenue and the transit hub where the A train and several bus lines converge. Image: DOT

Sitting at the convergence of the Long Island Railroad, the A train, and multiple bus and commuter van routes, the area around Mott Avenue in Far Rockaway has the potential to be a thriving downtown for the neighborhood, but it suffers from longstanding disinvestment and its streets aren’t great for walking.

Now EDC is working with Council Member Donovan Richards and six city agencies on small business development, mixed-income housing construction, and public space and streetscape improvements. The project is complemented by post-Sandy boardwalk reconstruction at nearby Rockaway Beach. Here’s a look at what’s in store for the neighborhood’s streets.

In conjunction with EDC, DOT plans to redesign the area around Far Rockaway's downtown transit hub. Image: Google Maps

In conjunction with EDC, DOT plans to redesign the area around Far Rockaway’s downtown transit hub. Image: Google Maps

City Hall’s new budget sets aside $9.1 million in capital funds for street improvements near Mott Avenue. Far Rockaway’s dangerous and uninviting streets are among the challenges the project will address. There were 15 severe injuries in the project area from 2010 to 2014.

DOT wants to give the downtown a “village” feel by making Mott Avenue a pedestrian-friendly main street and building out plaza space on the streets that intersect it.

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Total L.I.C. Street Rebuild to Include Safety Overhauls for Key Intersections

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer alongside the DDC and DOT Commissioners this morning. Photo: David Meyer

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer alongside DDC Commissioner Feniosky Pena-Mora (to the left) and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg (on the right) this morning. Photo: David Meyer

The streets of Long Island City are getting a total rebuild, and as part of the project four major intersections along Jackson Avenue and Vernon Boulevard will get redesigned for greater safety.

Many other intersections could get curb extensions or other traffic-calming treatments as part of the $38.47 million neighborhood-wide street reconstruction. Speaking this morning at the foot of the Pulaski Bridge, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer said DOT will prioritize four intersections: 21st Street and Jackson Avenue, 23rd Street and Jackson Avenue, Vernon Boulevard and Jackson Avenue, and Vernon Boulevard and 44th Drive.

Jackson and 11th Street, a complex multi-leg intersection that pedestrians and cyclists have to navigate to get to the Pulaski Bridge, will also be improved. Once the Pulaski Bridge bikeway opens this spring, there will be a lot more room for walking and biking, and the approach on the Queens side could use an upgrade.

Long Island City’s population is on track to soar as new development hits the market. But sandwiched by the Queensboro Bridge to the north and the Pulaski Bridge and Midtown Tunnel to the south, the neighborhood is often overrun by car and truck traffic, creating an unpleasant and unsafe environment for pedestrians.

In December, Van Bramer, DDC, and DOT hosted a public workshop where local residents and business owners overwhelmingly cited Vernon Boulevard and Jackson Avenue as streets in need of safety improvements. Jackson Avenue feeds into the Pulaski and is the site of several popular attractions, including MOMA P.S. 1, but has few safe crosswalks. In 2015 alone, 31 people were injured on Jackson Avenue within the project boundaries.

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Cement Truck Driver Kills Nancy Ventura, 61, in College Point

A cement truck driver killed Nancy Ventura a block from her Queens home. No charges were filed. Image: WNBC

A cement truck driver killed Nancy Ventura a block from her Queens home. No charges were filed. Image: WNBC

A cement truck driver killed a pedestrian in College Point last week. Accounts differ on how the crash occurred, and police have filed no charges.

On Friday, January 22, at around 9:21 in the morning, 61-year-old Nancy Ventura was crossing College Point Boulevard at 15th Avenue, east to west, when she was struck by the driver, who was southbound on the boulevard, according to NYPD.

Ventura lived a block away from the crash site. She died at New York-Presbyterian/Queens Hospital, police said.

The Daily News reported that, according to unnamed police sources, the victim “was hit by the cement truck as it made a turn onto 15th Ave.,” but the NYPD public information office could not confirm if the driver was turning or not. Photos from the scene show the truck stopped on College Point Boulevard, with the cab facing away from 15th Avenue — so it’s possible the driver was turning off of 15th, but not onto it.

NYPD often releases conflicting details on serious traffic crashes, and information initially provided by police sources often turns out to be wrong. It’s usually not possible to obtain a final NYPD crash report without a freedom of information request, which — if approved — can take months for the department to process.

No summonses or charges were filed by NYPD or Queens District Attorney Richard Brown as of Thursday afternoon, NYPD told Streetsblog. “No charges were expected to be filed,” the Daily News reported.

This fatal crash occurred in the 109th Precinct, where the response to pedestrian deaths is lecturing people on how to walk. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Deputy Inspector Thomas Conforti, the commanding officer, go to the next precinct community council meeting. The 109th Precinct council meetings happen at 7:30 p.m. on second Wednesday of the month at the precinct, 37-05 Union Street in Flushing. Call 718-321-2268 for information.

The City Council district where Nancy Ventura was killed is represented by Paul Vallone. To encourage Vallone to take action to improve street safety in his district and citywide, contact him via phone, email, or Twitter.

StreetFilms
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The Transformation of Queens Boulevard, Block By Block

For many years, New York City’s Queens Boulevard was known as the “Boulevard of Death.” The street cuts through the heart of the Queens, expanding at some points to a chaotic 12 to 16 lanes of traffic — which makes it extremely dangerous for human beings. From 2003 to 2013, 38 pedestrians and cyclists were killed and 450 suffered severe injuries.

Last year, the New York City DOT announced a $100 million dollar commitment from the de Blasio administration to humanize Queens Boulevard and make it safer, a flagship project in the city’s Vision Zero initiative. Instead of waiting until the planned permanent reconstruction in 2018 to make any changes, DOT wanted to build in safety improvements immediately. After holding public workshops with communities along the corridor, 1.3 miles of Queens Boulevard have been redesigned, and the changes are already making a huge difference.

If you’re an urban planner, transportation engineer, or advocate wondering just what can be done with what seems to be an irredeemably messed up street, then this is the Streetfilm for you. We got an exclusive tour of the changes with NYC DOT Deputy Commissioner Ryan Russo, going block-by-block over the creative solutions the DOT team implemented. Queens Boulevard is as complicated a roadway as there is: Nearly every block is different. To add a functional bike lane and pedestrian mall seemed highly unlikely. Yet here it is.

I’ll admit, I’m especially excited about this project since I’ve lived near Queens Boulevard for years. I was skeptical when the announcement was made that I would see any truly life-altering change, and even if the city pulled it off, it would take years and years. But the installation has been swift and extremely well thought out. The service road is noticeably slower, narrower, and easier to navigate for people walking or biking. So much so that I was motivated to document the transformation with this Streetfilm, which I hope will be a learning tool that people can put to use in their communities. If you can put a good protected bike lane on Queens Boulevard, then just about any street in America should be in play.

In 2015, no one was killed on Queens Boulevard.

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Richard Brown: Probation for Hit-and-Run Driver Who Killed Kamil Gorski

The hit-and-run driver who killed Kamil Gorski got probation and $1,088 in fines and fees after DA Richard Brown dropped felony charges and allowed a misdemeanor plea deal.

The hit-and-run driver who killed Kamil Gorski got probation and $1,088 in fines and fees after DA Richard Brown dropped felony charges for a misdemeanor plea deal.

A driver charged with a felony for the hit-and-run death of a Queens pedestrian was sentenced to probation as a result of a plea deal from District Attorney Richard Brown.

Raul Reyes and a second driver hit 36-year-old Navy veteran Kamil Gorski on Metropolitan Avenue on February 3, 2015, according to Brown’s office. Gorski died at Elmhurst Hospital.

Brown did not charge the second driver, who remained at the scene. Brown charged Reyes with leaving the scene of an accident resulting in injury, which is a class D felony, and issued a press release saying Reyes “face[d] up to four years in prison.” Last December, however, Brown reduced the charges, and allowed Reyes to plead to a misdemeanor leaving the scene, which carries a maximum one-year jail sentence.

This week, pursuant to his plea agreement with DA Brown, Reyes was sentenced to three years probation, a $1,000 fine, and $88 in administrative fees for leaving Kamil Gorski to die in the street, according to court records. There is no indication that the court took action against Reyes’s driver’s license.

As Streetsblog reported last month, Gorski is one of several Queens hit-and-run victims whose killers avoided a sentence that included jail time, either because Brown accepted a plea or filed no charges in the first place.

If New York City hopes to get a handle on its hit-and-run epidemic, which results in thousands of injuries and deaths annually, district attorneys will have to send a message that such crimes will not be tolerated. Based on his record of prosecuting traffic violence over the last year, Brown earned a middling C+ in the Transportation Alternatives 2015 Vision Zero Report Card, which said the DA “seems uninterested in protecting the lives of constituents.”