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Posts from the "Woodside" Category

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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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Two of the Most Dangerous Streets in Queens Set for Safety Upgrades

DOT is proposing nine new pedestrian islands on Northern Boulevard in Jackson Heights, including a few with left-turn bans. Photo: DOT

DOT proposes nine new pedestrian islands on Northern Boulevard in Jackson Heights. Photo: DOT

DOT has proposed concrete safety improvements for Northern Boulevard and Broadway, two of the most dangerous streets in Queens. If supported by Community Boards 2 and 3 next month, the projects could be implemented by the end of the year.

On Northern Boulevard between 63rd and 103rd Streets, DOT has proposed adding nine pedestrian islands in the existing striped median [PDF]. Currently, there are five islands in this 40-block, 1.8-mile stretch, which ranks in the most dangerous 10 percent of Queens streets.

Since 2008, there have been three pedestrian fatalities on this part of Northern Boulevard, including Olvin Jahir Figueroa, age 3, and Miguel Torres, age 11. A DOT study of the intersection with 61st Street showed that a third of all pedestrians at the intersection are school-aged children. The street is 70 feet wide, which is difficult to navigate for people who can’t walk fast. In 46 percent of crashes that injured pedestrians, the victim was crossing with the signal.

Four of the nine new islands, at 75th, 78th, 96th, and 102nd Streets, will include left turn bans. DOT has already installed similar pedestrian islands and turn bans at Northern Boulevard and 61st Street, where 8-year-old Noshat Nahian was killed by an unlicensed truck driver making a left turn last December. Nahian was walking to PS 152, where Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled his Vision Zero agenda in January.

DOT presented the plan to Community Board 3′s transportation committee last Tuesday. Committee members were generally receptive and urged DOT to do more, including adding more trees and greening, according to Make Queens Safer, which has been campaigning for a safer Northern Boulevard. Some of the islands will have trees, while underground utilities in some locations prevent trees from being planted.

“Northern Boulevard still has a lot of complex problems that remain unaddressed,” Make Queens Safer said in a statement. “The city should do everything in its authority to create a more comprehensive transformation of this outmoded highway into a model design for arterial roads.”

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Pedestrian Islands Coming to Deadly Northern Boulevard Intersection

The striped median on Northern Boulevard at 61st Street, right, is set to receive concrete pedestrian islands, like those on Hillside Avenue, right. Image: DOT

The striped median on Northern Boulevard at 61st Street, right, is set to receive concrete pedestrian islands, like those on Hillside Avenue, right. Image: DOT

The intersection of Northern Boulevard and 61st Street in Woodside, where an unlicensed truck driver making a left turn through a crosswalk killed 8-year-old Noshat Nahian on his way to school last December, is set for some pedestrian safety fixes after months of work by elected officials and street safety advocates.

Members of Make Queens Safer said they hoped it was the first of many design changes DOT would make to Northern Boulevard, which ranks as one of the most dangerous streets for pedestrians in Queens.

The plan for the 61st Street intersection, first reported by the Daily News, includes the addition of concrete pedestrian islands and the elimination of left turns from westbound Northern Boulevard to southbound 61st Street. It will also adjust signals to increase crossing time for pedestrians and feature new school zone crosswalk markings and signage. DOT has already restricted some on-street parking to “daylight” the intersection’s northeast corner and improve visibility for pedestrians and drivers. Construction is set to begin this month and wrap up within weeks.

Immediately prior to announcing his Vision Zero agenda last January at PS 152, where Nahian was walking to school before he was killed, Mayor Bill de Blasio visited the intersection with Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

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Unlicensed Truck Driver Kills Noshat Nahian, 8, in Northern Blvd Crosswalk

Unlicensed truck driver Mauricio Osorio-Palaminos killed Moshat Nahian, a third-grader who was walking to school this morning with his sister. Photo: WNBC via Daily News

Unlicensed truck driver Mauricio Osorio-Palaminos, 51, killed Noshat Nahian, a third-grader who was walking to school this morning with his sister. They were in the crosswalk on Northern Boulevard. Photo: WNBC via Daily News

This morning just before 8:00 a.m., Noshat Nahian, age 8, was on his way from his home on 32nd Avenue to school at PS 152 when a tractor-trailer driver turning left onto Northern Boulevard struck Nahian in the crosswalk along 61st Street. He was pronounced dead at Elmhurst Hospital.

The driver of the truck, Mauricio Osorio-Palaminos, 51, of Newark, New Jersey, has been arrested by police and charged with aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and operation of a motor vehicle in violation of safety rules. The office of Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown tells Streetsblog that Osorio-Palaminos has been charged with driving with a suspended license and that representatives from the DA’s office were at the crash scene this morning.

Aggravated unlicensed operation in the third degree is, in practice, the default charge against unlicensed drivers who kill pedestrians and cyclists in New York City. It carries a maximum penalty of a $500 fine and 30 days in jail.

According to reports, Nahian was with his 11-year-old sister, who ran home to get his mother. Once she arrived on the scene, a witness told the Post, “She was crying and asking ‘what’s going on?’” A small red holiday gift bag that Nahian was carrying to school was left in the street where he was killed.

Nahian is the eleventh New York City child under age 13 killed by drivers so far this year, according to data compiled by Streetsblog. Traffic crashes are the leading injury-related killer for New York City children, according to the Department of Health. In a similar crash last February, Amar Diarrassouba, 7, was killed by a turning truck driver while walking to school in East Harlem with his 10-year-old brother.

The truck involved in today’s crash is registered in New Jersey and owned by Roadtex Transportation Corporation. Streetsblog’s inquiries with Roadtex about the driver have not been returned. Because the truck is not registered in New York, it is exempt from state laws requiring crossover mirrors, which improve visibility near the truck’s cab.

The truck appears large enough to require an oversize permit from the city, which are necessary for trucks longer than 55 feet to operate on surface streets. NYPD said its Collision Investigation Squad is looking into whether the driver had the required permits. Video from the crash scene captured by DNAinfo reporter Katie Honan shows NYPD investigators testing the truck’s brakes this morning.

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Prompted By Jimmy Van Bramer, CBS 2 Files a Decent Street Safety Story


We wrote last week how Lou Young of CBS 2 blew an opportunity to educate viewers on the merits of potential safe street improvements on the Upper West Side. In covering a press conference in Queens convened by Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, Young’s colleague Andrea Grymes filed a story that does a much better job reflecting the perils posed by reckless drivers.

Grymes reports that pedestrians on 47th Avenue in Woodside, including seniors and kids at the Towers Play and Learn school, are endangered by speeding motorists looking to avoid Queens Boulevard, many of whom don’t slow down even when children are present. Van Bramer and students temporarily hoisted a DIY stop sign to draw attention to the problem, and he and locals are calling on DOT to calm traffic on the street.

This story definitely has the “little guy fights City Hall” angle, which is probably why Grymes played it straight. It would also have been useful if she had pointed out that the 108th Precinct isn’t doing much in the way of traffic enforcement, having issued just 322 speeding tickets this year as of September. But pieces like this pointing out the dangers of the status quo should be far more common. Whether or not local electeds are attuned to the situation, a New York neighborhood besieged by dangerous drivers is a story that can be told again and again. Consider the DOT Slow Zone waiting list if you doubt it.

If a stop sign isn’t the right solution here, maybe a neckdown or a chicane would solve the problem instead. DOT told CBS 2 the segment of 47th Avenue in question does not meet federal guidelines for a new stop sign, but said it is taking another look at conditions there.

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Van Bramer Calls for Traffic Calming After Hit-and-Run Death in Woodside

Luis Bravo’s death at the hands of a hit-and-run driver wasn’t the first warning sign about the dangers of walking along Broadway between 69th Street and Northern Boulevard in Woodside. In March of last year, Ed Surmenian, who lives at the intersection with 61st Street, said drivers regularly speed down Broadway and contacted Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer to complain.

Woodside resident Marion Molno holds a sign about the hit-and-run death of Luis Bravo. Behind her are Assembly Member Marge Markey, State Senator Michael Gianaris, and Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer. Photo: Stephen Miller

Van Bramer sent three letters — one to DOT and two to NYPD — requesting signal retiming and speeding enforcement [PDF 1, 2].

In her response, DOT’s Queens Borough Commissioner Maura McCarthy said that changing the signal timing is not “an effective engineering practice to control speed” and that “no signal timing changes are recommended at this time.”

“A year and a half later, Luis Bravo is killed right on this corner,” Van Bramer said, just days after hosting a press conference in Long Island City to call for changes after a different pedestrian death at Queens Plaza.

Yesterday, Van Bramer was at the intersection of 58th Street and Broadway, urging DOT and NYPD to make the street safer and to track down Bravo’s killer. He was joined by State Senator Michael Gianaris, Assembly Member Marge Markey, Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White, Rev. Joshua Hollmann of Christ Lutheran Church, and Woodside residents.

NYPD never replied to either of Van Bramer’s letters, but elected officials yesterday aimed most of their frustration at DOT. “We are sick and tired of asking for the DOT to do the right thing and protect the people of this city,” Gianaris said. “DOT needs to realize it is here to serve the people of this city, not the cars of this city.”

“I’m a little tired of their responses to our requests for safety issues,” Van Bramer said. “It should not take a young man dying to get traffic calming measures implemented.”

Broadway is a four-lane road, with two lanes in each direction. On similar streets, DOT has proposed or implemented road diets that include pedestrian islands and lane reductions. I asked Van Bramer if he wants a similar street design on Broadway. “I’m interested in seeing any configuration that would make it safer for pedestrians,” he said.

DOT has proposed adding painted sidewalk extensions on 37th Avenue near Broadway [PDF], but no plan that addresses the entire corridor. In the wake of Bravo’s death and Van Bramer’s press conference, the agency said it will look at the length of Broadway again. Spokesperson Nicholas Mosquera said in an e-mail that the agency will “[make] use of the most recent data to assess signal timing and intersection controls, and will also look into the feasibility of other traffic calming measures here as well.”

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NYC’s Hit-and-Run Epidemic Claims Teenager Luis Bravo in Woodside

Last weekend, another New York City pedestrian was killed by a hit-and-run driver.

Luis Bravo with his sister. Photo via DNAinfo

Luis Bravo, whose age was reported as 18 and 19, was walking with a friend east on Broadway in Woodside at around 11 p.m. Saturday when he was hit by the driver of a dark-colored sedan, who was traveling south on 58th Street, according to DNAinfo and the Times Ledger.

Bravo was at least the fifth NYC pedestrian in a 15-day period to be killed by a motorist who fled the scene. In three of the five crashes, the driver was not immediately caught or identified.

At yesterday’s City Council oversight hearing, NYPD brass said that in 2012 there were 58 hit-and-run crashes investigated by what’s now known as the Collision Investigation Squad. Police made 15 arrests for leaving the scene — meaning arrests were made in only 26 percent of cases investigated.

From DNAinfo:

Gustavo Balletta, a close friend of Bravo’s, said the two of them were on their way home from a grocery store, Stop & Shop, when Bravo was hit.

Balletta said he had crossed the street just before Bravo, but turned around to find his friend on the ground.

“I started freaking out, trying to call 911, trying to figure out what happened. I couldn’t react,” Balletta said. He said Bravo was still breathing after he was hit.

Bravo was rushed to Elmhurst Hospital, but declared dead on arrival.

Bravo was a student at New York City College of Technology. He is survived by his father, who lives in Ecuador, his mother and younger sister, DNAinfo reports.

“My brother was a dad to me, he was a hero,” said Bravo’s sister, to NY1. “He used to help me with basketball, with my homework, with everything else now he’s gone and I don’t know what to do.”

NYPD has asked the public for tips. Police gave no definitive answer when Streetsblog called the NYPD public information office to ask if an arrest had been made. “Not that I’m aware of,” a spokesperson said.

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Van Bramer on Queens Bike-Share: “Not Just Waiting For It… Pushing For It”

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer and his constituents rallied on the steps of City Hall today, calling on DOT to expand bike-share to western Queens. Photo: Stephen Miller

At a rally this afternoon on the steps of City Hall, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer called for the city’s bike-share program to be expanded to western Queens as quickly as possible.

This isn’t the first time Van Bramer – already a Citi Bike member – has pushed for bike-share. When the program was announced, he pressed the city to expand it to include Queens, and 11 stations in Long Island City were added to the bike-share map. DOT has said that those stations will be installed by the end of this year, though Van Bramer said he’s heard they could be installed as early as September. “Both of those are unacceptable,” he said, saying that his district could use the bikes now. “We’re not just waiting for it, we’re pushing for it.”

Funding for those initial stations has reportedly been secured, but not for an expansion to 10,000 bikes and beyond. When Streetsblog asked Van Bramer if he would be interested in using his discretionary funds for bike-share in his district, he deferred to DOT. “At this point, fundraising for the program has been the task of Janette Sadik-Khan,” he said. “She has my cell.”

While Citi Bike is still working to resolve technical problems, including station outages, Van Bramer remains focused on expansion. “We understand that with any program this size, there are going to be kinks at the beginning of it and those need to be worked out,” he said.

A roster of community leaders spoke after Van Bramer at today’s rally, including Helen Ho of Recycle-A-Bicycle, which works with more than 1,000 youth on bicycle maintenance, repair, and education. “We’d love for the families of our students to join them,” she said, adding that Citi Bike has hired two of the program’s students to help operate bike-share.

“Queens residents aren’t alone,” said Caroline Samponaro of Transportation Alternatives, adding that TA has heard from residents in Ditmas Park, East Harlem, the Bronx, and Staten Island who want bike-share in their neighborhoods. Yesterday, AM New York spoke with Council Member Stephen Levin and the district managers of Brooklyn Community Board 7, which covers Sunset Park and Windsor Terrace, and Staten Island CB 1 — all of whom said residents are constantly asking for bike-share to be expanded.

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Thackoo Hargobin Killed by School Bus Driver in Queens, No Charges Filed

A man was struck and killed by the driver of a yellow school bus while loading a truck in Queens yesterday.

Thackoo “Tony” Hargobin was struck on Borough Place in Woodside at approximately 8:32 a.m., as he was securing bags of cement to the back of a flatbed, according to reports. He died at the scene. From the Post:

Thackoo Hargobin. Photo: Trinidad Express

John Garuti, 60, who owns the company where the victim was picking up the cement, said Hargobin died quickly and was lying in a pool of blood still holding the strap used to hold down the load.

“He was gone immediately. There were no chest movements … It’s a terrible shame; he was a nice man. Everybody said he was a nice guy.”

Hargobin, 52, was a grandfather who migrated from Trinidad in 1988, reports said. According to the Trinidad Express, Hargobin’s father was killed in a vehicle crash 16 years ago next month. Said Hargobin’s brother, Pundit Chaitram Hargobin: “My mother is being monitored because this is such a shock to her. She is not taking this well. None of us expected anything like this to happen.”

The Daily News says Hargobin was knocked from the back of his truck. The Post reported that the driver said Hargobin fell off the truck into the path of the bus, a claim disputed by the victim’s employer:

“To make a mistake that would cost him his life is very difficult to believe. We’re not talking about someone who drove for one year; this was a guy who was used to driving heavy trucks,” said Michael Karantinidis, 55, owner of Hephaistos Building Supply in Astoria, where the victim worked for 23 years.

No charges were filed, according to the News.

This fatal crash occurred in the 114th Precinct. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Deputy Inspector Stephen Cirabisi, the commanding officer, go to the next precinct community council meeting. The 114th Precinct council meetings happen at 7 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of the month at Ricardo’s, 21-04 24th Avenue. Call the precinct at 718-626-9327 for information.

The City Council district where Thackoo Hargobin was killed is represented by Peter Vallone. To encourage Vallone to take action to improve street safety in his district and citywide, contact him at 718-274-4500.