2011-04-13 / Front Page

Local Pols Blast DOT

BY THOMAS COGAN

(L. to r); Dutch Kills Civic Association President Jerry Walsh, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, state Senator Michael Gianaris, Community Board 2 Chairman Joseph Conley and  Assemblymember Catherine Nolan in Queensboro Plaza, the site of two recent deadly car accidents.(L. to r); Dutch Kills Civic Association President Jerry Walsh, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, state Senator Michael Gianaris, Community Board 2 Chairman Joseph Conley and Assemblymember Catherine Nolan in Queensboro Plaza, the site of two recent deadly car accidents.Three local political leaders, demanding that the Department of Transportation take responsible action, held an afternoon press conference Friday, April 8, at Queens Plaza South and Crescent Street, near the site of two recent automobile crashes. The accidents, which occurred just beyond an exit from the Queensboro Bridge, caused two deaths and damaged two stores. Speaking before several radio, television and newspaper reporters and photographers were state Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblymember Catherine Nolan and Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer. The three denounced the city Department of Transportation (DOT) that they said has thus far put up a Jersey barrier at curbside in front of the ruined stores but has otherwise appeared indifferent to concerns.
Gianaris was incensed that DOT Queens Commissioner Maura McCarthy could refer to the “bizarre coincidence” of two early morning mishaps in the same place nine days apart but fail to consider that the arrangement of roadways on the Queens exit side of the bridge, altered during the extensive reconstruction of the bridge’s approaches and exits, might need to be examined and improved. “I don’t believe in coincidences,” he said. Nolan, who drove her car to the press conference, said she found the makeshift traffic pattern confusing. Van Bramer said signage is needed to warn exiting drivers to slow down, especially since the three-pronged exit pattern in place formerly has been reduced to two during reconstruction. The exit pattern reconfiguration did not take into account the fact that overnight traffic speeds are often hazardously high at the bridge exit, or anywhere else on the bridge or in the plaza. He worried that the Jersey barrier might be left in place so long it would effectively become permanent.
Concerned activists at the conference included Joseph Conley, chairman of Community Board 2, Jerry Walsh, president of the Dutch Kills Civic Association (DKCA) and George Stamatiades of Community Board 1 and DKCA. Before the conference was concluded, Gianaris said he had just been informed that DOT had announced a new traffic pattern. The following day, the New York City Economic Development Corporation broadly e-mailed a community advisory notice reading: “Beginning Saturday morning, April 9, 2011, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) in conjunction with Triumph Construction will be implementing the new roadway pattern exiting the Queensboro Bridge eastbound onto Queens Plaza South. This will improve traffic conditions and pedestrian safety. Note that all roads will be opened to all thru traffic.”  
Two photographs were included, showing the roadway as it appears beyond the crash site, which was not in the pictures.
The two accidents display some striking coincidences. The first accident occurred Monday, March 28 at about 4 a.m., when a Volkswagen holding a male driver and female passenger went out of control as it left the bridge, leapt the curb at Queens Plaza South, just past Crescent Street, and plowed into two small stores, a men’s and women’s hair and beauty salon and a Caribbean restaurant. The vehicle also hit and instantly killed a pedestrian in front of the stores. The driver was severely injured, losing one arm, and the woman was injured.
The second mishap occurred Wednesday, April 6, also at about 4 a.m., when another, Volkswagen, also with a male driver and female passenger inside, went out of control as it left the bridge, leapt the curb at Queens Plaza South, just past Crescent Street, and plowed into the same beauty salon and Caribbean restaurant. Though no pedestrian was on the street at the time, the driver was severely injured, also losing an arm, and the woman passenger was critically injured and died the next day.

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