2017-11-29 / Front Page

Announce Plan To Cut 158 Parking Spaces At Sunnyside Intersection

By Liz Goff
The city Department of Transportation (DOT) has announced plans to eliminate 158 parking spaces on Skillman and 43rd Avenues in Sunnyside to make room for protected bicycle lanes and increase safety at the deadly intersection.

The plan also calls for the removal of a car lane from portions of both avenues, DOT officials said.

The proposal was sparked by two accidents that occurred in April involving cyclists at 39th Street and 43rd Avenue, including a hit-run accident that killed a 32-year-old Corona man.

Cops said Cristian Guiracocha, 36, was behind the wheel of a red, 2002 Ford Escort traveling east on 39th Street in Sunnyside at about 3 a.m. on April 1, when the car struck and killed bicyclist Gelasio Reyes, 32, who was riding east on 43rd Avenue at the time of the crash.

Police said Guiracocha was driving drunk when he blew through a red light at the intersection, fatally striking Reyes.

Reyes was thrown to the ground by the impact and struck his head on the pavement, police said. He suffered fatal head injuries and was pronounced dead on arrival at Elmhurst Hospital Center.

Police said Guiracocha fled the scene following the crash. Police found the Escort at about 7 a.m., near Laurel Hill Boulevard and 58th Street in Woodside – not far from the driver’s residence.

Guiracocha was arrested and charged with DWI, aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and refusing to take a Breathalyzer test.
Ten days later, a second cyclist was struck and seriously injured at the same intersection, police said.

DOT senior project manager, Nicky Carey, said the agency would have to eliminate the parking spaces to make way for the protected bicycle lanes. DOT plans to “flip” the bike lane with the parking lane, Carey said. “The protected bicycle lane would be flush with the curb.”

Installation of the bicycle lane would reduce the amount of space for motorists, Carey said.

That, in turn, would discourage motorists from speeding in calm traffic. SOT would also install pedestrian islands net to the bicycle lanes, which would cut the distance for pedestrians crossing the street.

DOT representatives presented the plan to the Community Board 2 Transportation Committee in November. If the board approves the plan by January, DOT would begin the redesign in spring 2018, an agency spokesperson said.

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