We’re a group of neighbors who live near Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside and Woodside. Some of us have children, and all of us have elderly friends. We’re tired of feeling afraid when we cross the street. In this stretch alone, between 1995 and 2001, there were 11 crashes resulting in pedestrian injury – almost two crashes a year.
On November 1 2007, a van crashed into the front door of Aubergine Café. This is a popular meeting spot for parents with children, and a child was almost killed by this van. This was the second vehicle to hit that corner this year, and the third in three years.
In response, a group of neighbors got together and formed the Safer Skillman Avenue Coalition. People were driving too fast on Skillman and 43rd Avenues, injuring our neighbors and loved ones. I personally feared for my son’s life as he got older and began crossing streets by himself. We could no longer allow our neighborhood to be used as overflow for people driving to Manhattan on the Long Island Expressway and Queens Boulevard. We called in some urban planners, who examined the situations and made eight recommendations.
Since then the Department of Transportation has acted on three of the eight recommendations. They retimed the traffic lights to discourage speeding, added lights and repainted our crosswalks. They cut down the wide driving lanes that encouraged people to speed, and added bike lanes to give cyclists a place.
Already the results have been great. Speeding is much reduced, as are crashes and injuries. The avenues feel much safer and more comfortable to walk. Two of the recommendations, daylighting intersections and restoring two-way traffic flow, have not yet been implemented, but we expect that when they are implemented they will reduce crashes even further and make the avenues more pleasant.
Photos by J. Millus