52nd and Skillman: A History of Crashes

In his petition, Al Volpe asks his neighbors to sign onto the assertion that “Skillman Avenue is a very safe street.”  This is simply not true. 

CrashStat is a website set up by Transportation Alternatives showing crashes around the city resulting in pedestrian or cyclist injury from 1995 to 2005, based on data compiled from police reports by the New York State Department of Transportation.  It shows that there were six separate such crashes at the corner of 52nd and Skillman during this period: pedestrians were injured in 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2005.  These are in addition to the crash in May when a girl was injured, but not seriously.

Compare this, for example, to the stretch of 50th Avenue between 44th Street and 49th Street, where there were no injuries at all during this period.  Now that’s what I call a very safe street!

Disappointment from the Parks Department

A while ago, at the suggestion of one of the owners of the Thai Malay Cafe, I called 311 about the tree branches blocking the “ALL TRAFFIC ->” sign at the corner of 52nd and Skillman – as well as the branches blocking the view up Skillman.  Here’s the response the Parks people put into 311.  They can’t find the reported condition, so do they ask us?  No, they just close the ticket.  This system sure has a ways to go.

In the meantime, anyone know people in the Parks Department?

SERVICE REQUEST #: 1-1-426443579
09/11/2008 1:10:56 PM
Overgrown Tree/Branches
Traffic Sign or Signal Blocked
Upon inspection the reported condition was not found, and, therefore, no action was taken.
10/02/2008 1:29:59 PM
Closed – No Further Updates

Corrections to Al Volpe’s letter

In this week’s Woodside Herald there is a letter from our neighbor Al Volpe, who clearly believes that the current level of danger on Skillman Avenue is acceptable. Unfortunately, his letter contains several factual inaccuracies. To paraphrase the late Senator Moynihan, Al is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.

  1. Al claims that “If there is a pedestrian accident, it is because of the pedestrian jaywalking.” This does not account for the pedestrians hit by cars when they were on the sidewalk.
  2. Al claims that at the May meeting of Community Board 2, he suggested retiming the signals on Skillman Avenue, and that “Al Volpe and the DOT ‘calmed’ Skillman and 43rd in one week!” The signal retiming was suggested by Transportation Alternatives in November, the suggestion was conveyed to the DOT in January, and the signals were retimed at the end of March.
  3. Al claims that “Transportation Alternatives insists that at least 1 parking space per corner at each intersection should be removed – ‘daylighted’. They could remove 8 parking spots per intersection. Eight!” The daylighting suggestion is to remove between one and three parking spaces at each problematic corner. Since these are one-way streets, this means at most one corner per intersection. It only applies to intersections without traffic signals, of which there are a total of seven on the entire 33-block length of Skillman Avenue from Hunterspoint to Roosevelt (four in Woodside and three in the industrial area of Sunnyside). That means giving up a maximum of twenty-one spaces, but more likely only fourteen.
  4. Al claims that “If Transportation Alternatives’ plans were fully implemented – widened sidewalks, protected bike lanes, angle parking – Skillman Avenue will end up as a 1-lane street.” These suggestions are alternatives, not meant to be implemented together.
  5. Al claims that “Transportation Alternatives reports that in the seven-year period, 1995- 2001, there were, horrors!, 11 pedestrian accidents on Skillman Avenue.”  The figure of eleven crashes that resulted in pedestrian injuries is only for the two block stretch between 50th and 52nd Streets; along the 33-block length of Skillman there were 32 pedestrians and 11 cyclists injured during that period.  This figure does not include injuries to motor vehicle operators or passengers, or crashes that only resulted in property damage.

The rest of Al’s letter engages in various logical fallacies, but it is the factual inaccuracies that concern me the most. I have tried several times to correct Al in person, but he just repeats his version. It disappoints me that someone who has been a community leader for so long would be so disinclined to listen to his neighbors.

If you hear anyone repeating these erroneous statements, please make sure they know the truth.

Traffic lights “Not recommended” at Skillman and 51st or 52nd

Via our champion, Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, comes a letter from the DOT:

Dear Assembly Member Nolan:

This is in response in part to your request on behalf of Mr. Angus B. Grieve-Smith regarding the traffic controls at the intersections of Skillman Avenue with both 51st and 52nd Streets.

We completed our analyses last month. Factors such as vehicular and pedestrian volumes, accident experience, vehicular speeds, visibility, and signal spacing were all taken into consideration in making our determination. Based upon our evaluation of the data collected, it is our judgment that traffic signals are not recommended at this time.


Maura McCarthy
Queens Borough Commissioner

I suspected that this would be the result, since from everything I’ve heard, the DOT must have received at least a hundred requests for a signal at 51st Street, and maybe as many for 52nd Street. Whenever a traffic signal is requested, the DOT has to do a study like this and make a determination based on federal guidelines. I guessed that they had done a study before, and come up with a similar conclusion.

Fortunately for us, traffic lights are just one of many ways to make an intersection safer. I asked Amy Pfeiffer from Transportation Alternatives to visit Skillman Avenue because I knew that they know about these tools. She, Will Sherman and their colleagues recommended a diverse set of strategies to improve safety in our area. A traffic light was only one of those strategies, and in fact Amy explained to me in an email that the other strategies, when taken together, could do more for safety than a light:

From a safety perspective [the other traffic calming measures, such as daylighting, crosswalk marking and sidewalk extensions] achieve a much higher level of 24-hour compliance than a traffic light. Traffic lights should really be viewed as a somewhat antiquated means for managing streets that are primarily residential with some commercial uses, like Skillman. They are necessary for arterials like a Queens Boulevard, but on streets like Skillman I think they actually do more harm than good.

We’ve already gotten the signals retimed, and bike lanes for part of the avenues. At our meeting this past week, we talked with Will about possible strategies for accomplishing the remaining goals. Send us an email if you want to help!

76 year-old woman killed at 70th Street and Queens Boulevard

The Boulevard of Death has claimed another victim. The Daily News and New York 1 are reporting that a woman was killed crossing the Boulevard at 70th Street. Here’s a satellite photo of the intersection from Google Maps, and an aerial photo from Live Maps. Jeff Saltzman has pictures from the ground.

Back in 2001, Saltzman wrote:

Queens Boulevard is one of several similarly designed, multi-lane, multi-medianed thoroughfares strewn about the 5 boroughs of NYC. It was first widened in the 1920’s, when it was renamed from Hoffman Road and modeled on the Grand Concourse of the Bronx, which itself was an Americanized attempt to echo the great promenades and boulevards of France. Other cousins of this expansive roadway include Brooklyn’s Linden Blvd, Kings Highway, Eastern and Ocean Parkways, the Richmond Hill section of Woodhaven Boulevard, a short section of Little Neck Pkwy, the pre expressway Bruckner Boulevard in the Bronx and pre expressway Horace Harding Boulevard that ran from Queens Boulevard out to the Nassau County line.

Sadly, both the witness who called 911 after the crash and an obnoxious commenter on the Daily News site both think that there’s nothing that can be done to make the Boulevard safer. I hope they’re wrong. I don’t want to lose any friends or neighbors to it.

Thanks to Streetsblog for bringing the story to my attention.