Girl Injured at 52nd and Skillman

This morning my wife called to tell me that she had seen a crash at the corner of 52nd Street and Skillman Avenue. She was walking our son to school, and she saw a girl, about six or seven years old get knocked down by an SUV. The SUV was going south on 52nd Street and did not stop at the stop sign. The girl got up immediately. The driver of the SUV got out and asked the girl if she was okay, and the girl said yes, and the driver got back in and drove away.

The girl was not okay, however. Almost immediately after the driver left, she complained about pain. A man had gotten the license number of the SUV and gave it to the girl’s mother, and my wife left our phone number and went to work.

A few minutes later I got a call from the girl’s father. He didn’t speak much English, and didn’t know what to do. He didn’t know that the 911 service has operators who speak almost every language. I went downstairs and helped them call 911. The girl’s foot was swollen, and she couldn’t walk on it. Within a few minutes the fire department came, and then an ambulance, and then the police. Officers Morse and Crooks of the 108th Precinct filed an accident report, and the ambulance took the family to Elmhurst Hospital. If anyone has more information about the collision, please call 311.

My wife has been saying for a long time that this is one of the most dangerous of the dangerous conditions on Skillman Avenue. As you can see from the photos I took in February, drivers have difficulty seeing traffic coming down Skillman, so they pull out into the crosswalk without always looking for pedestrians. In addition, the width of the street and the lack of parking on the west side of the intersection encourage drivers to roll through the stop sign without stopping.

The solution to the lack of visibility is to remove parking spaces. I know that it’s difficult to find a parking space in the area, but I don’t believe that a few parking spaces are worth putting children in danger. None of the drivers I’ve talked to about this do, either.

Removing those parking spaces will make it easier for drivers to stop at the stop sign, but some will still be tempted to roll through. To discourage that and to shorten the walking distance, the sidewalk should be extended on both sides, leaving just enough room for vehicles to get through.

Tonight I will be attending the DOT’s presentation to Community Board 2 about safety improvements on Skillman. I will ask that the plans include removing these parking spaces and adding sidewalk extensions at this intersection. I hope to see you all there.

Update on Ongma’s crash on Queens Boulevard

Tonight I had some tea at Aubergine and was served by Maya, the sister of Ongma, who was hit by a taxi at the bus stop on the corner of 52nd Street and Queens Boulevard. She says that Ongma is recovering and able to walk a little, though with difficulty.

John Millus posted more details and some photos on the bulletin board at Aubergine, over on Queens Crap. It turns out that the taxi had been heading west on Queens Boulevard, made an illegal U-turn, lost control and flew into Ongma and the bus shelter.

Here’s an aerial photo from Live Search, showing the intersection as it was before the 2004 safety improvements. As far as I can tell, though, the safety improvements did not address the main issue with this intersection, which is that it’s way too wide (east-west). At most, it needs to be wide enough for a car going south on 52nd Street and a car going north out of the cemetary to comfortably pass each other.

Take a look at the black van going down 52nd Street. By the time you get to the furthest traffic lane, the intersection is easily 20 times the width of the van. No wonder crazy cab drivers think nothing of making high-speed U-turns there.

Now look at the south side of the boulevard. The sidewalk doesn’t match up with the cemetary gates. Imagine that you fixed that. Then imagine extending the median dividers to match up with the sidewalk, so that the gap between them is never more than 20 feet wide. Plenty of space for a car from 52nd Street and a car from the cemetary to pass each other at legal speeds. Finally, imagine a driver trying to take a U-turn at high speeds with that configuration; they’d wipe out long before they got across the road, probably at the first median divider. With any luck, that would have a concrete barrier protecting pedestrians. More likely, they’d have clear visual signals that would tell them it’s unsafe to turn at that speed, and not do it.

Here’s where I make the connection to 43rd Avenue, and then to Skillman. The whole reason that the intersection has that funny trapezoid shape is to make it easier for eastbound cars from 43rd Avenue to turn onto Queens Boulevard. Reduce the number of those cars, and you reduce the pressure to make that intersection so dangerous.

Don’t forget the Boulevard of Death

The improvements implemented in 2004 have made Queens Boulevard a bit safer, but obviously not safe enough:

Bus Shelter

I took this picture on my phone yesterday. A brand new bus shelter was smashed up at the corner of 52nd Street, by the cemetary gates..

Today I found out from John Millus that this was done by a taxi a few nights ago. Ongma, the waitress from Aubergine, was waiting for the bus, and is now in the hospital with a broken hip.

Added 9PM: I was just thinking about how this intersection is actually part of the same system as Skillman and 43rd Avenues. If you stand at the end of 43rd Avenue at 52nd Street and Roosevelt Avenue, you see that a large number of cars turn down 52nd Street and head for Queens Boulevard. Reduce the number of cars coming down 43rd Avenue, and you reduce the number turning at this intersection. Hopefully we’ll be able to do something about it soon.

43rd Avenue at 51st Street: two deadly corners

I found the Ridgewood Times obituary (by Sunnyside’s own Rob MacKay) for Kevin Harkin, the man who was killed in the collision at the corner of 43rd Avenue and 51st Street on Octber 29, 2004. This is the same collision that put my old college friend, John Pavlakis, in the hospital.

Sadly, Harkin did not survive. John was hit by Harkin’s motorcycle and knocked unconscious. He suffered 8 fractures, mostly in his shin and knee, requiring four surgeries. Recovery required a month in the hospital, two months confined to his apartment and three months in a wheelchair. He was not able to walk without some kind of assistance until nine months later. He writes, “while I have regained mobility, pain is an unpredictable foe, preventing a return to normalcy.”

On warm days, some of our neighbors sit and socialize on the benches in the triangle park across the street, on the north side of 43rd Avenue. But not all the benches. One day, they pointed out to me a “new guy” who was sitting on the bench facing the eastbound traffic on the avenue. They said, “we never sit there, since a car ran into it a few years back.”