Car on sidewalk at 51st Street

This morning at about 9AM, two cars crashed at the corner of 51st and Skillman.  One car went up on the sidewalk in front of the laundromat, but was stopped by the bollards protecting the fire hydrant.

Car on the sidewalk at 51st and Skillman
Car on the sidewalk at 51st and Skillman

I talked to the driver of the green car, and she said that she had been going north on 51st and looked for cars going west on Skillman before proceeding.  She claimed that she didn’t see the grey car because it was speeding, but the fact that her passenger-side door window was covered with cardboard might have had something to do with that as well.

Green car and its front bumper
Green car and its front bumper

The front bumper came off her car; you can see it on the sidewalk in the picture above.  Everyone involved was alert and walking around.  The ambulance was ready to take some of them to the hospital, but I don’t know if anyone went.

We’re lucky that no one was badly hurt here.  Clearly some people (I can’t tell which ones for sure) weren’t as careful as they should have been, but our street should be more tolerant of that kind of failure.  That means not encouraging drivers to speed, which in turn means sidewalk extensions and possibly two-way traffic.

Three-car crash today

I was walking home and saw fire trucks and an ambulance on Skillman just east of 50th Street.  I saw John Millus, who caught some photos of the scene:

Three-car crash
Photo by J. Millus

He said that the green van appears to have tried to make a left turn from the right lane, and didn’t see the grey van in the left lane.  It also hit the black Mustang that was parked at the corner.  At least one person was taken away in an ambulance:

Three-car crash
Photo by J. Millus

I took a couple of my own photos, including this close-up:

2009-08-19 17.26.08
Close-up of three-car crash

This is the same place where three cars have crashed into Aubergine Cafe, and there was another fender-bender a few months ago. Sidewalk extensions would help, and so would making Skillman two-way.  Join our mailing list to be updated on our campaign.

CB2 City Services Committee Report

Last night we presented our petition for “daylighting” at the northeast corner of 52nd Street to the City Services Committee of Community Board 2. Several of our members were in attendance, and I handled the presentation. I discussed the crash on May 13 of last year that sent a girl to the hospital, and the six previous crashes that have been documented over the period 1995-2005. I also pointed out that this is used at several other locations around the neighborhood.

I took the opportunity to clear up a few misconceptions about the proposal. We are focusing on the corner of 52nd Street. We would like to see similar arrangements at other intersections, but this is only necessary where there are no traffic lights. There are only two other intersections along Skillman that fit this condition are 55th Street and 51st Street. Since these are one-way streets, there is only one corner at each intersection where this is necessary. This means only three corners, for a maximum of nine parking spaces total.

Some of the committee members expressed concern about the loss of parking; a resident echoed this concern, as well as Principal Efkarpides and some teachers from P.S. 11. In light of these concerns, Committee Chair Patrick O’Brien asked about other possible safety improvements that would not require removing parking. He asked about installing a traffic light. I explained that the DOT had looked at the intersection and determined that a light was “not recommended.”

I suggested that sidewalk extensions would do a lot to improve safety, but that they were expensive and Commissioner McCarthy had told me that they probably wouldn’t be installed any time soon. I mentioned that Al Volpe and I had discussed the possibility of a raised crosswalk at that intersection.

At the end, Jodi Hernandez, President of the P.S. 11 PTA, reminded the committee that this was an issue of children’s safety. Mr. O’Brien said that he would discuss the various possible improvements with the DOT and then either have another discussion at a later meeting or refer it to the full Community Board. No action was taken by the committee last night.

All in all, I think we made it clear that we had over 200 people who went on record saying that they were willing to give up parking for safety. Sidewalk extensions and a raised crosswalk would make a big difference in the safety of the intersection, but daylighting would help even more.

Thanks to everyone who came out to the meeting! We’ll probably have a Coalition meeting in February to discuss our plans for the next few months.

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!