A neighbor writes: There was a bad car accident yesterday morning [June 5] on 51st and Skillman outside La Marjolaine. An SUV taxi blew the stop sign coming down 51st and t-boned a big SUV coming down Skillman. The driver of the private car was taken to the hospital, but it didn’t seem life threatening. Of course, both vehicles nearly ended up on the curb.
A good example of the kind of daylighting we want to see on 52nd Street can be found at the corner of 49th Street and 39th Avenue. There are “no parking” signs marking an area about one car length. This makes it easier for drivers from 49th Street to see traffic on 39th Avenue.
Last year, when the DOT painted the bike sharrows on 39th Avenue, they also painted lines around the parking lane. By mistake, they marked that spot as parking, leading people to park in it and get ticketed.
This fall, the DOT used stimulus money to repave 39th Avenue. I knew they would need to repaint the lines, so I asked Commissioner McCarthy to double-check and make sure that the painters knew to mark the daylighting space as no-parking. They came through earlier this month, and put down some lovely zebra stripes! Thanks to the Commissioner, the crew and everyone else who helped.
As concerned neighbors, we are asking you to support our request to remove 2-3 parking spaces from Skillman Avenue at the corners of 51st , 52nd and 55th Streets – at most 9 spaces – and turn them into sidewalk. Here are some things we want you to know as you consider this issue:
Daylighting would not hurt businesses. The success of our neighborhood stores and services is very important to us. The parking spaces we are asking to be turned into sidewalk are all residential parking. From our observations, cars leave these spaces about once a week, and therefore they are almost never available to customers of the businesses on Skillman.
Daylighting would protect the young and the elderly. We decided to ask for daylighting after a young girl was hit by a car whose driver did not stop at the stop sign or look for pedestrians. (Luckily, she was not badly hurt, but it could have been much worse.) Removing two to three parked cars at only one corner of each of these three intersections would allow drivers to pay more attention to pedestrians and make it easier for them to follow the law.
Daylighting is only part of our proposal. We are also asking for sidewalk extensions at these corners, and we would also support raised crosswalks – essentially a speed bump in the crosswalk. We have also asked for traffic signals, but the Department of Transportation turned down our request. Daylighting would not be necessary if traffic lights are installed.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Since my wife saw a girl get knocked down by a slow-moving SUV at the corner of 52nd Street and Skillman Avenue on Tuesday, I’ve made it a priority to improve that particular intersection.
First, an update: I talked to the girl’s father today, and he said that she was feeling much better, and able to walk okay. It sounds like she’s just bruised. That’s a relief.
Fortunately, that evening was the Community Board meeting. I rushed over there, only to discover that they weren’t going to be talking about Skillman Avenue that night after all. However, I did have a nice chat with Commissioner McCarthy for a few minutes after the meeting. I told her about the collision, and asked about the possibility of daylighting-related improvements in the area. I don’t remember her exact answer, but I think she said it was likely.
The other improvement that would really help make that intersection safer is sidewalk extensions. I asked the Commissioner about those, and she said that they would probably be not be done for a while. She confirmed that this was for budgetary reasons. I asked if they could be funded with member items, and she said, “We’ll take anybody’s money!” So we should work on finding funding for more expensive items like sidewalk extensions.
Today I was talking with a neighbor who lives on 52nd Street, and she told me that on Wednesday she went home for lunch and they were installing a new school crossing sign just before the stop sign. I tried to take a picture of it, but my camera phone wanted to focus on the Honda in front of it:
It might be a coincidence (apparently the DOT has been installing them in other places), but it might not. It won’t solve the problem by itself, but every little bit helps. Thanks, Commissioner!