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Queens Leaders Fight Safety Fixes for Fatal School Crossing

DOT plans to simplify a dangerous Queens intersection where a school teacher was killed last December.

Here we go again. As we recently saw on 9th Street in Park Slope and 91st Street on the Upper East Side, yet another "complete streets" project is coming under fire from community leaders, this time in Queens.

This morning a bevy of elected officials and Community Board members gathered at the corner of 164th St. and Jewel Ave. in Fresh Meadows to protest the Dept. of Transportation's plan to "confiscate two of Jewel Avenue's four lanes -- one lane in each direction -- between Parsons Boulevard and 164th Street to create bicycle lanes," according to a press release from Council member James Gennaro (pictured below).

gennaro.jpgThe DOT plan (download the PDF) was initiated in November 2006 after Assembly member Nettie Mayersohn submitted a 140+ signature petition to improve pedestrian safety conditions at 164th and Jewel, where P.S. 200 is located. The call for safety improvements gained urgency after a P.S. 200 teacher was struck and killed while crossing the intersection on December 15, 2006. At the time of the fatal crash, DOT was already studying the location and gathering input from school leaders. The redesign plan was finalized in April 2007 and presented to Queens Community Board 8 on June 25.

In its study, DOT noted that Jewel and 164th both have a problem with speeding. Poor lane alignment, multiple "conflict points," lengthy crosswalks and short crossing times make the intersection in front of P.S. 200 exceptionally dangerous and crash-prone. Between 1998 and 2006 there were 82 crashes at the intersection and 8 pedestrians injured or killed.

To make the intersection safer, DOT plans to put Jewel Ave. on a "road diet," converting it to one-way and narrowing it from four lanes to two with a striped median. At the intersection, conflicts will be eliminated, pedestrian crossing times increased, and signage improved. Bike lanes will be added to both streets, both of which have long been part of the city's Bicycle Master Plan.

Jewel Ave. and 164th St. both provide important links to Queens' growing bicycle network.

DOT aims to begin implementing the changes on August 30.

But not if Gennaro, Mayersohn and Assembly member Rory Lancman, State Senator Toby Stavisky and Community Board 8 Chair Alvin Warshaviak have anything to do with it. In a release sent out ahead of this morning's press conference, community leaders demanded a halt to alterations at the fatal intersection calling DOT's plan "pointless and counterproductive."

"Parents of students at the Fresh Meadows school signed a petition asking DOT for critical traffic safety improvements, which included adding more crossing guards," Gennaro said. "Instead of responding to the parents' requests, DOT decided to implement two of its own proposals, which parents never asked for and the community vocally opposed."

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