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Staten Island Group Wants Safety Measure that City DOT Doesn’t Like

12:01 AM EDT on April 8, 2022

The aftermath on Van Duzer St. Photo: Vince DiMiceli

Members of a Staten Island neighborhood group are asking the city for what they call an essential road safety measure, but a Department of Transportation official shot down the request, claiming the improvement can’t be done in a city as big as New York.

On Wednesday night, the Van Duzer Street Civic Association asked the city to add mid-street crosswalks at intersections without traffic lights or stop signs along dangerous portions of St. Pauls Avenue and Van Duzer street, two highly trafficked residential streets that advocates say are overridden with speeders.

But DOT's Staten Island Commissioner Roseann Caruana said it was unlikely.

“We don’t particularly like to put crosswalks where there are no stop controls,” Caruana said when asked point-blank about the city’s policy regarding crosswalks at uncontrolled intersections. “It’s a false sense of security for a pedestrian who thinks ‘Hey, I’m in a crosswalk, so no one’s gonna run me over.’ If there’s not a stop control there, that is not safe.’”

St. Pauls Avenue in Staten Island (looking south towards Van Duzer Street) needs to be redesigned to slow down drivers and give pedestrians some space. Graphic: Van Duzer Street Civic Association
St. Pauls Avenue in Staten Island (looking south towards Van Duzer Street) needs to be redesigned to slow down drivers and give pedestrians some space. Graphic: Van Duzer Street Civic Association

A resident then pressed Caruana about the possibility of putting in mid-street crosswalks with signs alerting drivers to yield to pedestrians — like those he’s seen in towns on Long Island such as Huntington and Great Neck, and Caruana said are abundant in villages on the Jersey Shore — but the commissioner said they weren’t feasible in New York City.

“That is not reality here in the city,” she said. “I wouldn’t want those where my kids are crossing, because there is no stop control.”

Mid-block crosswalks with traffic controls do exist in New York City — the commercial district on 86th Street in Bay Ridge features a crosswalk and traffic light dedicated to pedestrians — but street-level signage warning drivers to follow the law that they yield to those crossing the street are non-existent here, despite the fact that their existence would, in essence, work as a stop control.

Rose Uscianowski and Zeke Mermel presented the plan to the Van Duzer Street Civic Association on Wednesday night. Photo: Vince DiMiceli
Rose Uscianowski and Zeke Mermell presented the plan to the Van Duzer Street Civic Association on Wednesday night. Photo: Vince DiMiceli

The meeting’s agenda focused on the civic’s traffic committee report on the proliferation of car crashes — both reported and unreported — in the so-called St. Pauls Avenue-Van Duzer Street Corridor, two one-way, mostly single-lane residential streets that are used by drivers traveling between the borough’s civic center near the Staten Island Ferry and the Staten Island Expressway.

The report was put together this month after a building at a dangerous merge of St. Paul’s and Van Duzer was destroyed by an unlicensed, uninsured driver who crashed into the two attached homes at a high rate of speed while being pursued by police.

Along with the proposed mid-street crosswalks, the civic group also seeks more DOT-friendly ideas such as installing more speed cameras, speed humps and speed cushions where they are allowed by law; adding more safety measures around the site of last month’s crash, including adding signage warning of the merge ahead, fixing the placement of a stop sign for drivers heading up Van Duzer Street toward St. Pauls, and adjusting the position of the blinking yellow and red lights that residents say only confuse drivers.

The Department of Transportation has slowed down drivers along the corridor with speed cameras, according to residents. And new bicycle lanes painted in 2018 on Van Duzer and St. Pauls streets have narrowed the roadways, which reduces speeding.

Maite Iracheta, who was sleeping on a pull-out couch in the living room of the home that was struck by the driver, said a simple solution to the problem would be to install a stop sign on both Van Duzer Street and St. Pauls Avenue where the two merge, forcing drivers to, at the very least, slow down.

“Drivers use that hill coming down St. Pauls like it is a roller coaster,” said Iracheta, who was miraculously uninjured in the graphic crash. “They need to put a stop sign there.”

Caruana said that is certainly on the table, and the DOT would look over the civic group’s recommendation and come back with a new plan to slow traffic in the future.

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