City 50-Southeast Queens 0. That’s the score when it comes to slow zones and other traffic calming devices, according to one area lawmaker, who is asking the Department of Transportation to reconsider its decisions on dozens of requests by area residents.
City Councilman James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton) compiled a list of 50 potential slow zone locations in Southeast Queens — areas that residents told him were traffic heavy or accident prone, or both, and each one was rejected by the DOT.
The designation changes the speed limit, which is 30 miles an hour on most city streets, to 20 miles an hour. The slow zones will be defined by special markings and signage and contain speed-calming devices such as stop signs, traffic lights and speed humps.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” Sanders said at a press conference Tuesday at the “dangerous” intersection of 140th Avenue and Guy R. Brewer Boulevard in Jamaica. “Are we saying that there are no places in Southeast Queens where we need to go slow, or are we saying that our youth have no value, our elders have no value, or is this just a raceway and no one told us about it?”
There are 13 neighborhoods citywide that will get slow zones, the mayor announced at the beginning of July, with four in Queens: Corona, Auburndale, Elmhurst and Jackson Heights.
As for Southeast Queens, the DOT has cited a myriad of reasons, according to Sanders, of why slow zones will not be installed — everything from streets being too narrow or driveways being too close together for speed bumps or that there were insufficient safety hazards when DOT conducted its traffic study of a given area.
“They have an assortment of creative ways of saying ‘No,’” Sanders said. “If I didn’t know better, I would suggest that the office has a person whose sole job is to come up with clever ways to say ‘No.’ We need to go beyond that. We need to get to ‘Yes.’”
Sanders said that the DOT’s traffic studies are often flawed because sometimes the inspectors arrive at the wrong time of day, when traffic is the least heavy. He also suggested that the DOT staffers meet with residents who may give them information that they would not otherwise know.
Sanders said that as an act of good faith, believing there might have been an honest oversight, he will resubmit the list to Queens DOT Commissioner Maura McCarthy. He suggested that agency officials “leave the ivory tower of Manhattan,” and examine the Southeast Queens locations firsthand.
“We will pretend that we didn’t know we were treated in such a shabby fashion,” Sanders said. “We insist that you look at this list again.”
Inez Hawkins, the PTA president at PS 52 in Jamaica, was one of several concerned residents on hand citing the dangerous conditions she sees in the district, especially around the school. “We have children running back and forth and I don’t understand why we can’t have speed bumps,” Hawkins said. “What is the DOT waiting for? Are they waiting for one of our children to get hurt?”
Lilla Roberts of 140th Avenue in Jamaica said motorists speed down her block all the time and that there are often accidents. In fact, she said, on Monday night a driver hit a car being driven by an elderly woman, smashed into a parked car and then sped away.
“I couldn’t sleep last night,” Roberts said. “It happened right in front of my house.”