Her eyes on the passing cars, an elderly woman stands on the curb on the southwest corner of Cross Bay Boulevard and 156th Avenue, waiting for the red hand to change to the gray silhouette of a man walking. Finally, it does, and she steps into the street and begins her safe trek across the wide, busy boulevard. She gets only to the second southbound lane when suddenly the clock starts counting down
24 ... 23 ... 22
She begins to hurry, fearing she will run out of time while still in the congested traffic lanes and fall victim to a speeding car.
14 ... 13 ... 12
Barely across the median, the woman begins to scurry faster, her eyes opened wide with fear.
7 ... 6 ... 5
She reaches the curb with only seconds to spare.
This is a scene that plays out many times a day all across Queens’ busiest streets.
But this intersection is one where many of the pedestrians crossing do not have the ability to speed up when the clock ticks close to zero.
“I have personally visited this intersection and I am concerned for our seniors to make it safely across the street in the current allotted time,” said Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Park), who wrote a letter to the city Department of Transportation asking to increase crossing times for the crosswalks on Cross Bay Boulevard as well as those on 156th Avenue, which begin counting down at 15 seconds.
“An assessment needs to be done for all [four] crossings at the intersection,” Goldfeder said.
The corner is located at the entrance to the neighborhood, just one block south of the Belt Parkway, along one of the busiest routes in the borough.
Traffic along Cross Bay Boulevard is completely stopped for 39 seconds, but the countdown clocks start ticking down at 25 seconds, meaning the walk signal is only on for less than 10 seconds.
That’s hardly enough time for any able-bodied person to make it even halfway across the street. During an hour-long time period on Monday afternoon, several pedestrians, including one older woman, could be seen reacting to the flashing red hand and countdown. One pedestrian started running once the numbers appeared, making it to the other side of the street with a few seconds left.
“It’s psychological,” Goldfeder explained. “Once you see the clock, you wonder if you have enough time to make it across.”
He said he had just sent the letter to the department this week and is optimistic that it will take the request seriously.
DOT spokesman Nicholas Mosquera said the agency had not yet received Goldfeder’s letter, but would review the any request made.
Goldfeder said that he is not concerned with whether or not increasing the time traffic is stopped will lead to more congestion on the heavily-traveled Cross Bay Boulevard corridor.
“I think that the DOT’s job is to ensure that traffic keeps moving smoothly at the same time as providing safe crossing for residents,” he said. “I’m confident there’s a way to do that.”