A woman who was hit by an MTA bus in 2009 won a $20 million judgment against the MTA last week, according to published reports and her lawyer, Alan Shapey.
Alfreda Kusz, 59, was on her way to work when she was hit on at 23rd Street and Jackson Avenue in Long Island City, a major transit hub where at the time two bus routes and the 7 train intersected.
Kusz lost her right arm and leg and became blind in her right eye because of the accident.
Her accident was one of 22 that have occurred at the intersection, according to Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), who obtained the information from the Department of Transportation. Kusz’s lawyer and others have questioned the safety of the intersection to pedestrians.
Steve Canello, the manager at Court Square Diner, a restaurant located at the intersection, remembered Kusz’s accident, and also recalled two cars running into a divider located at the intersection that same year. Video from Court Square’s surveillance camera was used as evidence in the MTA trial, Shapey said.
Where the “bus makes the left is very tight,” Canello said, because of a street divider. “The divider should have been moved up a little bit,” he said, but it hasn’t been.
The corner has “roads that intersect at all angles,” Shapey said. Court documents show that the MTA did not contest that when Kusz stepped into the intersection, she was in the crosswalk and had the pedestrian signal in her favor.
“He just never saw her,” Shapey said of the bus’s driver, Jose Mateo.
The agency plans to appeal the court’s decision, according to an MTA spokesperson. The MTA would not say on what grounds it hoped to win an appeal.
“Twenty-two accidents tells me that we’ve got a problem at that intersection,” Van Bramer said. “We’ve asked the DOT to initiate a study as soon as possible to determine what’s the cause of those accidents.”
At the time of Kusz’s accident, significant construction to a 7 train “connector,” which would join the 7 train with the underground E/M/G station located a block away, obstructed a long length of the sidewalk on the north side of Jackson Avenue.
Within two or three months of Kusz’s accident, Canello said, the Department of Transportation “put reflectors on that divider” and “some yellow lines.”
Joseph Conley, chairman of Community Board 2, said these changes to the corner had not come about as a result of Kusz’s accident.
The New York City Economic Development Corporation was in the midst of renovating Jackson Avenue from 23rd Street up to Queens Plaza before her accident took place, Conley said.
“By and large, the DOT has been very responsive to issues we’ve raised about traffic safety,” he said.
For Kusz, any changes to the intersection came too late. Her lawyer said that $15 million of the $20 million she won was for both past and future pain and suffering. The rest of the money would cover her medical expenses. Kusz spent some 10 and a half months in the hospital and now lives with her daughter in Nassau County.
“Her biggest need is a home healthcare aide,” Shapey said. “She can’t wash herself or get dressed.”
Kusz won’t receive any money until a judgment is made regarding the MTA’s appeal, which could take up to a year, Shapey said.