Just one day after a car came crashing into stores on Crescent Street and Queens Plaza South, killing one man and decimating two businesses, area patrons wonder how such an accident occurred.
“Did he fly off the bridge?” one woman asked her friend inside Panini Tost Cafe, located next door to Villa de Beaute’, a salon which has been closed by the Department of Buildings since Monday’s accident. The damage was so extensive that it appeared as if a bomb went off.
The crash occurred at the exit of the Queensboro Bridge on an area of roadway that had been revamped in 2008 to improve traffic flow. The exit from the bridge was once more gradual and visible from the lower roadway, but now requires a sharper turn.
Anthony Buscemi, 68, of West 83rd Street in Manhattan, was walking to work at around 4 a.m. when a red 2007 Volkswagen entering Queens from Manhattan, failed to navigate the turn and hit a guard rail at the base of the bridge, flipping over it onto the street, crushing him.
The area around Queens Plaza is being redesigned as part of the multi-million dollar New York City Economic Development Corp. Queens Plaza Pedestrian and Bicycle Improvement Project. The plan is aimed at — among other things — increasing pedestrian safety in the area around Queens Plaza.
After the crash, wooden support beams were placed inside the building to hold up the compromised structure. Next door to the beauty shop, Espinal’s Carribbean Restaurant II, also ruined, was shuttered. “They don’t know what to do. Even the ceiling came down,” said Narinder Singh, manger of Tost, located next door, but miraculously unharmed. A damaged check cashing facility on the block was open, but had boarded up its broken window.
Singh said Tost was closed from Sunday night to Monday morning when the accident took place. He and other employees showed up to work at 9 a.m. but were not permitted to open the business until around 10:30 a.m. while wreckage was cleared. Drivers on their way to work on Monday complained of traffic delays of up to 40 minutes traveling into Manhattan, despite the fact that the accident happened on the Queens bound side of the bridge exit.
Singh said his employees knew Buscemi, who often picked up coffee at Tost on his way to work as a taxi driver. Buscemi’s colleague, Rey Segui, supervising manager of Midtown Taxi Corp. in Long Island City, said the driver had been with the company for 25 years. He leased a cab and a medallion and worked the day shift. “He was a great guy. He was a steady driver,” Segui said. “His son stopped by yesterday, talking about arrangements they were making.”
Though Buscemi was old enough to retire, Segui said the driver was so accustomed to working that he may not have considered it. “As you reach those years in your 60s, you don’t think too much of retirement if you’ve been working all your life,” Segui said. “He was an extremely nice guy. It breaks my heart that we lost a driver in that way.”
No charges have been filed against the 35-year-old driver of the car that killed Buscemi. He and his 31-year-old female passenger were taken to Bellevue Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical Center, respectively. Singh said the driver’s arm was severed in the crash. Both survivors are in stable condition.
Department of Transportation spokespeople did not say whether the agency was considering traffic changes in the area as a result of the incident.