Jeff Guyton has advocated for safer pedestrian crossings at the corner where west-bound Borden Avenue meets Greenpoint Avenue for seven years — ever since he happened upon the death of an infant on that corner.
“Many start advocating for public safety because they have been impacted in some way,” Guyton said of the location next to the Long Island Expressway.
He owns an office and a rental property not 200 yards from the problem spot in Sunnyside. He also serves as the co-president of the District 30 Community Education Council.
On the other side of the LIE next to the cemetery is another hazard with cars always in the mix either turning from north- or southbound lanes.
At the very least, Guyton would like to see a leading pedestrian interval system installed at that corner and the corner where the child was hit, identical to what’s in place on Queens Boulevard. LPI allows pedestrians to start walking 10 seconds before vehicles can turn.
In the case of the infant, Guyton said both the driver and pedestrian were legally crossing. Cars exiting the expressway barrel up Borden Avenue westbound and cross Greenpoint. A babysitter had the walk sign and had begun to push the stroller into the crosswalk. At the same time the driver had the green turn signal. About a year later, a bicyclist was killed at the same corner. A white bicycle now marks the site.
“It is a very dangerous intersection,” said Abraham Cohen, who owns Storage Plus a few block away. “It’s ahigh traffic area and so many cars try to cut off each other.”
Adding to the dangers are the hedge surrounding St. Raphael’s which block drivers’ vision on their right side and large green highway signs that hang at car level on Greenpoint Avenue above the LIE and block their sight on their left side.
The north side of St. Raphael’s has its own set of issues with one-way Hunters Point Avenue, also known as 51st Avenue, turning into a two-way street as it crosses Greenpoint going west. Guyton said many cars driving east, across from the church, cut through the Mobil gas station to get to Greenpoint instead of waiting at the congested intersection.
Guyton said the problems stretch as far as 39th Street, where another bicyclist was killed about six years ago.
To mitigate issues, Community Board 2 Chairman Joe Conley said he would like to see Greenpoint turned into a one-way to Van Dam Street and 36th Street turned into a one way north-bound.
But change is starting to come to the area. Two blocks down where Hunters Point Avnenue meets 39th Street the Department of Transportation has said it has plans to start traffic calming construction.
Last spring a resident of that street, Stephen Grande Jr., took a video of cars driving the wrong way up one-way 39th Street. The video was given to Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), who showed it to the DOT.
Conley said the video gave the DOT the push they needed to start improvements there. Guyton wonders why deaths on Greenpoint Avenue haven’t given the department the same sort of nudge.
Additionally, bike lanes could be installed on Greenpoint Avenue in the next four years. At a July transportation meeting CB 2 residents said they would like to see lanes on Jackson and Greenpoint avenues as part of Phase 2 of a bike lane roll out. Phase 1 will paint nine miles of lanes on 11th Street, Skillman Avenue, 47th Avenue and 39th Street during the next year.
The growing popularity of Williamsburg and Long Island City has increased bike traffic on Greenpoint Avenue, Guyton, a biker himself, said.