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Queens Chronicle

Pols demand safer streets for residents

After fatal hit and run, electeds say it’s time DOT takes responsibility

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Posted: Thursday, October 3, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:51 am, Thu Oct 10, 2013.

On Saturday, 19-year-old Luis Bravo was walking eastbound on Broadway when he was struck by a dark-colored sedan at the 58th Street intersection in Woodside.

The driver, traveling southbound subsequently fled the scene, leaving Bravo to die on the concrete until police and EMS responded and transported him to Elmhurst Hospital.

By the time they arrived, it was too late.

Almost three days later, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Maspeth) and residents of Woodside rallied together to urge the Department of Transportation to implement traffic-calming measures.

“Yet another person has been killed here in Western Queens as a result of a vehicular collision,” Van Bramer said. “For over a year now the Department of Transportation has not done anything about motorists speeding along Broadway here in Woodside and unfortunately this inaction has resulted in another death. Every time a pedestrian is struck and dies as a result of a vehicular collision we will speak out against it.”

Approximately a year and a half ago, Ed Sermenian, who lives on Broadway near 61st Street — just three blocks from where Bravo was struck — reached out to the councilman’s office complaining of cars constantly speeding and running red lights.

Together Sermenian and Van Bramer contacted the DOT which, after surveying the area, determined there was no need for changes to the traffic-signal timing.

In addition to traffic signals, Van Bramer has been working with Joshua Hollman, at Christ Lutheran Church, to have a speed bump installed on 58th Street. The Church provides pre-school for 130 students.

“There are times at night when there is no one here, it look’s like a no-man’s land,” Hollman said. “These drivers have no respect for anything and the city needs to pay more attention or someone else is going to get killed.”

In fact, 15 minutes before the press conference began, an SUV barreled through a red light on 58th Street and Broadway, where a memorial for Bravo with lit candles, flowers and written condolences stood not 100 feet away, acting as a haunting reminder of what can happen when traffic laws are violated.

“Even now, look at this guy just driving through,” Sermenian said as the car continued on. “There is no respect.”

In the last three months there have been five pedestrian collisions throughout Western Queens, four of which resulted in fatalities.

“These pedestrian fatalities happen so often that they may seem inevitable but they are preventable,” said Paul Steely White, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives. “We need consistent, data-driven enforcement across the city to target the most deadly traffic violations, like speeding and failure to yield to pedestrians, and we call upon the next mayor to appoint a police commissioner who will make enforcement of those violations a priority.”

The DOT disagreed.

“We have not let up on our unprecedented focus on pedestrian safety, which has helped lead to a 22 percent reduction in pedestrian fatalities since 2001,” DOT spokesman Seth Solomonow said. “These efforts plus NYPD enforcement have helped make the last six years the six safest in New York City history, with the fewest traffic fatalities since records were first kept in 1910.”

According to the DOT, there will be a new review of the conditions on the Broadway corridor, including the intersection with 58th Street. The agency said that it will be making use of the most recent data and look into the feasibility of other traffic-calming measures.

“I can’t say for sure if this is a spike but something feels very wrong with the number of deaths we have had,” Van Bramer said.

The councilman added that too often the DOT “passes the buck” onto the NYPD to enforce traffic laws and jaywalking —which Bravo was allegedly doing when he was struck by the vehicle.

“Clearly everyone should exercise caution but the responsibility is on the driver,” Van Bramer said. “If you are using a vehicle that has the potential to kill someone, you have to be extra careful. Yes, people should cross at the crosswalk and with the light but a person is not going to kill anyone.”

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