• December 12, 2019
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Queens Chronicle

Struggling to tame Woodhaven Blvd.

After another pedestrian death, civic leader calls road ‘lawless’

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Posted: Thursday, August 1, 2019 10:30 am

Pedestrian fatalities on Woodhaven Boulevard have happened often enough in the past decade, but they can sometimes escape notice.

However, the hit-and-run death of a 56-year-old Dunkin’ Donuts worker last Thursday shortly after 5 a.m. was gruesomely out of the ordinary.

Sivanaintha Perumal, known as Shiva, was struck so hard by a car headed southbound on Woodhaven and 91st Avenue that he was knocked out of his pants.

His body was thrown or dragged more than 100 feet beyond the crosswalk, landing on the bridge over Atlantic Avenue.

“They heard the sound two blocks away,” said Kenichi Wilson, head of Community Board 9, who lives nearby.

Unconfirmed reports are that police found the damaged car the next day in Howard Beach. They are still looking for the driver.

Hardly 24 hours earlier, at 1 a.m., a bike rider was hit by a driver on the corner of Woodhaven and Jamaica Avenue. The rider was critically injured but expected to survive.

The driver, who stayed at the scene, was not ticketed. The accident, officials said, was deemed to be the cyclist’s fault.

Farther up Woodhaven, across from Forest Park, the city Department of Transportation installed new barriers two weeks ago on the far right lane of the boulevard going northbound, funneling through-traffic onto a service road used for school buses and trash collection.

The new barriers, which now prevent cars from merging left into traffic on Woodhaven, were installed without notice to the neighborhood or a posted warning to drivers.

A tractor trailer traveling north on Woodhaven last week was forced onto the narrow service road with no room to maneuver itself back to the main road, residents of the Forest Park Co-ops told Wilson last week.

So much has been going wrong on Woodhaven Boulevard so fast, civic leaders and lawmakers say they are having trouble keeping up.

Ed Wendell, executive director of the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society, calls the boulevard “lawless, a complete and utter disaster.”

Several hours after Shiva was killed, DOT officials met with Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) and a number of other local officials to defend the new service-road lane change.

The meeting had been set several weeks earlier but the coincidence was not lost on the participants, said Miller.

“We told them it was horrific for people at the co-op,” he said. “They seemed to understand, but you never get any answers right away.

“They said they’d look at it again.”

Wilson, who also participated in the meeting, made it clear he wants to see the lane returned to its original purpose “by the time schools starts.”

In a letter to DOT Borough Commissioner Nicole Garcia, Wilson also asked that cameras be installed on the north and south sides of the Atlantic Avenue bridge to discourage speeders.

“I respectfully request that your office expedite the installation of these cameras to prevent another tragic accident on this section of Woodhaven Boulevard,” it read.

Much of the blame has fallen on the city’s ambitious remodelling of the boulevard two years ago to accommodate Select Service Buses and increase the efficiency of bus service.

A confusing maze of local and express lanes, new concrete medians and what seems like twice the number of traffic lights have made the changes unpopular in Woodhaven and Ozone Park, despite some evidence the revamp has increased bus speeds.

Others, like Wendell, believe the real problem is not the boulevard’s new design but lack of traffic enforcement.

“I’ve lived within 50 yards of Woodhaven Boulevard my entire life,” said Wendell, 53. “It was always moving and you always had to cross it.

“But it’s a million times more frightening now.”

Miller and Wilson are calling for a Woodhaven summit meeting of sorts — with DOT, the 102nd Precinct and the Parks Department — to hash out a comprehensive plan for fixing the boulevard’s problems.

Meantime, a GoFundMe page set up by the son of a co-worker of Shiva’s raised nearly $8,000 in less than a week to pay for a funeral and to send his body back to India.

Shiva had been planning to attend his daughter’s wedding next month in India, said a friend.

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