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Potential death trap off LIE worries residents

Year after year the couple - who live on the corner of 248th Street and 54th Avenue - watched as cars and trucks failed to navigate the sudden curve from the Long Island Expressway onto 248th Street. Cars that did not make it generally wound up in the Simaks' back yard, they said, often destroying their large, red fence and any trees in the way.

Recently the state Department of Transportation closed the 248th Street exit off the expressway for the duration of the LIE-Cross Island Parkway interchange project, which is set to reshape the exchange and expand the expressway. When the exit was open, the Simaks said, drivers often ignored the flashing warning lights, speed limit signs and large arrows that indicated the abrupt curve.

But after the agency closed the exit, some motorists started using the 248th Street entrance to the LIE as an exit from the crowded expressway and the Simaks said an unimaginable hazard was created.

"They still come down this way," said Kathleen Simak, pointing at the 248th Street exit. "Somebody's going to have a head-on accident. Somebody's going to get killed. I would like to see them shut this exit down completely because people have no regard for the law."

Elliott Socci, president of the Douglaston Civic Association, told the Times-Ledger last month that his group would lobby for the permanent closure of the exit.

Richard Simak, who grew up in the home and lived in it with his family before the Long Island Expressway was built behind it, said a combination of sun glare and heavy traffic often causes frustrated and blinded drivers to shoot through the area's residential side streets.

"All these trees my father planted," Richard Simak said, making a sweeping motion indicating the perimeter of his home. "He kept trying to plant one on the corner [near the LIE] and every time it gets four or five years old it gets knocked down."

Kathleen Simak said she was in her kitchen in the rear of the house one day several years ago when she looked up to see a car in her backyard fence.

"I used to cringe every time I heard a screech," she said.

While the closure of one side of the 248th Street exit was good, the couple said they would continue to lobby for the total shutdown of the exit.

A neighbor who gave her name as Monica said before the one side of the exit was closed, she refused to park her car near it for fear of an accident.

"They had too many accidents here," she said. "It's more convenient to be able to come around the corner, but for the single fact of safety they should keep it closed."

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