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Planned traffic lights draw protest

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Although the city has promised to install traffic lights at two intersections that residents of Middle Village and Glendale have long considered dangerous, community leaders are voicing concerns that the solutions will only create more problems.

Joseph Cannisi, the Queens borough commissioner of the city Department of Transportation, said in letters dated in early June that traffic signals had been approved and would be installed by Nov. 30 at two locations: the intersection at Juniper Park South and 75th Street in Middle Village and the corner of Cooper Avenue and 70th Street in Glendale.

Although both lights will be installed in response to community requests for additional traffic controls, civic leaders and community activists say other solutions would be more appropriate for the intersections.

DOT spokeswoman Lorelei Palmer said the agency decided to put up the lights after conducting studies of the intersections based upon federal guidelines for traffic signal installation.

“We’re aware of the community’s concerns,” Palmer said. “Our primary goal is to provide safety. A traffic signal is not only feasible, it’s efficient and it’s the safest way for pedestrians to cross in this situation.”

Residents have long complained that cars speeding along Juniper Park South in Middle Village render the roadway dangerous to pedestrians, many of whom are children and elderly residents trying to cross the street to reach Juniper Valley Park.

The traffic light will be installed at the T-intersection formed when cars traveling northwest along 75th Street hit Juniper Park South, a two-way street that hugs the southern end of the park.

But Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, fears the presence of a traffic light would only increase problems by prompting cars to accelerate to avoid a red light.

“A traffic light works when it’s a heavy intersection with traffic going in both directions. That’s not the case here,” Holden said. “It’s just a long straightaway where you want to get cars to stop.”

Holden recommended instead that a three-way stop sign be installed, so every car passing through the intersection would be required to stop. The intersection currently has one stop sign for traffic coming from 75th Street.

“I know a lot more people running red lights than running stop signs,” Holden said.

The proposed Glendale traffic light is located a block away from the point at which Cooper and Myrtle Avenues cross, where some residents are calling for a piece of roadway to be converted into green space through the Parks Department’s Greenstreets program.

The intersecting avenues form two legs of the Glendale Veteran’s Triangle, the base of which is a small segment of 70th Street running between Cooper and Myrtle. The light would regulate traffic going from 70th Street to Cooper, where numerous accidents have been caused by poor visibility.

Although local activist Lori Phelan has been petitioning local officials and the DOT to address the intersection for the past year, she said “putting a light at that intersection is only going to make it worse.”

Community Board 5 District Manager Gary Giordano said he has asked the DOT to re-evaluate its decision because he fears the addition of another traffic light to an already crowded intersection would impede traffic.

“I see that it is very difficult to time that signal so that traffic is not backed up onto Myrtle Avenue from Cooper Avenue going westbound,” Giordano said.

Phelan wants the piece of 70th Street to be closed and made into a green addition to the Veteran’s Triangle. Although Giordano said the community board has asked the DOT to consider that option, he believes agency officials “don’t like the idea from a traffic standpoint.”

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 7:15 pm, October 10, 2011
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