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Baysiders urge safety at overpass

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An uncle of a Bayside boy killed while trying to cross a pedestrian bridge at 46th Avenue and the Clearview Expressway last summer broke down in tears Monday night as he pleaded with Community Board 11 to make the overpass safe “for the next kid who comes along.”

Raymond Napier was one of several relatives and friends of the Scott family who attended the CB 11 meeting Monday night at MS 158 in Bayside to support a plan to name the 46th Avenue pedestrian bridge in memory of his nephew, Christopher Scott, who was killed there in August.

Through his grief Napier appealed to CB 11 to make the overpass safe.

“Our only hope is a safe passageway for the kids,” Raymond Napier said. “That’s all our family cares about — making it safe for the next kid who comes along.”

CB 11, which includes the communities of Bayside, Little Neck, Douglaston, Oakland Gardens, Auburndale and Hollis Hills, had been considering a plan to name the pedestrian bridge “Christopher’s Crossing.”

Bayside civic leaders Mandingo Tshaka and Frank Skala opposed the idea of naming the pedestrian bridge after Christopher when at least two youngsters have been killed there in the last six years. Tshaka and Skala said the name of the bridge should be more inclusive.

Supporters of the name “Christopher’s Crossing” said they hoped it would help kids who use the overpass to be safety-conscious by making them aware of who Christopher Scott was and how he was killed.

Christopher was hit by a car and killed after he rode his bicycle across the pedestrian bridge and began to enter the service road. In July 1994 John Shim, 10, was killed in the same spot while riding his bike.

Since Christopher’s death the city Department of Transportation made several changes to the site including a ban on bicycle riding, the installation of a curb to push traffic away from the entrance to the overpass and signs that marking the area as a school crossing. The agency declined to install a traffic light or stop sign after conducting a study in the fall of 2000.

CB 11 Chairman Bernard Haber said a vote on the board’s recommendation to name the bridge was scheduled for Monday night but would be postponed until the group’s March meeting because not enough board members were present due to a snowstorm.

Haber did conduct a public hearing on the matter and several relatives and neighbors of the Scott family took the opportunity to express their support for the idea.

French Napier, Christopher’s cousin, said “every time someone walks across that bridge they’ll remember the tragedy.”

Ronald Ambrose, a Bayside resident who proposed the bridge name last year, said “we need to do something to make the people who use the overpass aware of what happened.”

Tshaka, president of the Bayside Clear-Spring Council, said his civic was in favor of a more inclusive name for the bridge, such as “Children’s Crossing.”

He also said his civic along with residents living near the pedestrian bridge were not informed of a January CB 11 committee meeting on the naming of the overpass.

“We had not been notified of the meeting,” he said. “There has to be input from the community.”

Skala, president of the East Bayside Homeowners Association, said “it is wrong to name the bridge after one of two boys who were killed here. The other boy is equally dead.”

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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