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Briarwood man 78th to die on Queens Blvd. since ’93

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A 73-year-old Briarwood man died on Saturday morning after being struck by a car while crossing Queens Boulevard at 82nd Ave., police said. He was the 78th pedestrian to die on the thoroughfare since 1993.

Shun Mao of 139-46 Pershing Crest was crossing the eight-lane boulevard southbound, when he was hit at about 5:35 a.m. by a 1988 red Toyota, which was headed west, said police.

Mao was taken to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center with a broken leg, broken ribs, head lacerations and internal injuries, said authorities. He was pronounced dead at 8:17 a.m.

The driver of the red Toyota, Mahammed Saheed, 54, of Jamaica, stayed at the scene to talk with police. He was not charged, said police.

Mao is the second pedestrian of the year to be killed while crossing Queens Boulevard, according to the city Department of Transportation.

The first pedestrian, Wladyslaw Zrodlo, 51, of Maspeth, was struck and killed by a car while crossing the boulevard against the light on Aug. 17.

“It’s devastating,” said Estelle Chwat, the co-president of the Forest Hills Action League, which has spearheaded an effort to make the boulevard safer by organizing marches and safety education sessions. “It’s a no-end situation unless they reconfigure this boulevard. There has to be a police or traffic presence. This is a highway through a residential area.”

Chwat and her husband, Norbert Chwat, organized a memorial service at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church about two weeks ago to honor the 77 pedestrians who had died crossing Queens Boulevard from 1993 up until mid-December.

To serve as a reminder for those who died, a small Japanese red maple tree was planted outside the church, behind a plaque that reads “In remembrance of all who lost their lives on Queens Boulevard.”

The DOT began implementing changes in 2001 to make Queens Boulevard, also known as the “Boulevard of Death,” safer. More than 400 signs were put up warning pedestrians to be alert while crossing the road, red lights were lengthened to give pedestrians more time to cross, four-foot-high fencing was put up on medians to prevent jaywalking, and the speed limit was reduced to a uniform 30 mph.

Tom Cocola, a spokesman for the DOT, said the changes had resulted in a significant drop in pedestrian fatalities on the boulevard.

According to Cocola, there were 17 pedestrian deaths on the boulevard in 1993, six in 1994, seven in 1995, six in 1996, 18 in 1997, eight in 1998, four in 1999 and six in 2000.

“People are going to have to be vigilant on Queens Boulevard no matter what,” said Cocola. “There’s always the potential of conflict on the roads.”

Estelle Chwat suggested that there should be police or traffic officers on the boulevard every day to help prevent accidents.

“The only time the police come out is when there’s a death or accident,” she said. “Then we have six squad cars and police with measuring tapes. Some manner of control must be established. Let’s keep the measuring tapes in their pockets.”

Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com, or call 229-0300,Ext. 155.

Updated 10:25 am, October 12, 2011
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