Nursing home worker slams fence near Van Wyck

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A city-installed black iron fence designed to protect pedestrians may actually be endangering motorists leaving the Bridgeview Nursing Home in Whitestone, according to the nursing home's maintenance director.

Steve Cichon has waged a months-long battle with the city Department of Design and Construction over issues that have arisen as a result of the widening of 20th Avenue.

Cichon, the nursing home maintenance director, said the city has created a perilous condition for those trying to drive out of the nursing home — a black iron fence that obscures oncoming traffic from nearby Van Wyck Expressway.

"Here we have a physical danger and they're giving me a song and a dance," Cichon said last week. "It's like dealing with a monster."

Cichon said when a car approaches the fence's vertical black bars, they form a barrier for the driver, preventing him or her from seeing oncoming traffic.

"It's like a black wall," he said.

The DDC said the fence, which lines a sidewalk constructed on top of a recently built retaining wall, is designed to protect pedestrians from falling onto the busy street, which stands about 3 feet below the sidewalk.

In a letter to Cichon dated July 14, DDC Commissioner David Burney said the fence is a city standard and appropriate for residential areas.

"This type of fence ensures the safety of pedestrians by preventing individuals from easily climbing over it and small children from slipping through gaps in the fence," Burney said.

The DDC recommended that Cichon either install a mirror at the nursing home exit or reverse the traffic flow into the parking lot to alleviate the problem.

Cichon said reversing the traffic pattern would only create more havoc for the already tight parking area because it would require that visitors leave the nursing home directly onto the Van Wyck Expressway service road. He said he worries the city is trying to pass the buck to him by asking him to install a mirror at the site.

"What would a mirror do for me?" Cichon asked. "I put a mirror up and then something happens to someone, it automatically becomes my responsibility. But if the city did the fence right in the first place then I wouldn't have to worry about it.

City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said he has sent letters back and forth with the city for several months as well and believes it is ultimately its responsibility to remedy the problem.

"It is a serious situation that, in my opinion, the city created, and they should take steps to address it," Avella said.

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

Posted 6:38 pm, October 10, 2011
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