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Curbs stop 39th St. wrong-way driving

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (c.) and community members welcome traffic calming measures installed by the city Department of Transportation. Photo by Steve Mosco
TimesLedger Newspapers

Blissville resident Stephen Grande used forward thinking to thwart some backward drivers.

The 26-year-old resident of 39th Street, a one-way street sitting precariously close to the off-ramp of the Hunters Point Avenue exit on the Long Island Expressway, shot a video of commuters driving the wrong way down his street — sometimes backward — to avoid the constant traffic snarl along the service road.

Thanks to his efforts recording that video last spring, the city Department of Transportation installed traffic calming measures aimed specifically at preventing drivers from flouting the rules of the road and endangering residents.

“We were waiting for a terrible accident to happen,” said City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), joining others at a news conference last week. “This is a really serious issue and these measures will make the streets safer and quieter.”

Grande’s video shows a large box truck backing slowly down 39th Street, while smaller passenger cars zip by illegally up the one-way street.

To prevent this ongoing hazard, the DOT installed a quick curb — or flexible blockades — at the corner of 39th Street and 51st Avenue after Grande filmed the traffic violators and alerted his councilman last year.

The new safety measures have already reduced incidents on the residential block, according to Grande, who lives on 39th Street with his friend Yuliya Dagayeva and their dog, Bella.

“People have pets and children here. There are senior citizens living here,” said Grande. “Residents can go in the street now, still looking both ways, but it’s definitely safer now.”

Delila Hall, Queens deputy DOT commissioner, said the quick curb is not meant to be a long-term solution and that more permanent measures will be discussed.

She said these permanent fixes require concrete work, drainage work and city dollars.

“We will explore long-term solutions that are feasible,” she said, adding that some of those solutions could include an extended sidewalk or a traffic island. “This was a quick, tool kit solution. It was important to work quickly to make this block safer or residents.”

Community Board 2 Chairman Joseph Conley said the area has long been a concern for the board.

“People are always looking for ways around the traffic here and hopefully something more long term can be thought up,” said Conley. “It’s far too dangerous here and there is a genuine concern for the community.”

But Van Bramer believes that as long as that community stays involved and voices its concerns, tragic accidents along residential streets like this one in Blissville can be avoided, no matter how dangerous the surrounding roadways.

“The LIE is not going anywhere, so the people need to be protected,” he said. “This shows that you can fight City Hall and people can effect real and meaningful change.”

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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