DOT installs light after deadly wreck

Paula Rodriguez (second from l.-r.) stands alongside City Councilman Leroy Comrie and state Assemblywoman Barbara Clark at the intersection where her daughter was killed last year. Photo by Rich Bockmann
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A grieving mother Wednesday said it took the death of her daughter for the city Department of Transportation to install a traffic light at a dangerous Cambria Heights intersection, but the DOT’s Queens commissioner said that was not the case.

“This is what was needed all along, [but it is] four months after the fact,” Paula Rodriguez said as she stood at the intersection of 115th Avenue and 227th Street, where 24-year-old Paulina Rodriguez was killed in a car accident in November.

Family members said Paulina was on her way home from the movies around 3 a.m. when she stopped at the stop sign, turned left and was struck by a speeding car.

Rodriguez said she has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city, claiming it knew the intersection was dangerous and should have done something before her daughter was killed.

Those who know that stretch of 115th Avenue well said it can resemble a speedway during rush hour with drivers trying to avoid traffic on the Cross Island and Belt parkways as well as at night with people heading back and forth between Queens and Nassau counties on their way to Merrick Boulevard clubs.

“Everyone knew this corridor was dangerous,” said Community Board 13 District Manager Larry McClean, adding that community members had requested speed-mitigation measures along the stretch long before Rodriguez’s deadly accident.

A similar outcry was made earlier this month after a 7-year-old boy was struck by a car near a pair of Little League fields in Rosedale. Community members there said they had made requests to the DOT and feared they would only get a response after the worst happened.

DOT Queens Commissioner Delila Hall said it is “unfortunate it has to look like that,” pointing out that many factors go into deciding what kind of measures are appropriate where.

After the Cambria Heights accident, she said, the department immediately received a request for a traffic light study at the intersection, but at the time it did not meet the DOT’s criteria.

She said the department installed the light after conditions along the roadway had changed, but could not recall off-hand the “exact tipping point” that led to the change.

In Rosedale, she said, community members had requested a speed bump, but the DOT could not install one because the roadway is traveled by city buses.

McClean said one of the problems is that if someone makes a speed bump request, the department will study a speed bump and nothing else. He said a “traffic calming device” request would get a more thorough response from the DOT.

State Assemblywoman Barbara Clark (D-Queens Village) and City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) joined the Rodriguez family in remembering their loved one and urging drivers to take it easy on the roads.

Comrie said he will be introducing legislation requiring the NYPD to report the number of fatal or severe hit-and-run incidents each year to the Council and to collect video surveillance from cameras near such accidents.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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