Bayside boy’s death spurs new stop signs

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The city Department of Transportation was expected to make several changes this week to the southbound Clearview Expressway service road in Bayside where an 11-year-old boy was killed Aug. 17 as he rode his bike off a pedestrian ramp, a spokesman for the borough president said.

Community Board 11 Chairman Bernard Haber led the chorus of politicians and activists who urged the DOT to make the ramp safer for pedestrians as a memorial for the young Little Leaguer grew at the intersection of 46th Avenue and the Clearview.

A DOT spokesman Tuesday would not discuss the agency's plans for the pedestrian ramp and the southbound service road near 46th Avenue. Spokesman Mark Patterson said the DOT was "surveying" the area. He refused to comment further.

Christopher Adams Scott, 11, of Bayside, was riding his bicycle with friends on the evening of Aug. 17 when he was accidentally hit by a car as he entered the southbound service road from the pedestrian ramp.

Residents said a similar accident at the same ramp also claimed the life of an 11-year-old Bayside boy six years ago, but no changes were ever made to the ramp, which was built by the state DOT in the 1960s.

Dan Andrews, a spokesman for Borough President Claire Shulman, said Tuesday the DOT was expected to make several changes to the area "very quickly."

He said the agency was expected to add stop signs on the service road as well as striping to eliminate one of the three lanes in a move that would push traffic away from the pedestrian ramp entrance.

"This is tragic, horrible," Andrews said. "Expect to see some changes there very quickly. The [DOT] commissioner was here today. Everybody's on top of this."

In a letter dated Aug. 22, CB 11's Haber wrote to DOT Commissioner William Baier: "I have never felt so strongly about an immediate safety effort . . . Based on the facts, if I were DOT commissioner I would order [changes] to be accomplished in the next 48 hours."

State Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose), the borough president's office, and civic leaders Frank Skala and Mandingo Tshaka all supported Haber's letter.

Some of the changes Haber suggested, which he urged the DOT to have in place in the next two weeks, include: adding caution signs, stop signs, and speed limit signs; stanchions or some other barrier fence to make it difficult to ride bikes to the end of the ramp; and the removal of an existing caution sign which blocks the view of pedestrians and bike riders coming off the ramp.

"Christopher was buried on Tuesday (8/22)," Haber wrote. "What a shame; what a waste of life of a young man who had the world open to him; who knows where his successes might have led him."

Police from the 111th Precinct said the 1977 Oldsmobile that hit Christopher was not speeding at the time of the accident.

Christopher's grandmother, activist Loretta Napier, had brought traffic concerns about the area surrounding the southbound service road to the attention of the 111th Precinct in a June meeting of civic leaders and the police.

"I never would have in my wildest dreams thought my grandson would be a victim of this," she said.

Napier commended the 111th Precinct and Commanding Officer Anthony Mullen for their response to her concerns in June and to the August accident.

"He's been excellent," Napier said of Mullen. "They've just been superb, exceptional."

The pedestrian ramp is heavily used by residents to cross the expressway. On the westbound side, the ramp opens onto the service road itself, with no barriers or additional sidewalk to buffer pedestrians from traffic.

By Friday, the memorial to Christopher, who played in the Bayside Little League and who was set to attend IS 158 in the fall, had grown. Dozens of flowers, candles, and several photos and cards adorned the cement wall. In large red letters, someone had spray painted "RIP Chris."

Workers were observed Tuesday cutting back trees and weeds near the ramp.

DOT spokesman Patterson refused to comment on what changes the agency planned for the area and would not respond to Haber's letter.

"We will look at it ourselves and see what is best for the community," he said, "not what the community board thinks is best for the community."

Patterson also said the agency "had no record of a previous similar accident" involving the pedestrian ramp.

Napier said she did not believe the DOT's denial.

"I don't understand and I don't believe that DOT said they have no knowledge of another child's death that was only six years ago," she said. "For a legitimate agency like the DOT I think it is an outright lie."

Updated 7:05 pm, October 10, 2011
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