Joe Governale stood at the corner of 11th Avenue and 154th Street in Whitestone, just a few yards past PS 193 where his children are students, and watched the cars cruise north down the slope from the 14th Avenue stoplight.
"Once that hits green, it's nonstop," Governale said. "Vroooooom."
As a parent and member of Community Board 7's safety committee, Governale has joined PS 193's Parent/Teacher Association in its crusade to make the streets around their children's school safer.
Although crosswalks and 'stop' and 'student crossing' signs abound on all four sides of PS 193, a pair of speed bumps was just installed and crossing guards are on duty, the PTA said there are two intersections in particular which still pose major hazards for pedestrians.
The first is the intersection at 11th Avenue and 154th Street. Motorists on 11th Avenue have to stop before turning onto or crossing the street, but Governale and PTA members say a traffic signal is needed to keep the cars from speeding north toward the Walbaum's Supermarket Plaza.
"How can you as a school crossing guard get in the middle of the street and hold up traffic when cars are coming like this?" said Governale as he continued to observe traffic at the intersection.
The second area of concern is at the school's eastern end, where 11th Avenue meets 152nd Street. There, the problem is similar - motorists along the avenue have stop signs but not the approaching drivers on 152nd Street.
In a letter dated July 28, 1999, William Baier, the Queens Department of Transportation commissioner, responded to a request by Marilyn Bitterman, CB7's district manager, to install additional traffic controls at the two intersections.
Baier said the results of a June 1998 field study did not call for new controls. Barring very unusual circumstances, he said 18 months had to pass before a new study could be initiated.
On Jan. 11, Bitterman again wrote Baier with the same request, noting parishioners at the neighboring Immanuel Lutheran and St. Luke's churches had also expressed concern. On Jan. 28, the DOT commissioner responded that another traffic survey would be initiated and should be completed by April 30.
But Governale and PTA members are not optimistic and fear that only a pedestrian death or deaths will convince the DOT to install the signs and lights.
"We're trying to avoid a major catastrophe," Governale said.
He said there are other traffic problems around the school - including the cars that line up in the 'no parking' zones at the end of the school day, making 11th Avenue even narrower. Governale, however, said safety at the two intersections is the priority.
"It's dangerous, but I've been at worse," said a crossing guard just starting her afternoon duties at the 154th Street intersection. She did concede that it was her first day at that site subbing for the normal guard so she might not have the best perspective.
"So far the drivers are listening to me, let me put it that way," she said.
The crossing guard noted, however, that in her opinion every intersection where students cross should have either stop lights or four-way stop signs.
©2000 Community News Group
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