Clearview to get new study: City

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Weinshall, who was appointed head of the DOT in September, visited the accident site late last month with Community Board 11 Chairman Bernard Haber and said the agency would revisit the area in nine months to perform a follow-up traffic study. The DOT made some changes to the site, which includes a pedestrian overpass, following the Aug. 17 death of Christopher Scott, 11.

The commissioner also refuted claims that racism played a role in plans for a traffic device at 33rd Avenue and the Clearview Expressway service road, a predominantly white neighborhood. The area near 46th Avenue is more of a minority community.

Christopher was hit by a car and killed as he rode his bicycle across the pedestrian bridge and began to enter the service road, where there is no curb or buffer from the street. In July 1994 John Shim, 10, was killed in the same spot while riding his bike.

Last month the agency defended the results of a 10-week traffic study of the accident site by maintaining traffic was too light at the service road and 46th Avenue to justify a signal or stop sign.

Weinshall emphasized that traffic volume at the pedestrian ramp was extremely low.

"If it was even close, I would have pushed the staff to try to put a light there," she said. "It wasn't. The car volume was remarkably low for a service road."

Pedestrian traffic at the 46th Avenue ramp was also "minimal" during the day, Weinshall said, except for the start and end of the school day. The 46th Avenue pedestrian ramp is located blocks from PS 31 and MS 158 in Bayside, which sit adjacent to one another on Oceania Street.

Traffic studies are based on federal guidelines called warrants that include several factors, Weinshall said, including traffic volume and the number of accidents in the last three years.

"Sadly, this site did not meet the warrants," she said. "I will keep monitoring the area."

The city DOT has not been able to confirm Shim's 1994 death in its own records. Weinshall said she was unaware of the agency's lack of information about the death.

"No child should get killed at any intersection," said Weinshall, who said police usually inform the agency about fatalities. "One death is too many as far as I'm concerned."

Christopher's death has been a lightening rod in a normally quiet community. A well-attended rally in September called on the DOT to make significant changes to the site, and Community Board 11 meetings since the accident have featured public outcry pressing for further preventative action at the pedestrian bridge and the surrounding service road.

Since the August fatality, DOT has made changes to the site including banning bike riding on the pedestrian bridge, narrowing the bridge entrance to make it harder to pass through quickly, adding striping to the left hand lane of the southbound service road to push traffic away from the bridge entrance and more signage warning drivers of a school crossing.

The commissioner has also sent staff into local schools as part of its SafeCities program, she said, to help educate students on how to safely navigate the city's streets and intersections.

"DOT's job is to make sure people have a safe environment to walk and drive around in," Weinshall said. "I would be happy to send my staff back" into local schools, she said.

CB 11 Chairman Bernard Haber has said his group and the community would continue to fight for a traffic device at the Clearview pedestrian ramp site.

Weinshall said "this agency is extremely saddened by what happened to that family. My heart goes out to them."

When asked to describe why the agency was placing a traffic signal at the Clearview Expressway service road and 33rd Avenue near PS 159 in a largely white area, Weinshall cited a significantly higher traffic volume at the 33rd Avenue site.

"That study started before Christopher's death," she said. "It clearly met the warrants based on volume.

"My staff doesn't look at the racial make up of a neighborhood - in no way, shape or form," Weinshall said. "I see green lights and red lights. I would ask the community to take that into consideration - the volume and the numbers."

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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