Intersection tops boro’s danger list

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The Flushing intersection of Northern Boulevard and Union Street is one of the most dangerous in the city, recent police statistics show.

In 2001, there were 42 pedestrian accidents at the intersection, said Officer Gerard Cole, a spokesman for New York Police Department. He said the same number of accidents occurred in 2001 at 34th Street and Seventh Avenue in Manhattan, the bustling Midtown crossing by Penn Station.

The 42 pedestrian accidents at Northern and Union Street ranked the intersection as the most dangerous in Queens. There were more accidents at the crossing than at any intersection along Queens Boulevard, which had earned the nickname “Boulevard of Death.”

“The cars don’t give people time to cross,” a man named Mahadeo, who works as a security guard at the Nara Bank at the corner of the intersection, said last Thursday.

Mahadeo said he had witnessed a car hitting a pedestrian at the intersection only a week before.

The city Department of Transportation began studying the 11-mile Northern Boulevard this year with the goal of improving safety.

The study originally focused on Jackson Heights since state Assemblyman Ivan Lafayette (D-Jackson Heights) and local residents had called attention to the area. Lafayette contended the road was used almost as a highway, making it dangerous to pedestrians. The assemblyman sought left turn signals at the boulevard throughout Jackson Heights.

The DOT later expanded its study to look at sites along the boulevard outside Jackson Heights to determine if other intersections needed turn signals.

But the intersection of Northern Boulevard and Union Street, which already has left turn signals, is far different from most others along the boulevard.

The intersection is substantially wider than others along the boulevard. Northern typically has two lanes of traffic and one parking lane in each direction along with a shared turning lane, making for seven total lanes across the street.

From Bowne Street, located a block east of Union Street, to the Northern Boulevard bridge over the Flushing River, however, the street runs three lanes in each direction. With parking lanes, two turning lanes and a median, the road is effectively 11 lanes wide.

Moreover, Union Street runs at an angle to Northern Boulevard, so that some motorists do not have a standard view of the pedestrian traffic.

Located at the northern edge of downtown Flushing, the intersection is frequently crossed.

Despite the width of the street, pedestrians walking across the boulevard at Union Street only have about 12 seconds of a green light before it begins flashing red.

Tom Coccola, a spokesman for the DOT, said the intersection warranted a study.

“I’ll have to go out there and look at it,” he said.

Last Thursday pedestrians complained of having to cross the street.

“The signs do not last long enough,” said Moses Kim, referring to the traffic signals. In an attempt to make it across the street, Kim abruptly ended the interview.

“I run across, look at me!” he called as he ran to the other side.

Coccola said he hoped to fight against accidents along Northern Boulevard in a similar manner to the way the DOT battled accidents along Queens Boulevard.

He highlighted pedestrian awareness as a primary goal to help reducing the number of accidents.

“The whole dynamic of Queens Boulevard called attention to how dangerous crossing a street can be,” he said. “Beyond the numbers, there is a better, more general awareness of potential for danger. That’s a good thing.”

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at or call 229-0300 Ext. 141.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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