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Mourners press for light at Cambria Hts. crossing

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Two grief-stricken families joined community leaders Monday in demanding a traffic light at the Cambria Heights intersection where a little girl and a motorcyclist were killed in a collision Saturday night.

Viviann Rodriguez, who lost her 2-year-old daughter, Janae Forde, in the crash at Springfield Boulevard and 121st Avenue, and Cedric Battle, whose brother Curtis Battle was killed when his motorcycle struck Rodriguez's car, called on the city at a news conference to install a traffic signal to prevent other accidents at the intersection.

"She's going to make sure things get done here," Rodriguez said of Janae. "Rest assured, I will put pressure on anyone I can."

Rodriguez was driving west on 121st Avenue and had stopped at the Springfield Boulevard intersection before trying to cross, she said. Curtis Battle was traveling south on Springfield Boulevard and rammed into Rodriguez's car about 10 p.m. Saturday.

State Assemblywoman Barbara Clark (D-Queens Village) said that intersection has long been a dangerous area, with cars, trucks and motorcycles zooming along the section of Springfield Boulevard that does not have lights. Clark, who lives about six blocks from the accident scene, called police twice Saturday about motorcycles, she said.

"I was calling about the motorcycles all day," Clark said. "I've lived with these traffic nightmares for 34 years."

Aside from speeding vehicles, the corner poses a danger as drivers try to cross the main thoroughfare on 121st Avenue, Cedric Battle said. Cars parked on Springfield Boulevard often block the line of sight, he said.

"It most definitely would have made a difference if a traffic light was there," Cedric Battle said. "You have to get into the middle of the street and pause there in order to cross. This should have never happened."

The city Department of Transportation last studied the intersection in 1997 to determine if a traffic light was needed. Based on traffic flow and volumes, the agency decided against installing the light, Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) said.

"The street is a lot more congested than in 1997," Comrie said. "We have to make sure we don't have any other tragedies."

The DOT has agreed to conduct a new study of the intersection to see if a traffic signal is needed, according to a statement from department spokeswoman Lisi de Bourbon. The study takes about 12 weeks and includes factors such as vehicle and pedestrian volume, traffic speed and accident history, she said.

In the meantime, the DOT may set up a four-way stop sign, increase lighting and limit parking near the intersection's corners to make the crossing safer, de Bourbon said.

"The department already plans to restrict parking at and near the corners of the intersection, providing drivers with a better and unobstructed view of oncoming traffic before they head into the intersection," she said in the statement. "Additionally, we are working with the New York Police Department to ensure that drivers obey the speed limit and other traffic laws."

Lawmakers are also urging motorcyclists and others who speed up and down Springfield Boulevard to slow down, said state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans).

"We are also asking motorcycle organizations to police themselves in terms of speed," he said.

But the families and community members are determined to have a traffic light installed, said Jonesly Theus, a friend of Curtis Battle's who also worked with him as a martial arts instructor. "We lost a great person," Theus said. "Something must be done. This cannot happen again."

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

Posted 7:21 pm, October 10, 2011
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