Fence blamed for accident

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A Whitestone nursing home maintenance director said the city’s resistance to redesigning a wrought−iron fence outside of his facility may have been the direct cause of a serious traffic accident at the facility earlier this month.

Steve Cichon, maintenance director at Bridgeview Nursing Home, said an employee at the facility was broad−sided by an oncoming car she could not see because of a city−installed fence near the driveway of the property.

Cichon has waged a nearly yearlong battle against the city over the fence, constructed as a result of the widening of 20th Avenue, contending it creates a dangerous blind spot for drivers pulling out of the nursing home parking lot.

He said his case was proven on Feb. 7, when nursing home employee Leala Williams was struck by an oncoming car as she left the facility early one morning. According to a police report on the incident, Williams was pulling out of the home at 143−10 20th Ave. when a car struck her front end, sending it uncontrollably careening into two parked cars nearby.

Cichon said the accident could have been worse.

“If somebody was walking down the street that day, they would have been killed,” Cichon said. “But nobody wants to address it. Nobody wants to say, ‘Oh, we made a mistake.’ ”

Cichon said when a car approaches the fence’s vertical black bars, they form a barrier for the driver, preventing him or her from seeing oncoming traffic.

“It’s like a black wall,” he said.

The city Department of Design and Construction said the fence, which lines a sidewalk constructed on top of a recently built retaining wall, is designed to protect pedestrians from falling onto the busy street, which stands about 3 feet below the sidewalk.

In a letter to Cichon dated July 14, DDC Commissioner David Burney said the fence is a city standard and appropriate for residential areas.

“This type of fence ensures the safety of pedestrians by preventing individuals from easily climbing over it and small children from slipping through gaps in the fence,” Burney said.

The DDC recommended that Cichon either install a mirror at the nursing home exit or reverse the traffic flow into the parking lot to alleviate the problem.

Cichon, however, said the home never had the problem before the fence was put up and insists the fix would be simple.

“It’s just a matter of taking the vertical poles and making them horizontal, but there’s no effort on their part, there’s no effort at all,” he said.

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e−mail at or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 138.

Updated 6:36 pm, October 10, 2011
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