Nov. 16, 2015 By Laura A. Shepard
“Enough is enough,” State Sen. Jose Peralta declared. “We’re sick and tired of individuals getting hurt and we’re sick and tired of individuals dying.”
He was referring to the many traffic-related injuries and fatalities that have occurred near the intersection of Elmhurst Avenue and Case Street. Peralta stood on the triangle beneath the 90th Street subway station in Elmhurst, looking directly toward the intersection, flanked by Captain Brian Hennessy of the 115th Precinct and several community activists.
Peralta said that in 2013, his office contacted the DOT to ask for a traffic study and new traffic lights at the intersections of Roosevelt Avenue and 90th Street and Roosevelt Avenue and Case Street.
However, the DOT responded that the intersection did not meet the federally mandated requirements for new traffic lights.
“Two people died here in the past two years and 10 were injured here in the past two years,” Peralta explained. “We need change. Enough is enough.”
On Friday, the Senator announced that he is calling on the DOT to overhaul the area with new lights, signals and enforcement to prevent drivers from making illegal turns on and off Roosevelt Avenue.
Specific intersections that he believes are most in need of attention include 90th Street and Roosevelt Avenue, Elmhurst Avenue and Roosevelt Avenue and Case Street and Roosevelt Avenue.
Over the coming weeks, the 115th Precinct will implement a traffic safety educational campaign by distributing pamphlets to drivers and pedestrians.
But Peralta says that this is insufficient.
“We need more than just pamphlets, we need a redesign,” Peralta said.
Although several of the 10 people injured in this vicinity were cyclists, and cyclists frequently use those streets, Peralta said that if the intersection is redesigned, it may not include a bike lane due to the lack of space.
“We’ll see what DOT comes up with,” he said.
Cristina Furlong, a member of Make Queens Safer, said that she got involved when three children were killed on Northern Boulevard several years ago, prompting members of the community to rally for street improvements.
Over the past year there have been about 70 injuries on Roosevelt Avenue alone. In the past week, Furlong has witnessed two: a cyclist on his way to church, who had to go to the hospital instead, and the cashier at her local grocery store.
As Roosevelt Avenue marks the division between the 110th and 115th Precincts, Furlong contends that “instead of getting more enforcement, we’re getting less.”
Furlong also stated that there are three public schools in the vicinity, with about 5,000 students combined.
“If you come here between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., you’ll see these 5,000 students and their caregivers walking through this intersection and you’ll understand the need to keep them safe,” she said.
Joanne Econopouly frequently witnesses this scene from her store, Cosmos Eye Care, which faces the intersection.
“We saw a gentleman who was just trying to get to the other side taken away in an ambulance,” she said. “We’ve lost many friends, patients and elderly people over the years.”
Soraya Sussman, a community activist, said that “it’s within us to make a change,” and that “there are proactive measures we can take so we don’t have any more pain and devastation in our community.”
She advocated for better education for pedestrians and drivers.
“Since Halloween, 12 New Yorkers have lost their lives,” Peralta noted.
Peralta looked directly into the TV cameras on the scene and pleaded to Mayor Bill de Blasio, “we need you Mr. Mayor. Instruct the DOT to redesign the street.”