‘Safe School’ Project Tops CB 5 Transit Meet
Safety measures at local schools, railway crossings and construction sites topped the agenda at Community Board 5′s Transportation and Public Transit Committees meeting last Tuesday, Oct. 28, at the board’s Glendale office.
Joseph Menzer, civil engineer and project manager with the urban planning and design firm RBA Group, unveiled a proposal to improve student safety around P.S. 239, the P.O. Ramon Suarez School, located at 1715 Weirfield St. in Ridgewood.
Menzer’s suggested improvements are part of the Safe Routes to School Initiative, first introduced in 2001 by the Department of Transportation (DOT) in an effort to reduce pedestrian injuries at city schools with the highest accident rates.
During the first phase of the project, the DOT ranked the city’s nearly 1,450 public schools and designated the top 135 schools with the most pedestrian accidents as priority schools. Of the 135 priority schools selected, 33 are in Queens. Each priority school received a detailed individual study comprised of community and school outreach, traffic data analysis and the tracking of student travel patterns.
Menzer stated that 93 percent of the students at P.S. 239 walk to school. According to a 2013 School Safety Report, a total of 82 accidents occurred within a 700-foot radius of P.S. 239 between 2005-07. Of the 82 accidents, 25 involved pedestrians, and four were school-related.
“Our goal is to improve the intersections students use to and from school,” Menzer explained. Some of these improvements include “neckdowns” or concrete curb extensions.
“The neckdowns shorten crossing distance for pedestrians, help slow down turning vehicles and provide extra space for pedestrians waiting to cross the intersections,” he added.
Menzer suggested a curb extension or neckdown for the intersection of Myrtle and Cypress avenues at Cornelia Street. He also proposed the creation of a larger concrete bus pad as well as the extension of the Carl Clemens Triangle, at the same intersection.
Other proposals include a “double neckdown” at the corner of Catalpa Avenue between Myrtle and Seneca avenues. Menzer also suggested a curb extension in front of the school itself, at the southeast corner of Myrtle Avenue and Weirfield Street.
“We are looking for consensus from the community board,” Menzer explained. “These improvements are federally funded, so schedule is important to us.”
The final designs for the proposed changes should be completed by the spring of 2016. Menzer hopes to begin construction on the school intersections during the winter of 2017. Transportation Committee Co-Chair John Schell explained that the committee would need to discuss the matter further, possibly with the rest of the Community Board at their November meeting, before approving the plans.
Traffic issues & requests
The lack of warning signals and late barrier closures at the Long Island Railroad crossing on 88th Street in Glendale posed a major safety concern among members.
According to committee member Dorie Figliola, there is usually only a short 40-second gap of time between the gate closures and the trains’ arrival.
“It’s just too close,” she stated, “but they’re (train operators) within their regulations.”
Another member recalled an occasion in which the gates did not close at all. This resulted in a flagman halting traffic at the train crossing. Board 5 District Manager Gary Giordano explained that he is working with New York & Atlantic Railway, as well as the New York State DOT, to improve the situation.
“We’re in discussions with them to see what they can do,” he stated.
Giordano also recently spoke with Dr. Phillip Franco at St. Margaret’s School in Middle Village as per his request for speed limit signage and an allway stop near the school. Giordano explained that he would help look into ways to make the intersection at Juniper Valley Road and 79th Place safer. However, he warned that the school would need to meet a list of DOT criteria before such a request is granted.
The committee also discussed a request by Joanne Gangi, principal of Sacred Heart School in Glendale, to close 84th Street between 77th and 78th avenues during the hours of 7:50 a.m. and 3:10 a.m. According to a “Play Street” application submitted to the DOT, Gangi is requesting the street closure on the basis of student safety.
Sacred Heart School had closed the street in previous years, but was recently informed by the 104th Precinct that they could no longer do so. The committee opted to defer to the DOT on the matter.
The committee voted in favor of co-naming two local streets in honor of two local residents.
The residents of Suydam Street in Ridgewood petitioned the committee to co-name the street near Grover Cleveland Athletic Field in honor of community activist and long-time Board 5 member Ann Maggio. Maggio served as the president of the Citizens for a Better Ridgewood civic association, as well as secretary of the Onderdonk Civic Organization. She died in 2013 at the age of 90.
The committee also recommended renaming 67th Drive between 78th and 79th streets in honor of Steven A. Frosch, a Sanitation Department worker killed last June by a mechanical street sweeper at the Queens West 5 garage in Maspeth.
Roman Paprocki, chief of staff to City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, submitted the co-naming request along with letters of support from Frosch’s friends, family, neighbors and colleagues.
The committee discussed ways to improve parking in the midst of ongoing roadway resurfacing and construction projects.
The replacement of the existing water main and sewer lines on Penelope Avenue in Middle Village has begun. Schell estimates that about two-thirds of the existing roadway will be taken away during the upcoming major phase of the sewer construction. As a result, residents who live around the site will lose their parking spaces, especially during the overnight hours.
The committee is considering asking the DOT to lift current dusk to dawn parking restrictions on the north side of Juniper Boulevard South from 72nd to 77th streets to compensate for the anticipated lack of parking. The board also plans to coordinate with the DOT to find space for the contractors’ construction supplies, equipment and vehicles.
In addition to parking concerns, some of the sidewalks in front of homes surrounding the site have been dug up by National Grid as they relocate gas lines beneath sidewalk areas. Schell reported seeing a two-foot trench on one homeowner’s sidewalk. According to the committee, the sidewalks will receive temporary black top until the two-year project is complete.
Other local street repairs currently underway include the milling or resurfacing of roadways throughout the area. Milling began on Middle Village streets such as Caldwell Avenue and Mount Olivet Crescent at the beginning of October.
Finally, the committee announced that resurfacing of 67th Avenue in Ridgewood was to begin this week. Motorists and pedestrians are urged to take note of detours and bus route changes during the road repairs.
The next Community Board 5 Transportation and Public Transit Committees meeting is scheduled to take place on Thursday, Nov. 18, at 7:30 p.m. at the board’s Glendale office, located at 61-23 Myrtle Ave. For more information, call 1-718- 366-1834.