By Mark Hallum
Northeast Queens pols celebrated an announcement about a long-overdue safety improvement in Bay Terrace last week in the best interest of the large number of seniors living in the area.
City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) announced what he is calling a major victory in his district after city Department of Transportation Queens Borough Commissioner Nicole Garcia informed his office that a left turn signal would be installed at 26th Avenue and Corporal Kennedy Street. The move comes after more than 20 years of requests from the community.
“If you heard a unified cheer from the seniors, it was a cry of victory,” Vallone said Aug. 17 after leaving Clearview Senior Center. “It was the No. 1 request from when we entered office. You would think it’s that simple — make a left-hand turn signal — but for over 20 years, [requests] have been denied, and just this week we had confirmation from [Garcia] that they’re going to install the left-hand turn signal at 26th Avenue and Corporal Kennedy.”
With the installation scheduled for mid-September, the new traffic signal will coincide with pedestrian crossing improvements at 23rd Avenue and 211th Street. Vallone said the effort to upgrade traffic control measures at the intersection was to build buffers between drivers and elderly residents on their way to Selfhelp Clearview Senior Center and the Scheuer House of Bayside, which services Holocaust survivors.
“It may not seem big on the grand scale of things, but let me tell you: This was a huge, long overdue victory for the neighborhod,” Vallone said.
According to Vallone, the topic was discussed during Mayor Bill de Blasio’s visit to Selfhelp about a year ago, and City Hall helped push the effort along.
State Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside) had also been keeping an eye on the intersection in the years since he was elected.
“When I first took office in 2011, I sent a letter to DOT asking that they finally install a left-hand turn signal at 26th Avenue and Corporal Kennedy Street in Bay Terrace after two decades of requests by residents and elected officials,” Braunstein said. “Turning left onto Corporal Kennedy Street is difficult for motorists, which has created a hazardous situation for pedestrians, including senior citizens who reside at the Scheuer House or visit Selfhelp Clearview Senior Center. This location has had at least one fatal accident in the past, and I am hopeful that the new left-turn signal will improve traffic safety for motorists and pedestrians alike.”
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said the push to have DOT take a serious look at the conditions of the intersection was a goal of his from before his time as an elected official.
“Finally, after being denied time and time again, DOT listened. I am not sure why it took them so long to address this, but I’m glad that they finally are. Pedestrians and motorists alike will be happy to hear the news that their voices were ultimately heard and that a left-turn signal will finally be installed,” Avella said. “After working for almost 20 years on this — well before I was in elected office — along with the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, I am very happy to know that this heavily trafficked and very busy intersection will finally get the traffic controls that so many people have asked for.”
The turn signal will be activated by censors in the asphalt so as not to disrupt traffic flow.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall