By Mark Hallum
City and state elected officials gathered at a stretch of the Grand Central Parkway on Monday to call on safety improvements for the major artery which is often beset by wrecks.
A four-car crash on July 16 took the lives of two people, including Akeem Grant, 16, of Brooklyn, and has become a catalyst for action.
Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens) noted the number of wrecks on the Grand Central and said a review of the current safety measures was needed.
“There seems to be a high concentration of crash-prone areas along the Grand Central Parkway,” Grodenchik said. “A study of the road configuration is warranted to find solutions that could reduce injuries, property damage, and the loss of life. I would like to see changes that make this road safer to drive on.”
Andrew Shakespeare, 33, of Roselle, N.J. was the operator of a 2014 BMW X5 SUV, which police said was traveling westbound at approximately 76 miles per hour in a 50-mph zone, when the collision occurred July 16 around 6 a.m. Shakespeare’s vehicle sideswiped a 2002 Nissan Sentra before losing control and veering across three lanes of traffic, according to authorities. The BMW struck a 2016 Nissan Rogue and both cars plowed into the center guardrail and began to roll, police said. A fourth car tried to avoid the rollover accident, but struck Shakespeare’s vehicle and rolled off the side of the road where it then struck two trees, according to police.
The wreck also killed 34-year-old Layon Cambell, seated in the front of Shakespeare’s car. Cambell was from Brooklyn.
Shakespeare was charged with two counts of second-degree manslaughter, assault, reckless endangerment and reckless driving, according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. He faces 15 years in prison if convicted.
“With two fatal accidents on the Grand Central Parkway in July, it is clear that we cannot wait any longer to prevent future loss of life,” Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) said. “Adding common-sense safety measures to the parkway, and increasing police presence, will surely reduce the occurrence of accidents, and hopefully put an end to the loss of life on this road.”
City Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) also called for action.
“The frightening number of recent accidents on the Grand Central Parkway between Main Street and the Queens/Nassau border shows how dangerous this stretch of roadway is,” Lancman said. “I stand with Councilmember Grodenchik and Assemblymember Weprin in calling on the Dept. of Transportation and the NYPD to address these traffic problems for the safety of all New Yorkers.”
Queens Civic Congress President Kevin Forrestal blamed the severity of the wreck on poorly maintained guard rails which allowed Shakespeare’s vehicle to plow across three lanes of traffic.
“As one who drives on the Grand Central Parkway regularly, I am alarmed by the frequency with which I encounter vehicular crashes,” Forrestal said. “By my casual observation, the condition of both center and peripheral guard rails raises concerns about their level of maintenance and their integrity. We endorse the demands of Assemblymember David Weprin and Councilmember Barry Grodenchik, calling on the New York State Department of Transportation to implement traffic safety measures, and on the New York City Police Department to increase police presence to prevent future loss of life.”
The Queens DA did not charge Shakespeare with driving under the influence, as law enforcement originally had, but it was noted by responders and the DA that the New Jersey man showed signs of intoxication when authorities arrived at the scene.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall