By Bill Parry
The city has agreed to bring traffic calming measures to a dangerous stretch of Skillman Avenue in Woodside to protect students at the newly expanded P.S. 11 in Woodside.
When work was completed on a 350-seat, $92 million annex in time for the new school year, parents complained that the new main entrance put the school’s 1,000 students and faculty at risk. After months of advocacy by City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and the P.S. 11 Parent Teachers Association, the city’s Department of Transportation agreed and announced Monday it would install two traffic signals in front of the school.
“Two traffic signals — one each at the northern and southern legs of 54th St. — will be installed at Skillman Avenue,” a DOT spokesman said. “The signals will be installed by the end of May 2018, and both signals will be coordinated to avoid any queue backups on any of the approaches.”
In January, Van Bramer held a rally at the school while the PTA submitted a petition to the DOT with over 1,000 signatures calling for safety improvements to be made.
“We came together as a community to demand DOT do the right thing, and they’ve heard our voice,” Van Bramer said. “This is a great win for the P.S. 11 families, the Woodside community and our children’s safety. I am happy that DOT is taking this seriously.”
In addition, the DOT is in the process of restudying the area for additional safety enhancements around PS 343 on the south side of Queens Boulevard in Sunnyside. This review includes another traffic signal study at 47th Ave. and 42nd St., as well as potential signage or markings adjustments.
“After speaking with the DOT, I am hopeful that their current work will produce results,” Van Bramer said. “I will continue to advocate for needed traffic calming measures throughout the district, especially in areas where children’s safety is so obviously at risk.”
With the safety issue resolved at P.S. 11, the community’s focus is expected to return to the DOT’s controversial plan to redesign Skillman and 43rd avenues with protected bike lanes that met with stiff resistance from small business owners who feared that the loss of 158 parking spaces would devastate the neighborhood’s economy. Street safety advocates marched in Sunday’s St. Pat’s for All Parade and renewed their call for the bike lanes.
Macartney Morris of Transportation Alternatives Queens Committee reacted to the news Monday, hours after a car ran a red light Monday killing two children in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
“I’m thrilled to hear DOT was able to address the safety concerns of P.S. 11. Any day that the city is able to make it safer for kids to get to school is a good day for Queens — but especially on a day with such horrific traffic violence against children that has occurred today in Brooklyn,” Morris said. “I hope that the full plan DOT designed for Skillman and 43rd avenues is now able to move forward with a fair hearing by the community without further delay. The thousands of Queens pedestrians and cyclists who use this corridor daily deserve the safest streets possible and nothing less.”
The DOT is organizing a town hall meeting with the date to be announced soon.
Meanwhile, the agency is performing outreach to businesses on Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights to alert them to changes coming the week of March 19. The city will begin implementing its Clean Curbs initiative, a six-month pilot program that will ban curbside loading from Broadway to 90th Street during weekday peak hours, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
“Since the proposal to implement a pilot program in a stretch of Roosevelt Avenue with curbside restrictions became public, the community and business owners along the corridor have raised several concerns, including how and when delivery trucks will be dropping off their merchandise, especially to supermarkets,” state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) said. “It is my hope that the many questions and concerns the community has will be answered during the length of the pilot program, and if the results are positive, we will work with all stakeholders to determine how to best approach all traffic-related matters under the 7 train.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr