An active Bayside intersection — located near a bike lane that has been a subject of controversy in recent months — is a danger to pedestrians and drivers alike, according to a local landlord.
Marlene Mindel, who owns buildings in the immediate area, has witnessed multiple collisions and close calls at 223rd Street and Northern Boulevard over the years. However, she told QNS, in recent months, the intersection seems to have become more dangerous.
One recent incident, in which a car struck a woman crossing at the intersection, amplified Mindel’s concerns. Surveillance footage provided to QNS by Mindel shows a pedestrian crossing from one side of Northern Boulevard to the other when she is struck by a vehicle turning left from 223rd Street onto Northern Boulevard, westbound.
Initially, Mendel thought — based on an eyewitness account she received — that the victim sustained fatal injuries. However, an NYPD spokesperson said the pedestrian, a 47-year-old Staten Island woman, sustained non-critical injuries and was taken to an area hospital. The driver does not face any charges.
Marie Sahtila, who works for Mindel, said the recent collision has made her more concerned about her safety as a pedestrian in the area.
“She went up in the air and she fell like a doll,” Sahtila said while viewing video of the collision. “I’m afraid to cross the street and get coffee. I’d rather cross in the middle [of the street] than on the crosswalk.”
Mindel said the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) was recently on site to install a hardened centerline — pieces of rubber curb and bollards meant to calm traffic — in the middle of the street. The bollards have been replaced multiple times since then, with drivers damaging and knocking them out of the base.
“Even if [the pedestrian] has the light, it doesn’t matter: [The drivers] are all trying to beat the light,” she said. “They speed up and they turn.”
“There’s something abut the site of those [bollards]; people just can’t see,” she added. “But the Transportation Department said, ‘No, we need them. We did a study.'”
The intersection abuts a protected bike lane — installed by DOT in the summer of 2017 — which runs along Northern Boulevard from 223rd Street to Douglaston Parkway in what was once a lane for vehicle traffic. The project was spurred by the death of Michael Schenkman, a 78-year-old cyclist who was struck by a car in the area and killed in August 2016.
Mindel said the lane has contributed to “mass confusion” in the area. Drivers, pedestrians and cyclists are unsure of where they are meant to go, she claimed. Drivers who attempt to exit the Cross Island Parkway onto Northern Boulevard are faced with poor visibility and heavy traffic — especially during rush hours.
A DOT spokesperson confirmed that the city agency recently installed a hardened centerline on Northern Boulevard west of 223rd Street in an effort to calm traffic at the site. The agency is also “currently reviewing the timing of traffic signals at the site.”
“DOT and NYPD are aware that a pedestrian was recently struck on Northern Boulevard west of 223th Street,” the spokesperson said. “Though this incident was not related to the bike lane, it underscores why our efforts to calm left turns are so important to the safety of New Yorkers.”
The bike lane project stirred up some debate in the local community. Some elected officials and Community Board 11 members argued the bike lanes should instead be built on the existing sidewalk running along Northern Boulevard. Local bike advocates spoke out in favor of the addition, arguing it brought safety improvements faster than the proposed project. Others argued the bike lanes were unnecessary altogether.
After a series of rallies, press conferences and public gatherings organized and attended by community members on all sides of the debate, the outcry quieted until a Dec. 20 collision was reported on social media. Law enforcement sources confirmed that a 75-year-old male victim was walking across the Cross Island Parkway exit ramp at Northern Boulevard around 10:20 a.m. when he was struck by a vehicle. He sustained non-life-threatening injuries.
DOT officials have continuously stood by the protected bike lane project, which they say provides critical safety benefits to the area.
Northern Boulevard is a designated Vision Zero Priority Corridor. In January 2017, Mayor de Blasio announced New York City would make an additional $400 million investment in Vision Zero projects after three successive years of record-low traffic fatalities.