Constantinides calls for safety improvements after cyclist’s death

Constantinides calls for safety improvements after cyclist’s death
By Mark Hallum

City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) is urging the Department of Transportation to launch a study of the corridor on 23rd Avenue between 33rd and 36th streets after a cyclist was struck and killed by a van July 23.

The woman, identified by the NYPD as Xellea Samonte, 22, was killed as she passed through the intersection of 35th Street and 23 Avenue and died in Elmhurst Hospital the following day.

According to the NYPD Highway District’s Collision Investigation Squad, the light was a “steady red” when Samonte passed eastbound through the intersection.

This particular avenue, 23rd Avenue from 33rd Street till 36th Street, has a history of crashes that result in both injury and death,” Constantinides said. “There is a pronounced problem along this street and there are unique conditions which render this thoroughfare particularly challenging,” he said.

He pointed out that “first, the Amtrak elevated structure rises above 23rd Avenue and the railway’s support columns are planted directly in the middle of the street’s driving lanes. These columns narrow the roadway and make it very dangerous for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians there. Second, there are several active driveways which directly feed into street traffic. Lastly, many cars park along the street and sidewalk illegally that compound the other challenges along this location.”

Constantinides added, “These are a few of the conditions which make the traffic pattern here dangerous, confusing, and chaotic.”

NYPD determined that the 2008 Ford Econoline Van operated by a 28-year-old male had a green light when Samonte was struck, causing trauma to her head and leg.

But bicycle advocacy group Transportation Alternatives sided with a StreetsBlog article that claimed a witness account said this was a false assessment by the cops and that “NYPD has blamed the victim” on their website.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.