Several residents of the Kew Gardens and Forest Hills communities joined Community Board 9 members on April 14 at Park Lane and Union Turnpike to demand that the Department of Transportation (DOT) make the intersection safer for pedestrians to cross.
According to Community Board 9 District Manager James McClelland, the community submitted a request to the DOT last November asking for either the timing of the traffic lights to be changed or a leading pedestrian interval to be installed. The latter would give the green light to pedestrians to cross several seconds before parallel traffic, allowing for extra time to make those who are crossing appear more visible to turning drivers. However, the request was struck down by the DOT last March.
McClelland said the DOT denied the request out of fear that it would’ve further backed up traffic. However, several residents doubted that excuse, citing a lack of traffic buildup on Union Turnpike.
Many members of the community expressed worry that nothing will be done until it’s too late. This is especially worrisome to the community because many kids need to cross the intersection twice a day in order to get to and from school, as P.S. 99 is only a few blocks away.
According to Elena Leyman of Richmond Hill, the traffic lights there have gone out three times in the last four months. Each time, she was informed by her daughter as she attempted to cross the intersection on her way to or from school.
“I initially called 311 [after the first time] but was transferred to the police,” Leyman said. “Each time the police had to fix it.”
Ethan Felder, who grew up in the neighborhood and is running for the District 28 state Assembly seat, said the area is no stranger to car accidents.
“This area’s been dangerous for quite some time,” Felder said.
He’s hopeful the city does something about the intersection before a pedestrian is hit.
Despite having their request denied a month ago, the community is hopeful that Mayor Eric Adams’ administration may be more willing to accommodate them in regards to re-timing the traffic lights or installing a leading pedestrian interval. The community recently re-submitted their request, hoping for a different outcome.
According to Kevin O’Leary of Kew Gardens, time is of the essence for the DOT to take action.
“We shouldn’t have to wait for somebody to get killed before something gets done,” O’Leary said.
QNS reached out to DOT for comment and is waiting for a response.