Safety on Jamaica Avenue

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Although Woodhaven Boulevard was recently designated the most dangerous road for pedestrians in Queens, it should be noted that Jamaica Avenue has seen its fair share of tragedy over the last few years.  In April of 2009, 71-year-old Virginia Montalvo was struck and killed at 98th Street and Jamaica Avenue as she was crossing the street to cash in bottles and cans she had collected. The driver of the dark cargo van that killed Montalvo was never apprehended.

Later that same year, 42-year old You Yuan Zhou, a deliveryman for Woodhaven’s China House Restaurant, was riding his scooter on 80th Street and Jamaica Avenue when he was struck by a car driven by Gus Pappaeliou, 27, of 76th Street.  Zhou was killed instantly. Pappaeliou dragged the scooter for a full block and stopped his vehicle only to dislodge the scooter before taking flight. The impact cracked open the radiator on Pappaeliou’s car, leaving a tell-tale trail of radiator fluid, which led police directly to his door. He was promptly arrested.

And a dark colored SUV struck and killed a 45-year-old man at 85th Street and Jamaica Avenue in September 2010. That driver, too, was never apprehended.

And we are all aware of the tragic incident on Jamaica Avenue 2 weeks ago that resulted in the death of a resident of Woodhaven.  This most recent incident, along with at least one of the previously mentioned incidents, was caused by a drunk driver.  But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look closer at Jamaica Avenue and for ways we can improve safety along this busy stretch of road.

For starters, let’s focus on the stretch of Jamaica Avenue between 85th Street and 80th Street, the scene of 3 of the 4 incidents listed above.  Looking at Woodhaven and Jamaica Avenue on a map, we see that for most of Jamaica Avenue there is a stop list every 0.03 to 0.04 Miles .  These distances were calculated using the distance tool on the NYC Maps Website.  So there is a stop light on Jamaica Avenue about every 160 to 200 feet.  Click Map Below to Enlarge.

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Yet, the distance between stop lights is more than doubled between 85th Street and Forest Parkway (0.09 Miles or 475 feet).  Furthermore, it is a very busy stretch of the Avenue — there are 2 banks nearby, a post office, Duane Reade, Scaturro’s, Gem, and a bunch of other businesses — this leads to a high rate of people crossing between lights, or jaywalking.

The distance between Forest Parkway and 85th Street is about DOUBLE Woodhaven Boulevard.

Perhaps a stop light in the middle of that stretch would give pedestrians a safer place to cross — and might discourage drivers from pickup up too much speed as they head towards the next light — which are busy intersections at both ends.

Further complicating matters is the sun — as it sets each afternoon it becomes a factor, blinding drivers and pedestrians alike.

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Stand at Jamaica Avenue at this stretch around 4:15 in the afternoon and you will see people behaving stupidly — crossing the street, not quite being able to see oncoming eastbound traffic because of the sun — and westbound cars unable to see people crossing.

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Check out the stupidity in this video — jaywalkers and U-turns — proving that it’s both pedestrians and motorists that are disregarding their own safety as well as the safety of others.

To be clear — in the case of a drunk driver, like what happened here 2 weeks ago, the pedestrian was not at fault.  But you would think that just 2 weeks after that horrible incident — not 300 feet from this spot — that people would act a little safer.

Road safety — this section of Woodhaven in particular — has long been a concern for residents.  Here’s an article from April 1974 announcing a new traffic light at Forest Parkway and Jamaica Avenue — 40 years have passed and this area is still a concern.

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This, along with other topics of safety, will be discussed at out next Town Hall meeting, this Saturday, March 16th at 1 PM at the Woodhaven Volunteer Ambulance Corp, 78-15 Jamaica Avenue.  Come out and share your concerns about other areas of concern.

In the meantime — BE CAREFUL.  Do not put yourself at risk just to cross the street a little faster.  Do so at the corners — and wait for the light.  We don’t want you getting hurt.

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