City endangers locals’ lives with death-trap intersection, Coney Islanders claim

Danger zone: Coney Islanders claim the city endangered them by failing to implement adequate traffic and pedestrian safety measures at Surf Avenue and W. 22nd Street — an intersection that sits squarely in the middle of two construction projects.
Photo by Julianne McShane

The city endangered Coney Islanders by failing to implement adequate traffic and pedestrian safety measures at an intersection that sits squarely in the middle of two construction projects, locals allege.

Drivers routinely jump the curb and come close to hitting other cars and pedestrians at Surf Avenue and W. 22nd Street, according to one local resident, who said she now tries to avoid the area after dark for fear of getting hit and worries for the safety of the neighborhood’s youngsters.

“I’m scared I’m going to be hit by a car, a bus, a truck — I don’t cross that street at night for that reason,” said Rosalind Clark. “I just want it to be safe for our children.”

Clark’s and other locals’ complaints about the intersection come near the end of the Economic Development Corporation’s nine-month-long, three-phase plan to raise Surf Avenue, which reps claimed at a meeting last summer will help facilitate better drainage of storm water and support a major development in the area.

In the meantime, the project’s last phase — which began in December and is slated to finish up by mid-May — closed off the block of Surf Avenue between W. 20th and W. 21st streets to drivers, forcing drivers in both directions to share a single travel lane of the avenue between W. 21st and W. 22nd streets, which a Police Department-appointed traffic agent stationed at W. 22nd Street is supposed to help manage.

But locals claim that the agents do not adequately direct traffic, adding that the agents’ alleged negligence results in regular near-collisions between drivers who end up competing to get down Surf Avenue in opposite directions and making fast turns onto W. 22nd Street, where the speeders allegedly endanger oldsters and youngsters crossing the street, according to one local, who said she has taken it upon herself to protect pedestrians as they cross the roadway.

“For public safety, they need someone there at the corner who’s not just standing there, but helping direct traffic,” said Shirley Aiken. “It’s like they don’t care about safety. I’ve had to help the elderly people cross the street because the cars don’t watch.”

The Police Department’s collision reports do not track crashes at the intersection, but a rep for the department said that only one collision had occurred there this month, on Thursday, when a reporter witnessed a Sea Gate-bound school bus traveling on Surf Avenue crash into a wooden barrier.

But Aiken said she witnessed a driver hit a pedestrian there earlier this month, adding that the victim allegedly broke her collarbone as a result of the incident. And Clark said drivers have come close to hitting her about twice a week since the project has been underway.

A second construction project managing the electrical wiring and drainage beneath the street has made the situation more dangerous, because the large wooden barrier workers built around the site in the middle of W. 22nd Street further reduces the turning space for the drivers of the three city bus routes that make the turn from the avenue onto the street, according to the district manager of the local Community Board 13.

“It narrows the turning point for buses,” said Eddie Mark.

A rep from the Department of Transportation said the agency would aim to mitigate the traffic dangers by adding a pedestrian traffic manager to help locals safely cross W. 22nd Street and would seek approval from the Metropolitan Transit Authority to:

• re-route to W. 24th Street the B36, X28, and X38 buses that currently turn from Surf Avenue onto W. 22nd Street;

• take away four parking spots on W. 24th Street to allow the buses to turn from Surf Avenue onto the street;

• and move back a stop line on Mermaid Avenue near W. 24th Street to allow the busses to turn from the street onto the avenue.

A spokesman for the MTA said agency reps are working with locals and the DOT to determine the best solution to manage the traffic issues and that they would re-route the busses if necessary.

But another local said she would not be satisfied until the traffic agents stepped up to the plate and forced drivers to follow traffic laws.

“We need the cars to stop coming on the sidewalk and making these illegal turns,” said Wanda Feliciano.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@schnepsmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
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