For Pat Martin, president of Friends of LeFrak Library, it is only a matter of time before a child gets seriously injured at a Rego Park intersection near PS 206 – unless, she and other community leaders said, the city does something about it.
“We’re all so scared of the day a child gets hurt there – and after that, the city will put in a crossing guard, but we shouldn’t have to wait for that,” Martin said of the intersection at Junction Boulevard and Horace Harding Expressway that is routinely crossed by elementary school students on their way to PS 206.
Martin and other area leaders, including PS 206’s Parent Teacher Association and principal and state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights) have in the past called for a crossing guard at the intersection – which is often traversed by large trucks and cars going far above the speed limit as they enter the expressway – but have not received one. A crossing guard had been stationed at the intersection up until about three years ago but was removed due to city budget cuts.
Now, Peralta, Martin and others are asking the city to place speed cameras at the intersection, which Martin noted has grown busier in recent years because of the opening of the Rego Center Mall. The state Legislature last week authorized a five-year pilot program that allows the city to place up to 20 speed cameras at intersections around schools.
“There are accidents occurring, and it could build up to something serious and we want to avoid that,” Peralta said of the intersection where one person was killed and about a dozen pedestrians have been injured between 1995 and 2009, according to the nonprofit Transportation Alternatives.
Peralta asked city Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan in a letter to install a speed camera in the area, and the DOT leader said the city would look into it.
“We agree with your assessment that installing a speed camera at the intersection of Junction Boulevard and Horace Harding Expressway would act as a deterrent for speeding cars,” Sadik-Khan wrote to Peralta in an April letter, prior to the state giving the stamp of approval to the speed camera pilot program. “…Speeding vehicles pose tremendous danger to other motorists and pedestrians, especially school children. In fact, a pedestrian struck at 40 mph is 3.5 times more likely to be killed than one struck at 30 mph. The proposed speed camera program would significantly enhance safety at school locations throughout the city, and it is imperative that we supplement current enforcement efforts by using effective camera technology.”Juan Martinez, general counsel at Transportation Alternatives, noted that while the speed limit at the Rego Park intersection is 30 mph, drivers routinely go 55 mph or higher.“This is a dangerous intersection,” Martinez said. “It needs some safety measures as soon as possible. There are a couple different options, and the speed camera one is exciting because it’s new to New York. There could also be design changes or a crossing guard.”Martin stressed that while she definitely welcomes the presence of a camera, she also wants to see a crossing guard returned to the area.
“These are young kids cross here,” said Martin, who last year helped to deliver petition signatures to area legislators and city officials, asking that the crossing guard be reinstated. “You’ve got four-way traffic. At that corner, people are turning to get into the expressway. It’s a corner with incredible traffic. And on the right hand side, there are trucks making deliveries and people going into the Rego Center Mall.”
By Anna Gustafson