Just over a year ago, in November 2013, The Forum wrote an article on multiple incidents of reckless driving that had been occurring in Howard Beach, eerily foretelling the deadly accident that was to occur two weeks later. On Nov. 30, at 159th Avenue and 98th Street, a 23-year-old drunk driver from Ozone Park hit and killed Jim Sinisi of Ridgewood, a paralegal who was also a beloved local musician and poet. The driver’s car jumped Sinisi’s and smashed into a brick wall bordering a small dental office.
Many residents have expressed continued concerns about various intersections in Old Howard Beach, calling for additional stop signs and/or traffic lights. In what should be a quiet suburban neighborhood, the sight of an MTA bus or FedEx van hurtling down 99th Street – distinctly not a busy thoroughfare – is not an uncommon one. Pickups and drop-offs at PS 146, located on 159th Avenue between 98th and 99th Streets, cause momentary traffic jams and double parking, and proximity to Cross Bay Boulevard, the JFK/Howard Beach train station, and Resorts World Casino can spur aggressive driving and increased vehicles on the road.
“We’ve gotten a lot of phone calls about 159th Avenue,” said Redmond Haskins, the communications director for Councilman Eric Ulrich (D-Howard Beach). “We work with the DOT to try to resolve as many issues as we can,” adding that some requests for speed reducers in Howard Beach had been granted as a result of Ulrich’s efforts.
As we approach the holidays, with the prevalence of driving after partygoing, safety becomes an even greater priority. Loy Gordon, the owner of Neir’s Tavern in Woodhaven (where Jim Sinisi’s band used to play) said the bar focuses its business on local clientele, because he would prefer not to attract the “boisterous” type of bar patron that won’t respect the 185-year-old establishment. “I think that anyone who drives drunk is a moron,” said Gordon. “We are always very quick to cut someone off. It doesn’t matter how long they’ve been customers. We’ve taken keys away many times. We have a responsibility to make the right decisions for people who can’t make those decisions for themselves.”
And on 159th Avenue, where children of all ages can be seen walking to and from school or on their way to Charles Park, and families with strollers in tow head to the train station or the nearby post office, the “boisterous type” usually seems far removed. And yet it isn’t. On Nov. 5, another calamity occurred on 159th Avenue, directly across the street from PS 146 and just a few feet away where Jim Sinisi was killed this month last year. This accident involved two cars – one catching afire and the other flipping over – and resulted in three injuries. And like last year’s, another fence was brought down by vehicular force.
By Eugénie Bisulco