Thursday, December 3, 2009

Transportation Commissioner Ruled Out All-Way Stop at Hazardous Middle Village Corner Before Crash by Nicholas Hirshon - NY Daily News

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Rescue workers assist a preschool girl who was hurt when her schoolbus overturned in an accident at 69th Road and 76th St. in Middle Village on Tuesday. Farriella for News

The Queens transportation commissioner ruled out an all-way stop for a hazardous Middle Village corner just months before a bus carrying preschoolers overturned in a traffic accident a block away Tuesday, leaving the tots bumped and bruised.

Commissioner Maura McCarthy rejected the all-way stop in June after the Transportation Department studied car and pedestrian volumes, accidents and other factors at 76th St. and 69th Road.

"Based upon our evaluation of the data collected, it is our judgment that all-way stop controls are not recommended at this time," McCarthy wrote in a letter to City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village).

McCarthy pledged in the same missive to install a "Stop Ahead" sign and "Stop" pavement markings on 76th St.

Crews soon erected the "Stop Ahead" sign, but the markings had still not appeared Tuesday afternoon when a sedan struck the schoolbus on 75th St.

No charges were filed, but the children, the bus driver and the bus matron were treated for minor injuries, authorities said.

Crowley had warned the city in four letters - the first on Feb. 3 - to investigate whether "traffic calming measures" would improve safety on 69th Road.

McCarthy's June reply was the city's only response to Crowley.

"I'm going to demand a four-way stop sign right here as soon as possible," Crowley told the Daily News about an hour after the crash. "We can't wait for a more serious accident to happen."

Transportation Department spokesman Scott Gastel said the city is evaluating safety improvements for three local intersections at Crowley's behest.

The pavement markings will be installed by the end of the month, weather permitting, he said.

Witnesses described a chaotic scene Tuesday as locals desperately rescued the crying youngsters from the wreckage.

"They're all screaming for their moms," said Dorothy Leddick, 35, who lives at the corner. "It started pulling my heartstrings."

Leddick and neighbor Melissa Licausi, 36, tried to comfort the traumatized tots with blankets, juice boxes and reassuring words.

"My heart was in my mouth," Licausi said. "They were all crying. They were very scared."

Jerry DeStefano, 66, who lives down the block, said residents had unsuccessfully lobbied Crowley's predecessors, Dennis Gallagher and Anthony Como, to fund a traffic light or speed bump.