By: Halina Radchenko
As a personal injury attorney, I am familiar with the tremendous consequences of careless driving. I make sure to always look out for pedestrians while operating my motor vehicle, and I pay attention to passing cars as I walk along the street. I worry even more when my almost 5-year-old leaves the house. We live in Astoria, our home a three-minute walk from Astoria Park. We cross only three crosswalks on our way; however, after the events occurring in my neighborhood over the past year, this short walk makes me nervous.
Each July the fair comes to Astoria Park. Hundreds of Queens residents come to enjoy the rides, eat cotton candy, and take in the view from beneath the Triboro bridge. Every year this is a joyous event, but last year the carnival bliss was broken as a teenage girl, en route home from the fair, was struck and killed by a motorist while walking through the crosswalk of 19th Street and Ditmars Boulevard. The intersection is typically quiet and each child entering Astoria Park must cross through that juncture. This incident brought tragedy to what was supposed to be a fun event where families with small children could enjoy their summer. Since that day, Astoria parents have been on edge about the traffic during the fair. Only recently was the victim’s photo taken down from the post on the corner. Fresh flowers were placed at that intersection for months after the incident. The photo and the flowers constantly reminded parents in Astoria to be careful.
This year, the weekend was supposed to be even better as the Astoria Fair coincided with the fair along Ditmars Boulevard. As my family and I walked out to have lunch on Ditmars and to check out the fair, we were greeted with police officers, fire department employees, and “do not cross” tape. The accident seemed gruesome. I instantly accessed the recent news reports on my phone to learn that an MTA bus was involved in an accident with an FDNY fire truck responding to a fire in Astoria.
The news reported that 17 people were injured including 5 firefighters.
Astoria is a small residential community minutes away from Manhattan, but it feels like the suburbs. The overwhelming amount of young families was what attracted my family to the neighborhood, as well as many other adults with small children. The neighborhood is safe and welcoming, with the same niceties provided to those living in the suburbs. When my son was in infant, I joined a new mother’s group that met in Astoria Park. We joined a mommy and me sing along group in the park after my son turned one. As a 3-year-old, he was finally able to join one of the numerous soccer teams who also play in Astoria Park.
Since moving to Astoria in 2010 I have personally witnessed 6 motor vehicle accidents in the 3-block radius next to my home. Each of these incidents resulted in injury or death. To the credit of our city council, measures have been taken to make these three blocks safer. More speed bumps have been added; Shore Boulevard, a street adjacent to the waterfront and the park, has been made into a one way street; and the citywide speed limit has decreased from 30 to 25 miles per hour. However, this is not enough, as the accidents keep occurring.
Drivers have to be more vigilant, especially in neighborhoods populated by young children. I would be in favor of strict fines and penalties for any violation of the traffic safety rules in the vicinity of a park, school, or in a quiet residential community such as Astoria.
As we walked home from the fair along 19th Street, we saw a motorist going at least 40 miles per hour on the roadway along the park. Every parent walking turned their head and gave the vehicle a very dirty look. Yet the motorist continued on, not realizing the harsh consequences of his actions if an incident were to occur.
All I can say is that the next time you are driving in Astoria, please obey the speed limits and drive as if YOUR children live here.
Hach & Rose, LLP, 112 Madison Ave,
10th Floor, New York, NY 10016