By Jon Cronin
Following a second pedestrian death at the corner of Woodhaven Boulevard and Jamaica Avenue, some are casting doubt on the effectiveness of improvements made at the location as part of the city’s Vision Zero program.
On Wednesday, Sept. 20, at 5:51 a.m., Julia Maria Carchi de Chaucha, 73, of 95th Street in Woodhaven, was found by police unconscious and unresponsive, lying in the road at the Jamaica Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard intersection. She was pronounced dead after EMS took her to Jamaica Hospital.
A 62-year-old man driving a 2014 Lexus SUV, who stayed at the scene, struck Carchi de Chaucha while he was driving south on Woodhaven Boulevard and she was crossing from east to west. The vehicle remained at the scene. According to the NYPD, no arrests have been made and the investigation remains ongoing.
This is the second incident involving a senior citizen at that corner in as many months.
Kenichi Wilson, chair of the Community Board 9 transportation committee, said of the continued accidents and injuries, “This is kinda ridiculous.”
Wilson pointed out that the city Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Pedestrian Action Plan from 2015 stated that there were 13 deaths on Woodhaven Boulevard between Queens and Cross Bay boulevards between 2009 and 2013.
Since last November, when the Vision Zero initiatives were implemented, there have been almost as many deaths on Woodhaven Boulevard.
In reaction to last week’s death, a city DOT spokesperson said, “a leading pedestrian interval (LPI) was added Saturday, giving pedestrians a seven-second headstart crossing Woodhaven Boulevard at Jamaica Avenue before drivers may enter the intersection.”
Wilson said that the Community Board 9 executive committee will be meeting on Sept. 27, and they will be extending another invitation to the city DOT and MTA.
He said the committee would like to hear the DOT and MTA’s ideas, and to ask why pedestrians continue to be killed and injured in the same numbers as before with all Vision Zero safety protocols in place.
Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) believes that Vision Zero has made the boulevard less safe: “Since the implementation of SBS [Select Bus Service], pedestrian safety has diminished and there has been an increase in accidents and fatalities along the Woodhaven Boulevard corridor, especially at the intersection of Woodhaven Boulevard and Jamaica Avenue.”
He asked the city DOT and MTA to take another look at the situation. Miller wants to see “dedicated crossing time for pedestrians, more safety precautions — especially near the slip lanes — and better lighting under the elevated train. Currently, it is too dark and better visibility will help both pedestrians and drivers become aware of each other.” The dedicated crossing time would mean that pedestrians have time to cross when no cars are moving.
Miller also criticized the dedicated bus lanes for creating block intersections, and would like the city DOT to come to the area and educate the public on the new system.
“SBS has some bearing on the increased accidents. Greater education for pedestrians and drivers will help alleviate future fatalities,” Miller said.
A DOT spokesman added that the Jamaica Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard intersection has historically been “one of the worst in the city when it comes to the number of crashes and the number of traffic deaths and serious injuries.”
The spokesman said that all of the safety protocols have been implemented at that corner. Those include “new ADA-compliant pedestrian and bus islands added, re-aligned left turns and additional overhead lighting. Additional safety improvements elsewhere on the corridor are still ongoing.”
“We aim to complete installation of a new traffic signal and pedestrian crossing at Woodhaven Boulevard and 88th Avenue this year,” the spokesman said.