Did DOT’s ‘Island Of Death’ Fix Make Things Worse?

Queens Residents Say City's Quick Fix Is Making Perilous Road Even More Dangerous

NEW YORK (CBS 2) — The city Department of Transportation reacted speedily to correct a hazardous street condition exposed by CBS 2 this week.

The quick fix, though, may have created more problems for a neighborhood where residents claim they still have a possibly deadly road, reports CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.

“You just said your engineers reviewed this, your engineers understand what’s going on. Well, how did they miss that?” Councilman Daniel Halloran said. “Explain to this community, where traffic was literally on top of moving railroad trains, how you guys missed that, if you’re so aware and your engineers are so on top of it.”

“You are correct. We could have coordinated this construction effort better,” Queens DOT Commissioner Maura McCarthy said.

It was a “gotcha” moment for the transportation department, because the city’s installation of a new traffic island in Little Neck forced drivers to go perilously close to speeding trains in order to make the turn around it.

After CBS 2’s story, DOT moved immediately to make that turn illegal. It changed other traffic rules, and installed a forest of new signs.

The agency also put in bollards to prevent drivers from making the dangerous turn, but there have already been problems: drivers are ignoring the new rules and continue to make the turn, and the bollards may have been installed incorrectly, making it difficult for emergency vehicles to reach the community.

“The bollard is set up inaccurately. The bollard is flexible in a north-south direction. This bollard needed to be set up in an east-west direction,” Councilman Halloran said. “What’s going to happen is the first emergency vehicle to run over it is going to rip it out of the case.”

Residents say the bollards make the traffic island – which was set up to make the train crossing a “quiet zone” – an “island of death,” and they want it removed.

“Emergency vehicles will not be able to come in, come down,” Joe DeGeorge, president of the Little Neck Bay Civic Association, said. “God forbid someone has a heart attack, there’s a fire down there, it’s just going to be a disaster.”

When Commissioner McCarthy visited the neighborhood to inspect the work, she was immediately set upon by residents.

“I think you’re wrong,” resident Sal Zito said.

“If a car is stuck here by accident, whatever, how do we get home?” Rosemarie Zito asked.

“You go around illegally,” McCarthy told her.

“You mean illegally, oh, thank you,” Rosemarie said.

“A mistake was made,” DeGeorge said.

“We’re on the same side. We’re not trying to inconvenience you, we’re trying to make it safer, and we would like for the horns to stop so you can enjoy a better quality of life,” McCarthy said.

For residents looking for a truly happy ending to the story, the answer seems to be “not yet.”

Commissioner McCarthy said she will have her engineers reevaluate the bollard installation to see if they should be placed differently, but she added that the traffic island isn’t going anywhere.

More from Marcia Kramer
  • jimbo

    The only way to remedy the problem , would have been to make the tracks higher or lower than the road surface.

  • jimbo

    I used to work in that area , I know that LIRR Intersection has always been very dangerous.

  • David

    Exactly Ron

    2 long blasts
    1 short blast
    1 long blast

    is the horn pattern I always heard about when a train crosses a road. No traffic island will change that as it is required

  • Ron Maxwell

    The problem with the intersection is not the cars it is the trains. By law the locomotive engineers have to sound their horn when approaching railroad crossings (See NORAC rule 19b or Pennsy Rule 14a) – The only way to eliminate the train horn is to eliminate the grade crossing. Second, I don’t want firefighting apparatus “jumping the curb” and possibly break an axle resulting in a needed piece of equipment not being able to make it to an Emergency! Third, Did I hear the DOT Commissioner tell people to “make illegal turns” if a car is stuck!? I just give up!!!

  • Eileen

    The traffic medians and bollards have nothing to do with the Quiet Zone, call the FRA and they will tell you this is true. All that is necessary is the gates. These are DOT ‘s crazy ideas.

  • Jane

    I would like to invite the DOT commissioner to sleep in my house for a week. This way she can also be woken up at 3 am by a blaring horn You don’t need an alarm clock the 6:15 train obliges.The traffic island stays indeed

  • David

    How does a traffic island stop horn honking by the train especially when now traffic is making the turn in the tracks. Plus how much new honking is going on at all hours due to traffic being blocked by people making that turn?

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