July 9, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez
Two traffic signals have at last been installed outside P.S. 11 on Skillman Ave., Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer announced Friday.
The full traffic signals, on each leg of 54th Street and Skillman Avenue, were installed by the Department of Transportation after months of demands from both parents and Van Bramer, including a letter written last year to the agency on the matter.
School parents and Van Bramer have long said that the high-traffic area, with over 1,000 students and across the street from the Woodside Library, was simply an accident waiting to happen.
“I am thrilled that the Department of Transportation has agreed to install these necessary signals and crosswalks in front of P.S. 11,” Van Bramer said in a statement. “Vision Zero means that we need to see dangerous areas and prevent potential fatalities before it’s too late. This signal means that before the start of summer school, the children here will be protected.”
Nicole Garcia, DOT Queens Borough Commissioner, said crosswalks were also installed at the two sites.
“The two new traffic signals, which are designed to have coordinated timing, and crosswalks will make it easier for everyone from our seniors to school children cross the street,” she said in a statement.
While demands for traffic calming by the school date back some time, calls for the DOT to look at the area again and implement safety measures were renewed late last year, and with much fervor, after the agency came out with its initial safety proposal for Skillman and 43rd Avenues that included protected bicycle lanes.
Parents at P.S. 11 arranged an emergency meeting with the DOT to talk about the plan in December, and were outraged to see that the proposal not only lacked traffic signals by the school, but would place a protected bike lane flush against the curb of the main entrance, which many claim would pose a safety risk for children and increase traffic congestion.
The contentious meeting prompted Van Bramer to abruptly cancel a town hall already in the works to discuss the DOT’s proposal at large.
He then said that the town hall and any discussion on the agency’s proposal for the two avenues wouldn’t be entertained unless the traffic calming measures were installed.
In March, the DOT suddenly announced that traffic signals and crosswalks would be installed not just by P.S. 11, but by P.S. 343, another school Van Bramer and the community had spent years advocating for traffic signals.
Van Bramer said at the time that he simply used “all levers” of his power to get things done for his community, and wished the agency hadn’t taken so long to put up the traffic signals. Meanwhile, the DOT said the new traffic lights at the two schools were not related to the town hall and their plans for Skillman and 43rd Avenues.
The fate of the agency’s proposal for the two avenues is still unclear, as neither Mayor Bill de Blasio nor the DOT have said if they will go ahead and implement the plan, despite opposition from Van Bramer and Community Board 2.