By Jean S. Guilder
It was 2005, I was crossing 3rd Avenue and 79th Street, in the crosswalk. In front of me was a mother pushing a double baby carriage. A taxi was making a fast left turn up 3rd Avenue and was inches away from hitting the carriage. The children were crying and the mother, obviously, was very upset. I was appalled and stood there for a while watching the cars making right and left turns, whipping around the corner up 3rd Avenue as though they were getting on the L.I.E.
As a native New Yorker, and one who cares, I contacted then-councilwoman Jessica Lappin's office, and at her suggestion called Community Board 8, the city of New York's Transportation Committee. This call started a series of my attending their meetings over the next few years, at which I consistently presented the following: I suggested the staggered light system which was in use, and still is, on 3rd Avenue and 72nd Street, whereby all pedestrian traffic is halted, while cars make left and right turns; and only then can pedestrians cross when all turn traffic is halted.
This system could be implemented and is applicable to 3rd Avenue and 79th Street, and Madison Avenue and 79th Street (both on the North side of the Street, crossing East and West, and 2nd Avenue, and Lexington Avenue at 79th Street, crossing East and West on the South side of the Street). After all my presentations, at some three or four meetings, the comments were "good idea" and "we'll look into it," but nothing ever happened.
Fast forward to January of 2014. New York has a new Mayor, Bill de Blasio, and a new Councilman, Ben Kallos. A nine-year-old boy was fatally struck by a taxi while walking with his father, who was also hurt, in a crosswalk on the Upper West Side. After several other pedestrian deaths in the city, Mayor de Blasio announced that reducing pedestrian traffic accidents was one of his major priorities.
In view of this, I thought I would try again to implement my idea with the new councilman. In March, I called Ben Kallos' office to reiterate this problem, mentioning that our new mayor considered it major. I was told my message would be forwarded, and they would "get back to me" but I never received a call.
In the beginning of May, I was almost hit while crossing 79th Street and 3rd Avenue, in the crosswalk, by a car making a fast right turn. I called Ben Kallos' office again and received the same response of "they'll get back to me." I answered, 'What are you waiting for, someone to get killed?" I still never heard from them.
Sadly, on Friday August 29th, a woman was killed by a taxi turning left on Madison Avenue and 79th Street. I have since called Ben Kallos' office twice, and left messages on the voicemail, still no one has returned my call.
There is a solution to his problem, the staggered traffic light, which could be implemented on 79th Street, as well as 86th Street. It exists and is functioning on 72nd Street. This is not rocket science that I'm asking for.
It is up to us New Yorkers to see that our community is risk free when it comes to walking safely. After all, one of our many charms is that NYC is truly a walking town.