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City Adds Safety Measures to Dangerous Harlem Intersection

By Jeff Mays | June 9, 2011 6:09am

By Jeff Mays

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

HARLEM — The Department of Transportation has put up a speed board to show motorists how fast they are driving and will install crosswalk count down clocks along the length of Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard in Harlem to try and protect pedestrians on the deadly street where an 89-year-old woman was killed last week.

The changes are part of what will be a larger effort over the summer to develop a traffic-calming plan for the boulevard, which is more dangerous than all but 10 percent of New York City streets, according to the DOT.

"We want to work with DOT to figure out a solution to reduce speeding. We also want to work with the precinct to figure out proper enforcement," said Community Board 10 District Manager Paimaan Lodhi.

Leonia White, 89, who was wheelchair-bound and nearly blind, was killed when a pickup truck hit a livery cab, jumped a curb, and slammed into her at Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and West 145th Street. Those who live and work in the area say the intersection is treacherous.

The day after White was killed, a minivan struck a motorcyclist a block away at West 146th Street.

"You are not safe here," Yvonne Lemell said as she waited today to cross Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and West 145th Street. "I feel in danger over here. The pedestrians don't have the right of way, we have to dodge between cars and they even ignore the red light."

Pedestrians and bicyclists also disobey traffic laws at the intersection, Lemell said.

"It's one of the worst corridors in the city and it has a long history," said Lodhi.

According to the DOT, between 2005 and 2009, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, which stretches from West 110th Street to West 155th Street has averaged 18 fatal or serious accidents per year.

DOT Manhattan Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione recently told Community Board 10 that West 145th Street is one of five "high crash" corridors in Central Harlem and also ranks as more dangerous than only 11 percent of city streets.

A recent traffic study found that depending on the time of day, between 56 percent and 84 percent of vehicles tracked on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard were speeding. More than 50 percent of the vehicles on the roadway were speeding every time DOT studied Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard.

"Even during rush hour you can find vehicles speeding in Community Board 10," Forgione said.

At Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and West 134th Street, kids from the fourth grade class at P.S. 175 Henry Highland Garnet School helped to get the speed board installed.

Six pedestrian injuries and 18 vehicular passenger injuries have occurred at the intersection — which is a block from the school — in the past five years. Motorists were clocked going as fast as 38 miles per hour during the day and 58 miles per hour in the evening.

DOT spokesperson Nicole Garcia said the countdown clocks will make it easier and safer for pedestrians to cross the street. But people who regularly travel in the area said yesterday that a lack of traffic enforcement combined with the lack of a left turn signal, for example, are the major problems.

A school crossing guard at Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and West 145th Street who asked not to be named said there simply isn't traffic enforcement at the intersection.

The agent said the area has been dangerous for several years before last week's fatal crash and that there are multiple near-accidents every day.

"This avenue is wild. Before people with the light can even step off the curb a car speeds by," the crossing guard said. "I keep my head on a swivel. Sometimes my neck hurts when I go home because its so scary out here."

A man who sells newspapers at the intersection and identified himself as Michael said the intersection could benefit from a regular traffic agent.

"They do more than write tickets, they untie the traffic," he said. "But if the people in the neighborhood don't talk to their congressman and elected officials and demand a traffic officer, we aren't going to get anything but more crashes."