QUEENS — Last year, grocery store owner Alam Mohammed was nearly hit twice while crossing Hillside Avenue near Parsons Boulevard.
The intersection is among the busiest and most dangerous in the northern section of Jamaica, according to the Department of Transportation, which recently unveiled its pedestrian safety plan for Queens under Vision Zero, a program that seeks to eliminate deaths and injuries from cars in New York.
“Drivers are turning very fast and don’t pay any attention to pedestrians crossing the street,” said Mohammed, 40, whose store is right near the intersection. “Last year, they almost ran over my feet."
Four pedestrians were severely injured there between 2009 and 2013, according to the DOT. Many more are at risk as several bus routes carry commuters to the intersection along with students and staff heading to nearby schools, including Hillcrest High School and P.S. 86.
Mohammed, who lives in the neighborhood, said that about two years ago a car struck a local teen at the intersection. “She almost lost her leg,” he said.
The corner is among 72 “priority intersections” identified by the city as the most accident-prone crossings in the borough, based on the number of crashes, severe injuries and fatalities as well as input from community workshops held by the city last year.
Between 2009 and 2013, there were a total of 1,071 crashes involving pedestrians in the northern portion of Jamaica, in the so-called “Hillside Avenue corridor area" (see the map). Nearly 120 pedestrians were severely injured and 10 were killed, the DOT said.
The area, bordered by the Van Wyck Expressway, the Grand Central Parkway, Liberty Avenue and Farmers Boulevard, covers about 3 square miles and comprises downtown Jamaica, Briarwood, Jamaica Hills, Jamaica Estates and a portion of St. Albans.
There are about 10 “priority intersections” within that area, including Hillside Avenue and Merrick Boulevard and Hillside Avenue and 179th Street, according to the DOT.
Several more are also located in downtown Jamaica, including the intersection of Archer Avenue and Parsons Boulevard, Jamaica Avenue and 160th Street and Jamaica Avenue and Guy Brewer Boulevard, as well as Archer Avenue and Sutphin Boulevard and Jamaica Avenue and Sutphin Boulevard.
“Pedestrian safety is a big concern in the community,” said Yvonne Reddick, district manager for Community Board 12, which covers Jamaica and St. Albans.
Reddick said that the areas around transportation hubs in downtown Jamaica, such as Parsons Boulevard between Archer and Jamaica avenues, are especially dangerous.
“During peak hours it’s extremely bad,” she said.
Three pedestrians were severely injured in that area between 2009 and 2013, according to the DOT.
Reddick said that in addition to cars and buses, the streets in downtown Jamaica are also flooded by “dollar vans” and taxis.
“They are operating up and down Jamaica Avenue, honking and picking up people in the middle of the street,” she said.
It was not immediately clear how the city is planning to improve pedestrian safety at specific intersections in North Jamaica.
But the DOT said last Tuesday that among the changes planned for the “priority areas” in the next three years are new pedestrian islands on some streets, longer crossing times for pedestrians, extra lighting under elevated trains and around transportation hubs and additional speed limit signs.
Enforcement will also be increased around those areas, officials said.
Alam Mohammed said separating drivers from pedestrians would help most.
For example, he said, at the intersection of Hillside Avenue and Parsons Boulevard, there are separate traffic lights for left-turning traffic, but only for drivers traveling on Hillside Avenue. There are no such lights for drivers traveling on Parsons Boulevard, allowing them to turn while pedestrians are crossing Hillside Avenue.
“That’s why it’s still dangerous,” he said.
According to the DOT, dangerous-driver choices are the cause in 75 percent of pedestrian fatalities in Queens.
About 60 percent of all pedestrian fatalities and severe injuries, recorded in Queens between 2009 and 2013 took place within 17 square miles of “priority areas,” which also included downtown Flushing, Jackson Heights and Corona.