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City To Add 'Slow Zones,' but No Stop Sign, Near LIC School Building

 The Department of Transportation will install Slow Zones on three Hunters Point streets starting this fall.
The Department of Transportation will install Slow Zones on three Hunters Point streets starting this fall.
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DNAinfo/Smriti Rao

HUNTERS POINT — The city plans to create "Slow Zones" to lower the speed limit on three streets surrounding a local school building — but it rejected repeated requests from parents and elected officials to add a stop sign to a nearby intersection sitting just blocks from the Long Island Expressway and Queens Midtown Tunnel.

The Department of Transportation will install the Slow Zones around the building on 51st Avenue and Center Boulevard, which houses three schools: The Academy for Careers in Television and Film, Hunters Point Community Middle School and the special education Riverview School. 

The zones — which will run along 51st Avenue between Second Street and Center Boulevard, Center Boulevard between Borden and 50th avenues, and 49th Avenue between Center Boulevard and Fifth Street — will see the speed limit lowered from 25 to 20 miles per hour, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg wrote in a letter to Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan earlier this month.

But the DOT turned down requests from residents to add a stop sign at the intersection of Fifth Street and 51st Avenue, a block from the school, which parents say would do more to protect kids than the slight speed-limit change.

"The kids walk from the train up 51st Avenue and have to cross Fifth Street. There's no stop sign on Fifth Street," said Paul Cynamon, head of the PTA at Hunters Point Community Middle School.

He said the PTA has asked several times for a stop sign at the corner, which sits just blocks from the entrance to the Long Island Expressway and the Queens Midtown Tunnel.

More than 300 people have also signed an online petition in support of the request, and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer staged a rally with students at the intersection earlier this year, at which they erected their own homemade stop sign.

"The kids are crossing on their way to school and there's no traffic light for them, no stop sign for them," Cynamon said.

He questioned the effectiveness of the city's Slow Zones, saying that his home in Sunnyside is located within one but that drivers routinely ignore the lower speed limit.

"They come at 55 miles per hour down my block," he said. "It doesn’t work."

But in her letter to Nolan sent on June 1, Trottenberg said the city's existing Slow Zones — which use things like street markings and speed bumps in addition to the speed-limit reduction — have seen a 10 to 15 percent drop in drivers' speeds after being installed, as well as a 14 percent drop in crashes.

The DOT reviewed residents' request for a stop sign at Fifth Street and 51st Avenue but determined that traffic conditions at the corner "did not meet the nationally recognized safety engineering standards" to install one, Trottenberg said.

"We are confident, however, that the Slow Zones will be effective in improving traffic safety at these locations," the commissioner wrote.

Nolan replied with a statement calling the DOT's rejection of the stop sign "troubling."

"I would ask that the NYC Department of Transportation take another look at this intersection and listen to the many students and parents who have pushed and advocated for an all way stop to be placed at this location," she said.

In a statement Wednesday, a DOT spokeswoman said the agency is once again looking at the intersection and "collecting new data" on the feasibility of putting a stop sign there, with the results expected in the next few days.

The Slow Zones will be installed by the start of the next school year, according to Trottenberg's letter.