Dangerous Intersections

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By Dan Rivoli

In March, the Upper East Side was called the best place for retirees. But new statistics from the Department of Transportation say the neighborhood has the most dangerous intersections for seniors in the city.

In a list of 50 intersections with the most accidents involving senior pedestrians between 2004 and 2008, the Upper East Side clocked in nine locations. Of that group, First Avenue and East 57th Street had the most crashes (seven accidents and six injuries). An intersection in Brooklyn"s Bensonhurst neighborhood had the highest in the city, with nine accidents that resulted in nine injuries.

“What a lot of these streets have in common is that these are the wide, dangerous cross streets and avenues, said Wiley Norvell, spokesperson for the pedestrian, cycling and transit group Transportation Alternatives. “Seniors are really like canaries in the coal mine when it comes to safe streets. Anything that"s dangerous for an able-bodied person is potentially fatal in the case of a senior citizen.

Council Member Jessica Lappin surveys First Avenue and East 60th Street. Photo by Daniel S. Burnstein

Senior pedestrian accidents are mostly caused by insufficient crossing time and cars failing to yield when making turns.

On April 21, Barry Schneider, president of the East Sixties Neighborhood Association, was standing on the corner of East 60th Street and First Avenue (five accidents and five injuries, according to the data). He noted on a piece of paper the number of people who crossed the street, how long they had to do so and how many bicyclists were illegally on the sidewalk.

“We want to see, empirically, what the problems are when people walk, said Schneider, 75. “I"d like to see more leading pedestrian intervals, that all curbs have curb cuts or changing the timing to favor pedestrians.

Schneider and other association members assisted Council Member Jessica Lappin in her citywide study of these intersections. When she is done collecting data, she plans to bring her findings to the Department of Transportation.

“Knowing where [the problem areas are] is only the first step, Lappin said. “We want to give [the department] the information so they can take it further.

Lappin rallied in support of legislation April 28 that would require the New York City Police Department to make certain crash statistics available on the department"s website, similar to other crime data. The legislation, which she is sponsoring, was discussed during a Public Safety Committee hearing.