Instead, it was a plea made directly to drivers on Woodhaven Boulevard: Slow Down! And because most fatalities have been occurring late at night or very early in the morning, we scheduled this plea accordingly to start at 11 p.m.
The intersection of 91st Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard was chosen because that’s where Sivananaintha Perumal was struck and killed in a horrific hit-and-run incident a few weeks ago.
Close to two-dozen residents joined the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association to hold homemade signs with simple messages. One asked drivers to slow down. Another reminded drivers that a man was killed at this spot by a car going 92 miles per hour.
Another sign appealed to their own interests, reminding them that speed kills drivers, too. Indeed, earlier this month a 23-year old resident of Woodhaven was killed in a high-speed collision with a tree in Ozone Park.
His car was traveling so fast that it was split in two.
One tragedy after another, one life lost after another. How many families destroyed, their lives never to be the same again? And the one thing most of them have in common is a speeding vehicle.
Sure enough, as we stood out on the boulevard Friday night, the vast majority of cars going past us were speeding. While a few may have been just a tad over the limit, most of the other cars were flying down the boulevard.
Assemblyman Mike Miller joined the effort, and shook his head as he watched car after car roar through the dangerous intersection where a man lost his life two weeks ago.
"I was proud to stand with the residents of Woodhaven to call attention to the unnecessary and dangerous speeding that occurs on Woodhaven Boulevard,” said Miller. “DOT needs to install signage for motorists to slow down, as well as for pedestrians to pay attention while crossing the street. No vehicle should be going 92 miles per hour in the middle of any community."
Some drivers acknowledged the message with a wave and a smile. Others, believe it or not, were not so friendly.
After reading the signs while sitting at a red light, some drivers sped off at the first sign of green, exerting a little extra “oomph” on the gas pedal as they drove away.
Seriously, what kind of jerk sees a sign that a man was killed by a speeding car at that very spot, and then speeds off to make some sort of point? I doubt very much those folks can be reached via signs or reasoning.
Extreme enforcement of traffic laws, particularly speeding, is the answer. And it’s really simple. Park one unmarked car on one side of the bridge over Atlantic Avenue and on the other side will be a police car waiting to pull them over.
The NYPD doesn’t have to do this every night, just once in a while. Drivers will see the flashing lights, they will see people being pulled over, and Woodhaven Boulevard will earn a reputation as a thoroughfare where speeding is discouraged. Drivers will slow down.
Until they do this, people will continue to die on Woodhaven Boulevard.
One surprise from the evening came from the passengers that stepped off the bus into the middle of our demonstration. Some of them would stop, read the signs and express shock that someone had been killed there.
“When did this happen?” one commuting couple asked when they read our signs. “We didn’t hear anything about it.”
That is a significant problem. Apart from a small bouquet of flowers tied to a traffic pole, there’s nothing at that intersection to indicate anything out of the ordinary happened there.
The fact that it took residents waving homemade signs late at night to notify commuters about what happened to Sivananaintha Perumal is an indication that there’s a disconnect somewhere.
What else do we need to try? In locations throughout the city, people used to chain white bicycles (ghost bikes) to indicate a bicyclist was killed at that spot. In other locations, the city put up signs noting that a pedestrian was killed.
Do we need to do something similar? Perhaps. But until we do, we’ll continue to gather on the boulevard, informing commuters and pleading with drivers to slow down.
Residents of Woodhaven are being killed, and someone has to do something about it.