Dozens of Ridgewood residents gathered at IS 77 last week to discuss with the Department of Transportation (DOT) plans to create a pedestrian plaza that would close Wyckoff Avenue between Gates and Myrtle avenues to vehicular traffic. The plaza would reduce turning options at the dangerous intersection of Myrtle and Wyckoff avenues and Palmetto Street.
“The intersection of Myrtle, Wyckoff and Palmetto has been on our radar for sometime because of the critical safety need,” said Queens DOT Commissioner Nicole Garcia. “It is a Vision Zero priority intersection.”
Garcia said that there has been three fatalities at the intersection since 2009, including 23-year-old Ella Bandes, who was struck and killed at the intersection in 2013.
“We feel very strongly that we need to fix this,” Garcia said.
The first improvements to the intersection came in 2014, when the DOT banned five turns. According to Jesse Mintz-Roth, senior project manager for the redesign, there were 25 potential turns at the intersection. Garcia said even with the new restrictions in place, many motorists are still ignoring the bans.
“What we're finding is that, even though there are a lot of these left-turn bans in place, there's a lot of noncompliance,” she said. “We don't think people are going into this intersection with the intention of breaking the law and making these turns, it's just really, really confusing.”
Garcia added that once motorists get into the intersection it's tough to see the no-turn signs. After seeing the reaction to the changes on both the part of pedestrians and motorists, DOT decided that more needed to be done.
“We have a real opportunity here to put forward one of the most robust safety treatments that we can to make this intersection a lot safer,” Garcia said.
To give residents a better idea of how the plaza will impact traffic flow and enhance safety, the DOT will be doing a one-day “test plaza” on Saturday, April 9, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“This will give people the chance to kind of feel what this space will be like without cars, with that expanded safer pedestrian space,” Garcia said.
Community Board 5 chairman Vincent Arcuri said change is desperately needed at the dangerous intersection.
“Something has to be done,” he said. “We've tried different things, but we still haven't stopped the fatalities.”
Arcuri said he will ask the DOT to examine shortening crossings using curb bump-outs or eliminating diagonal crosswalks. He also hopes DOT strongly considers pedestrian fences because he believes people will still cross dangerously to get to the busy Palmetto Street bus terminal under the elevated train.
“I don't think [the plaza] going to do anything unless you utilize pedestrian fencing,” he said.