By Lynn Edmonds
Local politicians and Deputy Inspector Thomas Conforti, Commanding Officer of the 109th Precinct, announced that following a two-week education period, the Precinct, which patrols Flushing, Whitestone and College Point, will begin ticketing jaywalkers and other pedestrians who are not following traffic rules.
The decision came after an elderly woman was killed by a casino bus on Thursday night near the intersection of Main Street and Kissena Boulevard while she was crossing in the middle of the block.
Officials said that jaywalking has been a big problem in New York City, especially in Flushing.
“Only in New York City, the pedestrians are very aggressive. If you go to London, if you go to Hong Kong, everybody follows the light,” Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) said. “We have to change the attitude.”
“Flushing is a unique place. There is a lot of group thinking of people who are thinking that it’s okay to jaywalk,” Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing) said.
State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) said education could help bring about a culture change.
“The laws are there, but on the other hand, people have to observe them. And education is the way to do it, obviously,” she said.
A spokesperson for Koo said volunteers and police would be handing out tip sheets to pedestrians on how to stay safe and obey the law. He said the tip sheets would be available in English, Chinese, Korean and Spanish.
U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) said the tip sheets would convey “the importance of not jaywalking, waiting for the walk signal, not using your mobile device when crossing the streets. Basically, to stop, look and listen, and to be aware of your surroundings.”
Following a lesson, there is an assessment, Stavisky, a licensed teacher, said.
“The test is, cross the street properly. And if you fail the test, then, there’s going to be a ticket,” she said.
Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz (D-Flushing) acknowledged that the plan would likely be politically unpopular, but he said that did not faze him.
“People are not going to be happy. Elected officials are going to start getting phone calls when people start getting summonses. I know it, it’s going to happen. Don’t call me, I’m not going to agree with you,” he said. “If you’re crossing in the middle of the street you’re wrong, you’re endangering yourself, you’re endangering others, you’re endangering drivers.”
Stavisky, Koo, and Kim said that eventually they wanted to work with the City Department of Transportation to find infrastructure solutions to safety problems, like better signage, pedestrian bridges and gates to prevent crossing.
In Queens, about 250 pedestrians are killed or severely injured by cars every year, and the majority of these accidents are concentrated in dense areas such as downtown Flushing, Jamaica and Jackson Heights. Most of the time, it’s not the pedestrian’s fault. In three-quarters of pedestrian fatalities on Queens’ main throughways, dangerous driver choices are the primary cause or a contributing factor, a 2015 study from the Mayor’s office reports.
But politicians said they want to prevent every crash they could, leading into the holiday season. A 2010 study of New York City found that 20 percent more pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries occurred during the November/December holiday season than the rest of the year.
“There are so many, so many, areas that we are going to take a look at, but in the meantime, we want people to have a safe Thanksgiving,” Stavisky said.
Reach Lynn Edmonds at (718) 357-7400 x127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Ellinoamerikana