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Elmhurst Hospital hosts safety summit

Police conduct an investigation into an accident involving a pedestrian at the corner of Roosevelt Avenue and Case Street at the time the event was being held in Elmhurst Hospital Center. Photo by Roy Renna/BMR Breaking News
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Vehicular accidents involving pedestrians and bicycle riders in the Jackson Heights-Elmhurst-Corona area are so common that Elmhurst Hospital convened a daylong summit last week.

Medical professionals, political leaders and representatives of the city Department of Transportation convened at the Citywide Pedestrian Injury Summit Dec. 12, the third such meeting since 2008, to work to develop strategies to combat the danger.

“It’s really not safe out there for pedestrians,” said Dr. Jamie Ullman, the hospital’s director of neurology. “The situation is not getting better, it’s getting worse.”

DOT spokesman Nicholas Mosquera said, “In the last 10 years, traffic fatalities have fallen boroughwide by nearly 35 percent. Injuries to cyclists and pedestrians dropped by approximately 10 percent during that same period.”

But the numbers paint a different picture in the area surrounding Elmhurst Hospital. They recorded 296 injury cases in 2012 — 215 were pedestrians and 81 were riding bicycles, according to Atia Butler, the hospital’s director of external affairs. During the conference, two victims of pedestrian accidents were admitted to the hospital’s trauma unit.

“That’s an example of the intensity of the problem around here,” Dr. Ullman said.

One pedestrian was an 82-year-old man who was hit by a car on Roosevelt Avenue, according to Butler.

“The hot spots are Roosevelt Avenue, Queens Boulevard and Northern Boulevard,” Ullman said. “We need more efficient law enforcement. Perhaps we’ll get that with Bill Bratton’s return” as NYPD commissioner.

Bratton is an outspoken supporter of a Swedish traffic plan called “Vision Zero” whose goal is to eliminate all traffic fatalities. “Vision Zero” was featured on Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio’s campaign website with his vow to “Stop waiting on Albany and fight for home rule, so New York City — on its own — can install red light cameras and speed-enforcement cameras around hundreds of schools and senior centers.”

City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) made that a central theme of his presentation at the conference.

“I call it the three E’s — enforcement, engineering and education,” he said. “It has become a priority in my administration.”

Engineering provides slow zones, curb extensions, pedestrian islands and safe streets to schools. Dromm pointed out that children have to be educated about the risks, and he is working on speeding enforcement issues with Deputy Inspector Michael Cody, commander of the 115th Precinct.

Dromm found the summit helpful, saying, “The idea of sharing information is important, especially when you consider that we lost three children to crashes over the last few years in my district.”

The deaths of Miguel Torres, 11; Luis Bravo, 19; and Olvin Yhair Figueroa, 4, as he crossed an intersection with his pregnant mother, led to the formation of Make Queens Safer-Three Children Too Many. A candlelight march drew hundreds in November, with co-founder Cristina Furlong saying, “This is the culmination of a year of carnage in our streets.”

State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), who addressed the crowd that night, said “the deaths of three children here in our community are a painful reminder that much more needs to be done.”

Furlong believes the Elmhurst Hospital conference was a step in the right direction saying, “I think the summit provided the city with data and research. I’m glad Councilman Dromm has taken the lead on this and there’s no doubt it will become a more important issue with the return of Bill Bratton as NYPD Commissioner.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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