Thursday, December 2, 2010

Speed Blamed in Fatal Crash

By Eric Yun

A week after civic leaders and politicians warned against the dangers of drag racing at a press conference Western Queens, two fatal crashes where racing is suspected illustrated how deadly reckless driving and racing can be.

On Monday morning, a car speeding on North Conduit Avenue in Ozone Park crashed just before Sutter Avenue killing the driver. Later that night, a suspected drunken drag racer struck and killed a man after swerving into oncoming traffic in Brooklyn.

The first incident occurred when Geraud Gray, 24, of Brooklyn lost control of his Nissan Maxima and crashed into a utility pole, police said. Gray was pronounced dead at the scene, while his passenger, an 18-year-old male, survived the crash and is in stable condition. The pole shattered into multiple pieces, leaving wires dangling on the street, and the car was flipped and split in two.

Residents have complained that North Conduit Avenue has long been a hot spot for drag races and excessive speeding, especially the stretch from Cohancy Street to Sutter Avenue.

“People want to drive like maniacs. They speed race here every day. And every year, someone gets killed,” said Latoya Medford to the New York Post.

For years, civic leaders have been working with police to reduce speeding on North Conduit Avenue. “You can build up so much speed from Cohancy and there are people getting off the Belt Parkway at high speeds and merging onto North Conduit,” said Frank Dardani, President of the 106th Precinct Community Council.

Dardani explained that for several years there was a radar gun display showing driver’s speeds, which helped prevent some of the excessive speeds, however, when the batteries ran out, the city Department of Transportation never replaced it. He also said he has worked with the police to see if traffic lights could be installed along the stretch.

Witnesses at the scene said that Gray was racing with at least two other cars, which sped away as the crash occurred. The cars were travelling in excess of 75 miles per hour, one eyewitness said.

“The cars were flying down the street. It’s terrible what happened,” one witness at the scene told the Forum.

According to police sources, the accident is still being investigated, and although speed was definitely a contributing factor, there is no official determination yet as to whether drag racing was a contributing cause.

Police also reported another accident at the intersection of 79th Street and North Conduit Avenue on Wednesday morning.

Gray worked for FedEx and was the father of a two-year-old.

In a separate incident in Brooklyn, a car that was possibly drag racing fatally struck yeshiva teacher Moishe Berkowitz, 25. Berkowitz was driving home Monday night when a Volkswagen that crossed the double yellow lines struck him. An eyewitness told the New York Daily News that prior to the accident, the driver and his friends talked about drag racing, and the driver who hit Berkowitz reeked of alcohol.

These accidents are what politicians and civic leaders from Western Queens have been working to prevent. Last week, Council Members Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) joined concerned residents to call for an end to drag racing in Maurice Avenue in Maspeth.

Maurice Avenue, like North Conduit Avenue and other similar streets, is a popular hot spot for drag racers because of its straight stretch of road from Tyler Avenue to 54th Avenue. Residents want the city Department of Transportation to install speed bumps on the street to end the races.

“Drag racing is a public safety issue that can potentially be dangerous,” Crowley said. “It’s not welcome here in Maspeth or anywhere in the city of New York.”

No comments: