Tag Archives: Villa De Beaute

Despite lawsuits, DOT work, off-ramp still unsafe


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

A stretch of street – proven unsafe for cars, pedestrians and even storefronts – has “struck” again.

Following three crashes in as many months in 2011, another car accident occurred on May 1 at the off-ramp of the Ed Koch-Queensborough Bridge, located on Queens Plaza South near Crescent Street in Long Island City.

A taxi driver came off of the exit and collided with scaffolding, but no one was injured during the incident.

The crash was the fourth overall in the last 12 months – including two accidents within nine days of each other last year, during which drivers were speeding and failed to negotiate the sharp turn at the end of the ramp, causing them to smash their cars into two nearby storefronts. One passenger and one pedestrian were killed in the accidents, and both drivers lost a limb.

The proprietors of the two stores – Espinal Caribbean Restaurant II and Villa De Beauté hair salon – are suing a number of parties, including the city, Department of Transportation (DOT) and the drivers and owners of the vehicles, for roughly $1 million in damages.

“There was negligence on the part of the various defendants,” said Scott Agulnick, the shop owners’ attorney. “Our lawsuit is not like a personal injury lawsuit. We are actually seeking real damages – the loss of equipment, inventory, improvements and revenue itself, along with the good faith the businesses had built. The various parties owe a duty to use the reasonable care that an ordinary person would do under those circumstances. Those people who are designing the roadway and the traffic pattern owed a reasonable duty when doing so to prevent a dangerous situation. The drivers of the vehicle owed a duty of care to keep their vehicles under control, and the owners of the vehicles are vicariously liable.”

The store owners, 44-year-old Tony Espinal and 32-year-old Akber Jiwani, were unavailable for comment.

Agulnick says Espinal is focusing on his other restaurant, while Jiwani, whose equipment and revenue was not insured, is struggling and uncertain regarding his future plans.
The recent crash represents the resurgence of a problem the city hoped it had already remedied.

Following last year’s barrage of accidents, the DOT attempted to improve safety conditions in the area by changing traffic patterns, increasing signs and erecting concrete barricades on the edge of the sidewalk.

According to DOT spokesperson Nicholas Mosquera, the department regularly reminds drivers of the appropriate speed limits on bridges and has also installed rumble strips, flashing lights and reflective tape at the off-ramp.

Senator Michael Gianaris, who was among several elected officials who requested the DOT institute the changes, believes more must be done to keep people out of harm’s way.

Despite the traffic improvements, many who work and live in the area still consider crossing near the ramp unsafe, while others believe the ramp is only dangerous when people do not follow proper traffic laws and procedures.

James Haran, who works down the block from the ramp, has seen damage done first hand.

“People are hectic coming off the bridge,” said Haran. “They cut people off and it can cause accidents. There is also a good amount of speeding. This is definitely not the best place to drive. I wouldn’t feel comfortable driving or crossing the street at this spot. My friend was hit by a speeding car at this spot two weeks ago. He is still in the hospital with a broken leg and has had four surgeries.”