Near fatal drunk driving accident in ‘road diet’ area of East Tremont Avenue

The roadway where a drunk driving accident left a pedestrian in critical condition.
Community News Group / Patrick Rocchio

A life-threatening accident has already occurred in the controversial Throggs Neck ‘road diet’ area.

Motorist Justin Jenkins, charged with driving under the influence and vehicular assault, struck pedestrian Azariah Meyers near 3233 E. Tremont Avenue on Saturday, September 17 at 3:35 a.m., according to a criminal complaint.

Meyers is on life support.

The accident happened along a stretch of East Tremont Avenue near Waterbury Avenue where NYC Department of Transportation, at Councilman James Vacca’s request, implemented traffic calming techniques known as a road diet.

The road diet has proved controversial with many local residents, according to published reports.

In response to the accident, the councilman conceded that the road markings, painted lines which eliminated a traffic lane in each direction and created left-turn bays and wider parking lanes, would not prevent a drunk driver from driving carelessly.

Previously, the councilman used the early morning hit-and-run death of Giovanni Nin in June to resurrect the road diet plan after Community Board 10 voted it down, according to previous Bronx Times reports, eventhough many in the community believed that a greater police presence would be the best way to accomplish a safer roadway.

“My only response is that I don’t think drunk drivers care where painted lines are on the street,” said Vacca of the September 17 accident. “This could have happened anywhere; this had nothing to do with a road diet.”

The councilman said he believes the assertion that the drunk driving accident is proof that the road diet is not needed is completely false, and the work of people “with an agenda.”

The councilman said that in response to this incident, he has called on the 45th Precinct to do sobriety stops along East Tremont Avenue to monitor the late-night revelers leaving the area’s many clubs and bars.

In response to Vacca’s request, Bob Bieder, 45th Precinct Council president, said that he likes the idea of cops keeping an eye on the people leaving bars, but with 28 bars in the area, the precinct is limited as to what it can do because of limited manpower.

“We should be doing periodic checks and spot checks, but it is going to continue to happen unless we have the bartenders and the bar owners involved,” said Bieder.

Andrew Chirico, co-leader of the Waterbury-LaSalle Community Association, stated that the 45th Precinct is understaffed, and instead of spending time and money painting lines in the street, money should instead be spent on the NYPD for enforcement.

John Marano, CB 10 vice chairman, called for enforcement after the latest accident, and said that the people who are slowing down for the ‘road diet’ are law-abiding citizens.

“I feel that enforcement is the answer,” said Marano “We need unannounced check points that keep drivers on their toes.”

One of the most vocal opponents of the ‘road diet,’ John Cerini, said the councilman should have waited longer before he announced at a CB 10 meeting on Thursday, September 15 that the road diet was a success.

Cerini, a Throggs Neck Merchants Association board member, said that once again the merchants and the 45th Precinct would be on the street urging motorists in the ‘road diet’ area to slow down.

The event is tentatively scheduled for Friday, October 21 at 11 a.m. he said, adding that the date was chosen because it is the anniversary of the death of one of the three pedestrians killed in the ‘road diet’ area, between Waterbury Avenue and Bruckner Boulevard, since 2010.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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