Westchester Square crash leaves man dead

Car crash into Westchester Square store left driver dead and passenger injured.

Local officials are awaiting reports from two city agencies after a man crashed his car into a Westchester Square building, killing himself and injuring his passenger.

The late-model Honda Accord crashed through a brick wall and into a sign shop at 1649 Overing Street off East Tremont Avenue about 1 a.m. on Thursday, July 12.

Six families over the Clarke and Son Signs’ store had to be evacuated, and two adjacent stores ordered closed, with vacate orders on all three buildings.

As of press time, a Department of Buildings spokeswoman said that two apartments and the two stores facing Overing Street were still under vacate orders.

Community Board 10 and the president of the Westchester Square Civic Association are awaiting findings from the city Department of Transportation and the Department of Buildings as to what can be done to improve vehicular and pedestrian safety at the intersection, and to learn if and when the families can return to their apartments and the two stores near E. Tremont Avenue can reopen.

The city DOT has been studying the intersection of Silver and Overing streets and E. Tremont Avenue since 2011, and CB 10 has requested speed humps for several Zerega streets and improvement of pedestrian safety at the particular intersection where the accident occurred, said CB 10 district manager Kenneth Kearns.

“I think traffic control in general is a good thing,” Kearns said. “I think DOT was responsive to the board request for an analysis of the intersection. We don’t have analysis yet and we are waiting for it. The agency is in the process of getting that information together and we are confident that city DOT will present it to us.”

The area around the accident scene would be perfect for a Neighborhood Slow Zone – an initiative that has just been expanded by Mayor Bloomberg to reduce the speed limit from 30 MPH to 20 MPH in certain areas.

“I have asked for signs to reduce speeds on all streets nearby,” said Lou Rocco of the local association. “I wish we could have a Neighborhood Speed Zone here because we got schools and medical centers, and trucks are always speeding through here.”

Rino Sicilaino, owner of the Rino of Italy hair salon, across Overing Street from the accident, said he had seen many car crashes at the location after about 25 years in business. But whatever is done at the intersection, and the surrounding blocks in Westchetser Square and Zerega, it comes too late for 49-year-old Gilberto Alfonso, who died in the car crash.

After the car was pulled from inside the building, messages for Alfonso appeared at a memorial on wooden planks put up in front of the gapping hole in the wall of the building. The messages appear to come from family members, friends, and even people he did not know.

Hours after the accident Juan Clarke, who owns Clarke and Son Signs, was still reticent about the tragedy.

“When I imagine it,” Clarke said, “it is not good.”

Friends, loved ones, and strangers left messages for the driver, on a work fence, as seen here on Monday, July 16.
Photo by Patrick Rocchio

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