Pedestrian accident in Great Neck illustrates Middle Neck Road risk

Janelle Clausen
A pedestrian begins to cross the intersection of Middle Neck Road and Station Plaza. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)
A pedestrian begins to cross the intersection of Middle Neck Road and Station Plaza. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

A 71-year-old man in Great Neck Plaza was struck by a car while trying to cross Middle Neck Road near Station Plaza on Friday night, less than 10 days before an event aiming to promote pedestrian safety in honor of a man who died crossing the same road two years ago.

According to detectives, a 2007 Lincoln was heading south on Middle Neck Road when it struck the man around 7:15 p.m., leaving him with “serious head injuries.”

In a statement, the police said there is “no apparent criminality” at this time and that an investigation is ongoing.

Vigilant Fire Chief Joshua Charry said the company received the call at 7:30 p.m., had a paramedic and ambulance on scene at 7:32 p.m., and left the scene for North Shore University Hospital at 7:39 p.m. The patient arrived at 7:52 p.m.

“It just continues to underline how dangerous it can be for pedestrians in a heavily trafficked area,” Charry said. The pedestrian’s identity was not disclosed.

A spokesman for North Shore University Hospital was not available for comment on the patient’s status.

The latest accident underscores the dangers in trying to cross Middle Neck Road while echoing another incident that occurred just south of there almost exactly two years ago.

A driver struck Oren Bennaiem, 43, on Sept. 30, 2016, as he was trying to cross Middle Neck Road from Barstow Road on his way to work. He died six days later.

Jivanna Bennaiem, his wife, who has turned into a pedestrian safety activist in the wake of his death, said it’s such “weird timing” and that it’s “just unbelievably sad” how common car accidents like this are.

She said the 71-year-old man is the third person who has been hit in Great Neck within the last month – and that as she was advertising a pedestrian safety walk, hosted in memory of her husband, at least three business owners recalled being hit.

“The day is really about how we can each do better and for me, I loved Oren, so it’s a way for me to make his legacy not so much about his death but about making a change for the better for this community we moved to and loved,” Bennaiem said of the planned Oren’s 5K/Fun Run for a Day for Safer Streets on Sunday.

The walk aims to bring awareness to the dangers of distracted driving, promote safer driving and encourage people to walk carefully.

Bennaiem, along with North Shore Action, Families for Safe Streets and others organized the event, which will take walkers through the villages of Great Neck, Great Neck Plaza and Kensington. On site registration begins in Grace Avenue Park at 7:15 a.m. This will be followed by opening remarks at 8 a.m., the 5K commencing at 8:15 a.m., and a “Fun Run” for younger children in the park where they will get crosswalk and pedestrian safety information at 9 a.m.

“The race is symbolic of what it means to come together as a community and represents the possibilities of how we can all pull together to help protect each other,” Bennaiem wrote in a recent letter to the Great Neck News. “Life is so short. Let’s all live, drive and walk better.”

“If you do,” she added, “it could help save a life.”

Middle Neck Road in Great Neck Plaza is considered particularly dangerous for a pedestrian. (Photo from Tri-State Transportation Campaign)
Middle Neck Road in Great Neck Plaza is considered particularly dangerous for a pedestrian. (Photo from Tri-State Transportation Campaign)

According to a 2017 report from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, which compiled data from 2014-2016 from the New York State Department of Transportation, there were at least 20 collisions with a pedestrian or cyclist just off of or along Middle Neck Road that resulted in injuries.

Additionally, the report shows, there were at least seven accidents involving pedestrians near the intersection of Station Plaza and Middle Neck Road in Great Neck Plaza.

Elisa Kyle, the placemaking director of Vision Long Island, a nonprofit organization trying to make communities more attractive and pedestrian-friendly, said there is a higher number of accidents in the area because of its proximity to the train station and the density of the area.

Kyle also said that the group is investigating possible improvements for Middle Neck Road, which is county-owned. Among those ideas are curb extensions so people are more visible before crossing, re-striping roads, and trying to make the road feel more narrow so drivers slow down.

“I do know it was one of our hot spots that we had highlighted in our Complete Streets event last spring,” Kyle said. “There’s definitely an above average amount [of accidents].”

But, Kyle also said, crashes have gone up all over Long Island.

“I think drivers need to understand pedestrians have just as much rights to the road as they do,” Kyle said.

Charry said the most recent incident occurred in “one of the more dangerous areas,” which is flooded with pedestrian traffic and “the heart of the commercial zone.” The increase in distracted driving and walking also doesn’t help, he said.

“It just becomes much more difficult to safely get across the street,” Charry said.

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