Schenectady County

SCCC ponders safety changes after pedestrian hurt

Schenectady County Community College officials are reassessing safety needs in the wake of an accide

Schenectady County Community College officials are reassessing safety needs in the wake of an accident last week where a student was hit by a car.

The accident happened at about 5:15 p.m. on Tuesday. A man in his 30s was talking on his cell phone and walking across the street from Elston Hall to the college’s parking lot that is next to the former armory building on Washington Avenue.

The victim, whom police did not identify, was waved across by a driver in one lane and he kept walking when he was struck by a van, according to police spokesman Sgt. Luciano Savoia. He suffered a cut to his head, ear and possibly a ruptured kidney. He was sent to Albany Medical Center and is now recovering at home. No tickets were issued.

Although the victim was not crossing at the marked walkway, SCCC students on Tuesday expressed concern about the heavy traffic area of State Street and Washington Avenue.

Yelena Leszczynsky, 21, of Glenville said sometimes drivers coming from Scotia ignore the red arrow preventing them from turning right to Washington Avenue. “There’s so many people that come around from Route 5 and go right anyway,” she said.

It is even difficult to cross when following the pedestrian signals, said Leszczynsky, who has chronic nerve pain disorder and serves as president of the campuses Alliance for Students with Disabilities.

“You wait for a break and get it and then run to the other side,” she said. “It’s definitely scary.”

Ashley Cotton, 21, of Scotia agreed that people speed around the corner. “I could be starting across and someone could fly by and almost hit me,” she said.

Student Bianca Ross, 25, of Ballston Spa suggested adding signs stating a school zone and having more police presence.

Shannon Whitcomb, 20, of Schenectady said she hasn’t had any problems because she always crosses at the crosswalk and waits for the light.

In light of the recent incident, college officials issued an alert to faculty, student and staff, reminding them to do just that.

“It’s a very state-of-the-art crosswalk that not only has a timer indicating how long walkers have to cross the street but it has a beeper,” said Darren Johnson, assistant dean of planning, accountability and advancement.

College officials have talking about creating a skywalk that would cross over Washington Avenue similar to the one that crosses State Street and connects the college’s Center for Science & Technology building to Elston Hall.

In the summer of 2009, SCCC had planned to ask county leaders for $1.65 million to build the skywalk, which was viewed as a crucial component of its project to construct a 313-bed student housing facility on a parcel of land at 117 Washington Ave. next to the former armory building.

School officials had argued at the time that the overhead walkway was necessary for the students walking to and from the campus.

However, the college rescinded its request because the housing project experienced a setback. The economic crash of 2008 made it difficult for the developers to obtain financing for the project. SCCC held off because they wanted to make sure the housing remained affordable for students.

Johnson said Monday there is no firm timetable for student housing or a sky bridge.

Board of Trustees Chairwoman Denise Murphy McGraw said the recent accident brought the sky bridge project back to her mind. She passes by that intersection every day and watches the pedestrians travel in all directions.

“We’re going to have figure out what we’re going to do in terms of making that corner safer,” she said.

The college does not have the money right now for a sky bridge, Murphy McGraw said. There are currently other projects in a $5 million plan including renovating Elston Hall, installing a sprinkler system to the Taylor Auditorium and expanding the college’s music wing.

She suggested maybe the county partner with the college on some pedestrian improvements such as a bigger median or more green space.

Safe access to the main campus is now more of an issue as SCCC is growing both in population and footprint. Total full- and part-time enrollment stands at 6,276, an 11 percent increase from last year, according to SCCC President Quintin B. Bullock. It is the first time the enrollment has topped 6,000.

The college is physically growing as well. In January, SCCC is scheduled to open the Kindl building up the road at 201 State St., which will house its workforce development programs.

The college is in negotiations to purchase the former automobile repair station across the street on Water Street. College officials have said the property could be used for parking and future expansion.

Also, the college remains committed to the student housing idea — despite the setbacks.

Murphy McGraw remained optimistic that the college could get something done by next fall.

“We are still talking to developers. We are still very hopeful on that project,” she said.

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