Last Updated: 8:28 AM, April 23, 2012
Posted: 1:28 AM, April 23, 2012
Two Queens shops shuttered after out-of-control cars plowed into their storefronts not once but twice — and within just nine days of each other — have filed a $1 million lawsuit, blaming a 59th Street Bridge exit ramp.
Espinal Caribbean Restaurant II had been open four years in Long Island City when the first crash happened in March 2011.
“It was a major setback and years of work evaporated,’’ owner Tony Espinal said. “But then the second crash!
“And then the third crash!” he said, referring to yet another in which a car sped toward the shops, only to be stopped by scaffolding erected after the earlier accidents.
Joining Espinal, 44, in the suit is Villa De Beauté hair-salon owner Akber Jiwani, 32.
The owners of the two smashed storefronts on Queens Plaza South teamed up to sue the city, the Department of Transportation, and the drivers for damages.
The destruction of their shops and their ensuing business losses were caused by “negligently planned and/or designed traffic patterns . . . leading to the location of the incident which constitutes a hazardous and/or dangerous condition,” according to their lawsuit, recently filed in Queens Supreme Court.
“After the first accident, we were in shock,” Jiwani said.
He said he and his wife had owned the salon for only six months when Grant Riddell lost control of his Volkswagen Rabbit — failing to make the sharp right-hand curve of the outer ramp — and crashed into their business last march, tragically killing 68-year-old pedestrian Anthony Buscemi.
Nine days after that crash, Alexander Palacio drove his Volkswagen Jetta off the exit ramp at a high speed and smashed into the same spot.
The second accident killed Palacio’s passenger, Beatriz Rodriguez, who was the owner of the car and is named in the suit.
“Our clients are such hardworking people that to see the fruits of their labor wiped out completely is awful,” said the shop owners’ lawyer, Scott Agulnick, adding that he hopes the city will change the “treacherous” roadway.
Agulnick said he plans to add Liro Engineers and Triumph Construction Corp. — contractors that worked on the exit ramp — to the list of defendants.
Months after the fatal accidents, a third car sped toward the salon and restaurant but was stopped from smashing into them by scaffolding, according to Agulnick.
The city did install more signs and added barriers to the sidewalk — which would prevent cars from launching into the stores, said Queens state Sen. Michael Gianaris.
“The way to ensure a more permanent and comprehensive fix would be to redesign that small piece of roadway coming off the bridge,” said Gianaris, who made the request to the city for additional signage and barriers.
In a bizarre coincidence, the drivers of the Volkswagens — Palacio and Riddell — both lost their left arms in the accidents.
Palacio has also sued the city for the badly designed roadway.
The city and the Department of Transportation declined to comment on pending litigation.