Plan Urged Safety Measures for Intersection Where Boy Died

The May 2003 final report of the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Project recommended pedestrian safety measures designed specifically to prevent the kind of collision that killed a four-year-old boy in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn on Tuesday afternoon.

 
A graphic from the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Project final plan showing pedestrian safety recommendations for Third Avenue and Baltic Street

The five-year, $1.2 million, Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Project recommended "neckdowns" and a "raised crosswalk" at Third Avenue and Baltic Street, the intersection where four-year-old James Jacaricce and his 18-year-old Aunt Ta-Nayin St. John were run over by a bright yellow General Motors Hummer driven by Ken Williams, a 48-year-old Brownsville resident (Click here to download that section of the Traffic Calming plan).

The boy and his caretaker were on their way home from the Police Athletic League nursery school at the Warren Street Houses when they were hit by Williams' SUV. They were walking in the crosswalk with the pedestrian signal giving them right-of-way when Williams, traveling northbound on Third Avenue, made a right turn and hit them, killing the boy and injuring his aunt. Police told the Daily News "The guy didn't realize he hit them because the vehicle rides very high." There is a car wash on the southeast corner of Third and Baltic. It is set back from the street and was closed for the day when the crash occurred. Apparently, the only thing impeding Williams' sightline was his own vehicle.


Looking up Baltic Street from Third Avenue

While it is impossible to know definitively if Tuesday's crash could have been prevented, the pedestrian safety measures recommended nearly four years ago in the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Project are designed specifically to prevent the type of "right-turn conflict" that resulted in the four-year-old's death. The community-driven plan, created by the international consulting firm Arup, urged New York City's Department of Transportation to install neckdowns and a raised crosswalk at Baltic Street where vehicles from busy, fast-moving, truck-heavy Third Avenue turn onto the quieter, more residential street. A raised crosswalk makes pedestrians more visible to drivers as they walk across the street. Neckdowns make it more difficult for drivers to execute fast, careless turns into the crosswalk while pedestrians are crossing.

The recommendations were never implemented by the Department of Transportation despite widespread community support for the plan. DOT has not yet responded to questions about why the safety measures were never implemented.

Tuesday's crash is reminiscent of the deaths Juan Estrada and Victor Flores, fifth-graders at P.S. 124 in Park Slope, who were crushed to death by a right-turning, gravel-filled landscaping truck as they crossed Third Avenue at 9th Street, on February 9, 2004, nearly three years ago to the day of James Jacaricce's death.