City Promises $5M in Ped Safety Improvements at Mural Opening


The mother and grandfather of James Rice.

With weeping family members and the ghostly, smiling images of three boys watching over them, city officials and elected representatives joined 100 community members on a Brooklyn street corner Tuesday evening to pledge "Not one more death."

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State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Assembly member Joan Millman and representatives from the Department of Transportation, NYPD and the Brooklyn District Attorney's joined members of Transportation Alternatives and the Groundswell Community Mural Project for the emotional unveiling of the three-story tall painting at the northwest corner of Butler Street and Third Avenue in Gowanus, Brooklyn.


Created by a group of local teens in a summer-long collaboration with professional artists Christopher Cardinale and Nicole Schulman, the mural depicts fifth-graders Victor Flores and Juan Estrada and 4-year-old James Rice holding traffic signs designed to remind drivers motoring along dangerous Third Avenue that pedestrians, cyclists and drivers share New York City streets. The silhouette of a fourth figure, a girl, holds a stop sign that reads, "Not one more death."

Flores and Estrada were killed at Third Ave. and 9th St. in 2004. Four-year-old James Rice was run over by the driver of a Hummer just a block away from the site of the mural earlier this year. 



A homemade neck-down forces drivers to slow down as they turn on to Butler St. from 3rd Ave.

Accompanying the mural, Transportation Alternatives members engineered their own makeshift traffic-calming measures at two of the intersections along Third Avenue. Homemade neckdowns gave pedestrians a shorter crossing distance and forced motorists to slow down and drive more carefully as they turned off of Third Avenue on to Butler Street. Members of Visual Resistance, the group that produces New York City's ghost bike memorials, reproduced the mural images as street signs and will be posting them throughout Brooklyn.

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Livable Streets activists conceived of the guerilla traffic-calming project after learning that DOT had failed to even begin implementing pedestrian safety measures on Third Avenue despite a 2004 pledge by former Commissioner Iris Weinshall that $4 million in capital improvements would be completed by the summer of 2006.


DOT Deputy Policy Advisor Jon Orcutt

DOT sent a high-level emissary to let the community know that their message had been received. Senior Policy Advisor Jon Orcutt said DOT "commends and endorses" the message of the mural project. He used the opportunity to announce that the first phase of construction projects emerging from the ten-year-old Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Project had begun and "is a top priority for DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan."

DOT is working with the City's Department of Design and Construction to install neckdowns, sidewalk extensions and bus bulbs at 95 street corners throughout Downtown Brooklyn at a cost of about $5 million. The long-sought pedestrian safety measures "represent a concentrated, area-wide effort that is unprecedented in scope and approach for city government traffic calming efforts," Orcutt said.

A bike ride through Downtown Brooklyn the very next day showed that, indeed, guerilla traffic-calmers aren't the only ones tagging up the street with future sidewalk extensions and neckdowns...