After Delay, State DOT Says Plan for Deadly Kensington Intersection Due Soon

NYC DOT has already installed a pedestrian island on the south side (bottom) of the intersection of Church Avenue and Ocean Parkway. Installing a pedestrian island on the north side of the intersection, where an elderly woman was killed in June, is stalled until the state DOT signs off. Photo: Bing Maps

This morning, Council Member Brad Lander delivered a stack of petitions to Governor Cuomo’s Midtown office demanding approval from the state DOT for a pedestrian safety fix that his constituents developed with NYC DOT. It may happen: State DOT says that it will complete a final design with the city by the end of next month.

In April of last year, Lander’s constituents voted in the district’s participatory budgeting process to spend $200,000 in discretionary funds on pedestrian safety improvements [PDF] at the intersection of Ocean Parkway and Church Avenue, a dangerous crossing in Kensington where nine lanes of traffic move north-south and five lanes move east-west.

NYC DOT developed a plan to add a median pedestrian island and other improvements to the north side of the intersection, where Ocean Parkway becomes the Prospect Expressway. Because it includes a state-owned expressway, state DOT permission is required before the city can implement the project.

Even with local elected officials and the city supporting a specific fix, Lander says the state stalled on approving it, rejecting it twice before June 2013. “What they seem to have been saying is, ‘We don’t want to make the north side safer because we prefer that people cross on the south side of the intersection,’” Lander said, noting that a sign at the existing north-side crosswalk discourages pedestrians from crossing there. “That’s not a very good way of keeping people safe.”

Lander added that a few years ago, NYC DOT installed a pedestrian island on the south side of the intersection, where state DOT approval is not required.

In June, a turning truck driver killed Ngozi Agbim, 73, at this very crossing. All told, there were 36 pedestrian and cyclist injuries and four fatalities at the intersection between 1995 and 2008, according to Transportation Alternatives’ CrashStat. Ocean Parkway had six pedestrian fatalities between 2009 and 2011, making it one of the most dangerous streets in Brooklyn, according to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, which joined Lander outside Cuomo’s office this morning.

“After Ngozi Agbim was killed we went back again,” Lander said. “We said, ‘Enough, please, it’s time for action.’” Assembly Member James Brennan sent a letter to the state DOT asking for pedestrian safety improvements. On August 13, the state replied [PDF], saying that it was considering a variety of changes to the intersection in concert with NYC DOT.

“It doesn’t commit to anything and it doesn’t include a date on when they will have anything to us,” Lander said. “But it’s at least a shift in tone.”

Hours before Lander presented the 831-signature petition at the governor’s office, the state DOT provided some more information about its plan of action on NYC DOT’s proposal.

“We’re in general agreement about the improvements, with some details still to be ironed out,” spokesperson Adam S. Levine said in an e-mail to Streetsblog. “The improvements include a pedestrian refuge island on the north crosswalk…protective barriers, lane channelization, additional signage and modifications to the traffic signals at the intersection.” State DOT says it expects “to work out the details in the coming days,” with a final design before mid-September.

Lander was pleased with the new development. “That’s great news,” he said this morning.