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Families for Safe Streets and DOT Cut the Ribbon on Myrtle-Wyckoff Plaza

DOT's new pedestrian plaza at the Myrtle-Wyckoff transit hub will save lives. Photo: David Meyer

The new pedestrian plaza at the Myrtle-Wyckoff transit hub will save lives. Photos: David Meyer

Members of Families for Safe Streets and DOT officials celebrated the completion of a new pedestrian plaza at the Myrtle-Wyckoff transit hub. The plaza, on the block of Wyckoff Avenue between Myrtle and Gates, is the centerpiece of a major safety project that will reduce conflicts between drivers and pedestrians at an intersection where three people were killed by motorists since 2009.

The installation of the plaza marks the culmination of a multi-year effort to fix the six-way Myrtle-Wyckoff intersection, which is the access point for two subway lines and six bus routes. Before the plaza, pedestrians, who outnumber motorists 3 to 1 during peak hours, were squeezed onto the margins. Now people can walk freely between the subway and the bus.

Members of Families for Safe Street and DOT staff cut the ribbon on the new plaza. Photo: David Meyer

Judy Kottick, third from left, cuts the ribbon on the new plaza.

The plaza also greatly simplifies complex turning movements that had jeopardized people’s lives. After an MTA bus driver killed 23-year-old Ella Bandes in 2013, DOT made some adjustments to eliminate some turning movements, but the changes were not enough to prevent another turning MTA bus driver from killing Edgar Torres the following year.

About 200 people attended a January 2014 vigil in memory of Bandes. Soon after, her parents, Judy Kottick and Ken Bandes, joined other people who had lost loved ones to traffic crashes to form Families for Safe Streets.

“Myrtle-Wyckoff has gone from being the fifth deadliest intersection in New York City to being the launching site of Families for Safe Streets, creating a pedestrian plaza that protects citizens and encourages a sense of community, and honors the people who had to lose their lives in order for this to happen,” said Kottick at today’s ceremony. “In their honor, Myrtle-Wyckoff can now be a beacon for street safety.”

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DOT Moves Ahead With Redesign of Deadly Myrtle-Wyckoff Intersection

After a one-day trial in April, this block will soon be car-free year-round. Photo: David Meyer

DOT is moving ahead with a new plaza and safety improvements at the intersection of Myrtle Avenue, Wyckoff Avenue, and Palmetto Street on the border of Brooklyn and Queens, the Ridgewood Times reports, with work slated to start today. The project got a thumbs up from one of the neighboring community boards and a thumbs down from the other but has enjoyed strong support from local Council Member Antonio Reynoso throughout the process.

The Myrtle-Wyckoff transit hub is served by two subway lines and six bus routes and sees much more foot traffic than auto traffic. It’s also a six-spoke intersection with many turning conflicts. Motorists have killed three people there since 2009. In 2013, a turning MTA bus driver killed Ella Bandes in a crosswalk. DOT’s subsequent adjustments to reduce conflicts did not prevent another turning MTA bus driver from killing Edgar Torres the following year. Bandes’s parents, Judy Kottick and Ken Bandes, have repeatedly called on DOT to take stronger steps to save lives.

DOT’s redesign will convert one block of Wyckoff, between Myrtle and Gates Avenue, to a car-free space, making it safer for people to walk between the Myrtle-Wyckoff subway station and the Ridgewood Bus Terminal on Palmetto [PDF]. In addition to installing the plaza, DOT will extend sidewalks at corners, shortening crossing distances and slowing motorist turns. The potential for vehicle movements to conflict with pedestrian movements will be greatly reduced.

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Tonight: Speak Up for Safer Crossings at Flatbush/Atlantic/Fourth

Forest City Ratner and DOT want to turn Times Plaza by the Barclays Center into an attractive public space. Photo: Google Maps

Forest City Ratner and DOT want to turn Times Plaza by the Barclays Center into an attractive public space. Photo: Google Maps

A DOT public workshop tonight aims to get the ball rolling on safety improvements at the monstrous intersections where Flatbush, Atlantic, and Fourth avenues converge.

At a meeting in January, Barclays Center developer Forest City Ratner showed a proposal for benches, tables, and planters in Times Plaza — the pedestrian island in the middle of Atlantic, Flatbush and Fourth. Attendees questioned the wisdom of moving forward with public space enhancements without first making it safe to walk to the plaza. Last year alone, six pedestrians and one cyclist were injured at the intersections around the plaza, according to Vision Zero View.

Since then, advocates with Transportation Alternatives’ “People First on Atlantic Avenue” campaign have pushed for safety fixes at the location. This past Saturday, TA volunteers set up a temporary public plaza to draw attention to the space’s potential and the treacherous conditions inhibiting it.

At tonight’s workshop, you can tell DOT what’s wrong with the intersections and brainstorm safety improvements. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at the Brooklyn YWCA, 30 Third Avenue.

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Eyes on the Street: The Return of “Plaza 33” — Maybe for Good

Here's what happens when you close a street to car traffic in one of the busiest parts of the city. Photo: David Meyer

Here’s what happens when you make a street car-free in one of the busiest parts of the city. Photo: David Meyer

“Plaza 33” is back, transforming the eastern half of 33rd Street between Seventh Avenue and Eighth Avenue into a car-free public space — and it’s set to remain indefinitely.

This is the second iteration of “Plaza 33,” which was installed from July through October last year and is funded and managed by Vornado Realty Trust. Next to Penn Station, the space gets some of the most intense foot traffic in Midtown and was filled with people yesterday evening.

Some parts of "Plaza 33" remain under construction. Photo: David Meyer

Some parts of “Plaza 33” remain under construction. Photo: David Meyer

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Myrtle-Wyckoff Plaza Gets Near-Unanimous Approval From Queens CB 5

The city held a successful one-day plaza at the location in April. Photo: David Meyer

A one-day trial plaza on Wyckoff Avenue in April went off without a hitch. Photo: David Meyer

With 29 votes in favor, none against, and one abstention, Queens Community Board 5 overwhelmingly endorsed DOT’s safety plan for the Myrtle-Wyckoff transit hub last night. The project would significantly reduce potential conflicts between turning drivers and pedestrians, mainly by creating a car-free plaza on Wyckoff Avenue between Gates and Myrtle [PDF].

Pedestrians outnumber motorists at the six-legged Myrtle-Wyckoff intersection, located at the junction of two subway lines and six bus routes, three to one, according to DOT. But it’s not safe — three people have been killed while walking there since 2009.

While the city implemented minor changes in recent years, the new turn restrictions weren’t enough. A turning bus driver struck and killed Edgar Torres in 2014 after the changes were made.

The car-free block will further simplify turning movements and give pedestrians a safer path between the Myrtle-Wyckoff subway station and the Ridgewood Bus Terminal on Palmetto Street.

In 2013, Judy Kottick lost her daughter, Ella Bandes, when a turning bus driver struck and killed her at the intersection. “It was very gratifying that Community Board 5 really considered the redesign and gave us their support,” said Kottick, who attended last night. Not one person spoke against the project during the meeting’s public comment section, she said.

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Tonight: Queens Community Board 5 Takes Up Myrtle-Wyckoff Plaza

Reconfiguring this dangerous intersection with a car-free plaza will simplify vehicle movements and reduce the potential for turning drivers to hit pedestrians. Image: DOT

Reconfiguring this dangerous intersection with a car-free plaza will simplify vehicle movements and reduce the potential for turning drivers to hit pedestrians. Image: DOT

Queens Community Board 5 will vote on DOT’s safety plan for the Myrtle-Wyckoff transit hub at its monthly meeting this evening. The plan, which creates a one-block public plaza on Wyckoff Avenue between Gates and Myrtle [PDF], won near-unanimous support from the CB 5 transportation committee three weeks ago.

Since 2009, three pedestrians have been killed by drivers at the six-legged Myrtle-Wyckoff intersection. Initial changes that simplified turning movements failed to prevent the death of Edgar Torres, who was struck by a turning bus driver while crossing with the right of way in 2014.

In March, CB 5 Chair Vincent Arcuri said he was reluctant to go ahead with the car-free block, but recognized the need to prevent more injuries and deaths. “Something has to be done, obviously,” he told Streetsblog. “We’ve tried different things and we still haven’t stopped the fatalities. I have mixed feelings about the plaza, but what else can you do?”

While CB 5 members have warmed to the proposal, the same cannot be said for Brooklyn CB 4, which represents the southern side of the project area and failed to support the plan last month. Council Member Antonio Reynoso, who represents areas served by both community boards, has said he believes DOT should move forward with the project.

You can weigh in on the project at tonight’s meeting, which begins at 7:30 p.m. at Christ the King High School, located at 68-02 Metropolitan Avenue in Middle Village.

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Eyes on the Street: Pedestrians Get Room to Breathe at Astor Place

The new "Alamo Plaza" awaits the return of the "The Cube" and the installation of new planted trees. Photo: David Meyer

People can walk across the new “Alamo Plaza” without worrying about Astor Place traffic. Photo: David Meyer

"The Alamo," also known as "the Cube," in July 2013. Google Maps

The 2013 Street View of Alamo, also known as “The Cube,” and the chunk of Astor Place that’s been pedestrianized. Image: Google Maps

The redesign of Astor Place and Cooper Square, first unveiled in 2008, is nearly complete. The new layout greatly expands pedestrian space in an area with lots of foot traffic.

While some construction work is still in progress around the subway entrance between Lafayette Street and Fourth Avenue, the rest of the sidewalk expansions are all but finished — missing only final landscaping touches.

The capstone will be the reinstallation of Alamo, the sculpture famously known as “The Cube,” which previously stood on a traffic island between Astor Place and 8th Street. When it returns in August, the sculpture won’t be surrounded by traffic on all sides, instead sitting squarely in “Alamo Plaza” thanks to the pedestrianization of one block of Astor Place. Read more…

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Myrtle-Wyckoff Plaza Gets Support From Queens CB 5 Transpo Committee

Reconfiguring this dangerous intersection with a car-free plaza will simplify vehicle movements and reduce the potential for turning drivers to hit pedestrians. Image: DOT

Reconfiguring this dangerous intersection with a car-free plaza will simplify vehicle movements and reduce the potential for turning drivers to hit pedestrians. Image: DOT

Last night, the Queens Community Board 5 transportation committee endorsed DOT’s safety plan for the Myrtle-Wyckoff transit hub on the border between Brooklyn and Queens, including the creation of a one-block pedestrian plaza on Wyckoff Avenue between Gates and Myrtle [PDF].

The project straddles two community board districts and was voted down by Brooklyn CB 4 last week. DOT can proceed without a vote from CB 4, however, if the agency chooses. Council Member Antonio Reynoso has said he supports the project and wants the city to take action.

The stakes for public safety are high. Three pedestrians were struck and killed at the intersection between 2009 and 2014, including Edgar Torres, who was hit while he had the right of way despite an initial round of changes to simplify vehicle movements at the site. The current project would do much more to prevent pedestrians from being struck by turning motorists.

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Antonio Reynoso: DOT Should Forge Ahead With Myrtle-Wyckoff Plaza

A one-day trial of the Myrtle-Wyckoff plaza worked wonderfully. Council Member Antonio Reynoso wants it to be permanent. Photo: David Meyer

Council Member Antonio Reynoso wants DOT to move forward with its safety plan at the busy Myrtle-Wyckoff transit hub, with or without the endorsement of the local community board.

Photo: NYC Council

Photo: NYC Council

Last Wednesday, Brooklyn Community 4 voted against DOT’s plan, which would dramatically reduce potential conflicts between drivers and pedestrians and create a car-free plaza on one block of Wyckoff Avenue between Myrtle and Gates [PDF]. The transportation committee of Queens Community Board 5, which serves the north side of the future plaza, will vote on the project this evening.

Since 2009, three pedestrians have been killed by turning drivers at the location. Minor changes implemented after Ella Bandes was struck and killed by a turning bus driver in 2013 failed to prevent the 2014 death of Edgar Torres, who was also struck by an MTA bus driver while he had the right of way.

Reynoso commended DOT’s plan, which he called “amazing,” on a phone call yesterday.

“I’ve been asking ever since I’ve been an elected official that we figure out a way to deal with this Myrtle-Wyckoff intersection and how dangerous it is,” he said. “The changes we made were progress but they didn’t stop one more person from dying.”

The community board voted against the project because it would reroute buses, according to CB 4 District Manager Nadine Whitted. But the safety improvements at the six-legged intersection won’t be possible without adjusting the routes of the B26 and Q55.

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Brooklyn CB 4 Not Sold on Myrtle-Wyckoff Safety Overhaul Despite Lives Lost

The city held a successful one-day plaza at the location in April. Photo: David Meyer

A successful one-day plaza in April also wasn’t enough to convince the community board that the streets around the Myrtle-Wyckoff transit hub need to change. Photo: David Meyer

Three people have been killed by turning drivers at the crowded Myrtle-Wyckoff transit hub since 2009, and the local community board still won’t vote for a city plan to improve pedestrian safety at the complex six-legged intersection.

Last Wednesday, Brooklyn Community Board 4 declined to endorse DOT’s plan to simplify the intersection and create a car-free plaza on one block of Wyckoff Avenue between Myrtle and Gates [PDF]. Since the project straddles the Brooklyn-Queens border, DOT will also seek a vote from Queens Community Board 5’s transportation committee tomorrow evening.

People outnumber vehicles three-to-one at the Myrtle-Wyckoff intersection, which is located at the convergence of two subway lines and six bus routes. The current configuration leads to too many conflicts between drivers and pedestrians: Three pedestrians were killed there between 2009 and 2014.

Two and a half years ago, hundreds of people gathered at the intersection to remember Ella Bandes, who was struck and killed by a bus driver in 2013, and call for safety improvements. Minor changes afterward were not enough to prevent the death of Edgar Torres, who had the right of way when he was struck and killed by a turning MTA bus driver in 2014.

Making a block of Wyckoff car-free would do what previous adjustments could not: give pedestrians safe passage between the train and the Ridgewood Bus Terminal on Palmetto Street. Turning movements would be dramatically simplified, reducing potential conflicts.

CB 4 District Manager Nadine Whitted could not provide a vote tally from Wednesday’s meeting but said only two board members sided in favor of the project. Whitted did not explain why the board rejected the project other than to say members did not like the “bus reroutes,” by which she was presumably referring to the B26, which currently utilizes the block of Wyckoff that would be pedestrianized.

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