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Posts from the "Brooklyn" Category

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Local BID and CB 2 Ask DOT for More Safety Upgrades on Atlantic Avenue

If DOT follows through on local requests, Atlantic Avenue, here at Hoyt Street, could get some pedestrian safety upgrades. Photo: Google Maps

If DOT follows through on local requests, Atlantic Avenue, here at Hoyt Street, could get some pedestrian safety upgrades. Photo: Google Maps

Last week, Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn became the city’s first “arterial slow zone” with a 25 mph speed limit. Now, a business improvement district on the avenue’s western end is asking for pedestrian safety upgrades, and Community Board 2′s transportation committee has signed on.

“Pedestrian improvements are customer improvements,” said Atlantic Avenue BID Executive Director Josef Szende. “[Shoppers] on Atlantic Avenue are all pedestrians, at least at some point in their journey.”

The BID is asking DOT to study the following safety improvements [PDF]:

  • Leading pedestrian intervals at all eleven intersections within the BID area. (LPIs have already been installed at Clinton, Third and Fourth Avenues.)
  • Bus bulb-outs at corners to speed loading time for bus riders and shorten crossing distances for pedestrians.
  • Shared-lane markings for cyclists along Atlantic Avenue.

Community board staff refused to talk about Tuesday’s unanimous vote supporting the BID’s request, but a board member characterized the committee’s discussion as involving very little debate. Szende said the committee was skeptical of the need for shared-lane markings, since there are parallel bike lanes on Dean, Bergen and Schermerhorn Streets, but did not ask the BID to remove sharrows from its letter to DOT.

The committee did request that the BID also ask DOT about improvements to Times Plaza, the triangle between Fourth, Atlantic, and Flatbush Avenues. ”It’s kind of a drab triangle right now. It’s just asphalt. There’s no lighting, there’s no wayfinding,” Szende said. ”We’re asking DOT to take an honest look at these things, to consider them, and come back to us with whatever they think is feasible.”

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When Traffic Deaths Don’t Make the News: Jelani Irving, 22

Jelani Irving. Photo from the Irving family via Ghost Bike Project

Jelani Irving. Photo from the Irving family via Ghost Bike Project

While NYC traffic deaths are down in the first few months of 2014, they are still so frequent that not every fatality gets reported in the news. This is often the case when a victim dies from injuries in the hospital days after a crash. That’s what happened earlier this year to 22-year-old Jelani Irving.

Irving was critically injured just before 6:15 a.m. on February 2 while riding his bike at the intersection of Classon Avenue and Washington Avenue in Crown Heights. Irving’s sister, Imani Irving, said he was riding his bike home from work after his shift as a yellow cab driver.

Police say Irving was struck by a 61-year-old man driving a 1999 Nissan Maxima northbound on Washington. The driver was turning right onto Classon — a turn with a very obtuse angle that motorists can make at speed — and struck Irving as he was cycling south in the northbound lane. NYPD says Irving veered left, crossing the path of the driver. The driver was cited for two equipment violations; press reports at the time said they were for bald rear tires. There were no citations or arrests related to Irving’s death.

Irving, unconscious and in cardiac arrest, was taken to Kings County Hospital and classified by NYPD as likely to die. He died of his injuries four days later.

The crash was covered by the Brooklyn Paper and Gothamist but it was not known that it caused Irving’s death until his name later appeared in WNYC’s “Mean Streets” traffic fatalities tracker.

Irving’s cousin, Daniel Gregoire, works at a Unitarian church in Pennsylvania and wrote about his family’s loss on the church’s website:

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Wrist Slap for DWI Killer After Brooklyn DAs Decline to Charge Homicide

A convicted drunk driver was sentenced this week to probation, a nominal fine, and a six-month license suspension for killing a Brooklyn pedestrian.

Roxana Gomez

Shortly after midnight on July 5, 2013, 27-year-old Roxana Gomez was walking at Flatbush Avenue and St. Marks Avenue when Eric Nesmith hit her with a BMW sedan, according to witness accounts and the Post. Gomez, a Columbia grad student who worked for the human rights group MADRE, suffered massive head injuries and was administered CPR by an emergency room nurse who lived near the scene. She died on July 10.

The Post reported that Nesmith, then 25, of Newark, had a BAC of .126 — far above the .08 legal limit for driving — and ”admitted to cops he had consumed up to six Coronas” while celebrating Independence Day before the crash. FDNY first responders said he was speeding. Yet Nesmith was not charged with homicide by former Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes or his successor Ken Thompson.

“An accident reconstruction expert concluded that alcohol was not a contributing factor in the death of the pedestrian in this case,” a spokesperson for Thompson’s office told Streetsblog in January.

Through a legal aid attorney, Nesmith pled guilty to operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, an unclassified misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of a year in jail, three years probation, and a $1,000 fine. On Tuesday, Judge Raymond Rodriguez sentenced him to three years probation and fined him $500, with no jail time, according to court records.

For killing Roxana Gomez while driving drunk, Eric Nesmith had his license suspended for six months, the default penalty mandated by state law, and six months with an interlock ignition device installed on his car.

Outrageous as it is, the outcome of this case is not at all unusual. New York State law and the courts effectively favor DWI killers. To get a vehicular homicide conviction, prosecutors must prove that impairment caused a motorist to operate a vehicle in a manner that caused death. Due to the vagaries of state code, this burden of proof is often insurmountable, and it is therefore common for NYC prosecutors to decline to bring homicide charges against drunk drivers who kill pedestrians.

Nesmith is due back in court in June.

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Officials Talk Crash Prevention at Packed Brooklyn Vision Zero Town Hall

Last night, Brooklynites filled Borough Hall, spilling into an overflow room for a Vision Zero town hall meeting with elected officials and city agency staffers. Among those on hand were Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan, Public Advocate Letitia James, and Borough President Eric Adams. Streetsblog wasn’t able to make it to the forum, but here’s a snapshot of what unfolded and how elected officials reacted, based on reports from attendees and the Twitterverse.

Public Advocate Letitia James speaks at yesterday's Vision Zero town hall in Brooklyn. Photo: Matthew Chayes/Twitter

Public Advocate Letitia James speaks at yesterday’s Vision Zero town hall in Brooklyn. Photo: Matthew Chayes/Twitter

Like most Vision Zero town halls, the event did not feature groundbreaking policy announcements, but instead helped solidify the city’s commitment to addressing traffic violence, as electeds heard from dozens of Brooklynites concerned about dangerous streets.

Days after DOT identified Atlantic Avenue as one of its Vision Zero priorities, Brooklynites testified last night about other streets they want the city to redesign. Public Advocate Letitia James joined the public in listing streets she wanted prioritized for safety fixes, including Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, Eastern Parkway and Empire Boulevard, where 5-year-old Roshard Charles was killed by a hit-and-run driver last month.

Jean Ryan of Disabled in Action of Metropolitan New York estimated that about 50 people spoke. “It was mostly dealing with specific problems or intersections,” she said. Much of the testimony came from Brooklynites who have either been injured by drivers or lost family members to traffic violence, including Roshard Charles’ mother, Rochelle.

“Albany does not live on Albany Avenue in Brooklyn, while children are dying,” Borough President Eric Adams said, urging the state to hand over control of speed limits and automated enforcement to the city.

After the event, Council Member David Greenfield tweeted that his favorite idea of the night was a zero-tolerance crackdown by NYPD on drivers who park on sidewalks. “We have to admit that the bulk of the problems come from the drivers,” he said.

“It’s not an ‘accident waiting to happen.’ It’s a ‘preventable crash waiting to happen.’ Let’s prevent it,” Council Member Brad Lander tweeted after hearing testimony last night.

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Witness: Crash That Killed Marlene Baharlias Likely Caught on Video

A man who says he saw the Tuesday crash that killed Marlene Baharlias echoes the story told by others: The driver backed into the senior on a Sheepshead Bay sidewalk. The witness believes a security camera in his building recorded the crash, but NYPD does not share details of crash investigations unless compelled by freedom of information requests.

Photo: ##http://media.ny1.com/media/2014/3/18/images/bkpedstruck77d56c6c-4ade-42b5-8284-8f761861d6c9.jpg##NY1##

Photo: NY1

Witnesses told Brooklyn Daily and News 12 that Baharlias, 77, and her husband were walking together near 2060 E. 19th Street when a woman driving a Mercedes SUV, reportedly attempting to park, accelerated in reverse, jumped the curb and struck her.

Colin Edwards sent us a corroborating account via email:

I was at my living room in the building when I heard the commotion. I looked from my window and saw the SUV backing very fast in reverse on the sidewalk. At this point the woman (Mrs. Baharlias) was already ran over by the car and laying in between the wheelbase of the car. Then the driver, in her panic, put the car in drive and ran the victim [over]  a second time, while the husband and two other guys were yelling at her to stop.

Baharlias was pronounced dead at Coney Island Hospital. No charges were immediately filed against the driver.

“It was absolutely criminal the speed and reckless manner [with] which the SUV driver reversed,” Edwards said. “She completely lost control over the car.”

As we wrote yesterday, anonymous NYPD sources told the Post Baharlias was jaywalking. The Post reported the claim without question. Many pedestrians and cyclists killed by motorists in recent years were initially blamed by NYPD and the press and were vindicated later, after the media lost interest in their stories.

Edwards said a security camera in his building probably recorded the crash, but NYPD makes it exceedingly difficult to determine if investigators tried to collect video evidence. As Streetsblog has reported for years, NYPD crash investigations are kept hidden, even from victims’ loved ones. WNYC reported today that the families of Alison Liao and Sammy Cohen Eckstein, children killed by motorists within the last five months, were forced to file freedom of information requests to get crash reports from NYPD.

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Marlene Baharlias, 77, Killed by Motorist, Blamed by NYPD and the Post

A senior was killed Tuesday in Sheepshead Bay by a driver who witnesses say backed onto a sidewalk — contrary to anonymous NYPD sources who told the Post the victim was jaywalking. No charges were filed.

Marlene Baharlias, 77, was walking home from the doctor with her husband when the driver of a Mercedes SUV backed onto the curb in front of 2060 E. 19th Street, according to witnesses who spoke with News 12 and Brooklyn Daily.

Photo: New York Post

Photo: New York Post

“She was walking on the sidewalk with her husband, the poor woman,” said Shlomo Hava, a neighbor who saw the accident unfold.

Hava said he wanted to help, but seeing her injuries, he knew there was little he could do.

“All her face was smashed — I was shocked,” he said.

Baharlias was pronounced dead at Coney Island Hospital.

In a five-sentence story, Post reporter Dana Sauchelli blamed Baharlias for her own death, citing police sources who said she “was jaywalking when she stepped off an East 19th street curb mid-block.” The Post is the only media outlet we found that claimed Baharlias was attempting to cross the street outside a crosswalk. The story was accompanied by a photo of the SUV parked almost perpendicular to the sidewalk, with the back end over the curb, and the description embedded with the photo said the victim ”was run over by SUV on the sidewalk.” Regardless, for all Post readers know, Baharlias put herself in harm’s way.

In the immediate aftermath of traffic crashes, anonymous NYPD sources are notorious for leaking information that assigns responsibility to deceased pedestrians and cyclists. When Allision Liao was killed last October, police told the media the 4 year old “broke free from her grandmother while they were crossing the street.” To the contrary, video of the crash revealed Allison was holding her grandmother’s hand when Ahmad Abu-Zayedeha drove into both of them in a Queens crosswalk. Pedestrian Seth Kahn and cyclists Mathieu Lefevre and Rasha Shamoon are also among those who in recent years were initially blamed by NYPD for the crashes that killed them and were later exonerated, either after further investigation or in civil court.

Data consistently show drivers are usually at fault in crashes that hurt and kill NYC pedestrians. NYC DOT’s landmark 2010 pedestrian safety study found that motorist behavior was the main factor in 78.5 percent of serious pedestrian injuries and fatalities. A 2012 Transportation Alternatives report found that, according to data from the state DOT, 60 percent of fatal New York City pedestrian and cyclist crashes with known causes between 1995 and 2009 were the result of motorists breaking traffic laws. And NYC DOT data from 2011 revealed that half of pedestrians killed in city crosswalks were crossing with the signal.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn Daily reported that motorists picking up kids from a school close to where Baharlias was hit pose a danger to pedestrians.

Locals said the end of the school day may have contributed to the fatal accident. Parents jockey for the position when picking up their kids, sometimes double- or triple- parking, one neighbor said.

“If you see a spot, its like a race to see who can get that spot,” said William Perry, who lives on the block. “Its just an accident waiting to happen.”

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Eyes on the Street: Real-Time Bus Arrival Display on Nostrand Ave [Updated]

bus_stop

New York finally has real-time bus arrival information and excellent route maps posted at bus stops. Or rather, at least one bus stop has this info, and it looks like the kind of thing that should spread to a lot more bus stops.

NYC DOT policy director Jon Orcutt posted this photo on Twitter over the weekend, when Bus Time went live in Brooklyn and Queens, bringing real-time arrival information to every borough. This display is at the Church Avenue stop for southbound Nostrand Avenue B44 Select Bus Service.

The bus arrival screen is integrated into one of NYC DOT’s WalkNYC wayfinding boards, which has also been customized with B44 route maps. The display shows how many stops away the next four arrivals are — both local and SBS buses. After years of looking jealously at other cities’ real-time bus stop displays, NYC seems to be on the verge of catching up.

It’s unclear how rapidly the displays will be rolled out. The WalkNYC maps are currently in four neighborhoods. We have a request in with DOT about whether the Bus Time-enabled displays will be coming to more bus stops.

Update: DOT says this is a prototype installed last fall for the launch of B44 SBS, with the arrival info switched on when Bus Time went live this weekend. The prototype is still being tested so there’s no timetable yet for a full rollout, but the plan is to eventually bring these displays to all SBS routes, starting with the B44, M34, and M60.

I went over to Church and Nostrand this afternoon and got a few more up-close shots of the display. (Sidenote: The parking situation on this stretch of Nostrand and Rogers is literally a free-for-all. No meters, double-parking everywhere, drivers bypassing the stopped vehicles by violating the bus lane. To make SBS work as well as it should here, there needs to be a price on the curb.)

Take a look:

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One Month In, DA Thompson Charges Sober Driver With Manslaughter

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson has filed homicide and reckless driving charges against a sober driver who caused a violent crash in Crown Heights, killing another driver.

Ken Thompson. Photo: Daily News

Ken Thompson. Photo: Daily News

On January 6, Jermaine Filmore ran a red on Eastern Parkway and hit two other vehicles, according to WABC. One of those cars hit a fourth car and then caught fire. The driver of that vehicle, a Lincoln Town Car, was killed. Court records say Filmore was charged with manslaughter, homicide, reckless endangerment, and reckless driving, among other charges.

As we reported after the crash that killed Lucian Merryweather, while it is rare for prosecutors to file homicide charges against a sober driver, there seems to be a link between serious charges and more brazen forms of recklessness. It was not completely unheard of for the previous Brooklyn DA, Charles Hynes, to file a homicide charge after a fatal crash caused by a sober, red light-running motorist.

However, it’s encouraging to see Thompson handle a case like this so early in his tenure, and he has pledged to take traffic violence seriously. ”There’s all types of criminality that could be committed by somebody driving a vehicle that hits and kills someone,” Thompson told Streetsblog last November, noting that “criminality” means more than just leaving the scene and drunk or impaired driving. ”It’s not just fatalities. Beyond fatalities, somebody can be seriously injured, and not killed, but they still need justice.”

It’s too early to say if the Filmore case represents a real change in how the Brooklyn DA’s office approaches traffic crimes. An earlier case this year, in which a driver rear-ended another car, which then struck and killed 75-year-old pedestrian Xiaoci Hu, resulted in no charges. If Thompson is going to bring his office in line with the mayor’s Vision Zero goals, there should be consequences for reckless driving of all stripes.

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Eyes on the Street: 78th Precinct Clears the Bergen Street Bike Lane

Photos: N. Wayne Bailey

Photos: N. Wayne Bailey

The story of the Bergen Street bike lane, and the 78th precinct, keeps getting better.

Your eyes are not deceiving you. Reader N. Wayne Bailey sent in these photos of NYPD officers — including CO Deputy Inspector Michael Ameri — shoveling the Bergen Street lane, which for over a year now has been protected by barriers put in place by the precinct.

Good stuff.

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Cuomo Announces $67M for Bike/Ped Projects, Including Pulaski Bridge

Image: NYC DOT

[Editor's note: Streetsblog will not be publishing Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.]

Via the Tri-State Transportation Campaign: Earlier this week Governor Andrew Cuomo announced $67 million in funding for walking and biking infrastructure statewide, after advocates had pressed the state to follow through on the recently passed complete streets law with actual resources. These are federal funds that will be distributed by the state DOT.

One of the local projects that will receive funding is the protected two-way bike lane on the Pulaski Bridge, which will double the amount of space for walking and biking on this increasingly well-used connection between Queens and Brooklyn. The state contribution is $2.5 million, with the remaining $625,000 provided by the city.

NYC DOT revealed the design for the bikeway in December, and Assembly Member Joe Lentol, who has fought for the project since 2012, sent out a press release today with the news that Brooklyn Community Board 1 voted in favor of the plan earlier this week. Lentol says work on the project should begin once the weather warms up and construction season resumes. Here’s his full release:

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