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Posts from the Bushwick Category


Dilan, Espinal Oppose Plan to Eliminate Deadly Turn From MTA Bus Routes

Council Member Rafael Espinal and State Senator Martin Malave Dilan are trying to stop the MTA from rerouting a bus away from a deadly turn in their districts.

Council Member Rafael Espinal and State Senator Martin Malave Dilan.

After turning bus drivers twice struck and killed pedestrians at a complex intersection on the border of Bushwick and Ridgewood, the MTA proposed a change that eliminates a deadly turn from two bus routes. The plan has been under consideration for months and is set to go into effect Sunday. But Council Member Rafael Espinal and State Senator Martin Malave Dilan are trying to stop it after nearby residents complained about the prospect of buses traveling on their street.

In January 2013, a turning MTA bus driver struck and killed Ella Bandes as she was crossing the intersection of Myrtle Avenue, Wyckoff Avenue, and Palmetto Street. The next year, DOT implemented safety fixes at the intersection, including five new turn restrictions, but exceptions were made for MTA bus routes.

The plan would move buses from Wyckoff Avenue to Ridgewood Place to avoid a dangerous turn. Click map to enlarge. Map: MTA

The plan would move buses from Wyckoff Avenue to Ridgewood Place to avoid a dangerous turn. Click to enlarge. Map: MTA

Then, in October 2014, a turning MTA bus driver struck and killed Edgar Torres at the very same intersection. “Clearly those restrictions were not adequate, or the exemptions of the bus drivers was a mistake,” said Ken Bandes, Ella’s father.

That’s when the MTA began to examine rerouting its buses.

“What made the right turn especially difficult is that it’s an offset turn under the elevated structure that also obstructed the view of bus operators,” said MTA spokesperson Kevin Ortiz. “The new route remedies this.”

Under the plan, the Q58 and B26 would no longer turn right from westbound Wyckoff Avenue to northbound Palmetto Street. Buses would instead detour to Ridgewood Place between Putnam Avenue and Palmetto Street. DOT will remove parking spots at the intersection of Palmetto and Ridgewood and at Putnam and Wyckoff to make room for turning buses.

Notice about the change first went out to local community boards and elected officials in February and March [PDF]. The MTA says elected officials didn’t have any problems with the change — until now.

A group called the United Block Association for a Better Quality of Life formed to oppose the bus reroute, claiming it will be less safe than the existing route because it involves additional turns on narrow streets. “It’s probably gonna devalue our properties,” said Flor Ramos, who has owned a house on Putnam Avenue near Ridgewood Place for 22 years and started the group with “about seven” of his neighbors. “We’re going to have to listen to these buses coming down our streets. And I don’t even want to tell you about the fumes.”

Ramos, who said he usually drives and only occasionally takes the bus or subway, said the association is considering a lawsuit against the plan. “When we purchased these properties, we purchased them to be away from the transportation. It’s not that far. It’s only a block away,” he said. “We convinced the councilman that our concerns are valid. We have lots of fear here. And we got him on board.”

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Bushwick Residents to DOT: More Bike Lanes, Please

Bushwick residents at a forum last night told DOT where they would like to see bike lanes in their neighborhood. Photo: NYC DOT

Bushwick residents told DOT where they would like to see bike lanes in their neighborhood. Photo: NYC DOT/Flickr

Dozens of Bushwick residents came out in the cold last night to suggest where to add bike lanes to their neighborhood. Currently Bushwick only has a pair of painted bike lanes on Central Avenue and Evergreen Avenue, plus some sharrows linking to bike lanes in Bed-Stuy.

“There was a good turnout from long-time residents, from newcomers. It was pretty diverse,” said Celeste Leon, constituent services manager for Council Member Rafael Espinal, who sponsored the workshop along with Council Member Antonio Reynoso, Brooklyn Community Board 4, the Department of City Planning, and DOT. The public input process will continue through June, and DOT hopes to begin putting paint on the ground next year.

Since July 2012, 222 cyclists have been injured and one was killed in the 11237 and the 11221 zip codes, according to city crash data cited by Transportation Alternatives.

Last night, participants broke into groups and marked up maps to show where they ride, which areas present problems, and which streets would be good for bike lanes. The process is similar to neighborhood bike lane workshops DOT has held for Brownsville, Ridgewood, and Long Island City.

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Two Pedestrians Killed in 24 Hours, Including Seventh MTA Victim of 2014

MTA bus drivers have killed two pedestrians since 2013 while making turns at the intersection of Myrtle Avenue, Wyckoff Avenue, and Palmetto Street, but bus route modifications were not included in a DOT safety proposal. Image: DOT

MTA bus drivers have killed two pedestrians since 2013 while making turns at the intersection of Myrtle Avenue, Wyckoff Avenue, and Palmetto Street, but bus route modifications were not included in a DOT safety proposal. Image: DOT

Update: The victim in the MTA crash was identified as Edgar Torres. WNYC reports that, according to a witness, Torres was in a crosswalk and crossing with the signal when he was hit.

Drivers have killed two New York City pedestrians since Wednesday. One of the victims was the fourth pedestrian to be fatally struck by an MTA bus driver in the last two months, and the crash occurred at the same intersection on the Brooklyn-Queens border where a city bus driver killed pedestrian Ella Bandes in 2013.

At around 5:10 a.m. today, a man believed to be in his 40s was crossing Palmetto Street when he was struck by the rear wheel of a Q58 as the bus driver turned right onto Palmetto from Wyckoff Avenue, according to NYPD and published reports. An NYPD spokesperson said the victim was pronounced dead on arrival at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center. As of this afternoon his identity was being withheld pending family notification.

On January 31, 2013, a B52 driver making a right turn from Myrtle Avenue onto Palmetto Street struck and killed 23-year-old Ella Bandes. Last April DOT announced plans to improve visibility and shorten crossing distances at the perilous six-legged intersection where Wyckoff, Myrtle, and Palmetto meet. Rush hour turn bans, for two hours a day, were included in the revamp, but MTA bus routes were not affected. Bandes’s mother Judy Kottick noted that the turn restrictions would not have prevented the crash that killed her daughter.

Anonymous police sources told the Daily News that the victim in today’s crash “appeared to be walking in the street, outside the crosswalk” at the time of the collision. The NYPD spokesperson we talked with had no such details, and said it was unclear who had the right of way. Police are still investigating the crash, the spokesperson said. The Post reported that “no criminality is suspected.”

MTA bus drivers have killed at least six pedestrians and one cyclist this year, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog, with four fatal crashes since the beginning of September. Caroline Samponaro, deputy director of Transportation Alternatives, released a statement earlier today:

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Eyes on the Street: A Super-Sized Pedestrian Island on Bushwick Avenue

Bushwick Avenue used to widen at Seigel Street, making it difficult to cross. Now, there is a super-sized pedestrian island giving safer passage between a school and a library. Photos: Google Maps (above), Stephen Miller (below)

Bushwick Avenue used to be difficult to cross at Seigel Street. Now, there is a super-sized pedestrian island between a school and a library. Photos: Google Maps (above), Stephen Miller (below)

Once an extra-wide asphalt expanse, a section of Bushwick Avenue has been reclaimed by the addition of a pedestrian island. The new public space, which makes it easier to cross between Brooklyn Latin School and the Bushwick Library, is joined by smaller changes to an adjacent stretch of Bushwick Avenue installed this spring and summer.

After securing support from Brooklyn Community Boards 1 [PDF] and 4 [PDFlast fall, DOT began installation in April. The plan was developed in response to requests from the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, a power base for former Kings County Democratic Party chairman Vito Lopez, and the Graham Avenue Business Improvement District.

BID executive director Betty M. Cooney is happy with most of the changes, but not the pedestrian island. “We did not ask for that,” she said. Instead, the BID had suggested using the extra asphalt for a left turn lane. “I don’t know what their thinking is,” she said of the pedestrian island. “There’s a library there. There’s a school there. It probably makes it safer, but all they had to do was put in a turn lane.”

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Tonight: Big Changes Proposed for Intersection Where Ella Bandes Was Killed

Curb extensions, new crosswalks and turn bans could be coming to this deadly intersection on the Brooklyn-Queens border. Image: DOT

Curb extensions, new crosswalks and turn bans could be coming to this deadly intersection on the Brooklyn-Queens border. Image: DOT

Last year, 23-year-old Ella Bandes was killed by a turning MTA bus driver at a complex intersection on the Queens-Brooklyn border. On the anniversary of her death in January, her parents called on DOT to implement more aggressive street safety measures. Tonight, DOT is scheduled to present a plan to Queens Community Board 5’s transportation committee, including new crosswalks, curb extensions and turn bans [PDF].

DOT already installed brighter street lighting beneath the elevated train in January and added pedestrian countdown clocks. “I thought they were just going to improve the lighting and do as little as possible,” said Judy Kottick, Ella’s mother. “But they’re adding a crosswalk, they’re shortening crossing distances.”

The plan would add painted curb extensions at most of the intersection’s corners. It also calls for a new crosswalk across Myrtle Avenue in the middle of the intersection, to match a route many pedestrians already follow. An existing crosswalk across Myrtle Avenue on the intersection’s east side would be widened significantly, and all crosswalks will receive new high-visibility zebra markings under the plan.

The multi-leg intersection, at the transfer point between an elevated train and a subway, is also a hub for bus routes in both boroughs. A 2007 DOT Ridgewood transportation study [PDF] found that the corner where Ella was killed had the neighborhood’s highest pedestrian volumes.

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Driver Fatally Strikes Bushwick Cyclist, Hits Cars, Leaves Scene [Updated]

Broadway at Halsey Street in Bushwick. Image: Google Maps

Broadway at Halsey Street in Bushwick. Image: Google Maps

Update: The cyclist has been identified by WNBC as Angel Torres. The driver remained at large Thursday morning.

A driver killed a cyclist in Brooklyn this morning and injured another motorist before fleeing the scene on foot.

The crash occurred at around 8 a.m., when a man driving a BMW sedan hit a man on a bike at the intersection of Broadway and Halsey Street in Bushwick, according to the Post.

“It happened so fast. We saw the man on top of the car and we were like wow,” said a witness, Shante Washington, 24, who works at Dunkin Donuts nearby.

“I was going to throw up. I’ve never seen anything like that, it’s not something that happens every day,” she explained.

“I went outside I seen the guy laying in front of Rite Aid his head was all messed up and they [emergency responders] already started working on him,” she said.

After striking the cyclist, the driver hit a parked car, drove the wrong way down a one-way street and crashed into an SUV, injuring the driver of the second vehicle, the Post and WNBC reported. “He got out of the car walked away, went across the street, then went back to the car grabbed two bags and left,” witness Ray McCall told the Post.

The cyclist, 46, died at Woodhull Hospital. NYPD had not released his name as of this writing, and no arrests had been made.

This fatal crash occurred on the border of the 73rd and 83rd Precincts, and in the City Council district represented by Rafael Espinal.


Restricting Housing Near Transit Won’t Make NYC More Affordable

Weeks into his first term on the City Council, Antonio Reynoso is beginning to negotiate the tricky politics of housing and development in the neighborhoods he represents. So far, it’s tough to decipher whether his office will support the construction of walkable, transit-accessible housing that New York needs in order to keep the cost of living from spiraling out of control.

Photo: Dennis A. Clark/NY Post

Council Member Antonio Reynoso. Photo: Dennis A. Clark/NY Post

Kevin Worthington, Reynoso’s Bushwick community liaison, recently told Community Board 4 that Reynoso is “looking at some downzoning” along Broadway, the transit spine of the neighborhood with direct subway service to Manhattan and Queens, according to the Times Newsweekly. But restricting the supply of housing would only make the neighborhood’s affordability problems worse, as people continue to move there. A downzoning would also preclude opportunities for “inclusionary housing,” which relies on letting developers build more apartments to create new residences affordable for lower-income households.

Reynoso seemed to take a more nuanced position, calling for new development rules in the neighborhood, but he took a hard line against any construction until those rules are in place. “We could protect ourselves and prevent the gentrification — the displacement of the members of Bushwick — if we do a rezoning,” he said. “Any new development that happens during my tenure is going to have a very hard time… I will make sure that no development happens until the rezoning is complete.”

A rezoning could include measures like the elimination of parking minimums and mandatory inclusionary zoning — a policy tool favored by Mayor de Blasio — but it could also take years to get through the planning department and the City Council. In the meantime, Reynoso seems to be saying he’ll make it tougher for new housing development near transit to move forward.

In a statement sent to Streetsblog on Friday, Reynoso implied that he is open to the construction of more housing (emphasis his):

The process of rezoning will be community based and is looking to empower Bushwick residents with in-depth knowledge and provide resources on zoning tools and designations. My office will organize workshops and forums in the following months with experts from city agencies and local organizations to bring crucial information to our constituents on how to preserve and foster a vibrant community without harming fair and necessary development.

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Big Pedestrian Island Proposed in Bushwick Avenue Traffic Calming Plan

DOT is proposing a large pedestrian island for the intersection of Bushwick Avenue and Seigel Street to shorten crossing distances and calm traffic. Images: DOT

After receiving requests from the Graham Avenue Business Improvement District and the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council (yep, that one) for better sidewalks and safety improvements, DOT presented a plan [PDF] for Bushwick Avenue to Brooklyn Community Board 1’s transportation committee last week.

The biggest change is proposed for the intersection with Seigel Street, where Bushwick Avenue widens in the middle of an intersection. DOT is proposing a large traffic island to split northbound and southbound traffic. The island would restrict left turns from Seigel Street to northbound Bushwick Avenue. DOT would also introduce a new pedestrian-only phase as part of this project, stopping traffic in all directions to allow people to cross.

Changes are also proposed for Moore Street, which runs west from Bushwick Avenue between NYCHA’s Hylan Houses and Bushwick Houses. From 2005 to 2009, one pedestrian was severely injured on this block, and one cyclist was killed. Moore Street also ranks in the top third of corridors in Brooklyn for crashes, according to DOT.

There are three changes that DOT is planning to calm traffic on this block. At the west end of Moore Street, a separate capital project on intersecting Humboldt Street already includes a concrete curb extension. DOT is proposing a painted curb extension and mid-block crosswalk on Moore Street as part of the Bushwick Avenue project. The agency is also planning an island at the intersection with Bushwick Avenue, which would shorten crossing distances and split traffic turning onto Moore Street into two separate lanes.

From 2006 to 2010, there were eight severe injuries on Bushwick Avenue between McKibbin Street and Myrtle Avenue, including four pedestrians and two cyclists, and one fatality, a cyclist, according to DOT. This stretch, which is just under three-quarters of a mile, is set to receive a minor striping adjustment: By adding a four foot-wide painted median, the curbside lanes will become narrower by two feet. The curbside lanes, which are used for parking during off-peak hours but convert to car lanes during rush hour, are currently 15 feet wide.

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Ella Bandes, 23, Killed by MTA Bus Driver in Brooklyn; No Charges Filed

A 23-year-old woman has died from injuries sustained when she was struck by an MTA bus driver in Bushwick last month.

Ella Bandes. Photo via the Record

Ella Kottick Bandes was crossing Myrtle Avenue at Palmetto Street at around 11 p.m. on January 31 when she was hit as the driver of a B52 bus made a right turn, according to Gothamist. She was taken to Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in traumatic arrest.

Bandes was removed from life support at Kings County Hospital on February 4.

From the Record, in Bergen County:

Ms. Bandes grew up in Montclair and attended Edgemont Elementary School, Renaissance Middle School, and Montclair High School, graduating in 2007. She was a talented musician, dancer and artist.

After graduating from Macalester College in 2011 with degrees in psychology and studio art, Ms. Bandes was completing an internship at the Columbia Psychiatric Institute.

She was working at the Weight Watchers corporate office, and was planning to pursue a doctorate in psychology. Her dream was to provide mental health services to underserved populations.

Gothamist reports that no charges were filed against the bus driver.

This fatal crash occurred on the border of the 104th and 83rd Precincts. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to the commanding officer of either precinct, go to the next community council meeting. Meeting times and contact information are available on each precinct’s web page.

The City Council district where Ella Bandes was killed is represented by Diana Reyna, where at least three other people — Terence Connor, Raoul De La Cruz, and Puran Thapa — were fatally struck by motorists in the last five months. To encourage Reyna to take action to improve street safety in her district and citywide, contact her at 212-788-7095 or 718-963-3141.


Beware the Dread “Parking Lot for Bikes”

Looks like Queens Community Board 1 has some competition when it comes to irrational opposition to on-street bike parking. DNAinfo reports that a proposed bike corral at Wyckoff Avenue and Starr Street in Bushwick has some detractors at Brooklyn Community Board 4.

“The transportation will be disrupted…and anyone hit by a car or bike coming out of that parking lot for bikes has to fend for himself,” worried Eliseo Ruiz, the transportation committee’s chair. “It looks like this is just going to be storage for bikes.”

Excellent points here. Also: Anyone struck by a meteor coming out of that parking lot for bikes has to fend for himself. Anyone attacked by a bear coming out of that parking lot for bikes has to fend for himself. And anyone crushed by a falling piano coming out of that parking lot for bikes has to fend for himself.

It is, after all, just storage for bikes. Watch out!

A fearsome "parking lot for bikes" on Smith Street. Photo: Jeremy Charette