Skip to content

Posts from the Crown Heights Category

No Comments

The Campaign for a Better Street Safety Conversation in PLG/Crown Heights

PLG_slow

Participants at last night’s #SlowDownPLG workshop shared their ideas about neighborhood streets on giant aerial maps. Photo: David Meyer

Last night, Transportation Alternatives’ Brooklyn Activist Committee and the Prospect Lefferts Gardens Neighborhood Association hosted a #SlowDownPLG workshop for neighborhood residents to share ideas about walking and biking safety in the neighborhood. Around 35 people attended and worked in small groups to address concerns on five streets: Ocean Avenue, Flatbush Avenue, Rogers Avenue, Nostrand Avenue, and Empire Boulevard.

Excessive speeding and a lack of effective bike infrastructure were among people’s top concerns. Daniel Kristjansson, a TA volunteer who also serves on the CB 9 transportation committee, shared a TA-initiated study that showed 80 percent of all drivers on Rogers Avenue speed, with the worst offenders going more than twice the 25 mph limit. Rogers, like many streets in the neighborhood, is also plagued by double-parking and drivers blowing through red lights.

The one north-south bike lane in the neighborhood is on Bedford Avenue, but cyclists last night said they avoid Bedford because of speeding motorists, poor lighting, and the steep incline.

Within Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Nostrand, Flatbush, and Franklin avenues are all priority corridors in DOT’s Vision Zero borough action plan, meaning they are especially dangerous. Fatal crashes in both Prospect Lefferts Gardens and Crown Heights are all too common, but Community Board 9 has been in disarray, and DOT hasn’t done much to improve street design in the area.

Read more…

7 Comments

Gwendolyn Booker, Killed by School Bus Driver on Atlantic Avenue Sidewalk

Atlantic Avenue location where a school bus driver fatally struck Gwendolyn Booker on the sidewalk last Friday. Image: Google Maps

Atlantic Avenue location where a school bus driver fatally struck Gwendolyn Booker on the sidewalk last Friday. Booker was at least the fifth pedestrian or cyclist killed on Atlantic since last August. Image: Google Maps

Another pedestrian was killed on Atlantic Avenue when a motorist struck a woman on the sidewalk.

Gwendolyn Booker, 50, was walking on Atlantic near Schenectady Avenue last Friday at around 6:30 p.m. when a school bus driver mounted the curb, according to NYPD and published accounts.

Motorists have killed at least four people on Brooklyn sidewalks in the last seven months. DA Ken Thompson charged none of those drivers for taking a life.

Motorists have killed at least four people on Brooklyn sidewalks in the last seven months. DA Ken Thompson charged none of those drivers for taking a life.

From Gothamist:

The bus struck two light poles, a gas station, and smashed into several parked cars, in addition to striking the victim.

Multiple news outlets reported that, according to unidentified police sources, a second motorist cut off the school bus driver, “causing” him or her to leave the roadway. Many reports used similar or identical language to describe the crash. None of those outlets — the Post, WCBS, WPIX, the Daily News, or WABC — apparently questioned their NYPD sources as to why steering onto the sidewalk was justifiable, how fast the bus driver was traveling at the time of the crash, or if the driver was distracted. Instead, the bus driver has been absolved in nearly all the press accounts because of a second motorist who hasn’t been located or publicly identified.

The NYPD public information office had no other details about the incident. The bus driver’s name was not released by police, and no charges had been filed as of Monday afternoon.

Booker was at least the fifth pedestrian or cyclist killed by a driver on Atlantic Avenue since last August, and the fourth Brooklyn pedestrian fatally struck on a sidewalk since last July, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. District Attorney Ken Thompson charged none of the drivers in any of those crashes for taking a life.

Read more…

4 Comments

DOT Plans East-West Bike Connections in Crown Heights

DOT wants to install dedicated bike lanes on St. Johns Place and Sterling Place in Crown Heights. Image: DOT

DOT wants to install painted bike lanes on St. Johns Place and Sterling Place in Crown Heights [PDF]. Image: DOT

DOT presented plans for east-west bike lanes in Prospect Heights and Crown Heights to the Brooklyn CB 8 transportation committee earlier this week [PDF].

The proposal calls for painted lanes on St. Johns Place from Plaza Street East to Rogers Avenue and from New York Avenue to Ralph Avenue, with sharrows on the narrow one-way strip in between. St. Johns fluctuates between two-way and one-way traffic flow, and will have eastbound-only bike markings between Washington Avenue and Kingston Avenue. Signage will route westbound cyclists to Sterling Place one block north, where DOT plans to paint a lane from Kingston to Vanderbilt Avenue.

sterling

There are currently no markings to differentiate space on Sterling Place. Image: DOT

Speeding is a problem on these side streets, with 47 percent of drivers on the corridor traveling over the speed limit, according to DOT. Within the project limits, 47 people were severely injured in the five years from 2010 through 2014. On Sterling, which is 34 feet wide, there is currently no striping to differentiate lanes.

DOT also wants to prevent conflicts between turning drivers and pedestrians at the intersection of St. Johns and Utica Avenue, where seven pedestrians were severely injured between 2010 and 2014. Left turns from northbound Utica would be banned, while left turn lanes would be installed in both directions on St. Johns.

Read more…

47 Comments

Empire Blvd Safety Fixes Run Up Against Parking and Gentrification Politics

A federally-funded redesign and reconstruction of two dangerous Empire Boulevard intersections is in jeopardy, running up against a combination of parking politics and gentrification fears.

DOT has plans to replace a small slip lane that feeds into Empire Boulevard with a pedestrian plaza, but local anger over gentrification could prevent the project from coming to fruition. Image: DOT/DDC/RBA Group

A plan to convert a small slip lane into sidewalk space is being met with resistance at Community Board 9. Image: DOT/DDC/RBA Group

The plan would add sidewalk space by simplifying two complex intersections where several streets converge [PDF]. On the western end of Empire, a slip lane would be closed at the intersection of Washington Avenue and Franklin Avenue. To the east, pedestrian space would be claimed at the even more complicated tangle of streets where Empire meets Utica Avenue, East New York Avenue, and Remsen Avenue.

Empire Boulevard is one of the most dangerous streets in Brooklyn. At these two intersections alone, there were 490 injuries between 2009 and 2013. Removing slip lanes at both locations will eliminate shortcuts where drivers can cut quickly across pedestrians’ paths, without fundamentally changing how traffic flows.

At Wednesday’s CB 9 Transportation Committee meeting, neighborhood residents and community board members joined around 10 representatives from DOT, the Department of Design and Construction, and the RBA Group to discuss the proposal, which the committee approved in a unanimous 4-0 vote in September. Chair Tim Thomas said he invited city officials to come back and make the case after the proposal drew criticism at a meeting of the full community board in November.

Supporters of the proposal presented a petition with nearly 300 signatures Wednesday night. Daniel Kristjansson, who sits on the committee, said in an email to Streetsblog that the project is a small but necessary step to make Empire Boulevard safer. “Empire Boulevard is deadly, and even with these changes it will still kill and subject many more to a lifetime of pain and disability,” he said. “But these improvements will make a noticeable dent in the casualty figures.”

The project has become swept up in the debate over the rezoning of Empire Boulevard, a flashpoint in predominantly black neighborhoods experiencing a rapid influx of more affluent, white residents. “I’ve been living on Washington Avenue all my life and living there has been a great pleasure — until recently, when these changes [have] taken place,” one resident, Felice Robertson, told the committee.

Other complaints were typical of street redesigns anywhere in the city. Robertson also said the neighborhood is “in dire need of parking spaces.” Another resident suggested that instead of pedestrianizing a block of Franklin the city should install a neckdown, which could be done “without taking away 15 parking spaces, which is a critical part of what this community still needs.” (The project would only remove seven spaces.)

Read more…

10 Comments

DA Ken Thompson: Felony Plea for Driver Who Killed Roshard Charles, 5

A driver who fatally struck a little boy in Crown Heights and left the scene has pled guilty to felony hit-and-run.

On March 16, 2014, 5-year-old Roshard Charles was walking with his mother, little brother, and a friend on Empire Boulevard between Nostrand Avenue and Rogers Avenue when a driver aiming for a parking spot backed into him with a minivan. According to reports, as Roshard’s mother screamed and pounded on the van, Elizabeth Mayard drove away. Reports said Mayard ran red lights as she fled westbound on Empire, and was convinced by a witness who followed her to return to the scene.

Roshard Charles

Roshard Charles

From the Daily News:

[Witness Thomas] Barry and two others lifted the boy and put him on the hood of a parked car to try to keep him awake until help arrived, he said.

“Three or four times it was like he was going into the fetal position, and then he wasn’t moving anymore,” said a witness who lifted the boy. “He didn’t move again. He just didn’t move.”

The Daily News reported that Roshard “darted away from his mom,” a claim that did not match accounts from other media outlets, NYPD, or Roshard’s mother.

Rochelle Charles spoke with DNAinfo :

“I was with my baby. He was right here with me. She double parked. She wasn’t moving. She was just there. We were already walking, about to go on the sidewalk. And that’s when she started reversing really fast…I said, ‘Stop!’ I banged on [the van]. She reversed back. She heard me. She looked back. She tried to get him out of the wheel. And then she just drove off…How could you leave like that? I kept telling her to stop.”

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson charged Mayard with leaving the scene of a crash that resulted in death, a D felony, as well as misdemeanor reckless endangerment, reckless driving, careless driving, and unsafe backing of a vehicle. According to court records, last week Mayard pled guilty to leaving the scene, the top charge against her. Thompson did not charge Mayard for taking the life of Roshard Charles.

Class D felonies carry penalties ranging from probation to seven years in prison. Mayard is scheduled to be sentenced in January.

1 Comment

Empire Boulevard Reconstruction Will Create Two Plazas

A reconstruction project will add pedestrian plazas to Empire Boulevard, including this one at Remsen Avenue. Images: DOT [PDF]

A street reconstruction will add plazas to Empire Boulevard, including this one at Remsen Avenue. Images: DOT [PDF]

Dangerous intersections at each end of Empire Boulevard, which stretches east-west across the southern edge of Crown Heights, are set for some major new pedestrian space.

A street reconstruction project will reconfigure the area where Empire Boulevard, East New York Avenue, Remsen Avenue, and Utica Avenue converge. There, DOT will reroute traffic, creating a new pedestrian plaza. Similar changes are coming to the intersection of Empire Boulevard, Franklin Avenue, and Washington Avenue.

From 2009 to 2013, there were 490 injuries at the two locations combined, including 29 serious injuries, placing them in the most dangerous 10 percent of Brooklyn streets, according to DOT [PDF].

The changes are part of a multi-agency capital project to rebuild utilities and roadbeds on both ends of Empire. The project will also repave the 1.5-mile street, which received a road diet, pedestrian islands and bike lanes in 2009.

Today, the intersections where Empire Boulevard meets Utica Avenue are a mess. East New York Avenue and Remsen Avenues slice diagonally across Empire, creating triangles surrounded by car traffic and forcing pedestrians to make multiple dangerous crossings.

Read more…

18 Comments

No Charges for Driver Who Repeatedly Ran Over Brooklyn Pedestrian

A livery cab driver repeatedly backed over a Brooklyn rabbi Monday afternoon in Crown Heights, killing him, but no charges were filed by NYPD or Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson.

Yekutiel Rapp was crossing Empire Boulevard at Balfour Place at around 5:30 p.m. when the driver hit him while reversing out of a parking spot, according to reports.

Yekutiel Rapp. Photo via Yeshiva World News

Yekutiel Rapp. Photo via Yeshiva World News

From Crown Heights Info:

The driver, realizing that he had hit something but unaware that it was a person, backed up his car — running the man over a second time; in the ensuing mayhem, the driver then drove forward — running him over a third time.

Witnessing the horrific crash and first on scene was a pair of Shomrim volunteers, both of whom immediately sprang into action, forcing the driver to stop his vehicle while calling for emergency rescue services and attempting to free the gravely injured man from under the vehicle.

Together with a number of bystanders they attempted to lift the car enough to free the man. Another Shomrim volunteer arrived with a large car jack and further lifted the car, at which point firefighters arrived on scene and joined in the rescue effort.

“I heard the guy banging on the car telling him to stop,” witness Calvin Thomas told the Post.

Rapp, a noted 66-year-old orthodox rabbi, died at Kings County Hospital. Police had filed no charges as of this afternoon. An NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog the investigation is still open.

Unless the driver is charged and convicted of breaking a traffic law he will in all likelihood remain in good standing with the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

This fatal crash occurred in the 71st Precinct. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Deputy Inspector George Fitzgibbon, the commanding officer, go to the next precinct community council meeting. The 71st Precinct council meetings happen at 7:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month at MS 61, 400 Empire Boulevard. Call 718-735-0527 for information.

Yekutiel Rapp was killed was killed in the City Council district represented by Laurie Cumbo, and in Brooklyn Community Board District 9.

2 Comments

Alleged Unlicensed Driver Kills Brooklyn Pedestrian While Fleeing Police

An unlicensed driver fleeing police crashed into another vehicle and killed 21-year-old Dave Jones on a Brooklyn sidewalk Monday, raising questions about whether the officers adhered to NYPD policy on vehicular pursuits.

Police pulled over 18-year-old Raymond Ramos near Schenectady Avenue and Sterling Place in Crown Heights after midnight Monday, according to DNAinfo.

As the officers approached, Ramos drove away. With police in pursuit, Ramos made it seven blocks before his car collided with another vehicle at the intersection of Nostrand Avenue and St. Johns Place, police said.

Both cars barreled up onto the sidewalk fatally plowing into a pedestrian who was walking north, a preliminary investigation by the NYPD showed.

Ramos hit Jones, who died of head injuries at Kings County Hospital. Three people in the other vehicle were injured, DNAinfo reported.

The Post also reported that, according to police, the crash occurred after Ramos “led cops on a brief chase.”

Ramos was charged with manslaughter, reckless endangerment, homicide, fleeing police, reckless driving, unlicensed driving, speeding, and other traffic infractions, according to court records. His next court appearance is set for Friday.

DNAinfo reported that, according to anonymous police sources, officers who pulled Ramos over “smelled marijuana coming from his vehicle,” but no charges were issued for impaired driving or drug possession.

There’s a lot we don’t know about what happened Monday. The crash happened about a mile from the location of the traffic stop. Judging from a Daily News photo that shows both vehicles overturned on the sidewalk, Ramos was driving at high speed at the time of impact. After Ramos fled the traffic stop, did officers chase him at speed through a Brooklyn neighborhood? Were they in pursuit when Ramos hit the second car? At the very least, an investigation is warranted to determine whether the pursuit conformed to protocol.

Read more…

25 Comments

Can Atlantic Ave Become a Great Street? DCP Will Study the Possibilities

The Department of City Planning has launched a study of Atlantic Avenue between Vanderbilt and Ralph Avenues. The study area stretches two blocks in either direction. Image: DCP

The Department of City Planning has launched a study of Atlantic Avenue between Vanderbilt and Ralph Avenues. The study area stretches two blocks in either direction. Image: DCP

Atlantic Avenue is one of the most prominent streets in Brooklyn, but it’s also one of the most dangerous. The major thoroughfare, paralleled by the LIRR and a subway line just two blocks away, remains a barrier between neighborhoods, plagued by speeding traffic and lined with auto body shops. Can it become an urban street that welcomes people instead of repelling them? The Department of City Planning is going to look at the possibilities along 2.4 miles of Atlantic Avenue.

DOT made Atlantic the first arterial slow zone in the city to receive a 25 mph speed limit, and volunteers with Transportation Alternatives have adopted it as one of their advocacy priorities. Borough President Eric Adams imagines a completely revamped Atlantic Avenue with new development and pedestrian-friendly streets. “In ten years’ time we want to see a completely different Atlantic Avenue,” he told Streetsblog in April.

That effort is getting an assist from the Department of City Planning’s transportation division, which launched a study of Atlantic between Vanderbilt Avenue and Ralph Avenue. While it doesn’t cover the entire stretch to East New York and into Queens, these 2.4 miles includes key sections of Clinton Hill, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Crown Heights.

Read more…

7 Comments

Community Boards Split on Franklin Avenue Road Diet and Bike Lane

A proposal to enhance safety on Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights, which would put the street on a road diet and extend a painted bike lane one mile further south, is stuck in a tale of two community boards. CB 8, which covers the northern half of the project, is set to back the plan after its transportation committee voted 9-1 in support on Tuesday. CB 9, covering the area below Eastern Parkway, narrowly rejected the plan at a general board meeting last week, though the board’s district manager says it will likely come up again for another vote next month. The vote was a surprise coming from CB 9, which has a track record of urging the city to retrofit streets with bike lanes.

A road diet and bike lane could be coming to Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights. Image: DOT

A road diet and bike lane could be coming to Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights. Image: DOT

This stretch of Franklin Avenue is 34 feet wide and currently has one dotted line down the middle, with one parking lane and one travel lane on each half of the street. The narrow moving lanes leave little room for drivers to share space with cyclists — or even other drivers. Requests from the Crow Hill Community Association in 2011 and Assembly Member Walter Mosley in 2013 prompted DOT to take a look at the street. On April 2, the agency hosted a public workshop with members from both community boards to come up with solutions.

The plan [PDF] swaps the narrow two-lane configuration for an 11-foot travel lane, a striped five-foot bike lane, and nine-foot parking lanes on either side. The street would retain two car lanes for two blocks between St. John’s Place and Eastern Parkway to leave space for drivers to queue up before the light at Eastern Parkway.

Combined with changes to better coordinate the signal timing along Franklin for southbound traffic, DOT says the new configuration will have plenty of room for existing car traffic.

The plan also restricts left turns from westbound Atlantic Avenue to Franklin and would expand the concrete median on Atlantic to shorten crossing distances for pedestrians and slow drivers turning left onto Atlantic from Franklin.

“Our membership did have some concerns about eliminating the left turn from Atlantic to Franklin,” said CB 8 transportation committee co-chair Rob Witherwax in an email, but he noted that pedestrian safety improvements for residents crossing the 100-foot wide arterial street “will be well worth it.” DOT says the diverted car traffic, which it counted at no more than 83 vehicles per hour, can easily be absorbed on nearby streets.

Read more…