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Posts from the "Crown Heights" Category

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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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Cumbo Calls for Safer Atlantic Ave, and Trottenberg Promises Action

Photo: Ben Fried

City Council Member Laurie Cumbo with advocates from the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, Make Brooklyn Safer, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, New York League of Conservation Voters, and Transportation Alternatives. Photo: Ben Fried

Minutes after Council Member Laurie Cumbo and street safety advocates called for immediate action to reduce traffic violence on Atlantic Avenue, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told the audience at a Vision Zero forum in Crown Heights last night that DOT intends to make Atlantic one of its early priorities for safety fixes.

Atlantic Avenue is one of the biggest and most dangerous streets in the city, running east-west across the length of Brooklyn. It routinely ranks near the top of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s list of the borough’s deadliest streets for pedestrians. From 2002 to 2013, more than 1,400 pedestrians and cyclists were injured on Atlantic.

At a press conference preceding last night’s Vision Zero town hall at Medgar Evers College, Cumbo stressed the need to act soon. “We can’t wait for another child to be the face of why we need Vision Zero,” she said. “So many of these accidents could be avoided with the right measures.”

As it happens, the city intends to tackle Atlantic Avenue soon. During the forum, Trottenberg said Atlantic would be one of the 50 street safety projects DOT takes on this year. Noting that Atlantic Avenue is a big, wide, heavily trafficked street, Trottenberg said, “That’s the kind of street that DOT views as a challenge, and we want to step up.” The city’s Vision Zero action plan calls for “arterial slow zones” on streets like Atlantic that see a disproportionate share of injuries and deaths.

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Hit-and-Run Driver Charged With Reckless Driving for Killing 5-Year-Old

Last night just before 8:30, five-year-old Roshard Charles was crossing Empire Boulevard between Nostrand Avenue and Rogers Avenue with his mother, his baby brother, and a friend. They were just outside his family’s apartment when a double-parked driver threw her car in reverse, hit the gas and killed the boy as he was about to reach the sidewalk. The driver fled the scene, but now faces hit-and-run and reckless driving charges.

Rashard Charles. Photo: DNAinfo

Roshard Charles. Photo: DNAinfo

DNAinfo spoke this afternoon with Roshard’s mother, 27-year-old Rochelle Charles:

“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.”

Witnesses lifted the boy onto the hood of a nearby car and attempted to keep him awake before paramedics arrived, according to the Daily News. Charles was taken to Kings County Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. NYPD says no one else was injured in the crash.

“I love him so much. I took really good care of him,” Rochelle Charles told DNAinfo. “Saturday we went to Applebee’s. It’s just me and him. Last week, we went to the movies.”

The Daily News reported that the child “darted away from his mom” before the driver crushed him, but other media accounts do not include this allegation, and NYPD told Streetsblog this afternoon that this claim was not part of its record of the crash. The Collision Investigation Squad continues to investigate the death.

After striking Charles, driver Elizabeth Mayard, 23, of Brooklyn, fled the scene, running red lights as she drove westbound on Empire. According to the Wall Street Journal, another driver who saw the crash followed her for two blocks before she pulled over and the witness convinced her to go back to the crash scene. Another witness at the scene described Mayard as hysterically crying and apologizing. She now faces charges for leaving the scene of a fatal crash, reckless driving, and three red light violations.

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No Summonses for DSNY Driver Who Killed Man in Crown Heights Crosswalk

Gedalia Gruntzweig was killed in broad daylight by a city sanitation driver making a right turn at a signalized intersection with crosswalks. The red arrow represents the movement of the driver and the white arrow the movement of the victim, according to reports and photos from the scene. Image: Google Maps

Gedalia Gruntzweig was killed in broad daylight by a city sanitation driver making a right turn at a signalized intersection with crosswalks. The red arrow represents the movement of the driver and the white arrow the movement of the victim, according to reports and photos from the scene. Image: Google Maps

A pedestrian crossing with the right of way was struck and killed in Crown Heights Sunday by a city sanitation worker who was not charged or ticketed by NYPD.

Gedalia Gruntzweig, 25, was walking with friends when, at approximately 9:08 a.m., he was hit at the corner of Carroll Street and Kingston Avenue. Published reports say Gruntzweig was in the crosswalk when the driver of a city sanitation hauler, identified by the Daily News as Marlon Martinez, hit him while turning right.

From the Post:

Security camera footage from a nearby store showed that the sanitation truck had the green light when it turned right from Kingston onto Carroll, said a resident who lives in the building and saw the footage, which was turned over to police.

But Gruntzweig and his friend also had the “walk signal” when they stepped into the crosswalk on Carroll, law-enforcement sources said.

The victim was hit by the front side of the truck, knocked down and run over by its rear wheels, sources said. The driver apparently didn’t see the man before hitting him, sources said.

Gedalia Gruntzweig. Photo via New York Post

Gedalia Gruntzweig. Photo via New York Post

NYPD told Gothamist that Gruntzweig was crossing Carroll Street from south to north, and that two other pedestrians were also injured.

According to reports, Gruntzweig was originally from Ukraine. City Council Member Laurie Cumbo told the Times he was a rabbinical student in New Jersey and was visiting the city for an engagement party.

Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero Action Plan contains a number of goals for the city fleet, including driver training and vehicles with improved visibility and other safety features. Among its near-term targets: “Ensure all City fleet vehicles are equipped with technology that record speeding and other dangerous driving behaviors, by the end of 2014.”

A central tenet of Vision Zero is, as the action plan states, “vigorous law enforcement against dangerous driving.” Though reports are consistent that the victim had the right of way in this case, and Martinez reportedly drove a truck into three people in a crosswalk on a neighborhood street, NYPD issued no summonses for careless driving or failure to yield.

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Select Bus Service Comes to Brooklyn

Photo: Ben Fried

Boarding at Nostrand and Flushing on the first day of B44 SBS service. Photo: Ben Fried

Yesterday was the first day of service for Brooklyn’s first Select Bus Service route, upgrading the B44 Limited with a dedicated bus lane, off-board fare collection, bus bulbs, and fewer stops. It’s the sixth SBS route to enter service, following two in the Bronx, two in Manhattan, and one in Staten Island.

In addition to improving transit speeds, these measures should help reduce bus bunching on what has been one of the most unreliable routes in the city — in 2009 the B44 took home the Straphangers Campaign Schleppie Award for NYC’s least reliable bus route.

At noon, Mayor Bloomberg and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan will announce the launch of the new service, and we’ll have a report from the presser later today. Just a note for now about how the coverage of this bus upgrade is playing out: Whenever a new SBS route launches, it takes some time for people to acclimate, and the first stories tend to zero in on how riders have trouble adjusting to the payment system or the elimination of stops. It’s not until several months later, maybe a year, that the performance metrics come in, showing better bus speeds and increased ridership.

The changes to the B44 are more significant than other SBS projects because northbound service is switching from New York Avenue to Rogers and Bedford Avenues, which are wider, one-way streets that can more readily accommodate transit lanes and bus bulbs. (The local B44 northbound will remain on New York, where it provides direct access to Kings County Hospital.) So there’s certainly going to be an adjustment period.

Yesterday afternoon I spoke to two women, Gem and Meg (they swore those were their real names and the palindrome was a coincidence), who were getting off a northbound B44 SBS bus at Fulton Street. They were returning from a trip to visit family at Nostrand and Flatbush, about three and a half miles away. Most passengers were confused about how to pay fares, they said, but the trip was still about 10 minutes faster than it used to be.

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Jhonn Carlos Fernandez, 35, Killed by Motorcyclist in Washington Heights

For the second time in less than a week, a motorcyclist has struck and killed a NYC pedestrian.

Reports said Jhonn Carlos Fernandez was crossing mid-block when he was fatally struck by a motorcyclist, but did not mention driver speed. Photo: Daily News

The latest crash happened at around 4:20 Saturday morning, in Washington Heights. Jhonn Carlos Fernandez, 35, was walking with friends when he was struck on Amsterdam Avenue near 167th Street, according to reports. Accounts vary, but DNAinfo and the Daily News say Fernandez was crossing mid-block. He died at the scene. From the Post:

His grieving dad, Robinson, said, “He was a hard-working man who was never late for work.

“He was a good son. He was always happy. He loved to dance. He loved salsa and machata.”

Alejandro Cabrerra, 43, a pal of the victim, said, “I’m going to miss his friendship. If he were your friend he would give you his all.”

Fernandez’s brother, Martin Fernandez, 43, said, “A part of me is gone,” as he burst into tears.

Reports said the motorcyclist, an unidentified man, was one of a group of three riding north on Amsterdam Avenue. He was ejected from the motorcycle and was hospitalized in critical condition. No reports that we’ve seen made mention of how fast the motorcyclist was traveling when he hit Fernandez. No charges were filed, according to the Daily News.

On August 11, an unidentified male pedestrian was killed by a motorcyclist at Queens Boulevard and 44th Street. Police told the Daily News that the motorcyclist, who was critically injured, was “not considered at fault.” Four motorcyclists have been killed in traffic crashes since last Wednesday, according to DNAinfo.

Jhonn Carlos Fernandez was killed in the 33rd Precinct, in the council district represented by Ydanis Rodriguez.

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Council Candidates at Fort Greene Forum Agree: Don’t Touch Parking

If you were hoping for inspiring leadership from the City Council on transportation issues after the next election, you may want to look somewhere other than District 35, which covers the neighborhoods just east of downtown Brooklyn. Two-thirds of households in the district are car-free, according to the 2000 Census. But while most candidates supported traffic calming improvements at a forum last night, they were unanimous in their opposition to removing on-street parking spaces, and many were reluctant to support policy changes that would cut down on driving in the district.

District 35 candidates, from left, Olanike Alabi, Laurie Cumbo, Ede Fox, Frank “Richard” Hurley, and Jelani Mashariki at last night’s forum. Photo: Stephen Miller

The seat, representing Downtown Brooklyn, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, and parts of Crown Heights and Downtown Brooklyn, is currently held by Letitia James, who is running for public advocate. Candidates Olanike Alabi, Laurie Cumbo, Ede Fox, Frank “Richard” Hurley, and Jelani Mashariki attended the forum, sponsored by the Brooklyn Movement Center, Coalition for the Improvement of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Fort Greene Strategic Neighborhood Action Partnership, the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, and Transportation Alternatives.

In response to a question from TA deputy director Noah Budnick about traffic calming and complete streets on Atlantic Avenue, Fox said that she supports street design that makes it easier to cross the major roadway and enforcement that cuts down on speeding, singling out dollar van drivers as particularly reckless in Prospect Heights. She also raised concerns about cycling, which she supports, saying that more cyclists need to follow the rules of the road. “We have some streets that are quite narrow. We have quite a lot of bicycle lanes on them, and I see some difficulty between bicyclists and drivers and walkers,” Fox said.

Hurley also supported pedestrian islands on Atlantic Avenue, while Alabi cited the need for more speed humps and curb extensions, praising the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council’s effort to secure a Slow Zone for its neighborhood.

The candidates had a variety of suggestions to improve bus and subway service. Fox urged the MTA to completely restore service that was cut in 2010, keep fares from rising, improve frequencies on the A and C trains, and roll out Bus Time (the program is scheduled to expand citywide by April). Fox supported bus rapid transit as an option to expand capacity. “Making new train lines is really not efficient,” she said. “BRT is something that can be done easily, quickly, and very cheaply.”

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Motorist Havoc: Two Dead, Five Hurt, Kids in Critical Condition, No Charges

A pedestrian and a cyclist are dead after a series of crashes in Brooklyn and the Bronx in which motorists also injured five other people. Three of the victims were teenagers. One crash left two young boys in critical condition. No charges are known to have been filed by NYPD or DAs Charles Hynes and Robert Johnson.

Zuleimi Torres. Photo: WEbook

On Friday afternoon, 16-year-old Zuleimi Torres was one of three people struck by the driver of an SUV on the Grand Concourse near Mt. Eden Parkway. From NY1:

Eyewitnesses said the car was going erratically down Grand Concourse, hit one pedestrian and then kept going and hit the other two pedestrians.

“He didn’t stop, he hit the first person, he did not stop. He just keep going and then we see the second one again got hit. We said, ‘Oh!’” a bystander said.

An off-duty officer arrested the driver as he tried to leave the car, but a breathalyzer test showed that the driver had no blood alcohol content.

Torres suffered a brain injury and died at St. Barnabas Hospital. Her friend, also 16, and the third victim, a 51-year-old woman, were hospitalized in stable condition.

Citing anonymous police sources, the Post reports that the driver “is not suspected of a crime,” and a “medical condition may have contributed” to the crash. ”Sources say the driver has a mental condition,” according to News 12. “Investigators say the driver will not face charges.”

In another crash early Sunday, an unidentified cyclist was killed by a livery cab driver in Crown Heights. From the Post:

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How Bike Corrals Expand New Yorkers’ Access to Businesses

A quick note about the new bike corral on Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights, which got a vote of approval from the local community board after hundreds of signatures were gathered in support of it. The Prospect Heights Patch reports that two local residents see the on-street bike parking as a symbol of gentrification and have started a petition to get rid of it. If you take a look at the numbers for car ownership and bike ownership, though, it seems pretty clear that more people are going to get some use out of this space as a bike corral than as car parking space, whether you’re talking about long-time residents or newer ones.

According to the 2000 Census, the car ownership rate in this City Council district is just 33 percent [PDF], far below the citywide rate of about 46 percent. While the neighborhood may be different today than it was in 2000, these car ownership rates haven’t changed much. (Nearby Assembly districts saw car ownership increase between 2 and 3 percentage points in the 2005-2009 Census numbers.)

Meanwhile, the citywide household bike ownership rate is 54 percent, according to a recent New York Times poll. It’s probably safe to assume that bike ownership is higher in this part of the city, given the low car ownership rate, but let’s say it’s the same as the citywide rate.

That would mean 54 percent of the households in the neighborhood now have access to eight parking spaces by the curb here, while before, about a third of households had access to one parking space. On top of that, everyone now has sidewalks that are a little less cluttered.

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City Receives Federal Funding for Full Nostrand Avenue Select Bus Route

The SBS stop coming to the corner of Nostrand Avenue and Empire Boulevard. Image: NYC DOT

The first Select Bus Service route in Brooklyn is on track to start speeding bus trips next year, after Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and NYC Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan announced yesterday afternoon that the project has secured a $28 million federal grant.

The B44 route on Nostrand, Rogers, and Bedford Avenues, which runs between Sheepshead Bay and Williamsburg, is one of NYC’s most used but least reliable bus lines. Plagued by bus bunching, the B44 took home the Straphangers Campaign’s “Schleppie Award” in 2009 and consistently ranks as Brooklyn’s most unreliable route. After it’s converted to Select Bus Service, the B44 will feature off-board fare collection, dedicated bus lanes along most of the corridor, and 12 bus bulbs to improve speeds and cut down on the amount of time buses spend standing still.

The B44 links Brooklyn residents to Medgar Evers College, Brooklyn College, Kings County Hospital, and SUNY Downstate Hospital, as well as several subway lines. Weekday ridership currently stands at about 44,000 passengers. Not only will they see faster, more reliable service, but the improvements should attract more riders. Following SBS upgrades in Manhattan and the Bronx, more passengers started riding those routes, cutting against a citywide trend of declining bus ridership.

“I think everyone who saw Sandy from near or afar recognized the critical role buses played once the subway system went down, underscoring the value of these types of investments in our transportation infrastructure,” Sadik-Khan said in a press statement. “SBS continues to bring enhanced service to densely populated areas in need of transportation enhancements.”

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