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Posts from the Crown Heights Category

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Assembly Member Nick Perry Tried to Weaken Bus Lanes All Over NYC

Riders board the B46 SBS at the bus stop where the route connects to the 3 and 4 trains. Photo: David Meyer

Perry bill’s aimed to weaken bus lane enforcement on Brooklyn’s busiest bus route — the B46, where Select Bus Service debuted last week — as well as bus lanes throughout the city. Photo: David Meyer

Upset at the prospect of camera-enforced bus lanes on Utica Avenue, which carries more bus passengers than all but a few other streets in New York, Assembly Member N. Nick Perry introduced a bill in Albany this session that would have rendered every bus lane in the city next to useless during midday hours. The bill picked up a sponsor in the State Senate majority — Brooklyn Republican Marty Golden, who later withdrew the bill, preventing a vote.

Assembly Member N. Nick Perry

Assembly Member N. Nick Perry

New York has the nation’s slowest buses, but NYC DOT and the MTA have started to tackle the problem in recent years by rolling out Select Bus Service routes that feature dedicated bus lanes. With less car congestion and double parking blocking the right of way, the lanes make bus travel faster and more reliable. Together with improvements like off-board fare collection, bus lanes have improved travel times for passengers in the range of 15 to 30 percent.

The newest camera-enforced bus lane is on Utica Avenue in Perry’s East Flatbush district. Brooklyn’s busiest bus route, the B46, runs on Utica and carries 44,000 passengers each weekday. SBS launched there last week, making the B46 the tenth SBS route with bus lanes or bus-only segments. Several older bus lane segments on major avenues are also eligible for camera enforcement.

All of these bus lanes could have been compromised by Perry’s bill, introduced in April, to let drivers travel in bus lanes between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. if they stay at least 250 feet away from buses. Text accompanying the bill argued that “bus lane violations serve as a trap for tickets and summons by the police.”

In practice, the bill would render bus lanes unenforceable during the middle of the day, when ridership remains high and service is frequent on busy bus routes. On the B46, for instance, buses run every 5-6 minutes from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Golden introduced a companion bill in the State Senate in May but then withdrew it from consideration the following month.

Perry claimed his bill would make bus lanes “more efficient.” “If [drivers] see a bus approaching behind them, they should safely exit the bus lane,” he said. “But when there are no buses using the bus lane, we should not waste [road space].

But that scenario highlights why the bill would not work for either cars or buses — the constant merging by drivers in and out of the bus lane would slow down both motorists and bus passengers.

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Relief for Riders on Brooklyn’s Busiest Bus Route as B46 SBS Debuts

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Riders boarding the B46 SBS at the connection from the 3 and 4 trains no longer have to wait for everyone to dip a Metrocard. Photo: David Meyer

The B46 on Utica Avenue is Brooklyn’s busiest bus route, with more than 44,000 trips each weekday. Like other high-volume NYC bus routes, the B46 has also been susceptible to paralyzing traffic congestion and a boarding process that takes ages, as each passenger dips a Metrocard at the front of the bus. But B46 riders got some relief from slow, unreliable service this weekend with the launch of Select Bus Service.

With camera-enforced bus lanes, off-board fare collection, fewer stops, and priority for buses at traffic signals, NYC DOT and the MTA implemented a suite of improvements similar to the nearby B44, where travel times improved 15-30 percent after the debut of SBS.

Dedicated bus lanes were implemented on Utica Avenue in 2014 and 2015. Image: DOT

Bus lanes were implemented on Utica Avenue in 2014 and 2015, but camera enforcement didn’t begin until this month. Image: DOT

Where it runs through East Flatbush, the B46 serves some of the densest neighborhoods in the city outside of convenient walking access to the subway. (Last year, Mayor de Blasio suggested extending the subway from Eastern Parkway down Utica Avenue.)

DOT implemented bus lanes and transit signal priority on Utica in 2014 and 2015. On Sunday, off-board payment, bus stop consolidation, and camera enforcement of the bus lanes took effect, though drivers who violate the bus lanes will receive warnings instead of fines for the first 60 days. Bus bulbs — which enable passengers to board without the bus driver pulling in and out of traffic — will be installed next year.

On the evening commute yesterday, Elizabeth Bruno, who takes the B46 one stop between her home and the Utica Avenue subway station on Eastern Parkway, said she has noticed improvements even though riders are still adjusting to the service. “Because it’s new, I think, it takes a little while for people to get accustomed to, but once they get accustomed to [it], I think it will be fine,” Bruno said. “The Select is moving really faster because you don’t stop at every stop.”

“With the Select, it has gotten a little better,” said Yvette Glover, who rides the B46 every day from Eastern Parkway to Broadway and Myrtle. “I believe it’s a good thing.”

The B46 SBS runs from DeKalb Avenue to Kings Plaza, replacing the old B46 Limited that ran the length of the route but made express stops between DeKalb Avenue and Avenue H. The local B46, which previously stopped at DeKalb Avenue, will now make local stops from Kings Plaza all the way to the Williamsburg terminus.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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