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No Charges Filed for Pedestrian Deaths in Jamaica and East New York

NYPD says the department doesn't know who had the right of way when Sheila Rivera was fatally struck by a driver on Pennsylvania Avenue at Glenmore Avenue in East New York. Image: Google Maps

Editor’s note: As we were finishing up this story, Gothamist reported that a 36-year-old cyclist was killed this morning in Claremont, and that another cyclist struck by a truck driver in Downtown Brooklyn earlier this month has died from his injuries. We will have more on these fatalities in a future post.

Two pedestrians were killed by motorists in Brooklyn and Queens Monday. No charges were filed by NYPD in either case, and as usual, other than a routine bit of victim-blaming, details on these deadly acts of vehicular violence are scarce.

At approximately 7:20 p.m., 50-year-old Sheila Rivera was hit by the driver of a Honda SUV as she crossed Pennsylvania Avenue at Glenmore Avenue in East New York, according to Gothamist and the Daily News. Gothamist reported that Rivera lived seven blocks from the scene. She died at Brookdale Hospital.

The driver was reportedly traveling north on Pennsylvania Avenue at the time of the crash. It is not known how fast the driver was going, or who had the right of way. The NYPD public information office had no specifics on how the crash occurred. No summonses were issued and no charges were filed.

Sheila Rivera was killed in the 75th Precinct, and in the City Council district represented by Erik Martin Dilan.

At approximately 7:50 p.m., a man reported to be in his 40s was struck by the driver of a Honda SUV on Jamaica Avenue near 180th Street. Police told Gothamist and the Daily News that the victim was crossing mid-block. He was pronounced dead at Jamaica Hospital. As of this morning his name had not been released by police. NYPD said no summonses were issued and no charges were filed.

This unidentified pedestrian victim was killed in the 103rd Precinct, and in the council district represented by Leroy Comrie.

Note that despite department policy that purportedly prohibits the release of information on traffic crashes, NYPD again offered details that point to the culpability of one of the dead victims, and nothing more. While police readily leak to the media that a pedestrian was struck by a motorist outside a crosswalk, driver speed is virtually never disclosed. If the pedestrian was struck while walking in a crosswalk, information on right of way is nearly impossible to extract.

A 2012 study by Transportation Alternatives found that 60 percent of fatal New York City pedestrian and cyclist crashes with known causes were the result of motorists breaking traffic laws. A 2010 DOT pedestrian safety report revealed that for serious crashes to which contributing factors were assigned, only 21.5 percent placed primary responsibility on “pedestrian error/confusion,” with the vast majority caused by driver inattention, failure to yield, and excessive speed.

Regardless of data showing that most pedestrians and cyclists struck by motorists were following traffic laws, those who read and watch daily coverage of NYC traffic crashes are left with the impression that most incidents are either blameless acts of nature or are precipitated by irresponsible behavior on the part of the injured or deceased victim.

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Brownsville Will Get Bike Lanes After Supportive Vote from CB 16

Brownsville is set to have extra asphalt converted to bike lanes after Community Board 16's supportive vote last night. Photosim: NYC DOT

Good news out of Brooklyn last night: After a community-driven process that started in 2011, Community Board 16 voted to support painted bike lanes and sharrows on 15 miles of Brownsville streets.

The proposal calls for bike lanes on New Lots Avenue, Pitkin Avenue, Mother Gaston Boulevard, and a north/south pair on Hendrix Street and Schenck Avenue. DOT is also in the process of installing more than 600 bike racks in the neighborhood and community partners are hosting bike rides and helmet fittings.

The effort to bring bike lanes to Brownsville was started by Bettie Kollock-Wallace, who now serves as CB 16′s chair. Kollock-Wallace began working with the Brownsville Partnership and the Brooklyn District Public Health Office, which reached out to community members, Transportation Alternatives, and DOT to formulate a plan for bike lanes.

Community Board 5, covering East New York, is expected to vote on the plan soon. Its transportation committee supported an earlier, less comprehensive version of the plan in November. The lanes are slated for installation this spring, according to the Brownsville Partnership.

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Brooklyn CB 16 Committee Votes to Bring Bike Lanes to Brownsville

The beginnings of the neighborhood bike network for Brownsville and East New York would repurpose extra asphalt for painted bike lanes on Pitkin Avenue and four other streets. Photosim: NYC DOT

The transportation committee of Brooklyn Community Board 16 last night voted in favor of a plan to stripe Brownsville’s first bike lanes, reports Nupur Chaudhury of the local non-profit Brownsville Partnership.

The plan presented by NYC DOT would stripe four bike routes in Brownsville and East New York: on New Lots Avenue, Pitkin Avenue, Mother Gaston Boulevard, and the north/south pair of Hendrix Street and Schenck Avenue. The New Lots and Hendrix/Schenck routes were originally slated for a future round of striping, but DOT was able to bump up the installation schedule to 2013, according to Chaudhury. “It means there’s two east/west routes and a north/south route in both East New York and Brownsville,” she said.

These bike lanes aren’t top-of-the-line infrastructure — they’ll provide stripes and, in some places, just sharrows, not physical protection — but they’re a milestone for two eastern Brooklyn neighborhoods that currently lack any on-street bike routes to speak of. The sight of bike infrastructure is still new enough here that when DOT began putting in the area’s first bike racks (they’ve installed 200 in the CB 16 district since the summer of 2011), Chaudhury heard some residents express confusion about what they were for. With the beginnings of a neighborhood bicycle network in place, getting around Brownsville and East New York by bike won’t seem so unusual.

The Brownsville Partnership is one of several neighborhood organizations, along with the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation and the Pitkin Avenue BID, that have joined with DOT and the Department of Health to make local streets more bike-friendly. The community workshops and events they put on starting in 2011 led to this point and will provide the basis for more improvements to come.

Next up: The proposal goes before CB 16′s full board meeting on January 22. DOT will also be going back to CB 5 with the current plan, which includes more routes than the version approved by the board’s transportation committee last fall. Chaudhury says installation this spring and summer is looking likely.

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Public Takes to Plazas in East New York and Fort Greene

Lights are strung on the Christmas tree at New Lots Triangle on Saturday. Photo: Stephen Miller

This weekend, three Brooklyn plazas became hubs of neighborhood activity.

In East New York, Saturday evening saw a community tree lighting, along with local performers and community organizations, at New Lots Triangle on Livonia Avenue. In prior years, the tree was situated in a tiny patch of asphalt between three streets, but in 2011 DOT expanded the plaza by reclaiming a small section of Ashford Street from motor vehicle traffic.

“The street was a real hazard for people,” said Catherine Green, founder and executive director of Arts East New York, which organized the evening’s events with Soul of Brooklyn and other partners. She added that the plaza has “changed the mindset of people in the neighborhood.”

After hosting a presentation and open house Thursday night, the Fulton Area Business Alliance BID set up shop in two public plazas – Fowler Square Plaza in Fort Greene on Saturday and Putnam Plaza in Clinton Hill on Sunday — to solicit input on a conceptual plan to revamp 26 blocks of Fulton Street in the BID service area.

Staff from architecture firms working pro bono through non-profit desigNYC joined the BID to get feedback from people walking past. Based on the responses it receives, FAB Alliance will adjust the plan, which focuses on street furniture, public space and redevelopment of key sites on Fulton Street.

“It’s a public plaza and this is a public process,” FAB Alliance manager Phillip Kellogg said. “What better way to engage people?”

FAB Alliance is planning a Christmas concert by the Lafayette Avenue Inspirational Ensemble gospel choir in Fowler Square Plaza on Saturday, December 15, at 2:00 p.m.

DOT hosted a planning session for New Lots Triangle in August, and is scheduled to present results from business surveys regarding Fowler Square Plaza to the Community Board 2 transportation committee on December 18. Permanent plaza reconstructions are proposed for both locations.

On Saturday, the FAB Alliance solicited feedback on plans for Fulton Street in Fort Greene's Fowler Square Plaza. Photo: Stephen Miller

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Three Killed in Traffic in Three Days as City Council Dithers

Three pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes on consecutive days in Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan this weekend.

When will Jessica Lappin and the City Council take action to stop the bloodshed on New York City streets?

At approximately 1:15 this morning, Andrew Schoonover, a 31-year-old from Florida, was struck by the driver of a city sanitation truck at the corner of Second Avenue and East 84th Street. NYPD told the Daily News and the Post that Schoonover tripped over trash bags and fell into the street. The driver was not charged.

Andrew Schoonover was at least the third pedestrian killed by a motorist in Jessica Lappin’s City Council district this year. In September, 65-year-old Pelagia Zingtapan was hit by a yellow cab driver, who was reportedly barreling through the intersection of 69th Street and First Avenue, horn blaring, at the time of the crash. In May, a 75-year-old man on crutches and wearing a reflective vest was run over by the driver of a box truck at First Avenue and 89th Street when he was caught in traffic as the signal changed.

In another serious crash, Elizabeth Brody, 28, suffered a brain injury in July when two yellow taxi drivers collided at Second Avenue and East 79th Street, sending one of the cabs spinning onto the sidewalk. No charges were reported filed in any of these crashes.

Lappin spoke at the City Council hearing on NYPD crash investigations in February. She was instrumental in opening up NYPD crash data, and has proposed a DOT office dedicated to road safety. But as of late, her agenda reflects a preoccupation with sidewalk bicycle riding and electric-assisted bikes, as reckless motorists continue to wreak havoc in her district and across the city. Twenty-nine pedestrians and six cyclists were killed by drivers in Lappin’s district between 1995 and 2009 (she was elected in 2005), while motorists injured 3,463 pedestrians and 974 cyclists during the same time span, according to DMV data compiled by Transportation Alternatives’ CrashStat.

An unidentified man was killed in East New York Sunday afternoon, in the second of two fatal weekend hit-and-run crashes. CBS 2 reported that, according to NYPD, the 42-year-old victim was walking south on Vermont Place at around 1:15 p.m. when he was hit by the driver of a livery cab, who was westbound on Highland Boulevard. The man died at Brookdale Hospital.

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James Neverson Killed by Motorist in East New York; No Charges Filed

An MTA bus driver was struck and killed on his way to work in East New York Tuesday morning.

James Neverson. Photo via Daily News

James Neverson, 63, of Canarsie, had parked his car and was crossing at the intersection of East New York Avenue and Alabama Avenue, near a bus depot, when he was hit by the driver of a Toyota sedan who was northbound on Alabama, according to reports. He died at Brookdale Hospital. From the Daily News:

A worker at the depot said Neverson had been with the MTA for 21 years. He also said that cars often speed past the depot after exiting the Jackie Robinson Parkway, which terminates one block east of the bus garage.

The News, the Post and DNAinfo all note that, according to NYPD, the driver remained at the scene. This is a critical piece of information, as it all but ensures that, regardless of other factors, a city motorist who kills a pedestrian or cyclist will not be charged criminally by police or prosecutors, as long as the driver is not legally drunk.

This fatal crash occurred in the 75th Precinct. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Deputy Inspector Stephen Capasso, the commanding officer, go to the next precinct community council meeting. The 75th Precinct council meetings happen at 7:30 p.m. on the first Wednesday of the month at the precinct, 1000 Sutter Avenue. Call the precinct at 718-827-3529 for information.

The City Council district where James Neverson was killed is represented by Erik Martin Dilan. To encourage Dilan to take action to improve street safety in his district and citywide, contact him at 212-788-7284 or Edilan@council.nyc.gov.

James Neverson was the 35th pedestrian or cyclist known killed in Brooklyn this year. Of those 35 crashes, one sober driver is known to have been charged by Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes for causing a death.

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Envisioning a Neighborhood Bike Plan for East New York and Brownsville

After local residents and community organizations began organizing to bring bike lanes to East New York and Brownsville last year, NYC DOT is developing a plan to stripe the first bike routes directly through these neighborhoods, and more could be on the way.

Mapping out the next phase of East New York bike routes. Photo: Ben Fried

The process underway in eastern Brooklyn offers an intriguing glimpse at how the city can develop neighborhood-scale bike plans — especially promising for areas with high rates of chronic disease, where safer biking and walking can encourage more physical activity.

About 20 people gathered at the YMCA on Jamaica Avenue yesterday evening to discuss what’s holding East New York residents back from biking more, and to share ideas with DOT and the Department of Health about how to improve local cycling conditions. They heard from DOT about two bike routes that are in the works and hashed out where they think more bike lanes should go.

The Department of Health is taking an active role in East New York because residents have higher-than-average incidences of chronic diseases like diabetes. According to department surveys, local residents report lower than average levels of physical activity, and DOH has identified street design as a major factor. Currently there are no bike lanes in the neighborhood, and many street crossings pose a challenge for pedestrians.

Working with local organizations like the Brownsville Partnership, the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation, and the Pitkin Avenue BID, DOH and DOT put on a group ride around the neighborhood last October and distributed surveys to find out how local residents want to improve local biking conditions.

As a result of those surveys, DOT identified two routes to serve as the backbone of the neighborhood bike network: a north-south route on Mother Gaston Boulevard and an east-west route on Pitkin Avenue. Both would consist of painted bike lanes between the parking lane and traffic lane where the streets are sufficiently wide, and sharrows where the streets are narrower. DOT has also mapped out locations for bike racks, which are currently very scarce in the neighborhood. The tentative plan is to show the bike routes to Community Board 16 this fall in preparation for spring 2013 implementation.

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Double Bus Lane and Sidewalk Extensions to Boost East New York Transit Hub

Federally-funded improvements at East New York's Broadway Junction would improve bus service and add pedestrian space at the important transit hub. Image: NYC DOT

The Department of Transportation unveiled a new design for one of Brooklyn’s most important transit hubs at a community board meeting Monday evening. By turning a single block of Van Sinderen Avenue into a one-way street, DOT plans to improve bus service and build new pedestrian space at East New York’s Broadway Junction, which serves five subway lines and five bus routes [PDF].

As it is, there’s not enough space near the main bus stop in the area. Livery cabs, which don’t have any designated curbside space, crowd out the buses that are supposed to stop there, forcing them to load and unload in traffic lanes. The sidewalk is packed with pedestrians and vendors; there’s no room available for badly-needed bus shelters and seating. Busy Van Sinderen is also difficult for pedestrians to cross.

Under DOT’s proposal, the block of Van Sinderen between Truxton and Fulton Streets would be converted into a one-way street with only one southbound lane reserved for private through traffic. Two lanes would be dedicated to buses, allowing plenty of room for them to pull around other buses loading and unloading at a different stop.

Both the sidewalk and the existing median would be expanded into the roadway, creating room for new bus shelters and dramatically shortening the distance to cross Van Sinderen.

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No Charges for Alleged Drunken Hit-and-Run Death of Brooklyn Woman

Contrary to media reports, the Domino’s Pizza delivery driver accused of killing pedestrian Margaret Myers in Brooklyn earlier this month is not facing charges for her death.

Margaret Myers. Photo via New York Post

NYPD sources told the Post and Daily News that Videsh Badal was drunk and driving with a suspended a license when he ran down Myers, 69, on Wortman Avenue in East New York on the evening of March 7. Badal kept driving. When a witness caught up with Badal and confronted him, he reportedly replied, “Well, who’s going to pay for my car?”

The papers reported that Badal was charged with manslaughter, DWI, resisting arrest and leaving the scene. But an online court database shows that leaving the scene is the current top charge against Badal. Other charges include third degree aggravated unlicensed operation and operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.

A spokesperson at the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes confirmed that Badal has not been charged for killing Myers. The spokesperson said the manslaughter charge could have been issued by NYPD, but dropped by Hynes’s office. The spokesperson said the case is now with the grand jury and said he could not speculate whether charges might be upgraded.

Another facet of this case, like many others, is that as far as readers of the Post and Daily News know, justice has been served. City media sometimes take notice when a killer driver is charged and gets off easy, but most often the public is left to assume that a commensurate charge will be levied, followed by a sentence that fits the crime, when in reality most cases end with a slap on the wrist.

According to the online database, Badal isn’t scheduled to return to court until September. He is currently being held on $20,000 bond, the Hynes spokesperson said.

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“The Best Is Yet To Come” at Newly Car-Free New Lots Triangle

More than 70 people packed into the New Lots Triangle in East New York this morning for the official ribbon cutting of a new public space, but perhaps the most important sign of the plaza’s popularity wasn’t the big crowd but the senior citizens who had simply stopped there to sit down and drink a cup of coffee.

The plaza, which was completed around six weeks ago, closed a short block of Ashford Street between Livonia and New Lots Avenues. That enabled the Department of Transportation to connect a tiny, 800 square foot triangle in the middle of the street to the sidewalk, creating a new 3,800 square foot space.

All that new public space was in heavy use today, as visitors were treated to a DJ playing hip-hop and reggae, a Thanksgiving turkey raffle, and the gospel choir of the local America Come Back to God Christian Academy, seen above singing “The Best Is Yet To Come.”

The best sign of a successful plaza? It's already in use by locals, including Ceciline Frank, on the right. Photo: Noah Kazis

But even before the event kicked off, East New York residents were enjoying the movable furniture in place. Ceciline Frank was walking past the area with a friend and decided to sit down and drink a coffee. “It’s a different environment,” she said of the plaza. “It’s an upliftment for us here.”

Eddie Di Benedetto, the owner of a local pizza parlor and the head of the New Lots Avenue Triangle Merchants Association, which sponsored the plaza, said businesses have already seen a boost from the new pedestrian space. “They love the fact they’re having tables and chairs,” he said. The plaza, he predicted, will become “a crown jewel of our community.”

According to Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, in 18 months the plaza will be upgraded from its current design, which uses granite blocks and planters to mark off the space, to a more permanent form.

The New Lots Triangle sits directly below the final stop on the 3 train in Brooklyn, and the station exit lets deposits people onto what used to be a narrow sidewalk. “You would get off the number 3 and actually step right off into traffic,” said Sadik-Khan. The plaza, she said, creates “a great new welcome mat for the community.”

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