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Posts from the "Fort Greene" Category

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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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As Lucian Merryweather’s Family Grieves, Charges Against His Killer Reduced


Lucian Merryweather was one of at least 10 children age 12 and under killed by a New York City motorist in the last 12 months. As his family tries to cope with his death and joins others in demanding an end to traffic violence, court records say charges were downgraded against the driver who killed Lucian and injured his younger brother, Theodore.

“Our life the way it was is over,” said Lucian’s father, Gregory Merryweather, in a video by Sam Hagens, Leon Mastik, and Pieter Munnik, posted last week on The Nabe, a site produced by the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. ”So ‘normal’ isn’t really the point anymore. It’s about finding another way to exist.”

“When you step back and look at it, you are surprised that that is your new community. You never envision yourself being one of those people.”

Anthony Byrd, 59, was indicted last month for the November 2 crash, which also injured a third pedestrian. Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson described what happened in a February 14 press release:

According to the indictment, video surveillance showed that on November 2, 2013, at 12:49 PM, Byrd drove his 2000 Ford Expedition westbound along Dekalb Avenue. As Byrd made a left hand turn onto Clermont Avenue, he narrowly avoided hitting two pedestrians who were walking their dog. Byrd’s S.U.V. then swerved to the right and onto a sidewalk where he struck the exterior of a restaurant, The Black Iris, located at 228 Dekalb Avenue, and a parked vehicle. Pedestrians can be seen on the video running as the vehicle made a U-turn onto the sidewalk.

Byrd then accelerated his vehicle in a diagonal direction into oncoming traffic on Dekalb Avenue. The vehicle then struck a westbound car while driving in the wrong direction along Dekalb Avenue. According to the indictment, Byrd then veered off Dekalb Avenue and onto Clermont Avenue, where he struck and broke the leg of pedestrian Elaine Driscoll, 29. Byrd then hit 4-year-old and 9-year-old brothers who were walking down the street with their mother, Anna Kovel.

Lucian was pinned under the SUV and died at the scene. Theodore was severely injured, according to the press release.

“The death of this innocent 9-year-old child and the severe injuries to his 4-year-old brother were truly tragic and avoidable and we will seek to hold the defendant accountable for his actions,” Thompson said in the release. “The people of Brooklyn must be free to walk down the streets of our borough without fear that they may be run over or injured by a motorist driving dangerously.”

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Park Avenue in Clinton Hill Awaits Fixes as Another Crash Caught on Camera

Last September, local elected officials joined the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership and students from Benjamin Banneker Academy on Brooklyn’s Park Avenue to clock speeding drivers. The Partnership released a report offering suggestions to city agencies about how to improve pedestrian safety on the dangerous avenue, which has a crash rate higher than three-quarters of Brooklyn streets. More than a year later, the city has yet to advance any significant changes.

In the meantime, the crashes continue. One hotspot is the intersection with Washington Avenue, which in the span of 20 days saw two drivers run red lights and crash into other vehicles, sending vehicles onto the sidewalk or through the crosswalk. Last month, a driver heading north on Washington Avenue ran a red light and struck another vehicle traveling west on Park Avenue. The westbound driver careened onto the sidewalk, and the car smashed through the front door of the Fresh Fanatic supermarket. The store captured the crash on its security camera.

Then last Tuesday at approximately 11:20 a.m., a northbound driver on Washington ran the same light, crashing into a westbound van driver before spinning through the crosswalk and into a bike-share station (above). Immediately after this crash, a third driver began driving the wrong way on the eastbound lanes of Park Avenue, crashing head-on into an SUV. FDNY says four people were transported to Woodhull Hospital after last week’s back-to-back crashes, including one person with serious but nonfatal injuries.

“We are puzzled that DOT isn’t taking the next logical step and prioritizing this project,” the Partnership said in a statement last week.  In addition to NYCHA’s Ingersoll and Whitman Houses, there are eight schools along this short stretch of Park Avenue. Community Board 2 unanimously supported the plan in June 2012 and a petition has gathered more than 1,000 signatures. The project is also supported by Council Member Letitia James, Assembly Member Joe Lentol, and Borough President Marty Markowitz.

“The traffic along Park Avenue has been consistently dangerous,” James said in a statement. “It is time DOT take action to address safety along the strip.”

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88th Precinct Botches Traffic Fatality Stats As Families Demand Enforcement

Last night, dozens of protestors gathered in Fort Greene to remember the at least 14 New Yorkers under the age of 18 killed in traffic so far this year, including Fort Greene’s own Lucian Merryweather, 9, and demand more traffic enforcement from the police. Chanting “NYPD, make it safer on our streets” and “safe streets, slow down,” the march entered the 88th Precinct’s community council meeting for a question-and-answer session with the precinct’s commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Scott Henderson.

Marchers at last night's traffic safety protest in Fort Greene. Photo: Dmitry Gudkov

Marchers at last night’s traffic safety protest in Fort Greene. Photo: Dmitry Gudkov

“Five children have been killed on the streets of New York City in less than five weeks’ time since the end of September,” march organizer Hilda Cohen said. “The death of an innocent child is an unbearable tragedy, and each one is preventable.”

Automobile crashes are the leading cause of injury-related death for New York City children. Last night’s march comes a week after a similar march in Jackson Heights, where Amy Tam and Hsi-Pei Liao spoke about their 3-year-old daughter Allison, killed by a turning driver who ran her over in the crosswalk as she walked with her grandmother. Tam and Liao came from Flushing to march in last night’s protest.

Amy Cohen and Gary Eckstein, whose son Sammy was killed by a driver on Prospect Park West, spoke at the march. “This past Saturday was supposed to have been his bar mitzvah,” Cohen said. “Too many children are dying on our streets.” Cohen called on the NYPD to increase its enforcement of speeding and failure to yield to pedestrians and urged the City Council to pass a bill to lower the speed limit to 20 mph in residential neighborhoods. She also urged Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio to choose transportation and police commissioners who will prioritize street safety.

“When you are on the street, your life is in someone else’s hands — everyone else’s hands. And most of these hands are on the steering wheel of a car,” said Esme Brauer, 11. “Drive safely. Follow the rules of the road. Please.”

After reading the names of New York City children killed by drivers so far this year, marchers then walked to the corner of Clermont and DeKalb Avenues, where Merryweather was killed on the sidewalk by a reckless driver, before continuing to the 88th Precinct’s community council meeting. At the meeting, Henderson expressed sadness over Merryweather’s death before defending the precinct’s traffic safety record.

A flier from the precinct referencing the crash that killed Merryweather was distributed at the meeting warning drivers not to speed, text, or drive drunk. Cohen later thanked Henderson for the education material targeting drivers, but at the beginning of the meeting, Henderson revealed his ignorance concerning traffic safety in his own precinct. Henderson said that before Merryweather’s death, there had not been a traffic fatality in the 88th Precinct since 2008. The audience began to murmur loudly and Henderson called the disruption “disrespectful.”

In the front row, immediately in front of Henderson, was Jacob Stevens, whose wife Clara Heyworth was killed by an alleged drunk driver in 2011 in the 88th Precinct. Charges against her killer were dropped after a botched NYPD investigation.

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At Merryweather Vigil, Public Advocate-Elect Pledges to Push for Safe Streets

About 150 people gathered at Clermont and DeKalb Avenues last night to remember Lucian Merryweather, 9, who was killed on the sidewalk by a reckless driver. Photo: Stephanie Keith/DNAinfo

About 150 people gathered at a vigil last night for Lucian Merryweather, the nine year-old killed on the sidewalk by a reckless driver who jumped the curb at the intersection of Clermont and DeKalb Avenues in Brooklyn.

Speakers at last night’s vigil included Merryweather’s family and friends, Council Member Tish James, who was elected to the Public Advocate’s office yesterday, Assembly Member Walter T. Mosley, council member-elect Laurie Cumbo, and neighborhood residents, including actress Rosie Perez.

At the rally, James said that she has spoken to mayor-elect Bill de Blasio about the importance and immediacy of improving street safety. ”There was a lot of grief and anger,” James told Streetsblog today. “Clearly something has to be done.”

Merryweather was at least the tenth child age 13 and under to be killed by a New York City driver so far this year, according to data compiled by Streetsblog. Anthony Byrd, 59, the driver who killed Lucian Merryweather, faces felony assault and a number of other charges brought by Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes. He is scheduled to appear in Kings County Criminal Court on Friday.

James told Streetsblog that she spoke with DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly about Merryweather’s death, and is expecting the 88th Precinct to announce new traffic enforcement plans soon. James said she’d like to see stings using undercover officers for speeding, texting, and reckless driving on DeKalb, Lafayette, Washington, and Lafayette Avenues.

In August, the latest month for which data is available, the 88th Precinct issued six speeding tickets and did not issue any tickets for failure to yield to pedestrians [PDF]. The precinct’s next community council meeting will be held on November 19 at 7 p.m. at the French Speaking Baptist Church at 209 Clermont Avenue, a block from the site of the crash.

Community members interested in safer streets are also invited to a meeting this Saturday hosted by Make Lafayette Safer, organized by Hilda Cohen, who lives three blocks away from where Merryweather was killed. “I just wanted to give community members a way to see that they can become the people who make changes,” she said. “It’s one thing to be at the vigil and say something, and it’s another to get out there and do something.”

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Vigil in Fort Greene for Lucian Merryweather Tonight

There will be a vigil tonight for Lucian Merryweather, the child who died last weekend when a motorist drove onto a sidewalk in Fort Greene.

Lucian was 9 years old. He was at least the tenth child age 13 and under to be killed by a New York City motorist in 2013, according to data compiled by Streetsblog.

Anthony Byrd was charged with assault and homicide after the crash, which occurred in the 88th Precinct. As of September, the precinct had issued 53 speeding tickets this year, and three tickets for failing to yield to a pedestrian.

Tonight’s event is organized by Tish James’s office. “My heart goes out to the victims and loved ones affected by the tragic vehicular incident that took place in Fort Greene today,” James said, via a press release posted by Brooklyn Spoke. “I will be working with the Department of Transportation to review the details of the incident, and specifically determine what measures can be taken to increase driver and pedestrian safety along De Kalb Avenue.”

The vigil is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the corner of Clermont and DeKalb. “We invite local faith leaders, safe-street advocates, and community members to join us,” the press release said.

Precinct community council meetings are an excellent opportunity for members of the public to speak directly to officers who are responsible for keeping local streets safe. The commanding officer of the 88th Precinct is Deputy Inspector Scott M. Henderson. According to the precinct, the next community council meeting will be held on November 19 at 7 p.m. at the French Speaking Baptist Church at 209 Clermont Avenue, a block from the site of this crash. Call 718-636-6526 for more information.

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Charles Hynes Brings Rare Felony Charge in Vehicular Killing of 9-Year-Old

Two motorists were charged for killing pedestrians in the Bronx and Brooklyn this weekend. The alleged driver in the Wakefield crash was charged with murder, and there’s a solid chance that if convicted he will face significant jail time. And though the outcome of the case is far from certain, District Attorney Charles Hynes brought a rare felony charge against the man who allegedly drove onto a sidewalk and struck a 9-year-old boy in Fort Greene.

Anthony Byrd was charged with a class D felony for the death of 9-year-old Lucian Merryweather. Potential sentences range from seven years in jail to probation. Photo: Daily News

Reports in the Times, the News and the Post say that on Saturday afternoon, Anthony Byrd, 59, hit two cars and a building after swerving to avoid two people in a crosswalk at DeKalb and Clermont Avenues. He then reportedly made a U-turn and drove the wrong way on DeKalb, struck a 28-year-old woman in a crosswalk, hit a parked vehicle, and drove onto the sidewalk a second time, striking Lucian Merryweather, his 5-year-old brother, and their mother, who were standing at the northeast corner of the intersection.

Lucian was pinned under the SUV and died at the scene. His brother was hospitalized in stable condition. The boys’ mother was not admitted to a hospital, reports said.

According to court records, Byrd was charged with assault, criminally negligent homicide, first and second degree reckless endangerment, criminal mischief, and a number of traffic infractions, including driving against traffic on a one-way street.

It is rare for NYC prosecutors to file felony charges against a sober driver who remains at the scene of a crash, but it does happen — at least in Brooklyn. In 2010, Hynes charged Michael Oxley with homicide for the killing of cyclist Jake McDonaugh on Flatbush Avenue. In 2007, Alfred Taylor was charged with homicide for the death of a cyclist in Bedford Stuyvesant.

More unusual is that Hynes brought an assault charge in this case. Assault is a class D felony, punishable by up to seven years, but which can also result in no jail time or probation. Relatively speaking, the more common top charge would be criminally negligent homicide — a class E felony, the least severe felony category, which carries a maximum penalty of four years in jail, and a minimum of no jail time or probation.

The rationale for bringing charges against a sober driver who remains at the scene is not usually defined, but there could be a link between serious charges and more brazen forms of recklessness. The Michael Oxley case hinged on the defendant running a red light. Saturday’s incident was a particularly chaotic and devastating crash, even by NYC standards, and allegedly involved wrong-way driving. Byrd is also a registered sex offender.

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Here’s What’s Next for the Flushing Ave Segment of the Brooklyn Greenway

Image: NYC DOT/DDC/Parsons

The next phase of Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway construction on Flushing Avenue will build a raised two-way bikeway and planted buffers alongside the Brooklyn Navy Yard, creating a safer, more appealing environment on what has already become a much-used bike route. Here’s a look at the recently unveiled design from NYC DOT, the Department of Design and Construction, and project consultant Parsons.

As the city builds out the permanent greenway, reconstructing Flushing Avenue is one of the most important capital projects – a mile-long link connecting the Manhattan Bridge approach, DUMBO, and Farragut Houses to Williamsburg Street West, Kent Avenue, and Williamsburg/Greenpoint. The major upgrade entails converting the existing westbound curbside bike lane into a two-way bikeway at sidewalk grade, separated from motor traffic by a three-foot, planted cobblestone buffer. Another planting strip will separate the bikeway from the pedestrian path. For pedestrians, adding this bikeway will narrow crossing distances substantially — about 20 percent.

The Flushing Avenue greenway segment will add an eight-foot-wide, two-way bikeway at sidewalk grade and shorten crossing distances for pedestrians by about 20 percent. Image: NYC DOT/DDC/Parsons

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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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Scenes From Last Night’s Bike-Share Forum in Fort Greene

Last night, Council Member Tish James held a public forum after receiving complaints about bike-share stations in her district, covering Fort Greene and Clinton Hill. The event, held inside Sacred Heart Church on Clermont Avenue, attracted an audience of about 100, with a small majority there to show support for bike-share. For two hours, residents expressed support or vented frustration at the microphone, with James and NYC DOT Policy Director Jon Orcutt stepping in to provide information.

At the start of the meeting, James said she was saddened to see that bike-share stations had been defaced with posters. “You don’t have the right to deface public property,” she said.

Although the flyers glued onto stations focused heavily on corporate sponsorship and historic preservation, James dismissed this argument from the start. “Tonight’s meeting is not about corporate branding. Not going there,” she said. “Tonight’s meeting is not about, ‘Should this be in a landmarked district?’” Despite her ground rules, the issue came up repeatedly from audience members.

The issue that commanded the most discussion last night, however, was on-street parking.

First, some facts: There are 6,800 on-street parking spots in the area bounded by Classon Avenue, Fulton Street, Flatbush Avenue and Flushing Avenue. In that zone, 22 bike-share stations were installed, adding 600 public bike docks. Two-thirds of the stations are on the sidewalk, after community meetings revealed a preference for that type of installation. Stations that were installed in the roadbed took 35 parking spaces, Orcutt told the audience – one half of one percent of the total number of spaces in the neighborhood.

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