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Posts from the Park Slope Category

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Good Riddance to the Prospect Park West Bike Lane Lawsuit

Here to stay. Photo: NYC DOT

The people suing to remove the Prospect Park West bike lane have given up, more than five years after initiating a lawsuit that nearly sank New York City’s bike program.

In a statement, Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes and Seniors for Safety (“organizations” that, to the best of my knowledge, now stand in for two people — former Brooklyn College dean Louise Hainline and former deputy mayor Norman Steisel) say they are dropping the lawsuit because it “is unlikely to result in any significant change.”

The irony, though, is that the lawsuit was the centerpiece of a campaign that did lasting harm to the whole city.

Steisel and Hainline filed suit in March 2011 after months of saber-rattling by Jim Walden, a corporate lawyer at Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher whose services they acquired pro bono thanks to former NYC DOT commissioner Iris Weinshall.

The purpose of the lawsuit wasn’t so much to win in court as to inflict maximum political damage on NYC DOT until the city cried Uncle. It was news because it was a lawsuit about bike lanes, not because it had any legal merit. And it was the perfect vehicle to lob unsubstantiated attacks at the city’s bike program.

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Witness Account of Park Slope Collision Contradicts NYPD Victim-Blaming

If, as NYPD says, the cyclist collided with vehicle head-on, why is the rear tired destroyed? Photo: Toby Cecchini

A witness believes the cyclist who was severely injured in Park Slope Wednesday night was struck from the side, not head-on, as NYPD claims. Photo: Toby Cecchini

A witness believes the driver who severely injured a 20-year-old cyclist Wednesday night in Park Slope T-boned the victim as he rode across Sixth Avenue in the Ninth Street bike lane with the right of way — contrary to NYPD’s claim that the victim was hit head-on while biking against traffic on Sixth Avenue.

The crash happened at around 9 p.m. NYPD said the 25-year-old motorist was southbound on Sixth Avenue between Ninth and 10th streets when the cyclist, traveling northbound on Sixth, “suddenly reared into the southbound lane, causing a collision.”

But Toby Cecchini, who had just crossed Sixth Avenue on the north side of Ninth Street when he heard the crash behind him, thinks this account is inaccurate.

I did not see the cyclist, but my impression was that the driver’s version is incorrect. From the sound behind and to my left, and the debris field, I believe the cyclist was crossing Sixth in the same direction I was, heading [westbound] in the bike lane just to my left. His bike was struck directly from the side, very obviously from my photos, and so this corroborates that. Had the cyclist been riding as the driver maintains, his bike would have been crushed head-on, in a completely different manner. Also, the cyclist would have gone face-first into the windshield and had his face mutilated. Clearly, he went sideways or even backwards into the windshield, from the way his scalp had been taken off from the rear, and from how he ended up with his feet pointing upwards initially, sticking out through the windshield. Also his face was intact, which makes the driver’s assertion impossible.

At the time of the collision, Cecchini had just reached the curb and was walking with the signal, meaning the cyclist would have had the green light as well. After the crash, Cecchini said, the driver was “shouting loudly that the cyclist swerved into him from nowhere and repeating it loudly over and over.”

The preliminary report from the NYPD Collision Investigation Squad reflected the driver’s version of the story, which Cecchini said he overheard at the scene, and was disseminated by the department’s public information office. NYPD told Gothamist the motorist was waiting at a red light on Sixth at Ninth just before the collision.

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NYPD: Critically-Injured Cyclist Caused High-Speed Park Slope Collision

NYPD blamed this collision on the cyclist, despite a witness account that the driver was speeding. Photo: Toby Cecchini

NYPD blamed this collision on the cyclist, despite a witness account that the driver was speeding. Photo: Toby Cecchini

A 20-year-old man is in critical condition after he was hit by a driver while riding a bike in Park Slope last night. Though a witness said the driver was speeding, police blamed the victim for the crash.

NYPD said the 25-year-old motorist was traveling southbound on Sixth Avenue near Ninth Street in a Honda sedan when the northbound cyclist “suddenly reared into the southbound lane, causing a collision.”

Police accounts cited by Gothamist said the cyclist was riding against traffic in the southbound lane. NYPD told Gothamist the motorist had been waiting at the red light at Sixth and Ninth just before the collision occurred.

The victim went head-first through the windshield into the vehicle’s passenger compartment, according to NYPD. Photos of the scene show the windshield was destroyed, a sign of high-speed collision.

Toby Cecchini, who witnessed the crash and tended to the victim before police arrived, told Gothamist the driver came “flying past” before he heard what sounded like an “explosion.”

Cecchini said the victim “was canted into the front passenger seat, his legs sticking out through the windshield.” According to Cecchini, the driver was “shouting loudly that the cyclist swerved into him from nowhere and repeating it loudly over and over to different group[s] of people.”

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Citi Bike Expands South of Atlantic Avenue

A newly-installed Citi Bike station outside the Fifth Avenue Key Foods in Park Slope. Photo: @brooklynsja

A newly-installed Citi Bike station outside the Fifth Avenue Key Foods in Park Slope. Photo: @brooklynsja

Yesterday, Citi Bike began installing stations in the Brooklyn neighborhoods south of Atlantic Avenue and west of Prospect Park. A few stations are already operating, according to the Citi Bike station map, with a total of 73 set to go live in the area in the coming weeks.

All told there are 139 new bike-share stations coming online this year, with another batch in the pipeline for 2017.

The initial expansion map for this part of Brooklyn called for 20 stations per square mile, spreading them farther apart than the 23 per square mile in the initial Citi Bike service area. This was a problem, since longer walking distances between stations make the system less useful.

In May, DOT proposed 11 more station locations [PDF], bringing the station density in line with the rest of the system (but still short of the 28 per square mile recommended by the National Association of City Transportation Officials).

The eleven "infill" stations added by DOT after the initial station map was approved are marked in black. Image: DOT

The 11 black stations are “infill” added to the initial station map. Image: DOT

Here’s a look at a few more of the new stations that have gone in since yesterday:

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Why Not Fix the Flatbush/Atlantic/Fourth Hellscape With a Traffic Circle?

The Flatbush/Atlantic/Fourth traffic circle concept from Perkins Eastman, with bike lane in blue.

The Flatbush/Atlantic/Fourth traffic circle concept from Perkins Eastman, with bike lane in blue.

Could a traffic circle tame cars and trucks at the chaotic intersection of Flatbush, Atlantic, and Fourth avenues in Brooklyn? A team of architects thinks so.

Earlier this week DOT held a public workshop about improving pedestrian safety in this area, where heavy traffic on wide, two-way streets meeting at irregular angles creates exceptional hazards. Motorists injured 78 people walking and biking there between 2010 and 2014, according to DOT, and have killed four pedestrians and one cyclist in the project area since 2008. Over half of pedestrian injuries occurred while the victim was crossing with the signal.

DOT’s draft plan would add pedestrian islands, curb extensions, and crosswalks, while leaving the basic geometry of the streets intact.

Perkins Eastman transportation project designer Jonathan Cohn, who lives in Park Slope, presented a different idea at the DOT workshop — a traffic circle.

It’s a rough concept that has yet to be fleshed out in detail, but one that merits strong consideration. With a traffic circle, left turns across multiple lanes of traffic would be eliminated, which should provide a major safety boost. The traffic pattern would be simpler for pedestrians to negotiate. Cohn’s concept also calls for a two-way bikeway around the edge of the circle.

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78th Precinct Honors Mike Ameri’s Commitment to Safe Streets

The unofficial Michael Ameri bike lane on Bergen Street. Photo: @BrooklynSpoke

Michael Ameri made sure the 78th Precinct respected this block of the Bergen Street bike lane Photo: @BrooklynSpoke

The Bergen Street bike lane between Sixth Avenue and Flatbush was unofficially christened the “Inspector Michael Ameri Bike Lane” yesterday in honor of the late commander of NYPD Highway Patrol.

Outside the 78th Precinct, police officers, Public Advocate Letitia James, and local residents honored Ameri, who took his own life on May 13, for his commitment to safe streets. Ameri served as commanding officer of the 78th before taking the reins at Highway Patrol in July of 2014. It was at the precinct where he acquired a reputation for taking the safety of pedestrians and cyclists seriously.

Ameri shoveling the Bergen Street bike lane in 2014. Photo: N. Wayne Bailey

Ameri shoveling the Bergen Street bike lane in 2014. Photo: N. Wayne Bailey

Early in 2014, Ameri began holding monthly community meetings on traffic safety in the 78th Precinct. Residents were pleasantly surprised by his responsiveness to their concerns. “That to me really gets to what Mike Ameri was all about,” said Eric McClure of Park Slope Neighbors. “He helped to embrace the community aspect of policing, and he really came to value Vision Zero.”

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78th Precinct: Don’t Blame Us For Deadly Trucks on Neighborhood Streets

Brooklyn’s 78th Precinct has developed a well-earned reputation for taking street safety seriously, but it wasn’t on display at last night’s precinct community council meeting, where local residents grilled police on the death of cyclist James Gregg last Wednesday and the lack of truck route enforcement in Park Slope.

78th Precinct Commanding Officer Deputy Inspector Frank DiGiacomo.

78th Precinct commanding officer Frank DiGiacomo.

Deputy Inspector Frank DiGiacomo, the precinct’s commanding officer, and Wayne Bailey, who serves in the volunteer position of precinct community council president, spent the meeting deflecting responsibility from the precinct and pointing fingers elsewhere.

A week ago, a big-rig driver struck and killed the 33-year-old Gregg on Sixth Avenue near Sterling Place, which is not a truck route. At the crash scene, officers blamed Gregg, telling passersby that he had been hanging onto the side of the truck’s trailer.

An initial NYPD statement on the crash said “no criminality” was suspected on the part of the truck driver, and that Gregg had “collided into [the] rear tire of the tractor trailer.” A second police statement said the truck driver overtook Gregg and “something like a wind force… sucked the bicycle toward the back of the truck.” The day after Gregg’s death, the department said that “for unknown reasons [Gregg] fell to the ground and was struck by the rear passenger tires of the tractor-trailer,” issuing five summonses to the driver for going off-route and various equipment violations.

It’s not unusual for police officers to jump to conclusions and erroneously blame victims for their own deaths. Gregg’s death occurred less than a week after police claimed Lauren Davis was biking against traffic on Classon Avenue when she was struck and killed by a turning driver. A witness who saw Davis traveling in the direction of traffic has since upended NYPD’s initial account.

Attendees at last night’s community council meeting chastised DiGiacomo for the false information that came out in the immediate aftermath of the crash that killed Gregg. When questioned about what the precinct could do to hold dangerous drivers accountable, DiGiacomo argued that the responsibility for investigating violent crashes lies with Highway Patrol. “It’s a highway investigation. Somebody died, they’re the professionals. It’s up to them,” he said.

Crash investigations are conducted by the Crash Investigation Squad, which, as DiGiacomo said, is part of the Highway Patrol. But precinct officers also respond to crash scenes, and it was an officer with the 78th Precinct who was telling passersby that Gregg had been hitching a ride on the side of the trailer. DiGiacomo asked for the officer’s name but gave no indication he would take steps to prevent victim-blaming conjecture at crash sites in the future.

The 78th Precinct only issued five truck route citations last year, and at the time Gregg was struck and killed, it had issued none in 2016. Then, following the crash, officers were seen ticketing off-route truck drivers.

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Off-Route Semi Truck Driver Kills Cyclist in Park Slope [Updated]

Update: Times reporter Andy Newman tweeted a DCPI notice concerning this crash. NYPD identified the victim as 33-year-old James Gregg. Police say the truck driver and Gregg were traveling the same direction on Sixth Avenue when Gregg “collided into the rear tire of the tractor trailer.”

Update: Andy Newman tweeted a quote from police indicating the truck driver passed the cyclist, causing the collision. Also, I contacted National Retail Transportation, which operates the truck. When I explained why I was calling, the person who answered the phone said “I don’t know anything about that,” and transferred me to a customer service employee’s voicemail.

A truck driver killed a cyclist in Park Slope this morning.

The victim, a 33-year-old man, was riding on Sixth Avenue at Sterling Place when he was hit at around 8 a.m., according to the Daily News. Police had not released the victim’s name as of early this afternoon.

The truck was an 18-wheeler. Sixth Avenue at Sterling Place is a narrow neighborhood street. It’s not a truck route, but big rig drivers are a problem there.

Trucks longer than 55 feet are allowed on New York City streets with a permit, but only if the load is “non-divisible,” such as construction beams. A trailer carrying boxed or other loose cargo, like the one involved in this crash, would not be permitted on surface streets if the total truck length exceeds 55 feet.

Park Slope resident Rob Underwood says locals have tried for years to get the 78th Precinct to enforce truck route violations. As of March, the precinct had issued no truck route tickets in 2016, according to NYPD data. Precinct officers issued just five truck route citations last year.

Photo: Eric McClure

Photo: Eric McClure

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Adding Curb Space for Cars vs. Space for Bikes — DOT’s Double Standard

Whenever curb space is reallocated for bike parking in New York City, the process is intensive. Getting NYC DOT to install a bike corral usually involves lots of signature gathering, and even when a business wants one by their storefront, the local community board can shoot it down. The process can take months or even years, if it ever succeeds at all.

But if DOT decides to add curbside car parking, they often do it without a second thought — or any public notice. Case in point: DOT has added curbside parking at two locations in Park Slope, taking away a loading zone on one street and hindering visibility on another. Neither change was brought to the local community board prior to implementation.

In October 2013, when this Google Street View photo was taken, there was roughly 15 yards of open curb on the northern corner of Baltic Street at Fifth Avenue. Approaching drivers and pedestrians could get a clear view of each other. But as of September 2014, DOT had removed a “No Standing” sign there. Now motorists may park to the edge of the west crosswalk. This makes it harder for drivers on Baltic, which is one-way eastbound, to see pedestrians as they approach Fifth. Likewise, people in the crosswalks can’t see approaching vehicles as well as before.

From 2009 to 2014, two pedestrians and five cyclists were injured in crashes where Baltic meets Fifth Avenue and Park Place, according to city crash data. Three motor vehicle occupants were also hurt there during that time frame — a sign of collisions occurring at high speeds. Another person was injured at the intersection in 2009, but city data does not indicate whether the victim was walking, riding a bike, or in a car.

New York City allows motorists to park to the edge of crosswalks, but as Streetsblog has reported, the National Association of City Transportation Officials recommends 20 to 25 feet of clearance around crosswalks to improve sight lines. Pedestrian deaths and injuries caused by turning drivers are frequent, and a bill pending in the City Council would require DOT to daylight 25 intersections per year. In other municipalities, it is simply illegal to park right up against a crosswalk.

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PPW Bike Lane Lawsuit Will Be Decided on the Merits — Bring It On

Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Bert Bunyan ruled yesterday that Prospect Park West bike lane opponents did indeed file suit before the six-month statute of limitations had run out. The case will proceed after all.

The outcome is a surprise, since Bunyan reversed his initial 2011 decision to dismiss the suit. The case only had legs because an appeals court kicked it back to Bunyan in 2012. But here we are.

What this means, as far as I can tell, is that there will now be a trial to rule on the actual merits of the bike lane opponents’ case. I’m waiting to hear back from the law department about whether the city can or will appeal this decision, but even if the city can appeal, why drag this out any longer? The lawsuit has no merits.

Years before DOT replaced a traffic lane on PPW with a two-way protected bike lane, Brooklyn Community Board 6 sent a letter asking the agency to study a two-way protected bike lane on PPW. Prospect Park West had a speeding problem and people wanted DOT to fix it. The bike lane-plus-road diet was the city’s response. The redesign went through the usual community board process and has worked as advertised since it was installed.

Knowing all that, the people suing the city, Louise Hainline and Norman Steisel, need their pro bono attorneys from Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher to prove that DOT’s decision to implement the bike lane was “arbitrary and capricious.”

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