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Posts from the "Park Slope" Category

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Eyes on the Street: Brooklyn Hit-and-Run Aftermath at 4th Ave and Degraw

An officer from the 78th Precinct inspects the vehicle on Degraw Street after its driver fled yesterday morning. Photo: Mike Donohue

After the driver fled the scene, a 78th Precinct officer inspects a car on Degraw Street. Photo: Mike Donohue

Reader Mike Donohue sends this eyewitness account of a driver who fled the scene of a crash in Park Slope Sunday morning.

At about 9:45 a.m., Donohue was on his bike, stopped at a red light on Degraw Street at Fourth Avenue. When the light turned green for traffic on Degraw, a driver heading north on Fourth Avenue ran the light and made a high-speed left turn onto Degraw, crashing into a road construction site and hitting a parked car. With airbags deployed and steam rising from the engine, Donohue says the driver got out “and started slowly jogging away.”

A group of people, including Donohue and members of the construction crew, began following the driver before he disappeared near the Wyckoff Gardens housing complex at Third Avenue and Baltic Street. Donohue called 911 while trailing the suspect before returning to the crash scene to snap a photo.

“I’m pretty sure criminality is suspected,” Donohue said. “At one point, the cops told me that he’d run over a little girl, and they were going to do everything they could to catch the guy.”

NYPD’s press office did not immediately have any information on the crash, and could not confirm that a child was injured. FDNY said it responded to a call at 9:52 a.m. of a pedestrian struck on Fourth Avenue at Union Street, two blocks south of Degraw. One person was transported to Methodist Hospital, but the fire department did not have information available on the victim’s age or condition.

Update (Thursday, October 2): 78th Precinct community council chair N. Wayne Bailey told Streetsblog that at the council’s meeting on Tuesday, officers said the crash resulted in some property damage but no injuries, and that they did not make any comments about a little girl being struck. NYPD continues to search for the driver.

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Eyes on the Street: Our Long PPW Bike Lane Nightmare Is Almost Over

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Repaved sections of Prospect Park West are being striped, with orange barrels marking the bike lane in the meantime. Until now, the lane had been erased, pushing northbound cyclists onto the sidewalk or into head-on traffic. Photo: Heather Boyer/Twitter

Lesson learned? Last week, DOT wiped away the Prospect Park West bike lane for street repaving without installing any temporary cones to preserve the bike route during construction. Drivers parked at the curb, pushing northbound cyclists into oncoming traffic or onto the sidewalk. Now, DOT has demarcated the bike lane with orange cones as it re-stripes the road.

There can be a gap of at least a month between repaving and restriping lanes and markings, including bike lanes. The wait on PPW should be shorter. Word on the street is that DOT expedited the job in response to complaints.

As of today, some but not all of the striping is back on the avenue’s northern blocks, with orange cones to the south. The cones direct drivers to the correct lane for parking and clear the bike lane to cyclists — something DOT should have done from the start.

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Eyes on the Street: DOT Replaces PPW Bike Lane With Parking

This is one of New York City's most famous protected bike lanes. Photo: @NoBikeLane/Twitter

This is one of New York City’s most famous protected bike lanes on a busy August day. Photo: @NoBikeLane/Twitter

During the warm summer months, lots of New Yorkers decide to hop on their bicycles and head for the nearest bike lane. That’s also when the city does much of its street repaving, and new asphalt is coming to Prospect Park West. But instead of maintaining the heavily used bike path with temporary materials, our bike-friendly DOT has decided that one of the city’s marquee bikeways will be erased for more than a week during one of the busiest cycling months of the year.

It’s a temporary victory for Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes.

Bike riders started reporting the closure yesterday. There was no advance notice of a detour. DOT says milling was completed today. Repaving, which the agency expects to be complete within seven business days, will begin Monday. The department’s paving schedule for next week indicates that crews will be working between Union Street and 20th Street in two sections, first north of 14th Street before moving south [PDF].

Some small white signs printed on white letter paper have been taped to nearby posts. ”Bike Lane Temporarily Closed,” they say. With the bike lane erased, drivers have begun parking at the curb, pushing cyclists into mixed traffic with car drivers. This is especially dangerous for northbound cyclists, who are now traveling head-on into traffic before ducking behind the street’s concrete pedestrian islands for protection.

As an alternative during construction, northbound cyclists can use Eighth Avenue. Riders looking for a route with less car traffic must detour to the more circuitous Prospect Park loop, which offers a series of inclines through the east side of the park.

This situation could have easily been prevented by installing cones or barrels after the street is milled but before new striping is installed. DOT did not answer questions about whether it considered maintaining the bikeway during this period with temporary cones.

Read more…

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New 78th Precinct Council Leader Has a Passion for Safe Streets

Last month, Wayne Bailey was elected to head the community council for NYPD’s 78th Precinct, which covers Park Slope, Prospect Park, and parts of adjacent neighborhoods. Bailey is a veteran neighborhood advocate and a long-time volunteer with Transportation Alternatives who has been involved with the precinct community council for years.

Wayne Bailey

Wayne Bailey

As Streetsblog readers know, under the direction of Deputy Inspector Michael Ameri, the 78th Precinct has emerged as a model for NYPD in the Vision Zero era. And as Bailey points out, Ameri was taking steps to address local street safety issues before Mayor de Blasio took office.

We asked Bailey via email about his new position, his plans for the council, and how the public can get involved to help make Brooklyn streets safer.

You were elected to the chair position, correct? How does that work?

Correction — no chair. The bylaws’ required positions are president, vice president, recording secretary, treasurer and sergeant-at-arms. [They] serve for two years and then stand for election, and then can only serve one additional two year term. To be eligible to vote you must attend four meetings, reside in the precinct or have a business interest. I was elected president at the June general meeting. [Editor's note: Joanna Oltman Smith, another name familiar to Streetsblog readers, was elected council vice president.]

I read that you’ve been active on the precinct council for a number of years. What motivated you to seek the [presidency]?

The community council is a conduit for communication to the precinct and from the precinct; I already am very involved in the community. I am a CB 8 board member at-large, member of the Dean Street Block Association between Sixth and Vanderbilt, and deeply involved in mitigating the quality of life construction impacts from the Atlantic Yards project. Volunteering for over six years at TA, member of the CB 8 transportation committee, [and] working with the 78th and residents on all forms of today’s traffic issues, I felt that I was highly qualified to articulate and support the mayor’s Vision Zero platform and help implement that plan! The NYPD is accountable to address myriad issues, not just street safety, with the resources under their command, so it is imperative that we prioritize street safety issues that make us safest first.

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Proposal to Turn Car Storage Into Human Housing Hits Brooklyn CB6 Tonight

This garage and its curb cuts could be transformed into housing, retail, and uninterrupted space for walking.

Just a reminder that today at 6 p.m., Brooklyn Community Board 6 will hold a public hearing about the conversion of a 230-car garage on Union Street into a mixed-use building with housing and retail.

While traffic on Union Street is bound to improve without all that car storage generating car trips, some nearby residents are mobilizing against the project by feeding fears of neighborhood-scale carmaggedon. The opponents even got the Park Slope Food Coop to help drum up turnout against the conversion.

Approval for this project ultimately rests with the Board of Standards and Appeals, not the Community Board, but if you believe that it’s better to use scarce city land to house people instead of cars, it will help to speak up at the meeting today.

Here’s where to go:

Prospect Park YMCA
357 9th Street, 7th Floor
(between 5th/6th Avenues)

6:00 p.m.

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Eyes on the Street: Sidewalks for Pedestrians at the 78th Precinct

Photo: Wayne Bailey

This sidewalk used to be a parking lot for police. Photo: Wayne Bailey

Props to the 78th Precinct and commanding officer Michael Ameri for this one. Reader Wayne Bailey sends photos showing that the 78th is starting to get the sidewalk parking situation under control near the precinct house. Previously this block of Sixth Avenue was occupied by officers’ personal vehicles:

Image: Google Maps

The old situation. Image: Google Maps

It might seem like a small thing, but this is a big deal for walking conditions near the 78th, which is right next to a subway station and retail blocks on Sixth Avenue, Bergen Street, and Flatbush Avenue.

Here’s what the sidewalk right in front of the precinct used to look like, with “combat parking” — vehicles perpendicular to the street, backed over the curb:

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Hundreds Gather to Launch the Park Slope Street Safety Partnership

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Photo: Doug Gordon

Last night, nearly 200 neighborhood residents gathered for over two hours in the Park Slope United Methodist Church for the launch of the Park Slope Street Safety Partnership, a consortium of civic groups, elected officials, and private citizens created to advance traffic calming efforts in the neighborhood.

Framing the partnership’s goals in terms of Vision Zero and the UK’s “Twenty is Plenty” campaign, Eric McClure of Park Slope Neighbors displayed a slide with this mission statement: “To initiate an ongoing conversation about, and action plan for, eliminating traffic deaths and serious injuries from our street…”

“The ellipses are intentional,” said McClure, noting that this would be just the first in a series of meetings. “We’re not going to fix this tonight.” But with the recent death of 12-year-old Sammy Cohen Eckstein in Park Slope, along with crashes that claimed the lives of 9-year-old Lucian Merryweather in Fort Greene and 3-year-old Allison Liao in Flushing, McClure highlighted a growing sense of urgency.  “Sixteen children have been killed in traffic crashes this year,” he said. “We need to fix that not just here in Park Slope, but citywide.”

Council Member Brad Lander emphasized the sense of passion in the church, relating the forum to other projects that succeeded on the strength of community involvement, from the redesign of Grand Army Plaza and Prospect Park West to improvements at Bartel Pritchard Square and along Fourth Avenue. “This crowd is very hopeful and inspiring,” he said. “By acting together, we can save lives.” Lander’s call was later echoed by Public Advocate-elect Letitia James, who said that in her new role she would “remind Bill de Blasio that this is a priority… so that we never have to light candles, sing songs, and bury individuals prematurely.”

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Samuel Cohen Eckstein, 12, Killed by Van Driver on Prospect Park West

Samuel Cohen Eckstein, a 12 year-old boy about to celebrate his bar mitzvah, was killed yesterday at the intersection of Third Street and Prospect Park West in Park Slope. NYPD says the crash investigation is ongoing and as of now there are no arrests or summonses for the driver who ran him over. Although police would not release information about the driver, NYPD said that “preliminary results” show that Cohen Eckstein “ran into the street.”

The Daily News reports that Cohen Eckstein was bouncing a ball off a monument at the entrance to Prospect Park, across the street from his home, at about 5:15 p.m. yesterday when the ball rolled into the street and he chased after it. NYPD says that Cohen Eckstein suffered trauma to his torso and was taken to Methodist Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Cohen Eckstein was hit by the driver of a white 2006 Chevrolet van belonging to New Wave Design of Sunnyside, Queens. Photos and reports from the scene indicate the driver was moved to the back seat of an NYPD cruiser after the crash, but he was later released. NYPD would not release the identity of the driver of the van; Streetsblog’s calls to New Wave Design have not been picked up and lead to a full voicemail box.

Park Slope Stoop reports that Cohen Eckstein was planning to celebrate his bar mitzvah next month.

Cohen Eckstein’s parents, Gary Eckstein and Amy Cohen, spoke at community meetings in support of traffic calming and the protected bike lane on Prospect Park West. “I like to pick up my kids from Hebrew school on my tandem,” Eckstein said at a 2011 community board meeting about PPW. “Before it wasn’t safe, but now I can do it.”

“The city feels much safer than when we started,” Cohen said in a 2008 Los Angeles Times article about bicycling in New York.

Eckstein was also interviewed for a 2008 New York Times article about malfunctioning pedestrian signals. “My kids have been noticing them around Park Slope,” he said, noting that some pedestrian signals do not work properly during the walk phase. “Although confusing, it is probably not as dangerous as it could be.”

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Brooklyn CB 6 Reverses Course, Supports Fourth Avenue Traffic Calming

The proposal calls for wider medians and a southbound left-turn ban at 3rd Street. Image: NYC DOT

One month after Brooklyn Community Board 6 passed a resolution condemning DOT’s safety proposal for Fourth Avenue, upending months of public workshops and the decision of its own transportation committee, the full board voted 21-3, with two abstentions, to support a modified version of the plan at a special meeting last night.

Beginning in February, DOT held public workshops to craft the plan, which is similar to changes that were supported by CB 7 and implemented in Sunset Park last year. The street would be tamed with wider pedestrian medians, left-turn restrictions, and a reduction from three lanes in each direction to two. DOT project manager Jesse Mintz-Roth noted that the workshops attracted up to 100 people each. “There’s been extensive public input on this project,” he said.

In the wake of CB 6′s unexpected rejection of the plan, Council Members Brad Lander and Stephen Levin, who appoint members to the board, asked DOT to move forward without the CB’s stamp of approval. But board chair Daniel Kummer urged DOT to modify the plan before last night’s special meeting, which he called specifically to address the Fourth Avenue project.

Most of DOT’s presentation last night [PDF] focused on the plan’s benefits not only to pedestrians, but also drivers. Mintz-Roth reviewed the rationale and planning process behind the proposal, which did not receive much explanation at last month’s meeting before the board voted to reject it.

The tweaks DOT made to its plan were relatively modest, but include some changes that will weaken the safety benefits of the original proposal.

  • The new plan retains three lanes of traffic northbound on Fourth Avenue starting at Carroll Street, rather than Union Street, as previously planned. This change adds two extra blocks where DOT retains the existing street design to accommodate morning rush hour backups.
  • There are now six left turn bans from Fourth Avenue, rather than eight. Under the new plan, left turns from northbound Fourth Avenue to Degraw and Bulter streets have been retained. As a result, the median in these locations will not be widened as much as previously planned.
  • A painted curb extension will be added at the southeast corner of Fourth Avenue and Fifth Street. Separately, Fifth Street is on track to receive speed humps before the start of the school year, at the request of the principal of M.S. 51.

Along with an extensive question-and-answer session with DOT staff, these changes were enough to win the unanimous support of the transportation committee and the overwhelming support of the full board.

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Lander and Levin to DOT: A Safer Fourth Avenue Can’t Wait

The left-turn bans opposed by CB 6 protect pedestrians from turning drivers and widen medians while reducing crossing distances. Image: NYC DOT

City Council members Brad Lander and Steve Levin are urging NYC DOT to move forward with safety improvements for Fourth Avenue in Park Slope despite a vote against the proposal by Brooklyn Community Board 6.

The Daily News reported today that in response to the CB 6 vote, DOT might take out some of the left-turn bans in its proposal. The turn bans reduce conflicts between motorists and pedestrians, and free up space for wider medians and shorter crossings. Lander and Levin endorse them. In their joint letter to Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, the council members say they “look forward to seeing any modifications you propose in the very near future” but that they disagree with the CB 6 vote against the plan and want to see it implemented this summer.

Here’s the meat of the letter:

DOT conducted extensive community outreach to gather input and share ideas for improving safety on 4th Avenue. We were pleased to have taken part in the 4th Avenue Task Force, convened by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, and the subsequent public planning process organized by DOT with the support of the Park Slope Civic Council’s Forth on Fourth Committee and the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. DOT conducted a well-attended public traffic safety workshop for community members on February 13 to gather input, utilized an innovative online input map (nyc.gov/4thAve), held an open house on April 9 to display the proposal, met with principals from 6 schools along the corridor, and made presentations to the CB2 and CB6 transportation committees during May to gather feedback.

After having participated in the planning process and having heard from numerous residents and other stakeholders in our districts and along the corridor, we support your proposal. The Corridor Safety Improvements you propose – similar to improvements implemented on 4th Avenue in Sunset Park from 15th Street to 65th Street last year – will narrow traffic from three lanes to two lanes in both directions south of Union Street, and southbound north of Union Street (leaving three northbound lanes from Union Street north toward Flatbush). This will calm traffic, allow for longer turn bays (a major improvement for drivers), and allow the medians to be significantly widened (a major improvement for pedestrians). Because left turn bans have worked further south on 4th Avenue—to reduce safety risks for pedestrians and drivers alike—your proposal will ban selected left turns along the corridor in pedestrian-heavy locations near subways and schools, and where opposing left turns have contributed to a large number of crashes.

We are aware that on June 12, 2013, Brooklyn Community Board 6 (CB6) resolved by a vote of 18 to 9, with 5 abstentions, to disapprove DOT’s proposed redesign of 4th Avenue. During our terms in elected office, there have been very few instances in which our position on an issue differs with that of a local Community Board, and doing so is not a decision we take lightly. However, given the severity of the safety risks along 4th Avenue, we respectfully but strongly disagree with CB6’s rejection of the proposal.