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Posts from the "Prospect Heights" 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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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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Motorists Take the Lives of Human Rights Worker and Senior in Brooklyn

A senior was killed by a motorist in Bensonhurst this weekend, and a Prospect Heights pedestrian who was struck by an alleged drunk driver earlier this month has died from her injuries.

Roxana Gomez

On July 5 at around 12:25 a.m., Roxana Gomez was walking at Flatbush Avenue and St. Marks Avenue when she was hit by a BMW sedan driven by Eric Nesmith, according to witness accounts and the Post. The Post said Nesmith hit Gomez “a split second after the car in front of him swerved around her.”

Gomez suffered massive head injuries, and was administered CPR by an emergency room nurse who lives near the scene. She died on July 10.

Gomez, 27, was a Columbia grad student who worked for the human rights org MADRE.

Nesmith, 25, of Newark, was charged with DWI, according to the Post and online court records. The Post reported that Nesmith ”admitted to cops he had consumed up to six Coronas at a family gathering” before the crash. His BAC was .126, the Post said.

As of now, Nesmith has not been charged for Gomez’s death. A spokesperson for the office of District Attorney Charles Hynes said charges against him could be upgraded this week.

On Saturday at approximately 9:05 p.m., 79-year-old King Fong was struck by a motorist at Bay Parkway near 72nd Street. From the Post:

A 79-year-old woman talking on her cellphone and crossing against the light was fatally struck by a car just one block from her Bensonhurst home, police sources said today.

The driver remained at the scene, and detectives said no criminality was suspected.

When a pedestrian or cyclist is killed by a sober motorist who stays at the scene, NYPD tends to leak only those details that point to the blame-worthiness of the victim. As usual, the Post repeats this information without question, and makes no mention of other possible contributing factors, such as how fast the driver was traveling at the time of the collision.

Older pedestrians suffer disproportionately from traffic violence in NYC, and according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog, Fong was at least the third pedestrian age 60 or older to die in traffic in the 62nd Precinct since last December. You won’t find those details reported in the Post either.

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Pedestrian Seriously Injured by Motorist in Prospect Heights Last Night

Photo: Zach Fried

A pedestrian was seriously injured by a motorist in Prospect Heights early this morning, according to witnesses and FDNY.

At around 12:25 a.m., the driver of a BMW sedan struck a woman at Flatbush Avenue at St. Marks Avenue. The crash happened near the home of Zach Fried and his fiancée, an emergency room nurse who administered CPR to the victim.

The victim sustained massive head injuries, according to Fried. An FDNY spokesperson told Streetsblog she was transported to Kings County Hospital in cardiac arrest.

Fried said FDNY responders indicated that the driver was speeding, and that NYPD told his fiancée the driver was arrested for DWI. The NYPD public information office had no record of the crash. This is typical for crashes in which no one is pronounced dead at the scene.

This crash occurred in the 78th Precinct. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Deputy Inspector Michael Ameri, the commanding officer, go to the next precinct community council meeting. The 78th Precinct council meetings happen on the last Tuesday of every month at 7:30 p.m. at the precinct, 65 Sixth Avenue. Call 718-636-6410 for information.

The intersection where this crash occurred is on the border of City Council districts represented by Steve Levin and Tish James. Contact Levin and James to encourage them to take action to improve street safety in their districts and citywide.

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Eyes on the Street: Reason Number 6,734,090,855 NYC Needs Speed Cams

Turn up the volume and listen for the sociopathic pacesetter about halfway through this clip. This is southbound Vanderbilt Avenue in Prospect Heights, recorded with my bike-mounted camera at the intersection with Dean Street at about 9:40 p.m. last night.

Vanderbilt has become much more walkable and bikeable since DOT implemented a road diet about five years ago, converting a motor vehicle lane into pedestrian medians and painted bike lanes. By and large, car traffic is calmer. But there are still some maniacs who don’t get the engineering cues, and if they have enough space in front of them to open up the throttle, they’ll treat this crowded city street like a racetrack.

This is behavior that kills, but police aren’t ticketing the drivers who do it. That’s why NYC needs automated enforcement.

A proposal that would allow the city to set up speed enforcement cameras for the first time is alive in Albany, and we’ll have an update about it later this afternoon.

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Eyes on the Street: Scenes From Flatbush Avenue

Flatbush Avenue and Prospect Place, southeast corner. Photos: Ian Dutton

Thanks to Ian Dutton for these great shots from Flatbush Avenue, where pedestrians are being allotted more space on five side streets from Prospect Park to Atlantic Avenue.

The materials are designed to be temporary, but it’s remarkable what a little paint and plastic can accomplish. According to Ian, crossing distances at Prospect Place and Sterling Place have been reduced by 50 percent. Not bad for a few hours’ work.

Flatbush at Park Place and Carlton Avenue

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DOT Makes Room for Pedestrians on Flatbush Avenue

A conceptual before-and-after sketch of how the new neckdowns on Flatbush Avenue side streets will look. Image via North Flatbush BID

Ahead of a 2014 capital project that will shorten crossing distances for pedestrians on the stretch of Flatbush Avenue between Grand Army Plaza and Atlantic Avenue, DOT this week is installing temporary sidewalk extensions on side streets at five intersections.

Crews will be painting extensions on Bergen Street, St. Marks Avenue, Prospect Place, Sterling Place and St. Johns Place where those streets intersect with Flatbush, according to a DOT flier. The pedestrian areas don’t extend into the roadbed of Flatbush itself but should calm traffic turning onto the cross streets. The intersection of Carlton Avenue and Park Place will also see an expansion of pedestrian space. In addition to paint, plastic bollards will be installed to delineate the new pedestrian areas.

“Working with the North Flatbush BID, Community Boards, and elected officials, DOT has over the past several years fully repaved the roadway, added pedestrian countdown signals, limited turns for safety, and retimed the signal progression during off-peak hours,” said Craig Hammerman, district manager of Community Board 6, in an email announcement. The temporary spaces “will set a footprint” for the 2014 improvements, which will include permanent sidewalk extensions and the reconstruction of four triangular parks, Hammerman said.

Efforts to make this stretch of Flatbush Avenue safer have been in the works for several years. More than 200 pedestrians and cyclists were injured, and two cyclists were killed, on Flatbush between Atlantic Avenue and Eighth Avenue from 1995 to 2009, according to Transportation Alternatives’ CrashStat.

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Barclays Center Opening Weekend Traffic: Not a Total Disaster

Many residents and elected leaders from the neighborhoods near the Barclays Center in Prospect Heights are letting out a sigh of relief after steeling for gridlock this weekend. Sellout crowds for the arena’s first events — three Jay-Z concerts — did not completely overwhelm nearby neighborhoods with traffic, but the strain on local streets was still clear.

Traffic generated by the first events at the Barclays Center was not as heavy as expected, but there are still problems. Photo: Mark Bonifacio/Daily News

“It wasn’t as bad as we expected,” Danae Oratowski, chair of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, told Streetsblog.

Council Member Letitia James said her office was “pleasantly surprised that we did not receive as many complaints as I had anticipated.”

Despite the relative smoothness of the arena’s opening, there were rough spots. Early indications show that the share of event-goers taking transit may not be as high as predicted during the arena’s planning, while free curbside parking on local streets seems to be irresistible to many drivers looking to avoid paying at parking garages and lots. Sidewalk space fell short of what was needed to handle the number of pedestrians, especially when the concerts let out, which led police to close Atlantic Avenue to vehicles in order to accommodate crowds leaving the arena.

After the concerts ended on Friday and Saturday, NYPD barriers proved to be ineffective crowd control, as sidewalks filled up near the intersection of Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street and along Atlantic Avenue. Presently, there is no crosswalk for people leaving the arena’s mid-block Atlantic Avenue exit. “The sidewalks are too small to accommodate the crowd,” said James.

Traffic management around the arena was supplemented by additional NYPD personnel for opening weekend. “One of the reasons it worked so well is that there were vast numbers of police officers on the streets,” Oratowski said. “I don’t know if that’s really a sustainable plan for the future.”

Not that the traffic management provided by police necessarily improved matters either. NYPD officers waved many drivers through red lights, leading to conflicts with crossing pedestrians and cyclists who had a green light. Safety apparently wasn’t the top priority. 78th Precinct Captain Michael Ameri told the Patch, ”I’m in a good mood because traffic is moving well.”

A large portion of concertgoers got to the event by subway. Turnstile exits at the recently rechristened “Atlantic Ave-Barclays Center” station increased 6,754 in the four hours before the show compared to other Fridays in September, according to MTA data analyzed by WNYC. If all of those additional riders were going to the Barclays Center, they would make up approximately one in three concert attendees at the sold-out 19,000-seat arena.

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Eyes on the Street: Return of the Guerrilla Separated Bike Lane

Photo: Ian Dutton

Brooklyn’s new guerrilla bike lane has a life of its own.

Last week we shared some pictures of a makeshift separated bike lane on the block of Bergen Street between Sixth Avenue and Flatbush Avenue, which is usually blocked by NYPD squad cars from the 78th Precinct. Enterprising local resident Ian Dutton had re-purposed some plastic construction posts to keep the cop cars out, and it worked until Con-Ed had to use the posts to steer traffic around some utility work again.

But lo and behold, after a weekend of heavy construction on this block, the posts are back protecting the bike lane, and there are more of them than ever. Ian says it wasn’t him this time. Either some beneficent Con-Ed workers are keeping an eye out, or there’s a new livable streets vigilante in town.

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Eyes on the Street: Guerrilla Bike Lane Separation on Bergen Street

Streetsblog reader and former Manhattan Community Board 2 standout Ian Dutton has hit upon a low-cost way to keep the Bergen Street bike lane clear of NYPD squad cars. The short piece of Bergen between Sixth Avenue and Flatbush is routinely blocked by the 78th Precinct’s vehicles, so Ian took advantage of some idle Con-Ed construction posts (they had been left by the curb during some utility work) to clearly mark off the bike lane. The markers went down on Monday and they kept the squad cars out at least until Wednesday evening. Today Ian reports that Con-Ed is using the cones to direct traffic away from a cut in the street, and the separation is gone — for now.

Ian bravely decided to claim responsibility for this act of guerrilla bikeway design. It’s a good thing we’re not in Indiana, where livable streets vigilantes have to operate in the shadows.