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Posts from the Brad Lander Category


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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State DOT Commits to Improve Deadly Intersection and Study Ocean Parkway

Drivers at the deadly intersection of Ocean Parkway and Church Avenue. After a long delay, the state DOT has committed to safety improvements and promises to study 38 intersections along the rest of Ocean Parkway. Photo: Doug Kerr/FlickrEE

After delaying action on a NYC DOT pedestrian safety plan that local residents voted to fund, the state DOT says that it’s not only “in general agreement” with the plan, but supports specific changes to be implemented as soon as this fall. In addition to upgrades at the intersection of Church Avenue and Ocean Parkway, state DOT also says it’s examining the safety of 38 intersections along Ocean Parkway, but details about that study remain murky.

State DOT’s decision to support pedestrian safety improvements comes after months of what Council Member Brad Lander has characterized as obstructionism. The state delayed the project even after 73-year-old Ngozi Agbim was killed by a turning truck driver in the very crosswalk slated for changes.

In a press release issued yesterday afternoon, state DOT announced that it had agreed to:

  • A new pedestrian island on the north side of the intersection, including new pedestrian signals, high-visibility crosswalk markings, and protective barriers;
  • Narrower traffic lanes to provide space for the pedestrian island;
  • New traffic signals with flashing yellow arrows, indicating that drivers turning right should yield to pedestrians;
  • Signage on the southbound Prospect Expressway alerting drivers to the stop light at Church Avenue; and
  • Speed limit signs on Ocean Parkway reminding drivers of the citywide speed limit of 30 mph.

The flashing yellow arrows are a new addition to the plan; Lander’s office says they were added by state DOT, but still require sign-off from NYC DOT’s signals division. It’s unclear whether yellow signals would be installed for all right turns at the intersection, or just for drivers turning right from Church Avenue to the Prospect Expressway — the turn a truck driver was making when he ran over and killed Agbim in June.

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After Delay, State DOT Says Plan for Deadly Kensington Intersection Due Soon

NYC DOT has already installed a pedestrian island on the south side (bottom) of the intersection of Church Avenue and Ocean Parkway. Installing a pedestrian island on the north side of the intersection, where an elderly woman was killed in June, is stalled until the state DOT signs off. Photo: Bing Maps

This morning, Council Member Brad Lander delivered a stack of petitions to Governor Cuomo’s Midtown office demanding approval from the state DOT for a pedestrian safety fix that his constituents developed with NYC DOT. It may happen: State DOT says that it will complete a final design with the city by the end of next month.

In April of last year, Lander’s constituents voted in the district’s participatory budgeting process to spend $200,000 in discretionary funds on pedestrian safety improvements [PDF] at the intersection of Ocean Parkway and Church Avenue, a dangerous crossing in Kensington where nine lanes of traffic move north-south and five lanes move east-west.

NYC DOT developed a plan to add a median pedestrian island and other improvements to the north side of the intersection, where Ocean Parkway becomes the Prospect Expressway. Because it includes a state-owned expressway, state DOT permission is required before the city can implement the project.

Even with local elected officials and the city supporting a specific fix, Lander says the state stalled on approving it, rejecting it twice before June 2013. “What they seem to have been saying is, ‘We don’t want to make the north side safer because we prefer that people cross on the south side of the intersection,'” Lander said, noting that a sign at the existing north-side crosswalk discourages pedestrians from crossing there. “That’s not a very good way of keeping people safe.”

Lander added that a few years ago, NYC DOT installed a pedestrian island on the south side of the intersection, where state DOT approval is not required.

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Eyes on the Street: Bike Contraflow Over the Gowanus

Union Street looking west at Nevins. The contraflow bike lane is separated from eastbound car traffic by a dashed double-yellow line. Photo: Keith Williams

Reader Keith Williams, who blogs at The Weekly Nabe, recently got a few shots of the brand new contraflow bike lane in progress on Union Street. This project will add a sorely needed westbound bike connection across the Gowanus Canal — part of a route that jogs from Degraw, down to Union, then back up to Sackett [PDF].

The contraflow lane on Union is notable for a few reasons.

One, it came out of Council Member Brad Lander’s 2012 participatory budgeting process. In the end it wasn’t paid for with Lander’s discretionary funds (other projects got more votes), but because Lander put out the call for ideas, it got NYC DOT’s attention. So, chalk one up for community-based planning.

Two, I believe this is a first for NYC — a contraflow bike lane separated from opposing traffic with a dashed double-yellow stripe. Other contraflow lanes, like the one on Union Square North, have more separation from traffic, but there’s not always enough room for that. Bike lanes like the new one on Union work in other cities and promise to make the city’s bike design toolkit more flexible.

Adding more contraflow lanes could help fill in some missing links in the bike network. A few years ago, for instance, Brooklyn Community Board 2 member Mike Epstein proposed a short contraflow segment to help bridge gaps in the bike network at the confluence of Flatbush, Third Avenue, and Lafayette Avenue.

You can catch more photos of the Union Street project at the Weekly Nabe.


Lander Intros Bill to Push NYC Bus Service to the Next Level

Yesterday, Council Member Brad Lander introduced a bill that would require DOT, in consultation with the MTA and the public, to create a citywide master plan for developing Bus Rapid Transit.

The busway that wasn't: The abandoned plan for a 34th Street transitway would have created NYC's first separated bus lanes. Image: NYC DOT

The bill, if enacted, would require the agency to submit a plan to the City Council, borough presidents, and community boards within two years. At a minimum, the plan must:

  • Identify areas of the city in need of better access to transit
  • Designate “priority corridors” within and between boroughs that can have BRT within 10 years
  • Identify strategies for connecting BRT to existing and planned transit services, including ferries
  • Estimate capital and operating costs for each BRT route

The plan does not have to be updated on a regular basis, but Lander is open to future modifications.

Although City Council members and mayoral candidates alike profess enthusiasm for BRT, upgrading the city’s bus network faces major hurdles. So far, the Select Bus Service program has attracted new riders and shaved trip times, but without any physically-separated or center-running busways, the routes don’t qualify as “true BRT” as defined by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.

SBS has rolled out at a pace of about one route per year. While two routes in the Bronx have been implemented with strong local backing, crosstown routes in Manhattan were either watered down (on 34th Street) or cancelled (on 125th Street) after facing pushback from businesses and local politicians. Meanwhile, flashing lights on SBS buses — which help riders tell them apart from local buses — remain dark due to Albany inaction.

While the MTA signaled its commitment to continuing the rollout of enhanced bus routes by releasing an updated “phase two” SBS map this week, it’s an open question whether the next administration’s DOT will be committed to the heavy lifting required to reallocate road space for dedicated busways.

Read more…


Lander: NYS DOT Rejected Improvements to Deadly Brooklyn Intersection

Eugene Agbimson, brother-in-law of Ngozi Agbim, called for changes to the intersection where she was killed and to laws regulating truck travel in NYC. Photo: Office of City Council Member Brad Lander

Safety measures proposed for a crash-prone Brooklyn intersection where a senior was killed by a truck driver this week were rejected by New York State DOT, according to City Council Member Brad Lander.

Joined by local residents, traffic safety advocates and family of Ngozi Agbim, Lander held a rally this morning at Ocean Parkway and Church Avenue, at the terminus of the Prospect Expressway, in Kensington. With nine lanes of north-south traffic and five lanes east-west, there were 36 pedestrian and cyclist injuries and four fatalities at the intersection between 1995 and 2008, according to Transportation Alternatives’ CrashStat.

Tri-State Transportation Campaign ranks Ocean Parkway as one of the most dangerous streets in Brooklyn, citing six pedestrian fatalities between 2009 and 2011.

Lander included a line item for improvements to the intersection among his FY 2013 participatory budget proposals, securing $200,000. But he says the State DOT rejected a proposal from NYC DOT for a pedestrian refuge between northbound and southbound traffic. Instead, according to Lander, NYS DOT wants to eliminate the crosswalk altogether.

“Without the crosswalk, residents would have to walk a block out of their way and wait for three crossing signals instead of one,” said Lander, via press release. “Cars would speed by even faster. And many pedestrians would certainly still cross there anyway, far more exposed to speed, danger, and future tragedies.”

On Monday at approximately 9:40 a.m., Agbim, 73, was crossing nine lanes of traffic east to west when she was struck by a semi truck driver who was attempting a right turn from Church Avenue onto Prospect Expressway, according to reports.

Agbim died at the scene. The truck driver, Eric Turnbach of Sugarloaf, Pennsylvania, was cited for failure to exercise due care, the Daily News said.

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Ngozi Agbim, 73, Killed by Truck Driver at Crash-Prone Brooklyn Intersection

According to reports, Ngozi Agbim was walking toward this truck when the driver ran her over. The trucker was cited for failure to exercise due care. Photo: Daily News

A senior was struck and killed by a truck driver at a crash-prone intersection in Brooklyn Monday.

At approximately 9:40 a.m., Ngozi Agbim, 73, was attempting to cross the nine lanes of traffic where Church Avenue crosses Ocean Parkway, at the terminus of the Prospect Expressway, as the truck driver was making a right turn. Witnesses told the Daily News the victim pounded on the truck before she fell and was run over by the rear wheels.

If the Daily News account is correct, Agbim was walking east on Church Avenue and the truck driver was westbound on Church before attempting the turn onto Prospect Expressway. That would mean Agbim was walking toward the truck when the driver entered the intersection.

Agbim, who was on her way home from church, died at the scene. A retired head librarian at LaGuardia Community College, she is survived by her husband and three children, according to the Daily News.

The truck driver, Eric Turnbach of Sugarloaf, Pennsylvania, was cited for failure to exercise due care, the Daily News said. Church Avenue and Prospect Expressway are on a truck route, but trucks exceeding 55 feet in length are not allowed on surface streets without a permit. Video from the scene indicates that the trailer of Turnbach’s truck is 53 feet long.

In addition to Agbim, semi truck drivers have killed at least six pedestrians on NYC surface streets in the last 10 months.

It is not known if the truck involved in this crash was equipped with crossover mirrors, which give truck drivers a better view of pedestrians who are directly in front of them. Trucks registered outside New York are exempt from the state’s crossover mirror requirement. We have a message in with Central Pennsylvania Transportation, the Lancaster-based company that owns the truck.

Read more…


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 (, 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.


Who Will Be the Second City Council Member to Sign Up for Bike-Share?

While current and former City Council transportation chairs James Vacca and John Liu reacted to bike-share with paranoia and fear, at least one council member was breaking out the credit card: Brooklyn’s Brad Lander posted this tweet after signing up for a Citi Bike subscription yesterday.

Any of Lander’s colleagues have a lower membership number than he does? If not, who’s next?


Participatory Budgeting Offers Chance to Vote for Livable Streets Projects

Eight city council members have put a portion of their discretionary capital funds up for a vote as part of an exercise in participatory budgeting, which allows residents to decide how the money will be spent in their own neighborhoods. Votes in each district are approaching soon, and there’s an opportunity to support livable streets projects.

With participatory budgeting, residents of a City Council district have a say in how $1 million in discretionary capital funds are spent. Photo: Daniel Latorre/Flickr

The participating council members are David Greenfield, Brad Lander, Stephen Levin, and Jumaane D. Williams of Brooklyn; Dan Halloran, Eric Ulrich, and Mark Weprin of Queens; and Melissa Mark-Viverito of Manhattan. Each has put up $1 million in discretionary capital funds, with residents submitting ideas that will appear in early April on a final ballot, open to district residents age 16 and older.

In Lander’s district, stretching from Cobble Hill to Borough Park, there are five projects related to pedestrian safety and livable streets:

  • A Safe Routes to School project at Yeshiva Torah Temimah, on Ocean Parkway near 18th Avenue [PDF];
  • Extending an upcoming DOT capital project on Church Avenue by adding curb extensions at Coney Island and McDonald Avenues [PDF];
  • Constructing a larger plaza space at the triangle intersection of Church Avenue, 14th Avenue, and 35th Street;
  • Adding capital funds to an existing DOT project on Hicks Street, to gain concrete curb extensions and improve visibility at the intersection with Congress Street;
  • Creation of a new concrete pedestrian plaza adjacent to a community garden at Van Brunt Street and Hamilton Avenue.

Lander is hosting a science fair-style expo where residents can learn more about the projects on the ballot, this Thursday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Park Slope branch of the Brooklyn Public Library.

Council Member Stephen Levin’s office identified two projects that may be of interest in the district, stretching from Park Slope to Greenpoint along the East River waterfront:

Read more…