PARK SLOPE – Deputy Mayor Laura Anglin visited Park Slope Thursday morning to join Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Council Member Brad Lander, senior NYC DOT officials, and transportation advocates for a walkthrough of the 9th Street Vision Zero safety redesign.
DOT crews began work on 9th Street earlier this month to create shorter and safer crossings for pedestrians, install protected bike lanes and loading zones on both sides of the street, and calm traffic on the 9th Street corridor between Prospect Park West and 3rd Avenue.
“We all remember that terrible day back in March when a crash on 9th Street took the lives of two children and an unborn baby,” said NYC DOT’s Brooklyn Borough Commissioner, and Park Slope resident, Keith Bray. “Following that tragic crash, with the full support of Mayor de Blasio, our designers and engineers worked closely with the Park Slope community to quickly and thoughtfully develop a safe and smart plan for 9th Street. Under Mayor de Blasio’s leadership, we are right now transforming 9th Street and making it safer for all users and all lives in the community.”
DOT officials led a brief tour of the work being done on 9th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues, with crews pouring down green paint close to the curb on the south-side of the street to indicate the new protected bike lanes. Freshly painted white lines create a buffer between bicyclists and parked cars as well as direct motorists to park away from the curb and closer to the travel lanes. Curved markings at the intersections provide more space for pedestrians when waiting to cross and direct drivers to slow down when making turns.
“Ninth Street is a high crash corridor,” Bray noted. “Between 2012 and 2016, twelve people were killed or seriously injured on 9th Street between 3rd Avenue and Prospect Park West. That’s 13.6 people killed or severely injured per mile. That [puts] 9th Street [in] the top third of Brooklyn corridors for traffic deaths and serious injuries.”
“What happened here to Abigail and Joshua should have been a wakeup call but unfortunately it is not. We are not doing enough,” said Brooklyn Borough President Adams. “Families for Safe Streets, Transportation Alternatives, and others have been sounding this alarm for far too long. The mere fact that we left the legislative session in Albany without a speed camera bill states that we are just not getting it.”
All 140 speed cameras situated by schools across the city were turned off on July 25 after the NYS Senate refused to renew and expand the bill before the end of the legislative session on June 21.
“We are here at this corner now two weeks before the start of school, and those speed cameras are off and not set to be back on before the first day that our kids will be going to school,” Council Member Lander said. “I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again, I’ve given up on [Senate Majority] Leader John Flanagan and his [Republican] conference because they don’t seem to value the lives of our kids more than their summer vacations.”
“Governor Cuomo has the power to call the State Senate back into session, and when they get there, if they don’t want to vote to turn those cameras back on, he can’t make them,” Lander added. “But, boy, if that happens, shame on them.”
“Before Dorothy Bruns killed Abigail and Joshua she had been in a hit and run last fall,” the Council Member noted. “She had been told by her doctor that she shouldn’t be driving and she had received five camera violations for speeding in school zones and running red lights, so we already knew that she was a reckless driver who was a risk to the lives of our kids and our families.”
Lander said along with Bruns, there are 26,000 other drivers in NYC who have racked up five speed camera violations in one year. “Most drivers, if they get a violation at one of those cameras, never get another one,” he said. “Eighty percent of drivers get one and then they slow down. That’s why the cameras are so effective because they get people to slow down in front of our schools.”
“It’s a small percentage, but 26,000 is a large number of drivers out there…who are driving their cars like weapons aimed at their neighbors, and we are not going to let up on that,” Lander continued. “We are going to continue until we have stronger policies to get the most reckless drivers off our streets.”
“The paint that went down here today, the lines that we’ve drawn on the street, they shouldn’t happen only after two toddlers die,” said Families for Safe Streets‘ Amy Cohen, whose 12-year-old son Sammy Cohen-Eckstein was struck and killed by a van on Prospect Park West in 2013. “On this street…there were two boys who died a few blocks away. My son died just a few blocks up the hill. They should be done on every single street.”
Cohen said that Families for Safe Streets and Transportation Alternatives joined NYC Council Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez last week to introduce a bill for Vision Zero design standards. “It is a bill that is needed so that we don’t have more children dying and then we paint the street after they are dead,” she said. “We need those changes now. It is unconscionable that the Senate adjourned and didn’t put the speed cameras in front of schools. I have no idea what they have in their minds and I cannot understand how they can sleep at night when someone dies.”
Cohen explained to BKLYNER after the press conference that the proposed bill lists “a dozen or so changes” that the city would be required to implement as a standard “on every street every time the city does a major repair.” Some of the items on the list include pedestrian islands, leading pedestrian interval signals, and protected bike lanes. These simple, inexpensive recommendations are “really about making sure that drivers get a message that there are other people on the street besides them,” Cohen said.
DOT presented the preliminary 9th Street redesign in May at a town hall-style workshop in response to the fatal crash at 9th Street and 5th Avenue that killed 4-year-old Abigail Blumenstein and one-year-old Joshua Lew and subsequently caused Blumenstein’s mother, who was seven months pregnant at the time, to miscarry.
DOT also presented the 9th Street Comprehensive Street Redesign to the Community Board 6 Transportation Committee in June where the committee voted unanimously to approve the plan, recommending that it be implemented as soon as possible along with additional conditions. Some of the conditions include addressing the number of trucks that travel and double-park on 9th Street despite the corridor not being a truck route as well as introducing plans for the western part of the street (west of 3rd Avenue).
DOT’s Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Bray, said during the Q&A portion of Thursday’s event that the agency is currently looking into these two concerns and will return with solutions in the coming months. The current 9th Street redesign work is expected to be completed by mid-September.
“Sadly we can’t bring Abigail Blumenstein and Joshua Lew back to their families but we can make their memory into a blessing that saves future lives, makes our community safer for thousands of families,” Lander said. “When this [work] is done, we will be able to remember them in a way that builds a community in which people are safer.”