One month after the tragic bus accident that killed a 4-year-old boy, Manhattan Beach’s civic organizations are grappling with outraged parents from P.S. 195. But as frustration mounts, the likeliest catalyst for change may not be the civic organizations that have worked for years for traffic safety, but from a lawsuit filed by the victim’s mother.
Irina Liberman, the mother who was also injured in the October 7 accident, and a dozen or so parents from P.S. 195 attended the Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Assocation’s November 1 meeting, demanding more action in traffic safety initiatives.
Liberman came to the meeting with an enlarged photo of her deceased son, Evan Svirsky, holding it up during an emotional plea to the group to make the streets safer [video above].
“We came from different [Soviet] republics, which had wars, which had guns, killing people,” Liberman said, as tears streamed down her face. “We came [to America] to live, but we got our child killed. Not in Russia, here, in America. I cannot look at him because he’s still alive, I’m in denial, he’s still alive. Please understand, he was such a precious child.”
The meeting echoed that of the Manhattan Beach Community Group, which occurred a week earlier. At both meetings, parents bombarded the civic association’s leadership with questions about why more hasn’t been accomplished. But, with a week’s passing and little done, the MBNA faced more intense outrage from parents.
Waves of frustration rippled throughout the group, as President Alan Ditchek and Traffic Committee Chairperson Ron Biondo urged patience, explaining that traffic safety has remained the group’s top priority but that the city has failed to move on the issue for years. Many of the parents, though, expressed doubt that either of the community’s civic groups – the MBNA and the MBCG – could accomplish much after trying for so long.
But, just days after the meeting, it was announced that the concrete planters – long a sticking point for both groups – would be moved in a concession to community anger. That anger was most palpable at the MBCG meeting a week prior, where the mayor’s community liaison, Charles Glover, was pelted with accusations and demands. Sources told Sheepshead Bites that Glover’s report to the mayor ultimately spurred action on the planters.
The achievement, though, was minor. The planters played no role in the Svirsky’s death, and is likely a quick fix the city implemented to assuage outcry. But both groups keep a slew of demands on the table, including more traffic lights, enforcement and the removal of zebra stripes that they say create a false sense of security for pedestrians, as impatient commuters frequently drive on them to pass illegally.
Ultimately, the most effective impetus on the city to implement changes may come from outside the groups.
Liberman and her husband, Dmitry Svirsky, are filing a lawsuit against the MTA, alleging that the bus operator was driving recklessly. She said she hopes it will spur the city to embrace safety initiatives around the elementary school and playground. They’re also considering suing the city for improper design and maintenance of Oriental Boulevard.
“What we are asking for is safety,” Liberman told Courier-Life. “There needs to be big signs telling traffic to slow down and more police patrolling.”
Officials have not yet determined whether the bus driver was speeding, Courier reported.