Big Story

Dangerous Ocean Parkway Intersection Claims Another Life

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Scene of the incident last night, where a right turning box truck with Bread depo logos on the sides killed a pedestrian crossing Ocean Parkway. Photo by Sam Polcer.

We are incredibly sad to report that last night another life was claimed at the intersection of Church Avenue and Ocean Parkway, four years after 73 year old neighbor Patricia Ngozi Agbim lost hers in the summer of 2013, despite the traffic safety improvements.

The police have not released many details, only saying that the death was caused by a box truck turning right from Westbound Church Avenue onto Northbound Ocean Parkway, and striking the pedestrian crossing the intersection around 9:30 pm. They have not identified the driver, a 57 year old man who remained at the scene, nor the victim, who is a man also believed to be in his fifties. The victim was taken to the Methodist Hospital where he was pronounced dead, the investigation is ongoing, and we are likely to know more in a couple of days.

Improving safety at this intersection has been on the minds on neighbors for years. It was a winning 2012 Participatory Budgeting project in City Council District 39, represented by Brad Lander, however, plans for increased safety measures were initially rejected by the New York State DOT.

They were only approved after the death of neighbor Patricia Ngozi Agbim and subsequent demonstrations and visits to Governor Cuomo’s office. The NYC DOT extending crossing time for pedestrians at the intersection in July 2013, and built a pedestrian safety island in autumn 2013, which did improve safety for those whofailed to make it across the intersection.

“Despite any improvements made a few years ago, crossing that intersection as a pedestrian at any hour is terrifying at best. It’s anarchy,” neighbor Sam Polcer told us. “I think the city needs to do more to make it safer, whether it’s with better signal-timing that prioritizes vulnerable pedestrians, an elevated walkway/bikeway, or making it illegal to enter the expressway from Church. The fact that no one’s been killed since 2013 is actually surprising, given how dangerous it is.”

Pedestrians crossing Ocean Parkway at Church Avenue, heading west. (Liena Zagare/BKLYNER)

While the green light seems to give most pedestrians crossing Ocean Parkway westwards sufficient time to get half way across (to the pedestrian safety island), those crossing eastward get to the most dangerous part of the intersection just as all the trucks rush to make the turn.

Just 14 hours after last night’s accident, however, there were cars and trucks running red lights and rushing through the turn aggressively, failing to yield to pedestrians crossing east half way through the middle lane. As you can see in the video clip above from this morning, at about 18 seconds, a handful of cars failed to yield to the intrepid neighbor crossing east. A handful kept turning long after the signal had turned red. Enforcement of traffic violations at this intersection does not seem to be a high priority for the city.

“I am deeply saddened to hear of the pedestrian tragedy on Ocean Parkway. Ocean Parkway and Church Avenue has been a dangerous intersection for years and I will work with my colleagues in government and the Department of Transportation to review this intersection and to implement ways that we can make it safer for pedestrians and prevent tragedies like this from occurring in the future, ” Assembly Member Robert Carroll emailed us earlier today.

Council Member Lander posted on Facebook that he was “Deeply saddened by the pedestrian killed y’day at Ocean Parkway & Church Avenue. We worked to make that intersection safer & added the refuge island after Ngozi Agbim’s death in 2013. But we have not done enough, and with tragic consequences.”

All that remained from the accident this morning was a spot of sand on the highway.

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14 COMMENTS

  1. This is such an absolutely preventable tragedy, which is what makes is all the more devastating. I urge my neighbors to write to any and everyone we can and force the City to address this intersection and to fix Ocean Parkway once and for all. It simply does not function as is, and drivers are continually allowed to speed and act irresponsibly to the detriment of the many, many pedestrians in the area.

    Please consider contacting our local representatives and the city:
    Brad Lander – lander@council.nyc.gov
    DOT – http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/contact/contact-form.shtml
    Mayor’s Office – http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/mayor-contact.page

  2. I would like to know how many deaths it takes for an intersection to be considered “dangerous”. Apparently one death in four years is enough. What if it were one death in six years or be death in ten years, would that also be considered “dangerous”. Or is it that any time a pedestrian is killed for whatever reason, that alone is enough makes the intersection “dangerous.”

    Danger should be determined by how an intersection compares with other intersections in the borough. I am not saying that the intersection can’t be made safer, if there is a problem, but at least the cause of the fatality needs to be determined first before we automatically label an intersection as dangerous.

  3. I don’t know why anyone is allowed to cross on that side of Church Ave! As a driver and a bike commuter, that intersection is deadly and I will cross to the south side of Church Ave. rather than risking that crossing. Everything that has been done is a band-aid and is not effective.

  4. @BrooklynBus, danger shouldn’t need to be measured by number of deaths, or compared to other intersections, but for argument’s sake, the answer to your question is simple: One. That’s how many deaths it takes for an intersection to be considered “dangerous.” No one should ever be killed by a car in New York City. The end. This is a walking city. People on the street are what made and make this city what it is, and no one should feel like they’re taking their life into their ends by crossing the street.

    I say this even as someone who owns a car: A completely unreasonable and inordinate amount of space and freedom to maim and kill has been given over to cars in New York City. The fact is that cars are the least efficient mode of transportation in any city, and they pollute the environment, make noise, lower communities’ quality of life, increase stress, and, yes, kill people (around 150 per year in this city alone )—and when the latter happens, the drivers are almost always given the benefit of the doubt by many, including and especially the police. In this particular case, the fact that this person was killed in the crosswalk means they were crossing at the same time that the truck was turning, which means that they both had a signal telling them to go (the walk sign or the countdown only appear when there’s a green or yellow light), and without exception, when that happens, the pedestrian has the right of way. It’s a law. Unfortunately, it’s rarely enforced, which is a big, big, citywide problem. Note that no arrests were made immediately in this case, despite this being the equivalent of a smoking gun. Driving in NYC should be a considered a privilege, not a right, and a sense of responsibility and accountability should go along with that privilege. The city is simply too dense for it not to.

    And with all due respect, if you’ve ever tried to cross that intersection by foot, you wouldn’t be asking this question. It’s a complete nightmare. This was an intersection identified by many concerned citizens and city officials as a trouble spot, and after what I imagine to be a great deal of negotiating, the bare minimum was done to address it, and it was only a matter of time before something like this happened. As @Jen. M. put it earlier, this was an entirely preventable death, and our fair City has the blood of yet another innocent victim on its hands. The question is: What are they going to do about it now?

    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/nycdot-pedestrian-fatalities-by-bike-motor-vehicle.pdf
    http://www.zlotolaw.com/nycrosswalk/

  5. Thanks for covering this. I live about three blocks west and, after I moved in a few years ago, concluded I should *never* cross Ocean Parkway from the north side of Church, only from the south.

    That danger, and the increased psychological barrier, also makes it less likely residents of Kensington to the west will patronize businesses on Church east of Ocean Parkway. They certainly “feel” much farther away than they are.

  6. people should cross on the other side of the street where that happened is the enterance to the parkway should not have a crosswalk there in the first place

  7. AGAIN!
    This tragedy brings to light just how much (correction: how little) of a priority the Church Avenue/Ocean Parkway/Prospect Expressway intersection is. And it sure looks like this one remains a turf war between the NYC and NYState DOTs, in that each shares responsibility for correcting this miserable condition.

    We demonstrated after Ms. Ngozi’s loss for better safety and this is what we got:
    -About 15 seconds added to the East-West pedestrian crossing interval;
    -“Improved” signage instructing Seniors to cross Ocean Parkway elsewhere;
    -A few pedestrian directional arrows painted on the ground, faded long ago;
    -Blinking YELLOW right-turn signal arrows at the MOST DANGEROUS crossing area (the North-side, West-bound), which ALLOW BOX TRUCKS, EXPRESS BUSES and other vehicles to turn AT THE SAME TIME AS pedestrians remain crossing in the roadway; To make matters worse, these same trucks, buses and others are racing to make the dreaded LEFT-TURNS from the east-bound side at the very same time!
    Were these really the best, most practical improvements possible?

    Unless and until this intersection allows ONLY MONO-DIRECTIONAL pedestrian crossing and vehicle flow, with FULL RED CONTROL ARROWS (especially East-West), our Kensington community will continue to see red – outrage in our hearts and another’s blood spilled on the ground.

    Does anyone have the political will to act now that we have yet another fatality? Let’s call upon our local elected leaders Mr. Lander and Mr. Carroll to fast-forward a corrective action plan. I’d be glad to offer a few ideas.

  8. Yes, thank you for covering this. What a tragedy. Since moving to Ocean Parkway last year, my personal rule is that I never cross on the north side at this intersection. It should be obvious to the city that it’s unsafe and they should have done much more to fix it by now. I will contact local reps about it, as Jen M urged. I wish I had already.

  9. I would think having a pedestrian-only phase would solve the issue of turning traffic. If pedestrians aren’t crossing the intersection frequently enough then an activation button could be added.

  10. If there is a high number of red light violations, add one or two seconds to the yellow. Most red light violations occur within 1 second of the red. Also know that 70% of pedestrian deaths are the pedestrian’s own fault. Personal responsibility, and putting the cross walks underground would stop the injuries/deaths.
    Tom McCarey

  11. I have lived near ocean parkway for 40 years and I pray for anyone I see crossing on that side of the street. It’s essentially the entrance to a highway and should be closed off to pedestrians. The only other decent solution would be to build a walkway over the traffic.

  12. I hate crossing Ocean Parkway. Another problem is Caton Avenue, where massive 18 wheel trucks speed down in both directions regardless of the time of day or the fact that Caton Avenue is a local truck route, not a through route like Church…. which of course, if you walk down Church Avenue you can count a handful of box trucks passing by while the majority of trucks illegally go down Caton.

    In terms of safety crossing the streets, Central Brooklyn is a hot mess.

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