Gerritsen Avenue: A History Of Contention

Gerritsen Avenue: A History Of Contention
Scene of the fatal accident last month that took the life of Sean Ryan. (Photo: Mike Wright/ Facebook)
Scene of the fatal accident last month that took the life of Sean Ryan on Gerritsen Avenue. (Photo: Mike Wright/ Facebook)

History is repeating itself in Gerritsen Beach as far as traffic safety goes.

Last week we reported that a petition was started to install more traffic lights on Gerritsen Avenue after a teenager was struck and killed by an allegedly speeding drunk driver. However, this rally call has happened numerous times in years past.

Gerritsen Avenue has been the source of much contention throughout the community in Gerritsen Beach. Senator Marty Golden proposed Green Streets medians be installed on Gerritsen Avenue to reduce accidents, beautify the street, and add parking to certain congested areas, according to the Gerritsen Beach blog.

But in a crowded town hall meeting in 2008, the Gerritsen Beach community spoke out, challenged Golden and the Department of Transportation (DOT), and struck down the plan with a bit of a vengeance.

“Then, after a resident went toe to toe with the DOT arguing about street widths, Marty Golden killed Green Streets 35 minutes after the meeting had started,” reads the Gerritsen Beach blog post. “If there were any people in the meeting that were for Green Streets they didn’t say anything or make their case for it.”

The process of installing a traffic light starts with a traffic study conducted by the DOT, which utilizes a device called a Traffic Counter — a small box installed on a corner with wires going across the street to analyze the traffic of the street. In 2008, six of these devices were installed along Gerritsen Avenue, and half of them were destroyed by vandals, according to another Gerritsen Beach Blog post.

“It seems that, as a community, we have been yelling and screaming that we want a traffic light or some sort of traffic control measures on Gerritsen Avenue,” the blog’s author wrote. “However, when it comes down to the actual traffic studies, we are completely hypocritical by destroying the devices that are there to help.”

In 2009, another attempt to make Gerritsen Avenue safer was unsuccessful. The DOT had planned to install bike lanes north of Avenue U to make the road narrower, which would slow down traffic. The average speed on Gerritsen Avenue was 40-50 mph, according to a study the DOT did in 2009.

However, in a community meeting run by former City Councilman Lew Fidler, residents of Gerritsen Beach batted down that idea as well. They argued that no one would use the bike lanes, and that it would be more dangerous for drivers and bikers to be moving so close together, according to a Gerritsen Beach Blog post from the meeting.

At the meeting, residents suggested alternative streets for the bike lanes, such as Stewart and Burnett, and called concern to certain intersections. Among the intersections that worried residents were Gerritsen and Nostrand Avenues; and Gerritsen Avenue and Knapp Street.

There have been eight traffic-related deaths on Gerritsen Avenue in the last 18 years, three of which were speed related. Two, including the accident last month, were due to the drivers being intoxicated. Two others were due to driver error, and one was a man who drove off the end of Gerritsen Avenue — there was suspicion of suicide in that case.

“Hopefully we can for both Anthony — who was run down in 2004, who is alive today but is suffering different issues from that accident — and of course [Sean Ryan], who passed away recently,” Senator Golden told News 12. “We don’t want more of this, we need to make sure we do the right thing.”


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