Neighbors are demanding the city improve traffic safety on Gerritsen Beach’s main strip after a teenage bicyclist was struck and killed this week by a suspected drunk driver.
An online petition calling for the Department of Transportation (DOT) to install more traffic lights on Gerritsen Avenue has already collected 905 signatures. The petition was started hours after 17-year-old Sean Ryan died Sunday in a head-on collision with a car on Gerritsen Avenue. The driver was charged with driving while intoxicated and vehicular manslaughter.
The fatal crash has revived calls for improved safety measures along Gerritsen Avenue, which includes a one-and-a-half mile strip with no traffic lights between P.S. 277 and Plumb Beach Channel. Neighbors made similar requests to DOT last year when a driver died after plowing through the gate at the end of Gerritsen Avenue and crashing into the water.
“Gerritsen Beach has seen yet another horrifying tragedy, due to speeding vehicles,” the petition reads. “We have petitioned, we have begged, we have pleaded for more traffic lights to line Gerritsen Avenue. This is where we now demand. We demand lights be put on OUR avenue. We need to protect our children, our neighbors, our family.”
DOT completed a “traffic calming” project on Gerritsen Avenue in 2009 that reduced the number of lanes from four to three and added a painted media. One year after the project was completed, a DOT study reported the number of injuries on the roadway dropped 45 percent. However, additional studies at Lois, Channel, and Devon avenues concluded those intersections did not meet the agency’s criteria for traffic controls, according to DOT.
The city also installed speed cameras along the roadway to deter dangerous driving.
However, Doreen Garson, chief of the neighborhood’s volunteer fire department, said Gerritsen Avenue is still a speedway.
“You should sit in my office for week. It’s just pedal to the metal all the time,” she explained. “We keep asking the DOT to look into it and each time they say nothing is warranted.”
But Garson seemed to agree with the city that traffic lights are not the answer.
“Something has to be done, but I people who don’t obey the law aren’t going to slow down for a stop light or a speed camera. I think it’s an issue of enforcement. They need to give us an officer on the Avenue. That might be the answer,” she said.
The online petition is aimed at DOT as well as Senator Marty Golden, who represents the neighborhood. In a statement, the senator said he supported calls for more traffic safety measure on the thoroughfare.
“There has long been a need for a conversation about traffic and pedestrian safety on Gerritsen Avenue and we have advanced some measures working with the Department of Transportation, but more still needs to be done. At the same time, Senator Golden remains committed to legislation that will increase the penalties for those who drive drunk or under the influence,” the statement read.
The senator also offered prayers for Ryan and his family.