Reclaiming the Streets
It took the tragic killing of two boys at the intersection of Third Avenue and Ninth Street in Brooklyn to spur the DOT to implement its planned safety measures.
On February 9th, 10 year old Juan Estrada and eleven year old Victor Flores were crossing at the intersection of Third Avenue and Ninth Street in Brooklyn on their way home from school when they were killed by a driver turning his 10 wheeler truck on to Third Avenue. The boys were crossing with the light.
The tragedy was further intensified by the fact that the New York City Department of Transportation and its consultants had already identified the intersection of Third Avenue and Ninth Street as dangerous in their 2003 Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming project. The City DOT had also included the installation of a Leading Pedestrian Interval (LPI) at the intersection as its second item on a list of 34 short term pedestrian safety measures in a July 29, 2003 memo to area civic and community groups. The DOT had already installed other LPIs from this list, including one at the intersection of Hicks Street and Atlantic Avenue, before the boys were killed.
In addition, the City DOT had included a diagram and written recommendation for an extension of the sidewalk, called a neckdown, at the corner where the truck driver killed the boys in the agency’s 2003 Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Study. But cuts in the DOT’s capital budget will prevent the agency from building these neckdowns until 2009.
In the aftermath of the boy’s deaths, T.A. and civic groups urged the Department of Transportation and local elected officials, especially Councilmembers DiBlasio and Gonzalez, to act to prevent similar future tragedies:
1. Immediately install a Leading Pedestrian Interval at Third Avenue and Ninth Street. Status: The DOT installed an LPI at the intersection a few weeks after the crash.
2. Fast track the construction of the neckdowns for Third and Fourth Avenues that the agency recommended in its Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Study. Status: The DOT advanced the construction of neckdowns at the location from 2009 to 2006. The agency also secured $4 million for neckdowns, extended medians corners and other engineering improvements on Third and Fourth Avenues in Brooklyn.
3. Move ahead with the DOT’s delayed Safe Routes to Schools project, which creates better walking conditions around New York City schools. Status: On March 1, 2004, the DOT publicly launched its Safe Routes to School program at a city council hearing on traffic safety around schools. Shortly after the DOT’s announcement, Congressman Jerry Nadler allocated $3 million in Federal transportation funds to the DOT program and Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez earmarked $600,000.
Although these are positive steps, the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Study cited over 100 deadly intersections as in need of pedestrian safety improvements, including the notorious Tillary and Adams Streets and Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues intersections. It remains to be seen whether the DOT will implement the recommended neckdowns, raised crosswalks and other safety improvements at these scary intersections. Transportation Alternatives joins with Brooklyn civic groups and elected officials in urging the City Department of Transportation to fast track all of the recommendations in the Downtown Brooklyn Study, and to build the safest and most effective traffic calming methods possible. These measures will reduce speeding, rationalize traffic, give pedestrians much needed space and, most importantly, prevent more tragic and senseless deaths.