Bay Ridge

Bay Ridgites rally for safer streets one week after child was run down on 84th Street

May 7, 2018 By John Alexander and Gersh Kuntzman Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Rallying for safer streets in Bay Ridge were (from left) Maureen Landers, Vanessa Aja-Sigmon, Leila Mullarky, Blythe Austin and Jesse Aja-Sigmon.
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Nearly 50 people rallied for safety improvements to poorly designed streets and the installation of more traffic-enforcement cameras in Bay Ridge on Sunday night, protesting at the 84th Street location where a child was gravely injured by a driver one week earlier.

A bill to allow the city to double the number of traffic cameras from 140 to 280 is stalled in Albany, and residents and their organizers demanded action.

“Already this year, we have lost at least five children citywide to traffic violence … a tenfold increase from previous years,” said Thomas DeVito, the senior director of advocacy for Transportation Alternatives. “We are not doing nearly enough to … protect New Yorkers. Brooklyn has lost 19 children in fatal crashes since 2013, the most of any borough.” 

DeVito championed speed and red-light cameras as one of the most effective safety solutions.

“When they’ve been implemented, they’ve reduced speeding by over 60 percent and reduced injuries to pedestrians by over 20 percent,” he said. 

Other speakers included two area councilmembers — Justin Brannan and Mark Treyger, both Democrats — and Assemblymember Felix Ortiz (D-Sunset Park), who complained that his Albany colleagues are stalling safety legislation. The city’s school zone speeding camera program will expire at the end of 2018 unless Albany renews it.

“We need the State Senate to step up to the plate so that we can get this bill done this year,” Ortiz said. “I don’t know how many more deaths or casualties we need to have in order for this bill to pass.”

The neighborhood’s Republican state Senator, Martin Golden, did not attend, sending aide John Quaglione instead.

Golden said in the past he supports more school-zone and red light cameras, but put conditions on that support, including limiting the hours that the cameras would operate and getting assurances that the cameras would only to be installed as a safety measure and not as a revenue source. He told the Eagle on Monday morning that he supports the bill to double the number of speed cameras, but not another proposal to raise the number to 700.

That puts the focus on another senator, Simcha Felder (D?R-Borough Park), who said last month that he would only support the cameras if the state also put an armed police officer in every school — a demand that effectively blocked the legislation.

Cameras are as a strong deterrent; statistics show that only 19 percent of drivers who get caught on camera violate the law a second time. Golden himself is a repeat scofflaw, with his car connected to 30 violations in four years, including 10 school-zone speeding violations and several red light infractions, the New York Post reported.

Blythe Austin, a member of Families for Safe Streets, did not mention Golden by name when she called out politicians for protecting unsafe drivers.

“Our government has allowed these drivers to drive recklessly with impunity,” she said. “They can speed, they can go through the red lights and they don’t face any consequences for their actions. So please, we ask our government … please hold these drivers accountable.”

Two of the five children killed on New York streets this year were Abigail Blumenstein, 4, and Joshua Lew, 1, who were killed on March 5 on Ninth Street in Park Slope by a driver who cops said had 12 open violations yet was still allowed to continue driving.

Residents of Park Slope have rallied repeatedly before and since for street redesigns and more enforcement. On Sunday, it was Bay Ridge’s turn to object.

Just one week to the day earlier, 10-year old Jobe Kan had been run down and critically injured by a reckless driver at 84th Street and Fort Hamilton Parkway, where the rally took place.

Kan, who attends P.S. 231, underwent surgery for a fractured jaw and suffered other facial injuries. As a result, Kan will require physical therapy, cosmetic surgery, and additional surgeries as he grows. 

But such accidents can be prevented easily, said Maureen Landers, the co-founder of Bay Ridge Advocates Keeping Everyone Safe (BRAKES).

“People continue to make illegal U-turns; failure to yield is rampant,” said Landers, who said she has seen very little behavioral change since she was hit by a car in 2009 while walking with a stroller inside a crosswalk. “We’d like to see real change come to this neighborhood. Without enforcement there will be no change. I believe Bay Ridge has been neglected for street redesigns. We like our cars in Bay Ridge.”

Well, not pedestrians, of course.

“Having two-ton, oil-demanding death machines on the streets impacts our safety,” said Lila Kocieniewski, 14, who told the Eagle that she came to the rally because she felt the streets in Bay Ridge were too dangerous. “We need more speed limits, more security cameras and more walkways.”

Editor’s note: The Brooklyn Eagle identifies Simcha Felder as “D?R-Borough Park” because he was elected as a Democrat, but caucuses with the Republicans, giving the GOP control of the state Senate.

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