Dyker Heights street safety advocates demand action by DOT

June 10, 2019 Paula Katinas
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Elaine Ryan said she has witnessed five car crashes on the streets of Dyker Heights in recent weeks, including three in the past two weeks alone. “You can’t even cross the street,” she told the Home Reporter as she stood on the corner of 10th Avenue and 78th Street on Saturday to take part in a press conference on pedestrian safety.

Ryan, who walks her grandson to Saint Ephrem Catholic Academy every day, said she worries every time they step off the curb to go into the street.

State Sen. Andrew Gounardes and Councilmember Justin Brannan, two Democrats who represent Dyker Heights, held the press conference to call on the New York City Department of Transportation to finish a long-anticipated traffic study of the area and get started on installing traffic-calming measures to make streets safer for pedestrians.

“Stop looking and start taking action. Study time is over,” Brannan said.

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DOT had agreed to a request from Community Board 10 to take a comprehensive look at traffic problems in Dyker Heights a few years ago. But the results of the study have not been released.

“We are urging, pleading with DOT to finish the traffic study. We shouldn’t have to wait for a fatality,” Gounardes said.

Gounardes and Brannan did not specify exactly what safety improvements they want to see, whether traffic lights, more stop signs or other devices. “We need every option on the table,” Brannan said.

Gounardes said he wants DOT to take serious steps. “It’s not enough to put some paint on the ground,” he said.

Car crashes are a routine occurrence in Dyker Heights, according to local residents. NYPD statistics back up that claim. In the space of one 24-hour period, on Jan. 14, 2019, there were 17 car crashes within the confines of the 68th Precinct, which covers Dyker Heights and Bay Ridge.

Alarmed by the high number of car crashes on local streets, Gounardes formed the Southern Brooklyn Pedestrian Safety Task Force earlier this year and asked neighborhood residents to join the panel, take a deep dive into the problem and come up with ideas for solutions.

Denise Cangemi, a member of the task force, said the traffic situation has reached a crisis level. “It is not safe to stand or cross at the corner as a pedestrian,’ she said.

In many cases, the problem is caused by drivers who turn into speed demons and run through stop signs, residents said.

“It feels like the Wild West out here,” said Josephine Beckmann, district manager of Community Board 10.

While dangerous drivers appear to be causing most of the problems, Beckmann hinted that there is also a serious lack of safety infrastructure. For example, she pointed to the fact that the stretch of 10th Avenue between 65th and 86th Streets includes several intersections that do not have any traffic calming devices at all. “We need a comprehensive plan and we need it now,” she said.

“There are no lights and no traffic enforcement slowing them down,” neighborhood resident Marvin Reiskin said. “Drivers know there is an easy passage.”

The problems aren’t confined to 10th Avenue, according to Julie Collins, a local resident who charged that traffic lights on Fort Hamilton Parkway are not in sync. The lack of coordination is serious, she said, noting that there are three schools located in the vicinity and that all three have dismissal at the same time. “Busy isn’t the word. It’s mayhem,” she said.

Angela Azzolino, a member of the group Get Women Cycling, said the streets aren’t any safer. “Speeding is an incredible danger. Accidents happen almost weekly,” she said.

Some residents called for a stronger police presence in the area to crack down on dangerous drivers. But Brannan said that, by itself, won’t solve the problem. “The police, unfortunately, can’t be everywhere all the time,” he said.

A DOT spokesperson said the agency will look into the status of its Dyker Heights study.

“Safety is our top priority and Vision Zero has resulted in a continued decline in fatalities, the past five years. We will continue to work with the NYPD on addressing the traffic safety concerns of these communities,” the spokesperson told the Home Reporter in an email.

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