Brooklyn Boro

Religious leaders join the movement for safe streets

October 25, 2019 Kelly Mena
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Following a recent spike in traffic fatalities, a new group is getting involved in the movement for safer streets: religious leaders.

The group plans to use the pulpit as a new platform to share victims’ stories on a broader scale. In a first step, leaders from across Brooklyn of varying faiths brought together street safety advocates and victims of traffic fatalities on Thursday at Borough Hall for the first planning meeting of the newly formed coalition, called Sermons for Safe Streets.

“The location of our church used to be at an intersection with no lights, and over the last year over 20 accidents occurred,” said Bishop Ayana Vason, a senior pastor at Ebenezer Christian Center in Bedford-Stuyvesant, at the meeting.

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Vason said she plans on distributing street safety literature to her congregation during services. Other leaders will dedicate specific moments during their Sunday services to allow those who have lost family members in traffic incidents to speak about their experiences.

“I think there is a crisis of education and awareness. I plan to take back the statistics,” said Juan Carlos Ruiz, pastor at The Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Bay Ridge, whose congregation includes multiple people who have been affected by traffic fatalities. “We will make it a day of remembrance, but also a day of action toward transforming and making our streets safer.”

The group formed in 2018 as an initiative of the larger street safety advocacy organization Families For Safe Streets. They plan to use the global World Day of Remembrance, this year held on Nov. 17, as an opportunity to bring attention to the victims of traffic fatalities. 

In Brooklyn alone, there have been a total of 44 traffic fatalities this year, according to Department of Transportation officials. Brooklyn traffic deaths — specifically cyclist and pedestrian killings — account for nearly 40 percent of all traffic fatalities citywide, which so far this year has reached 115, according to city officials.

The most recent pedestrian death was that of 10-year-old Enzo Farachio, who was hit by a car while waiting for the bus in Midwood.

The formation of Sermons for Safe Streets comes just after the city marked its 100th mile of on-street protected bike lanes under the de Blasio administration. So far in 2019 alone, Brooklyn has experienced 16 cyclists deaths — with the most recent one being that of 10-year-old Dalerjon Shahobiddinov in Kensington — a sharp uptick from 10 citywide in 2018.

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