One Year After $5M Promise, Downtown Brooklyn Safety Fixes Are Nowhere

mural_promise.jpgThe death of 8-year-old Alexander Toulouse on Saturday has re-focused public attention on the dangerous streets of downtown Brooklyn. Toulouse was killed by a turning postal van at the intersection of Boerum Place and Livingston Street while riding his bike with his father.

The intersection where Alexander died is
exceedingly hazardous. CrashStat shows that 28 pedestrians and 11
cyclists were struck there between 1995 and 2005. Last August, at the
unveiling of a mural in memory of three children killed by cars (right), the city promised to make good on $5 million in traffic calming improvements for the area,
though not at the specific intersection where Saturday’s crash
occurred. One year later, not a single shovel has gone in the ground.

DOT spokesman Seth Solomonow says that the contract for the improvements was awarded in May by the Department of Design and Construction and work should begin this calendar year. DDC is the city agency charged with building DOT’s capital projects. Solomonow attributes the lag to "slow-going through the budgetary process." (Also note that last year’s promise followed a 2004 pledge by then-commissioner Iris Weinshall for $4 million in improvements, which were supposed to get built by 2006.)

The glacial pace of progress raises the question: What good are pledges of "not
one more death" from DOT if the city agencies that actually build and
finance capital improvements — DDC and the Office of Management and Budget, respectively — don’t sign on
as well?

Another question: How deep is NYPD’s commitment to traffic safety? Their public information office apparently follows a policy of divulging as little about traffic deaths as possible. When Streetsblog called to see if NYPD possessed any information to buttress witness accounts in the Daily News of the crash, a spokesperson
provided nothing, saying that accident reports are not even given to victims’ families.

Alexander Toulouse’s family released a statement soon after the crash:

Zander was a very popular little boy at his school
and the neighborhood where he was known for being polite and very
smart. He loved subways and ‘Dancing with the Stars’. He was a joy to
his parents who are utterly devastated by their loss.

Photo: Aaron Naparstek

  • Car Free Nation

    These improvements, as I understand it, are fairly minimal, and do not in any way work to reduce the volume of traffic through the area.

    If you look at the plan, you’ll see that the area is broken down into the following categories:
    · Travel Streets
    · Community Streets
    · Living Streets

    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/brooklyn_3.pdf

    God forbid if you live on or travel through a Travel Street, since…

    “All Travel Streets described here should be managed with the aim of optimizing their traffic performance, because acting as traffic conduits is their primary function. In many cases, traffic performance can be optimized through improvements to intersection operations; in some cases, improvements can also be achieved through rationalization of mid-block operations.”

    My guess is that just like the Adams Street “Improvements” to a Travel Street that contributed to the death of Alexander Toulouse, these will not result in an appreciable safer environment for anyone other than an automobile driver.

    Perhaps these improvements are better than nothing, but until the DOT decides that even one death is too many and works to provide more car-free options through Downtown Brooklyn, I fear we will continue to have these tragedies.

  • gecko

    A Towards Zero Death Initiative will greatly this city.

    Every time there is an injury from a car or truck, that place should become an area of intense scrutiny and improvements in ways to prevent another one ever happening again.

    People who can take the responsibility to create the truly effective highly talented swat-team type task force would likely be: The Mayor, DOT Commissioner, Health Department Commissioner.

    All have proven themselves to be up to the task.

  • brooke

    It incomprehensible that the City would come to a community event and make promises directly to the families who lost their children on downtown Brooklyn streets and not follow through.

    Showcase projects have been built in a matter of weeks throughout the city this summer. This community has been waiting over a decade for basic pedestrian safety improvements and children are still being injured and killed.

    This is not rocket science. DOT and DDC need to get their act together on the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Plan and be accountable for the commitments they make to the public.

  • Police Reports have been FOIA’d in the past, such as they were for Right of Way’s 1999 Report, “Killed by Automobile” (http://www.cars-suck.org/research/kba.html), a statistical study of pedestrian an cyclist deaths in NYC.

  • It is an insult to families who have lost loved ones and the community at large when the police and government agencies don’t take these initiatives seriously.

  • I expect DoT senior policy advisor (and former T.A. ED) Jon Orcutt is chagrinned to find himself as poster boy for this inexcusable failure. While DoT has earned my thanks and support for moving with lightning speed to install bike lanes and public “plazettes” (Times Square, Gansevoort, Madison Square), much-needed safety improvements like this one in the outer boroughs can’t be put on the back burner while Manhattan gets loaded up with amenities.

  • fdr

    Orcutt’s supportive comments in the August 31, 2007 item linked from this item are pretty vague, no mention of a time frame for these improvements.

  • John Kaehny

    No doubt DOT is chagrined to see Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming delayed. This said, the project is wide ranging and involves tens of intersections and streets, and won’t be completed overnight. Nor will it or any engineering changes make cyclists and pedestrians completely safe without laws and social mores which hold motorists accountable for dangerous and irresponsible behavior. Nor will cyclists and pedestrians be truly safe until motorists are required to take real drivers education courses and pass driving tests which actually require some skill and knowledge. Street engineering is probably the only bright spot in NYC street safety: drivers education (and awareness) is non-existent and law enforcement is undermined by weak laws and inconsistent enforcement.

  • brooke

    To clarify, last summer DOT stated that the build out of Phase 1 of the Downtown BK Traffic Calming Plan would begin in FY2008, which has come and gone. Phase 1 includes specific engineering improvements to 49 intersections throughout the downtown neighborhoods.

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