Pressure Mounts for Safer Intersection After Jessica Dworkin’s Death

In the wake of Jessica Dworkin’s death, community members are waiting for DOT and NYPD to take action to reduce the dangers caused by motorists at the intersection of Sixth Avenue and Houston Street.

At a meeting on September 20, Manhattan Community Board 2 passed two resolutions that recently passed the board’s transportation committee. The first asks DOT to study the intersection, as well as other problem locations in the area, and evaluate potential pedestrian safety improvements.

Flowers to honor the memory of Jessica Dworkin remain at Sixth Avenue and Houston Street. Photo: Stephen Miller

DOT scheduled a walk-through of the intersection with community members last week, but cancelled for unknown reasons, with a commitment to reschedule. Streetsblog has asked DOT why the event was cancelled and when the agency plans to follow through.

The second request from CB 2 asks the City Council to pass proposed bills and resolutions to change NYPD traffic safety protocols. Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who represents the neighborhood, has not taken a position on the reform package.

Earlier this month, 6th Precinct Community Affairs Officer Martin Baranksi said there was little that could be done. “For all intents and purposes, I think it was just a terrible accident,” he told the CB 2 transportation committee. “You know, it happens.”

Crossing guard Esperanca Varela often sees dangerous behavior from drivers, who swerve around crossing pedestrians while turning. She said she occasionally sees traffic enforcement at the intersection, “But they can’t be out here all the time.”

There is a red light camera for westbound traffic on Houston Street at Sixth Avenue, but the camera is not operational.

Until city agencies take action, nearby seventh-graders have been studying pedestrian safety at the intersection, documenting behavior and recording video for a class project, according to Phillip Kassen, director of the Little Red School House.

“Once these flowers are gone,” Varela said, looking at the shrine to Dworkin on a fence at the corner where she was killed, “People are going to forget.”

But Ian Dutton, former CB 2 transportation committee vice chair, says that Dworkin’s death has been an awakening for the community. “Sentiments about crossing this intersection range from uncomfortable to terrified,” he said. “I really don’t think anyone is going to go back to business as usual.”

  • IanM

    I can’t even imagine how I would feel if someone I loved was killed and the police response was “You know, it happens.” That’s breathtaking.

    Anyway, thanks to Streetsblog for helping us re-sensitive ourselves to the level of carnage that our society writes off as acceptable.

  • Someone should ask the NYPD or DOT how many traffic deaths per year/month/day are acceptable?  What is the number of deaths that makes our current policies worthwhile?  I’m being totally serious.  What is the number we can live with?  Are we trying for zero deaths next year?  Ten?  Fifty?  

  • Andrew

    No, Officer Baranksi, Ms. Dworkin was killed because a truck driver violated several laws, in particular the law requiring turning traffic to yield to pedestrians.

    Your precinct issued three summonses for failure to yield to pedestrian in all of August. Is it any wonder that drivers, if they are even aware that such a law even exists, feel no need to abide by it?

    I’m glad that DOT has been working to improve pedestrian safety, and I hope to see improvements here as well. But the NYPD hasn’t done a thing. Ray Kelly, where are you?

  • How many millions of dollars have we spent on this Houston Street reconstruction project? After all these years the only benefits to pedestrians are: countdown lights, benches on the dangerous meridian, and a free transfer for the Bleecker Street Station. Houston Street is a missed opportunity for real improvements in pedestrian and cyclist safety.

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