Lander: NYS DOT Rejected Improvements to Deadly Brooklyn Intersection

Eugene Agbimson, brother-in-law of Ngozi Agbim, called for changes to the intersection where she was killed and to laws regulating truck travel in NYC. Photo: Office of City Council Member Brad Lander

Safety measures proposed for a crash-prone Brooklyn intersection where a senior was killed by a truck driver this week were rejected by New York State DOT, according to City Council Member Brad Lander.

Joined by local residents, traffic safety advocates and family of Ngozi Agbim, Lander held a rally this morning at Ocean Parkway and Church Avenue, at the terminus of the Prospect Expressway, in Kensington. With nine lanes of north-south traffic and five lanes east-west, there were 36 pedestrian and cyclist injuries and four fatalities at the intersection between 1995 and 2008, according to Transportation Alternatives’ CrashStat.

Tri-State Transportation Campaign ranks Ocean Parkway as one of the most dangerous streets in Brooklyn, citing six pedestrian fatalities between 2009 and 2011.

Lander included a line item for improvements to the intersection among his FY 2013 participatory budget proposals, securing $200,000. But he says the State DOT rejected a proposal from NYC DOT for a pedestrian refuge between northbound and southbound traffic. Instead, according to Lander, NYS DOT wants to eliminate the crosswalk altogether.

“Without the crosswalk, residents would have to walk a block out of their way and wait for three crossing signals instead of one,” said Lander, via press release. “Cars would speed by even faster. And many pedestrians would certainly still cross there anyway, far more exposed to speed, danger, and future tragedies.”

On Monday at approximately 9:40 a.m., Agbim, 73, was crossing nine lanes of traffic east to west when she was struck by a semi truck driver who was attempting a right turn from Church Avenue onto Prospect Expressway, according to reports.

Agbim died at the scene. The truck driver, Eric Turnbach of Sugarloaf, Pennsylvania, was cited for failure to exercise due care, the Daily News said.

Trucks exceeding 55 feet in length are not allowed on surface streets without a permit. Video from the scene indicated that the trailer of Turnbach’s truck was 53 feet long. It is not known if the truck was equipped with crossover mirrors, which give truck drivers a better view of pedestrians who are directly in front of them. Trucks registered outside New York are exempt from the state’s crossover mirror requirement.

Central Pennsylvania Transportation, the Lancaster-based company that owns the truck, did not respond to a request for comment.

“We just do not understand how is it that a God fearing and loving mother would die in such a manner walking back from a church service,” said Eugene Agbimson, Agbim’s brother-in-law. Agbimson called for changes to the intersection and to laws “governing the operation of these monster vehicles very close to highly populated residential areas.”

Said Lander: “New York State DOT’s proposal is unacceptable. It would make this intersection even more dangerous. Our neighborhood is not a highway.” Lander has posted a petition aimed at prodding NYS DOT to act on proposed safety measures.

“We voted for this money,” said Julie Bero, a lifelong resident of Kensington. “We should be able to cross this intersection safely and New York State Department of Transportation should make it a priority.”

Streetsblog has a message in with NYS DOT. We’ll update this post if we hear back.

  • Bluewndrpwrmlk96

    The pedestrian refuge can work, but I think what would be better is if in conjunction an extra signal phase for pedestrians / cyclists only, for 60 seconds. Instead of the pedestrian signal synchronized with the green light, the two phases would be independent and the extra phase is an extended red-signal for motorists for 60 seconds. This already exists in Northern Blvd & 54 St/Broadway and Grand Army Plaza, I think.

  • Daphna

    New York State DOT does not understand the merit of complete streets: designing or altering streets to be for all road users, not just motorists. This is sad. An agency should be staffed with professionals who understand that removing a crosswalk would make things worse because people would still cross there. That NY State DOT would even make such a suggestion shows that employees at that agency desperately need to be educated. They should read streetsblog!

    Why does NYS DOT have say over this intersection anyway? Why did this matter go to the state DOT instead of the city DOT?

  • MFS

    State DOT controls Ocean Pkwy & the Prospect Expressway.

  • SteveF

    NYS DOT is not part of the solution.
    When they are not being part of the problem, they are part of the precipitate.

  • Peter Netri

    9 lanes without a pedestrian refuge? That’s a bad joke. Roads with more than 5 lanes are required to have pedestrian refuge here in Slovakia (Europe).

  • Mark

    This is an extreme case so it could work, but I’ve usually found that the delay caused by a “Barnes’ Dance” makes most pedestrians decide not to wait for the light. Boston has a ton of them, and they’re ignored by almost everyone.

  • Joe R.

    Any solution which depends upon pedestrians waiting for a long time for a green light is going to fail. Even on streets with standard signal timing pedestrians won’t wait for the green to cross unless they’re forced to by traffic.

  • Miles Bader

    Er, but that’s exactly where such intersections seem to usually be used: where the traffic is heavy (in most such places I’ve seen, it’s basically too scary to run across)…

  • Joe R.

    I know it’s practically sacrilege to say it here, but if traffic on a road is really heavy, and the city is unwilling to do anything to substantially reduce traffic levels so people can cross that road without pedestrian signals, then it’s better to just build pedestrian overpasses. It’s not like a person walking will have a busy street like Northern Boulevard to cross every block. Maybe you’ll end up with one overpass for every half mile you walk based on the current grid of major arterial streets. Most people don’t walk much over half a mile anyway, so that’s one overpass, and only if they need to cross a heavily-trafficked arterial.

  • Miles Bader

    I love (well-done) underpasses/overpasses, but people often still prefer to cross at street-level, even when over/above-ground alternatives are convenient and pleasant.

    E.g. the most famous scramble in the world, in Shibuya, also has an extensive underground network of passageways that can be very conveniently used to cross that same street (indeed, the underground network goes much farther, and has tons of exits). They’re about as nice as you can get, cheerful, wide, clean, well-lit, with plenty of little shops etc., and they are well-utilized—but as you can see, an enormous number of people would still rather wait for the light…

    I can point out many other cases where the same thing occurs (and most of these being in Japan, the passages are extremely nice, so it’s not a matter of aesthetics/safety). Sometimes people just like to stay at one level…

  • Joe R.

    “Sometimes people just like to stay at one level”

    I get it when the alternative involves climbing up or down literally every block. Here I’m just talking about using overpasses at particularly wide, problematic intersections with heavy pedestrian AND motor vehicle traffic (and prohibiting crossing at street level in those same places). Yes, they’ll need to be ramped to accommodate everyone, but realistically they solve the problem much better than any complex signal patterns which inordinately delay both motorists and pedestrians. Nobody should have to wait 60 seconds or more to cross a street.

    I’ve love it if we could avoid the need for any of this by just radically reducing traffic levels but the political will doesn’t seem to be there (yet).

  • Miles Bader

    Well to be fair, roads with more than 5 lanes period are a bad joke…

  • Lee

    it’s 6 lanes without a refuge. the other lanes are a service road in each direction with a refuge about 20ft wide on each side of the street.

    there’s a 3 ft wide “refuge” median, whatever you want to call it separating the 6 lanes. It’s not a comfortable place to stand probably can’t hold more than 2-3 people but it’s there.

    it’s not ideal but i don’t see forcing pedestrians to cross on the south side of the street as such a burden – which I assume was NYS DOT’s intention by suggesting to remove the crosswalk.

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