A week after Nicole Detweiler was killed while walking on McGuinness Boulevard — at least the third person to be struck and killed on the street in the last five years — Council Member Steve Levin sent a letter to incoming Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg asking her to prioritize traffic calming and and speed cameras on the busy multi-lane road cutting through Greenpoint [PDF]:
Speed cameras from the recently approved pilot program should be installed at PS 34, which is just off of McGuinness Boulevard, and would reduce speeds and increase safety. I also request the implementation of a neighborhood slow zone in the area surrounding PS 34, left-hand turn signals, countdown clocks at crosswalks, and other traffic calming elements.
A state law passed last year allows the city to install up to 20 speed cameras within school zones, which extend a quarter-mile from public and private schools. The city began operating speed cameras last September, issuing drivers $50 tickets for speeding at least 10 mph above the limit during school hours. The cameras are movable, so the city can deploy them in any eligible area where speeding is a problem. Because Albany allowed only 20 cameras, the locations are not disclosed in an effort to maximize the deterrent effect.
An analysis by WNYC last year showed that school zones cover two-thirds of city streets, including 82 percent of all streets in Brooklyn. In addition to PS 34, cited by Levin, other nearby schools include PS 31, PS 110, JHS 126, Brooklyn Automotive High School, Believe Southside Charter School, Believe Northside Charter School and Frances Perkins Academy.
WNYC’s school zone map indicates a nearly mile-long stretch of McGuinness Boulevard, from Greenpoint Avenue to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, is included within a school zone and thus qualifies for speed cameras.
Levin’s letter comes in response to the death of Detweiler, 28, who was hit by a BMW driver and a truck driver at the intersection of McGuinness and Nassau Avenue. The truck driver, 35-year-old Roberto Amador, was arrested for driving with a suspended license. Amador had been arrested just one week earlier for driving with a suspended license on the Upper West Side, according to DNAinfo.
The death rate on McGuinness Boulevard is horrific. In December 2009, cyclist Solange Raulston, 33, was struck and killed by the driver of a flatbed truck at McGuinness and Nassau Avenue, the same intersection where Detweiler was killed. In April 2010, 28-year-old Williamsburg resident Neil Chamberlain was killed by a hit-and-run driver as he walked near the intersection of McGuinness and Calyer Street.
After Chamberlain’s death, Transportation Alternatives found that drivers on McGuinness regularly speed and fail to yield to pedestrians. A more recent study by the McGuinness Boulevard Working Group (a coalition between TA, Neighbors Allied for Good Growth, Community Board 1, and area residents) clocked nearly two-thirds of drivers exceeding the speed limit, including truck drivers going as fast as 47 mph.
Update: DOT says it is “reviewing the feasibility” of left-turn signals and removal of parking spaces to improve visibility at intersections along McGuinness. The agency noted that since 2011, it has installed pedestrian countdown signals on McGuinness between Green Street and Driggs Avenue and altered markings to reduce lane widths on the street. In addition, the reconstruction of Nassau Avenue includes curb extensions at the intersection with McGuinness to slow drivers and shorten crossing distances for pedestrians.
Last month, DOT unveiled a design for a protected bike lane on the Pulaski Bridge, which connects to McGuinness Boulevard, that would reduce the number of southbound lanes from three to two. The project is expected to reduce speeding by southbound drivers on McGuinness and should be completed later this year.
McGuinness Boulevard runs through the 94th Precinct, which as of the end of November had issued 712 speeding tickets and only 16 summonses for failure to yield to pedestrians precinct-wide since the start of 2013 [PDF].
To voice your concerns about traffic safety directly to Captain James B. Ryan, the commanding officer, head to the next precinct community council meeting. The 94th Precinct council meetings happen at 7:00 p.m. on the first Wednesday of the month at the Church of the Ascension at 122 Java Street. Call the precinct at 718-383-5298 for information.