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Bicycle Safety

Fatal Crash Was Preceded By Complaints About Nearby Intersection

12:20 PM EDT on September 12, 2008

31_36_psbikerkilled01_z.jpg
The scene at 8th and President in Brooklyn following Jonathan Millstein's fatal crash.

Details on the crash that killed Jonathan Millstein Wednesday morning remain scarce, but traffic conditions on Eighth Avenue in Park Slope are notoriously bad for bicyclists and pedestrians. Officials at DOT and NYPD have appeared reluctant to address the problem, says Joanna Smith, who lives by the intersection of Eighth and Union Street.

revised_8th_ave_map.jpgSpeeding is endemic along the avenue, says Smith. One of the reasons she cites is the constant tie-up of cars at Union Street. Throughout much of the day, traffic backs up from Grand Army Plaza, blocking the intersection. As a result, drivers tend to speed up on Eighth to avoid waiting multiple light cycles at Union. Millstein was killed at the intersection of Eighth and President Street, one block away.

Smith has made repeated appeals to NYPD and DOT to address the situation through better enforcement and signage. In her correspondence with both agencies (download a PDF of the transcription), she writes that the traffic back-up blocks crosswalks and makes crossing the street with her children unsafe. Her letters eventually yielded a response from Brooklyn DOT Commissioner Joseph Palmieri, who wrote that little could be done except to improve enforcement. A later response from Deputy Inspector John Argenziano of the 78th Precinct stated that, following a face-to-face visit to Smith's home, more enforcement from the precinct's traffic safety unit would be forthcoming.

Smith recalls NYPD's follow-up differently. "When the DOT referred the matter back to the police last February, I received an intimidating visit to my home by a Sergeant Brown and two silent, uniformed officers to suggest that I had been calling 311 too much," she told Streetsblog in an email.

"Ironically, the only time I have ever seen an officer on the corner was last Thursday evening. He was leaning against his patrol car several car lengths up from the intersection, watching the cars block the box.  I asked him why he was just standing there, not handing out summons.  He said he was there alone and he had to stay safe.  I'm not sure what that meant."

"There's such a lack of coordination between these different agencies," she adds. "They always point the finger at each other."

Phone calls placed to the 78th Precinct's traffic safety unit and community affairs office were not answered this morning.

Photo: Brooklyn Paper

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