Fatal Crash Was Preceded By Complaints About Nearby Intersection

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

  • JP

    What would be the most effective form of traffic calming on this street? Converting the street to a two-way is one. Would raised intersections be useful?

  • Folks, when you happen upon the scene of a car-related injury, DO NOT BE AFRAID TO SNAP PICTURES (if, of course, there’s not something better you can do, such as help).

    You may get some dirty looks from bystanders, and you will probably feel uncomfortable yourself, but if your intent is to help record facts that might help in the face of the reflexively biased news reporting we’ve all seen, DO IT.

  • The police are often saying it’s not safe for them to approach occupied cars without backup. I tend to agree, but that raises the question of how we can allow personal cars and SUVs at all in the city if they are too threatening for a police officer. What about the rest of us?

  • gecko

    hopefully attorneys will supoena drivers cell phone records at time of crash if it is not normal procedure.

  • A friend.

    We will miss you, Jonathan.

  • A friend :(

    We will miss you a lot, you were the funniest guy ever.

  • Peter Cardinal

    “A friend” #5 & 6 – do know Jonathan’s background? I am looking up my best friend from Greenwich Village in 4th – 7th grade – his dad’s name was Gil & I think he was a newspaper editor & his mom’s name was Pat (divorced). He lived on 10th St at that time, & when he was in my wedding party he lived on the upper east side. Is this the same Johnny Millstein? The age is right, as I just turned 50. It would be bittersweet if after all these years I looked him up right after he was killed. If this is him, does Deborah have a phone #?


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