Tonight: DOT Workshop on Atlantic Ave Segment Where Driver Killed Senior

Atlantic Avenue at Grant Avenue, when a driver killed 70-year-old Helen Marszalek. The nearest crosswalks are a block in either direction. Image: Google Maps
Atlantic Avenue at Grant Avenue, where a driver killed 70-year-old Helen Marszalek yesterday. There are no crosswalks at the intersection. Image: Google Maps

Yesterday a motorist killed a senior who was trying to cross Atlantic Avenue at an intersection that has no crosswalks. Tonight DOT will host a public workshop to solicit input on a safer design for Atlantic between Georgia Avenue and Rockaway Boulevard, which includes the site of Monday’s collision.

Helen Marszalek, 70, was walking across Atlantic at Grant Avenue at around 1:30 in the afternoon when she was struck by the driver of a BMW sedan in the westbound lanes. Marszalek, who lived nearby, died at Brookdale University Hospital, DNAinfo reported.

Helen Marszalek. Photo via Daily News
Helen Marszalek. Photo via Daily News

The crash occurred on a segment of Atlantic that the de Blasio administration has singled out for improvements as part of the Vision Zero Great Streets program, which concentrates on four of the city’s most dangerous streets for walking: Atlantic Avenue, Queens Boulevard, Grand Concourse, and Brooklyn’s Fourth Avenue.

Atlantic Avenue at the site of the crash is six lanes with a center median. Last summer DOT unveiled plans to redesign medians and add vehicle turn bays between Pennsylvania Avenue and Conduit Avenue, to the west, where the crash rate is higher than on 90 percent of Brooklyn streets. Phase two of the project would focus on Atlantic between Conduit Avenue and Rockaway Boulevard, encompassing the intersection where Marszalek was killed.

Based on phase one plans [PDF], DOT does not intend to reduce the number of car lanes or add bike lanes on Atlantic Avenue, though such design elements are known to reduce injuries and deaths. For phase one, DOT has proposed raising the median, turning it into a barrier that will discourage people from crossing where there are no crosswalks.

Video from the scene of yesterday’s crash showed the BMW with a dented hood and extensive damage to the windshield, indicating a high-speed collision. “I heard the boom,” said witness John Montes, the Post reported. “I ran over, and the woman … wasn’t moving.”

Damage to the vehicle that hit Marszalek was extensive, a sign of a high-speed collision. NYPD did not ticket or charge the driver. Image: News 12
Damage to the vehicle that hit Marszalek was extensive, a sign of a high-speed collision. NYPD did not ticket or charge the driver, whose name was not released. Image: News 12

“She rolled over the side of the windshield and over the car. Her head hit the sidewalk,” Montes told the Daily News. “She was face down. Her head was split open.”

As usual, media reports centered on the victim’s actions, with no information on how fast the driver was going or how he or she failed to avoid striking a 70-year-old woman on a city street in broad daylight.

NYPD said the driver had not been summonsed or charged as of this afternoon. When I asked about the driver’s speed, a police spokesperson said, “We wouldn’t report that. That’s part of the investigation.”

Helen Marszalek was killed in the 75th Precinct — where local officers issue an average of between one and two speeding tickets a day — in Community Board District 5, and in the City Council district represented by Rafael Espinal.

Tonight’s workshop starts at 5:30 p.m. at Cypress Hills Community School, 265 Warwick Street. More details here. DOT is also accepting public input online.

  • Matthias

    “There are no crosswalks at the intersection.”

    Should that read “Atlantic Av has only unmarked crosswalks at the intersection”?

  • Michael King
  • WoodyinNYC

    Off topic, but …

    My friend Lloyd Spivey was killed by a driver in Queens on Saturday, November 7. I’m still seeking more information. Apparently his wallet and cell phone were stripped from his body, delaying identification and notification of next of kin. A Memorial Service was held on November 14.

    On topic …

    How many people do we think are killed by drivers in NYC but are not reported? I’m sure that Streetsblog takes these incidents very seriously. But not sure the NYPD gives a hoot, especially when the victim is black, as in this instance.

  • Brad Aaron

    Sorry about your friend.

    Do you know if he was struck on South Conduit Avenue at 130th Street? I have record of a crash in Queens on that day but no name was available.

    A good number of crashes go unaccounted for every year, as far as victims’ names and other details. I would put it in the 20 percent range.

  • Joe R.

    Anecdotal evidence suggests up to an order of magnitude more people are killed by drivers but the incidents never make it into official police statistics. One scenario I envision is a homeless person or other marginalized person is struck by a motor vehicle but not killed immediately. They manage to get to an alley or other area where homeless are typically found, then die later. Someone finds the body, perhaps calls the police. The pattern of injuries might make the police think the cause of death was blunt force trauma with a weapon during a robbery or fight. Or the police might not be called at all. The body goes into a dumpster, ends up in landfill, is never counted in any kind of official statistics.

    Given the awful driving habits in this city, I have a lot of trouble believing the official statistics of only about 150 deaths per year. It wouldn’t surprise me if the actual number was over a thousand.

  • It’s been a year since a motorist ran over a police officer at this very intersection. One year of Polly Trottenberg’s DOT sitting on its hands, watching motorists play chicken with the lives of innocent New Yorkers. Now, at last, Trottenberg has the human sacrifice she needs before the DOT can begin contemplating the world’s most lackluster street improvements.

    Polly Trottenberg may not have pulled the trigger herself, but her bloody handprints are all over the scene of this murder.

  • Seth Rosenblum

    Atlantic and Grand Avenue is a separate intersection on a similarly dangerous stretch of Atlantic. There is a crosswalk, which is about 80 feet long and crosses 8 lanes of traffic. DOT hasn’t made any improvements to it in the last year.

  • So many deaths on so many streets. Who can keep track of them all?

  • WoodyinNYC

    Thanks for that.
    I’m still trying to get confirmation on the scene of the crime.

  • Glenn Wilson

    I knew Amen-Ra (Lloyd Spivey) for almost 30 years and he was in a lot of ways like a father to me. He and my mother ran a book business together for many years in Harlem and around the city. I found out about this and couldn’t believe it; still can’t. I couldn’t make the memorial as I heard about it the same day it was occurring and I live out of town. I tried calling him to follow up with helping him get a computer. I now know why I never got a return call.


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