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Vacca Blames Bronx CB for Deadly Street Design, But He’s Culpable Too

2015-03-east-tremont_pdf
Dozens of people are injured on this part of East Tremont Avenue each year. Council Member Vacca could insist that DOT take action despite opposition from the local community board. Image: NYC DOT

DOT failed to make safety improvements to the deadly stretch of East Tremont Avenue where a driver struck and killed cyclist Giovanni Nin last month, and City Council Member James Vacca says Bronx Community Board 10 is to blame.

City Council Member James Vacca
City Council Member James Vacca
City Council Member James Vacca

In the spring of 2015 DOT put forward a road diet plan for East Tremont between Williamsbridge Road and Bruckner Boulevard, reducing through traffic lanes while adding a center turn lane, pedestrian islands, and other traffic-calming measures [PDF]. But DOT abandoned the project after CB 10 voted against it. The plan faced opposition organized by the Throggs Neck Merchants Association, according to the Bronx Times.

Hundreds of people were injured in traffic crashes on East Tremont between Williamsbridge and Bruckner from 2009 to 2013, according to DOT. Drivers injured 59 pedestrians and 10 cyclists in that time frame.

Three drivers struck and killed 74-year-old Angel Figueroa as he tried to cross East Tremont at Puritan Avenue in 2013. This June, Nin, 26, was killed by a hit-and-run driver as he attempted to bike across East Tremont about a block away from where Figueroa was struck.

At a recent memorial for Nin, Vacca -- a former transportation committee chair who used to work as district manager for CB 10 -- blasted the board for standing in the way of safety improvements.

From the Bronx Times:

“This particular stretch of East Tremont Avenue, which has claimed at least two lives in the last three years, is one of the worst stretches in this area,” said Vacca, referring to the stretch between Waterbury Avenue and Bruckner Boulevard, which has a sharp curve that causes blind spots for motorists.

“This situation needs to improve to prevent unfortunate incidents like this one from occurring, and until Community Board 10 comes up with their own solution after rejecting the Department of Transporta­tion’s plan, this stretch will continue to be dangerous for many,” the councilman said.

Vacca blamed CB 10’s inaction on a DOT-recommended plan as partly responsible for the tragic incident.

He also chastised the Throggs Neck Merchants Association for opposing DOT’s plan for this location without submitting an alternate proposal.

East Tremont Avenue, where a hit-and-run driver killed Giovanni Nin. Image: Google Maps
East Tremont Avenue, where a hit-and-run driver killed Giovanni Nin. Image: Google Maps
East Tremont Avenue, where a hit-and-run driver killed Giovanni Nin. Image: Google Maps

Vacca is right to publicly criticize CB 10 for opposing safer streets, but he could do a lot more himself. Community board votes are advisory -- they only wield veto power if elected officials and city agencies let them.

Other council members have shown how it's done. Melissa Mark-Viverito, Daniel Dromm, Brad Lander, and Steve Levin all spoke up to ensure that community board naysayers wouldn't have the final word on street safety projects. Vacca could do the same by telling DOT to move forward with safety fixes on East Tremont.

It's not the job of CB 10 or a local merchants association to design safe streets. It's up to city officials to take action to reduce traffic deaths and injuries, even when community boards want to preserve the status quo.

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