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Nostrand Avenue, Vision Zero Priority Corridor, Takes Another Life

Nostrand Avenue at Kings Highway, where 29-year-old teacher Hermanda Booker was killed trying to cross the street. Image: Google Maps

A teacher on her way to work was killed yesterday by two drivers on Nostrand Avenue, a Vision Zero priority corridor that is slated for safety fixes -- but not at the intersection where the collision occurred.

Hermanda Booker was crossing Nostrand at Kings Highway, in Midwood, at around 6:45 a.m. when she was struck by the driver of an SUV. She was hit a second time by a school bus driver who was turning left from Kings Highway onto the avenue. Booker, 29, was pronounced dead at Beth Israel Medical Center.

“One of the best kids you can ever have,” said Herman Booker, the victim’s father, speaking to the Post. “Everybody has everything good to say about her. Nobody has nothing bad to say about her.”

Hermanda Booker
Hermanda Booker
Hermanda Booker

Booker was a special education teacher in her first year on the job. A co-worker told WABC she planned to get her doctorate. "That was her goal, to be a teacher," said Sam Maslow. "But she wanted to make sure she empowered kids in other ways."

NYPD told Gothamist Booker was "was some distance away from the crosswalk" when she was struck, but photos of the scene show the stopped school bus partially in the crosswalk with the rear wheels at the crosswalk's edge. "The bus came around the bend and didn't see her on the [street] and ran her over,” one witness told WABC.

Information provided to Gothamist conflicts with what police reportedly told Booker's dad.

From the Post:

Herman Booker said he was told by investigators that his daughter was crossing the street properly, at the light and that it was the SUV driver who didn’t obey the traffic signal.

“That is not proper,” he said.

NYPD initially told the press the SUV driver left the scene, but later said that wasn't the case. As of this afternoon no charges were filed against either driver and the investigation remains open, NYPD told Streetsblog. The department's public information office did not have details on who had the right of way.

NYPD issued conflicting accounts on how the crash occurred. Video from the scene showed the school bus stopped at the crosswalk’s edge. Image: WABC
NYPD issued conflicting accounts on how the crash occurred. Video and photos from the scene showed the school bus stopped partially in the crosswalk. Image: WABC
NYPD issued conflicting accounts on how the crash occurred. Video from the scene showed the school bus stopped at the crosswalk’s edge. Image: WABC

Nostrand Avenue has the same rate of severe pedestrian injuries and deaths per mile as Flatbush Avenue, Atlantic Avenue, and Avenue R, making it one of the most dangerous streets in Brooklyn for walking, according to the borough’s DOT pedestrian safety action plan. Motorists killed seven pedestrians on Nostrand from 2009 to 2013, and there were 68 crashes causing death or severe injury on the street during that period.

Kings Highway is a typical wide stroad designed for speed (the DOT pedestrian safety plan describes it as part of “the legacy of a network of rural roads built during the borough’s earliest settlement”). The intersection with Nostrand Avenue has long crosswalks that put people on foot in harm's way.

There were 92 crashes resulting in injury at Nostrand and Kings Highway from 2009 through November 2016, according to city crash data. Twenty-five victims were walking, two were on bikes, and 65 were motor vehicle occupants, a sign that many collisions at the intersection occur at high speeds.

The action plan says DOT has chosen six intersections along Nostrand's eight miles for Vision Zero safety treatments, but the Kings Highway crossing is not one of them. This is a good example of why the de Blasio administration needs to take a more comprehensive approach to street redesigns, as noted by Transportation Alternatives in a report released this week.

Nostrand Avenue at Kings Highway borders three NYPD precincts: the 61st -- which had jurisdiction in yesterday’s crash -- the 63rd, and the 70th. Summons data show enforcement of dangerous violations like speeding and failure to yield is inconsistent among the precincts.

“We’re trying to get more enforcement on the traffic,” City Council Member Jumaane Williams told WPIX.

People who live and work near Nostrand and Kings Highway told WPIX they fear crossing the street there. "I'll be honest with you, I find myself running to try to cross the street before I get hit by a car," said Aaron Malko, an employee at a nearby pizzeria.

"Kings Highway is notorious for accidents," said Simon Gifter, a Midwood resident who documents reckless driving. “Especially this corner. It’s every week -- there’s near-misses, or accidents. There’s always something.”

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