Park Slope Residents Demand Immediate Safety Improvements on Ninth Street From de Blasio

The mayor made no promises today, as his daily SUV convoy to the Park Slope Y took him within a few feet of the site of yesterday's fatal collision.

Mayor de Blasio stopped to speak to Doug Gordon on his way to the gym this morning, but made no promises about redesigning 9th Street. Photo: David Meyer
Mayor de Blasio stopped to speak to Doug Gordon on his way to the gym this morning, but made no promises about redesigning 9th Street. Photo: David Meyer

More than 100 people showed up outside the Park Slope Y this morning to tell Mayor de Blasio to redesign 9th Street, the neighborhood main street where Dorothy Bruns ran over and killed 19-month-old Joshua Lew and four-year-old Abigail Blumenstein yesterday.

Demonstrators called on the city to immediately redesign 9th Street between Third Avenue and Prospect Park with protected bike lanes and concrete pedestrian islands.

“This particular tragedy — we don’t know what could have prevented it,” Park Slope resident and rally organizer Doug Gordon told the crowd. “But the more I thought about what happened yesterday, the more I thought: That’s just an excuse for not doing anything. That’s saying, ‘This time it was different, and we should wait until the next time.'”

The intersection of Ninth Street and Fifth Avenue has an especially awful record of crashes, injuries, and deaths. In 2016, a hit-and-run driver killed 41-year-old Bahtiyor Khamdanov. Later that year, a car crashed into a discount store near the intersection, injuring four people. That year a driver also critically injured a cyclist at the intersection of Ninth Street and Sixth Avenue.

De Blasio’s daily SUV excursions to the Y take him right to the crash site, and as a former Park Slope resident, he’s familiar with the location, he told reporters yesterday. “This is an intersection, again, we know very, very well,” he said. “We have crossed it many times with Dante and Chiara when they were kids, so this is personal.”

As de Blasio approached the gym this morning, he stopped to talk with Gordon, who urged him to commit to redesigning the street with protected bike lanes, concrete pedestrian islands, and other safety improvements. Gordon said de Blasio declined to make any explicit commitment.

Demonstrators awaiting the mayor's arrival. Photo: David Meyer
Demonstrators awaiting the mayor’s arrival. Photo: David Meyer

A 2007 redesign of Ninth Street added unprotected bike lanes, but the street remains wide and vulnerable to speeding. “We’ve been asking for this street to be fixed for years, and it hasn’t been fixed,” Gordon said.

Local residents are scared to cross the intersection of Ninth and Fifth Avenue. “I’m hyper-vigilant at the corner and I avoid it if I can,” said Kathy Park Price, who lives on 7th Street. “At that area, it’s sort of highway-mode.”

Another demonstrator, who gave her name as Jenny, said she walks on Ninth Street every day with her kids. “I came because I have two small children, and I was just heartbroken over the news yesterday,” she said. “I heard that there were some ways to make Ninth Street safer, including protected bike lanes and some pedestrian islands. I think that’s really important in a community where there are so many walkers.”

Looking west on 9th Street from Fifth Avenue, the site of yesterday's crash. Photo: Park Slope Neighbors
Looking west on Ninth Street from Fifth Avenue, the site of yesterday’s crash. Photo: Park Slope Neighbors
  • Larry Littlefield

    “This particular tragedy — we don’t know what could have prevented it,” Park Slope resident and rally organizer Doug Gordon told the crowd. “But the more I thought about what happened yesterday, the more I thought: That’s just an excuse for not doing anything. That’s saying, ‘This time it was different, and we should wait until the next time.’”

    Can’t argue with that. Why wait for a horrible tragedy that a street redesign could have prevented to implement it?

    There is one qualm, however. The goal of slowing traffic is at odds with the goal of speeding up buses.

  • Danny G

    Designing a 55′ wide two-way street with parking-protected bike lanes, bus stops, and left turn pockets is the easy part.

    Designing protected intersections along Ninth Street that accommodate buses, pedestrians, cyclists and car drivers is less easy, but totally doable.

    Finding the political will to actually step up and implement either of those plans is, of course, the hard part.

  • I was at the rally/demonstration this morning. I wrote something about 9th Street for Streetsblog a few years ago that might be worth reading. I basically show, aided by reader comments, that 9th Street used to be like 3rd street, a route more for promenading than for driving, with wide sidewalks. Could that be again? At the very least, it’s worth facting into discussons. https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2013/01/25/positively-3rd-street/comment-page-1/

  • vnm

    Bravo to Doug Gordon and everyone involved in setting up and participating in this rally.

  • JK

    Thank you to Doug and everyone else who came out. Along with fixing 9th Street, this terrible crash should spur an urgent, broader conversation about reducing dangerous driving. Public health officials think in terms of populations and harm
    mitigation. Any given crash maybe somewhat random, but there needs to
    be a much better understanding of whether there is a connection between
    driving behavior and moving violations and dangerous driving. Is it possible to identify drivers who are most likely to hurt people? If so, how can we work with those people
    to change their behavior? Maybe it’s something as simple as a letter or
    email from the City saying “Hey, you’ve been getting a lot of speeding violations. Please slow down and be careful not to hurt anyone.” Dorothy Bruns’ car got four speeding violations in the last few years. Is that a lot? Who knows? The City should be looking at the massive amount of data from speeding and red light camera violations and seeing what it tells us about repeat offenders, crashes with injuries and potential education and behavioral change. (The cameras are race blind and triggered by the car, which should address concerns about racial profiling.)

  • Larry Littlefield

    Good points. Unless Ms. Bruns is a total sociopath (can’t rule it out) she may very well regret her choices now, but it’s too late. Perhaps an intervention might have prevented this.

    But the vehicles themselves are now capable of preventing something like this, as the car companies are happy to show in their commercials. This ought to be made mandatory.

  • AnoNYC

    Mayor should mandate that going forward all new city vehicles will have pedestrian collision avoidance technology. Could also require it for fleets and for-hires in the near future.

    It’s only a matter of time before the next person is struck and killed, this technology reduces that likelihood on for a large portion of on street vehicles.

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