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Bad Lieutenants: NYPD Has No Answers At Street Safety Town Hall

Assembly Member Robert Carroll and a police officer from the 66th Precinct at Monday night’s street safety town hall. Photo: Katherine Willis

Same old NYPD.

Cops aren’t still ignoring scofflaw drivers up and down dangerous Coney Island Avenue — and police made it clear that local precincts couldn't be bothered by sending two low-level officers to a large town hall meeting on Monday night as residents pleaded for relief from the unsafe conditions.

Representatives from the Department of Transportation and two of the five police precincts that enforce the law on Coney Island Avenue, the 66th and 70th, met with community members and elected officials on Monday night. The DOT showed up with a slideshow demonstrating what the agency has done and what it will do in an attempt to fix one of the most high-profile priority corridors in Brooklyn. But attendees panned the NYPD response as a total dud.

"The officer from the 66th Precinct sounded like he didn't want to take responsibility for anything," said Cal DeJesus, an activist with Transportation Alternatives.

Coney Island Avenue has emerged as a dangerous and deadly traffic sewer in 2019. Two pedestrians and one cyclist were killed on the avenue over a two month period this summer, but even before that, it was a block where the DOT noted there were too many pedestrian deaths and severe injuries. A Streetsblog investigation of conditions on the street found that in addition to wide lanes and speeding drivers, people double-parked Coney Island Avenue like it was a sport.

When attendees of the town hall asked the NYPD representatives what they were going to do about those double parking issues, particularly when it comes to car wash businesses that engage in the practice all day long, they got the brush-off from the 66th Precinct representative, according to DeJesus.

"He said there's only so many summonses they can give to car wash places, so people should push for their elected officials to work on getting their businesses licenses revoked," DeJesus said.

"Rep from the #66thprecinct says that they don’t ticket businesses like the car washes and auto repair businesses every day," tweeted Katherine Willis, another Transportation Alternatives activist who was at the meeting.

"Their answers were kind of shocking," Willis told Streetsblog.

Adam White, a Park Slope resident and attorney with the law firm Vaccaro and White, said that the representative from the 70th Precinct called traffic crashes "accidents" and insisted officers couldn't write tickets for traffic infractions they didn't personally witness. That’s not true — but it’s a citywide training problem for the NYPD, as the 112th Precinct showed recently in a video from Queens Boulevard that went viral after a driver ran a stop sign and hit a cyclist, yet was not initially ticketed.

"I found it amazing but not surprising that the PO from the 70th kept referring to crashes and collisions as ‘accidents,’" White said. "And he repeated the same old tired NYPD created excuse for not writing tickets based on not having observed the violation, which we have tried overcoming with some success through the Right of Way statute."

David Herman, a South Slope resident who attended the meeting, said that he felt the officers were doing their best under the circumstances, but that both precincts failed to step up from the start of the meeting by not sending top cops.

"By not sending higher-ranking officers there, it made it seem like the precincts didn't understand how serious people were about this issue," Herman said. "They should have sent people who could make changes, not just people who could report back."

Council Member Brad Lander, whose district includes a piece of Coney Island Avenue, including the intersection at Church Avenue where Maria Del Carmen Porras-Hernandez was killed while crossing the street this summer, said NYPD reps didn't seem prepared to talk about enforcement.

"I'd give the DOT a meaningfully higher grade than the NYPD precincts," Lander said. "They [DOT] came with a plan and an openness to do more. We did not see from the two NYPD precincts that they're developing a plan to take the traffic safety crisis in the community as seriously as it demands."

The NYPD of course can't be everywhere at all times, but police openly telling people they're not interested in enforcing against extremely low-hanging fruit left meeting attendees questioning if the department can be counted on at all.

"If the police have this nonchalant attitude towards enforcement then what's the point?" DeJesus asked.

Lander said that the if there's any hope for the future, it's that the precinct representatives did seem to actually listen to the meeting attendees when they asked for the NYPD's help in creating a safer Coney Island Avenue.

"I hope the two officers will go back to their precincts and tell their commanding officers that this community is demanding more aggressive action, and that they'll step forward to do the traffic safety enforcement that we need to save lives," Lander said.

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