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Yet Another Grieving Family to City: DO SOMETHING ABOUT KILLER DRIVERS AND ROADS

Candles mark the site of the death of Imorne Horton. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

The grieving mom and siblings of a beloved Red Hook man who was killed by a hit-and-run driver at a notoriously dangerous intersection — the latest grieving family in an exhausting lifetime of grieving families — demanded on Friday that the city not only catch the criminal who killed their relative, but also improve safety for the dumped-on neighborhood.

Tasha Horton, whose son Imorne was killed by the heartless criminal driver on Feb. 24, stood at the corner of Court Street and Hamilton Avenue on Friday to demand justice in two forms: for the NYPD to catch the driver and for the Department of Transportation to fix the speedway-like road so that there are no more deaths like that of her son.

The funeral card of Imorne Horton.
The funeral card of Imorne Horton.
The funeral card of Imorne Horton.

"We just want justice," Horton said. "This is my oldest son and I miss him dearly."

The victim's family worked with Council Members Brad Lander and Carlos Menchaca (whose districts meet at the deadly driving disaster of Hamilton Avenue) to craft a letter to new DOT Commissioner Hank Gutman demanding some short-term improvements to give pedestrians more time to cross the eight-lane lower level of the Gowanus Expressway, but also for long-term improvements.

The need for improvements will be easy to understand for to Gutman, a former copyright lawyer accustomed to reading large legal briefs; in 2014, the city put out a comprehensive report [PDF] that found "inadequate pedestrian crossings, pedestrian facilities in disrepair and insufficient lighting" — conditions that have not changed.

That report had recommended more pedestrian space, traffic-calming measures, additional pedestrian crossings (perhaps elevated), new and better medians under the highway (preferably planted). A diagram from that report is below right.

From the city's 2014 proposal.
From the city's 2014 proposal.
From the city's 2014 proposal.

For Lander, the seven years that have passed with no substantive changes are an example of the manner in which the city treats low-income or communities of color.

"This is what we mean when we demand environmental justice," Lander said. "It should be noted that there is no subway in Red Hook, so people from this mostly Black and Brown neighborhood must walk across this highway [Lander gestured to the roadway] to get to the subway [at Smith and Ninth Street]. Why must this community live with dangerous infrastructure — especially when the city has known about the problem since at least 2014?"

The letter, also signed by Rep. Nydia Velazquez, State Sen. Jabari Brisport and Assembly Members Jo Anne Simon and Marcela Mitaynes, added that the Horton family called for "additional traffic cameras, both red light and speed cameras" and was demanding a meeting with the agency to "talk directly about these upgrades."

Hamilton Avenue is basically the lower level of the Gowanus Expressway.
Hamilton Avenue is basically the lower level of the Gowanus Expressway.
Hamilton Avenue is basically the lower level of the Gowanus Expressway.

"The community has been calling for changes for years," the letter added. "This week's death makes clear we have waited far too long. We must not wait any longer."

Since that 2014 report, there have been 81 reported crashes at just the northside intersection of Court Street and Hamilton Avenue, injuring five cyclists, six pedestrians and 17 motorists ... at one half of one intersection. And according to Crashmapper, there were 202 reported crashes, injuring four cyclists, three pedestrians and 44 motorists in 2019 alone — just on the three blocks of Hamilton between Smith and Henry streets.

A police spokeswoman said on Friday that they had found the vehicle that hit Horton on Thursday — and the driver was "being questioned," but no arrest had been made.

The DOT did not respond to an immediate query on deadline.

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