Private Garbage Truck Driver Kills Pedestrian at Dangerous Brooklyn Intersection

The garbage truck was still at the intersection an hour after the crash at Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, a sheet covering the victim's gruesome injuries. Photo: Julianne Cuba
The garbage truck was still at the intersection an hour after the crash at Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, a sheet covering the victim's gruesome injuries. Photo: Julianne Cuba

The driver of a private waste truck struck and killed a man at a notoriously dangerous Brooklyn intersection, just feet from the Barclays Center, on Friday afternoon, the latest in a string of fatal crashes amid the deadliest year so far under Vision Zero.

“Traffic violence is a crisis in our city, and we need leaders to act with bold action now to prevent any more bloodshed on our streets,” said Danny Harris, the executive district of Transportation Alternatives.

The 37-year-old driver behind the wheel of a Safeway Services Corp. private hauler was heading northbound on Flatbush Avenue when he ran over the 62-year-old victim as he crossed Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, right outside the Atlantic Terminal Mall, at about 3:30 p.m, according to the NYPD.

Police had few details, but claimed that the victim, whose name has yet to be released, was crossing mid-block and was not in the crosswalk when he was struck. But the gruesome scene told a story of its own.

The multi-ton truck was stopped just feet from the edge of the faded crosswalk — a mangled Target bag and what looked like a walker lay next to it, partially crushed beneath the wheels of the massive hauler, and with what looked like human remains splattered on the pavement.

Investigators from the NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad, the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, Department of Transportation, and the city’s Business Integrity Commission — which oversees the private carting industry — were all at the intersection, which was taped off to the public, as dozens of passerby looked on, murmuring about the disturbing scene and the dangers of the area.

Police and a Business Integrity Commission staffer compare notes on the crash at Atlantic and Flatbush avenues. Photo: Julianne Cuba
Police and a Business Integrity Commission staffer compare notes on the crash at Atlantic and Flatbush avenues. Photo: Julianne Cuba

And one man who works inside the mall told Streetsblog that the intersection is a nightmare, and he never feels safe crossing the street.

“This corner right here is a very dangerous corner. (The drivers) just come flying across, not waiting for pedestrians,” said Moe, who declined to give his last name. “I see how hard it is, I hold my hand up to get people to slow down. A lot of the time, the drivers do not realize this is a pedestrian crosswalk.”

The private carting industry has been in the spotlight over the past several years after a spate of fatal collisions and reckless driving. The NYPD vowed to crack down on infamously rogue carters, as advocates were fighting to rein them in. And in 2019, the city struck a historic deal to improve safety in the private sanitation industry by creating commercial waste zones that would finally cut down on cut-throat competition by overworked, barely regulated truck drivers.

Part of the deal included mandating that every truck above 10,000 pounds install life-saving guardrails by 2024 — a safety feature that keeps pedestrians and cyclists from being swept beneath the massive vehicles’ rear wheels.

It was immediately unclear if the truck that was involved in Friday’s fatal crash was fully equipped with the side guards that advocates have long called for, according to photos taken at the scene, which show a white sheet — meant to protect the dead — covering a portion of the truck’s bottom half. But a Business Integrity Commission spokesperson later confirmed to Streetsblog that the truck had side guards affixed only to its passenger side.

A man who answered the phone at Safeway Services Corp., which on its website explicitly states is “a Non-Union carting company,” declined to comment and quickly hung up.

sideguards
The driver of this private sanitation truck hit and killed a 62-year-old man at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues on Friday afternoon. Photo: Julianne Cuba

And of the 5,860 heavy garbage trucks in the entire fleet, just 1,590, or 27 percent, have side guards installed, according to data published by BIC and reviewed by New York Lawyers for the Public Interest — not much more than the 15.3 percent of the fleet that had them back in 2019, Streetsblog reported, now with just two years to go before the 2024 deadline.

Even Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, then a Council Member who helped champion the commercial waste zone legislation , conceded back in 2019 that five years was a long time to wait for something so crucial.

“I’m working on that. I think the side rails should be something that should be be done much sooner,” Reynoso said at the time.

A spokesperson for the Business Integrity Commission declined to comment on an ongoing investigation, but said the agency is “aware of and monitoring the situation.” And a spokesperson for the NYPD told Streetsblog that the crash is still under investigation — he could not say whether the driver was in custody.

The intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues is one of the 500 most-dangerous intersections in the city, according to city stats. Last year, there were 53 reported crashes at the intersection of Flatbush, Atlantic and Fourth avenues, also known as Times Plaza, injuring three cyclists, three pedestrians and seven motorists.

Since 2016, there have been 791 reported crashes in that tiny area, injuring 16, cyclists, 33 pedestrians and 106 motorists.

No one has died at the intersection since 2014, and many pedestrian improvements were made by the city in 2018, including pedestrian refuge islands and bollards to protect walkers from cars.

Before those improvements, one pedestrian was killed at the intersection in each of the years between 2012 and 2014. Two of those pedestrians were killed by truck drivers, according to city records.

“Atlantic and Flatbush is in the top one percent of most dangerous intersections in Brooklyn. This is not just an infuriating tragedy; it is a statistical inevitability in a city where the redesign of streets for safety has been delayed, defunded, and deprioritized,” said Danny Harris, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. “What happened today was predictable and preventable, if only city officials had cared enough to act. Ten people killed on the same street in one year is evidence of unconscionable levels of negligence. City officials have known for years how dangerous Atlantic Avenue is but have not taken the steps needed to save lives.”

According to the Department of Transportation, 42 people have been killed on New York City streets through March 2 of this year, up from 26 people over the same period last year, which was the bloodiest full year of Vision Zero since its inception in 2014. Of the 42 deaths this year, 20 have been pedestrians.

Update: This breaking story has been updated with more information from authorities. 

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