Days After Two Girls Were Critically Injured, DOT Hits Reset on its Sunset Park Safety Fix
Back to the drawing board.
The Department of Transportation confirmed on Tuesday that it has scrapped a redesign of two dangerous avenues in Brooklyn that the agency proposed fixing in 2021, the latest setback in an effort to tame a Vision Zero priority area where two little girls were badly injured by a reckless driver this week.
DOT officials said that the agency is planning on bringing a proposal for a redesign of Seventh and Eighth avenues between 39th and 65th streets to Sunset Park elected officials and community boards in the coming months. The only problem of course, is that the DOT spent all of 2021 selling a plan to turn the crash-prone two-way stretches into one-way streets — a plan that initially included a protected bike lane on each avenue, loading zones and expanded sidewalks on cramped commercial portions of the streets. That plan was eventually whittled down amid some complaints from business owners to a two-way protected bike lane on Seventh Avenue and a painted median on Eighth Avenue.
The announcement comes after Monday’s brutal crash in which a driver making a left turn from 57th Street onto Seventh Avenue hit two sisters, one 6 years old and the other 8. It’s unclear if the girls would have avoided injury under the one-way conversion, but the redesigned street would have been narrower and featured curb extensions, perhaps slowing down the driver or creating more visibility.
Unlike a failed 2007 proposal to convert stretches of two-way Sixth and Seventh avenue in nearby Park Slope into one-way streets without including traffic calming measures, the DOT’s Sunset Park proposal was an ambitious proposal to tame a pair of avenues with multiple traffic calming measures.
Last year’s initial proposal was doomed after vocal opposition from Assembly Member Peter Abbate, who originally demanded that any street redesign focus on making it easier for motor vehicle drivers. Abbate joined with local merchants to sue the DOT over the plan, and his opposition was never met with full-throated rebuke from outgoing Council Member Carlos Menchaca or incoming Council Member Alexa Avilés. Then-Mayor Bill de Blasio also undercut the original plan, telling reporters in late 2021 that he’d ordered the DOT to do more community engagement before the agency revealed its proposal for a bike lane on one avenue but not the other.
Before Monday’s crash, there had been 54 reported crashes on Seventh Avenue between 39th and 65th streets from January through October, resulting in injuries to six cyclists, six pedestrians and 11 motorists.
Although the major safety changes to the avenues were announced at the end of 2021 and were then never done, the DOT did recently install raised crosswalks on Seventh Avenue at 53rd Street and 55th Street.
“Our thoughts are with the victims of this tragic crash,” said DOT spokesperson Vin Barone, mentioning the raised crosswalks “to calm traffic and improve pedestrian safety.”
“We’ll work with the community to explore additional enhancements along the corridor,” he added.