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In Wake of Death, Pols Want Mid-Block Crossings, Safer Atlantic Ave.

12:01 AM EDT on May 1, 2023

Activists gathered on Atlantic Avenue calling on the city to make the deadly corridor safer on Saturday, April 29. Photo: Kevin Duggan

The city must install mid-block crossings on Atlantic Avenue and make intersections on the Brooklyn speedway safer for pedestrians, local pols said on Saturday, nearly two weeks after a motorist fatally struck 31-year-old Katherine Harris on the corridor.

The Department of Transportation has pledged to study the extra crosswalks this summer, Brooklyn Heights Council Member Lincoln Restler said at a rally and walkthrough of the corridor with fellow area lawmakers, advocates and community groups.

Katherine Harris, who was known as Katie, was fatally struck by a driver on Atlantic Avenue on April 16. Photo: Kevin Duggan
Katherine Harris was killed by a driver on Atlantic Avenue on April 16. Photo: Kevin Duggan

"It is wrong how deadly this strip is," Restler said of the portion of Atlantic Avenue that functions as a speedway for drivers between the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and the Barclays Center. "We know what it takes to make it safe, the question is whether we have the political will to do it. We’re going to push to make mid-block crossings a reality as soon as possible."

In addition to the mid-block crossings, DOT should also daylight intersections, raise crosswalks, extend curbs at intersections, and redesign the pedestrian space around the dangerous ramps to the BQE near Brooklyn Bridge Park, according to a statement put out by Restler and state Sen. Andrew Gounardes (D-Bay Ridge) after the rally.

The pols, family and friends of Harris, safe streets advocates, and civic groups gathered at the western end of Atlantic at Furman Street and walked the road to Fourth Avenue in an effort to urge Mayor Adams to step up and fix the roadway, which Transportation officials have talked about making safer for nearly three decades.

Officials convened a task force all the way back in 1997 to come up with ways to calm traffic on Downtown Brooklyn streets, including Atlantic Avenue, but they have remained resistant to reallocating space from motor vehicles to people, Borough President Antonio Reynoso said.

"They drag their feet because they don’t want to do the inevitable, which is that we might have to take some lanes away from vehicles, that we might have to design crosswalks for people," Reynoso said.

A memorial for Katherine Harris on Atlantic Avenue. Photo: Kevin Duggan
A memorial for Katherine Harris on Atlantic Avenue. Photo: Kevin Duggan

Harris, an aesthetician and make-up artist, was struck by a driver as she was crossing Atlantic at Clinton Street on April 16.

The Brooklynite, originally from upstate New York, had the right of way as she crossed the street, but the driver ran a red light and slammed into her at high speed, throwing her body halfway down the block, according to witnesses and police. Cops arrested the motorist, 27-year-old Erick Taxilaga Trujillo, soon afterward on manslaughter charges.

Harris's loved ones recounted their lost friend as a caring and ambitious person, a die-hard Yankees fan who loved going to concerts.

"Katie was fiercely loyal, independent, outgoing, loving, supportive, and the most caring. She made an impression on everyone she met," wrote her boyfriend Chris in a letter read out by Harris's friend Katherine Ballacqua.

On the day of her death, Harris had talked to her boyfriend and was excited to make plans to see him later that week, according to the letter.

"Instead, Katie didn’t make it across the street half a block from her apartment, the last street she had to cross before she was home, a street she’s crossed more than a thousand times," Ballacqua read the boyfriend's words through her own tears. "April 16, 2023, will forever be the worst day of my life and every day since then has been a strong contender."

Harris's friend Katherine Ballacqua read out a letter from her late friend's boyfriend. Photo: Kevin Duggan
Harris's friend Katherine Ballacqua read out a letter from her late friend's boyfriend. Photo: Kevin Duggan

Harris had always dreamed of moving from her Dutchess County home to the Big Apple, according to her aunt.

"We are devastated and heartbroken," added Jen Barton. "She was following all of the rules and within an instant all of her hopes and dreams were taken away from her."

Atlantic Avenue, stretching from the Brooklyn waterfront across the borough to Queens, is among the most dangerous streets in Brooklyn, and four people including Harris have been killed at the same Clinton Street intersection over the last decade.

Advocates with Transportation Alternatives previously proposed reclaiming space from cars and installing a center-running bike super highway on Atlantic.

DOT honchos told locals during a recent meeting that the agency is eyeing redesigns of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway's interchange at Atlantic Avenue, which are some of the "worst designed ramps" in the city, according to experts.

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