Friday, June 28, 2013

KENSINGTON RESIDENTS PROTEST INACTION AFTER ANOTHER PEDESTRIAN DEATH

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – June 28, 2013
From the office of City Councilmember Brad Lander

Brooklyn Residents Demand Safety Improvements
at Ocean Parkway & Church Avenue
Following Pedestrian Death

The community provided funding one year ago through
Council Member Lander’s “participatory budgeting” process for a safety upgrade
at the long-dangerous intersection, but the money has gone unspent
as New York State DOT has refused to approve the plan

Monday’s death of neighborhood resident Ngozi Agbim, 73,
shows need for immediate action

BROOKLYN, NY – With cars whizzing by this morning, Kensington residents, transportation advocates, and City Council Member Brad Lander called on the New York State Department of Transportation to sign-off on safety improvements at the dangerous Church Avenue - Ocean Parkway intersection. 

One year ago, residents voted in Council Member Lander’s “participatory budgeting” election to allocate $200,000 to safety upgrades at the notorious intersection – but that money has gone unspent because the New York State Department of Transportation has not approved a plan from the New York City DOT that would make it safer to cross.

The death earlier this week of Ngozi Agbim, 73, who was hit and killed by a semi truck at the intersection on Monday, has left the neighborhood sad and angry.

“We just do not understand how is it that a God fearing and loving mother would die in such a manner walking back from a church service,” said Eugene Agbimson, Brother-in-Law of Ngozi Agbim.  “This is very difficult, but it is also very rewarding. It allows me to reflect on her life, her dedication to the service of God and her lifelong committed to the less privilege.   Her death like her life is now a beacon – a rallying point for change.” (Read his full remarks here). 

“We have been working to fix that intersection—which we all know is dangerous—for years,” said Council Member Lander. “The community felt so strongly that this was voted a top priority in last year’s budget. We are heartbroken about Monday’s tragedy, which took the life of our neighbor, Ngozi Agbim. We must act now to do all we can to prevent future tragedies. We are calling on New York State DOT to approve our plan.”

“It has saddened me that someone died in this tragic accident,” said nearby resident Arlette F. Mathis. “My family and I cross that intersection daily. We fear crossing, because even with the signage, drivers speed onto the Prospect Expressway and seldom yield to pedestrians. Something like this should never happen again.”

The holdup isn’t money – residents had the chance last year to vote on funding for local projects and seized it – prioritizing $200,000 to improve safety at dangerous Church and Ocean.  Council Member Lander brought the innovative program, called “participatory budgeting,” to New York in 2011. It has since spread to 10 City Council districts around the city.

“We voted for this money,” said life-long Kensington resident Julie Bero. “We should be able to cross this intersection safely and New York State Department of Transportation should make it a priority.”

With the funding available, New York City DOT proposed building a pedestrian refuge island between northbound and southbound traffic at the intersection, to give pedestrians a safe space when crossing the nine-lane street.  New York State DOT rejected the proposal, and instead proposed eliminating the crosswalk entirely, even though it is an important connection between bus lines, schools, and neighborhoods. Without the crosswalk, residents would have to walk a block out of their way and wait for three crossing signals instead of one. Cars would speed by even faster. And many pedestrians would certainly still cross there anyway, far more exposed to speed, danger, and future tragedies.

“New York State DOT’s proposal is unacceptable,” said Council Member Lander.  “It would make this intersection even more dangerous. Our neighborhood is not a highway.”

Residents are joining Lander to gather petition signatures and press for a safety solution. The petition, which was launched today, can also be signed here: http://bit.ly/Church-Ocean.

“Ten years ago a Manhattan woman was electrocuted while walking down an East Village street,” said Paul Steely White of Transportation Alternatives. “The relevant agencies sprang into action, fixing power infrastructure to prevent needless loss of life. The state has as known for years that this intersection is just as deadly to pedestrians as a manhole cover charged with stray voltage, but yet that have done nothing.”

The intersection has long been a subject of concern. There were 36 pedestrian and cyclist injuries and four fatalities there between 1995 and 2008, according to Transportation Alternatives’ CrashStat.

In March of this year, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign released a report, finding that pedestrian injuries and deaths are far too common on Ocean Parkway in general.  “From 2008-2011, six pedestrians were killed along Ocean Parkway, making it the most deadly road for pedestrians in Brooklyn,” said Ryan Lynch, associate director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “The New York State Department of Transportation must work with local residents to immediately implement measures that improve the walking environment."

“This is not about pointing fingers or assigning blame,” Lander concluded. “The NYPD is conducting an investigation to determine what happened. We appreciate the increased attention of the NYPD Crash Investigation Squad to deadly crashes. But we’ve long known this intersection is dangerous. After a tragedy like this, we must come together. In the memory of Ngozi Agbim, we must work together to make this intersection safe for pedestrians and drivers alike,” Lander concluded.