Dep. Insp. Richard DiBlasio, commanding officer of the 68th Precinct, and Police Officer Vito Viola, the precinct’s community affairs officer, were standing on the corner of Fourth Avenue and 86th Street in Bay Ridge Monday afternoon stopping pedestrians who had just jaywalked and handing them pieces of paper.
The paper that each pedestrian received looked suspiciously like a summons. Printed in bold letters at the top of the page was the message, “68 PCT. PEDESTRIAN VIOLATION,” along with a serial number and a list of charges.
Only it wasn’t a summons. The paper was merely a warning made to resemble a summons. “How else do you get people’s attention? We made it look like a summons so that people would do a double-take. We want them to pay attention when they cross the street,” DiBlasio told the Brooklyn Eagle.
“A lot of accidents take place at this corner and many of the accidents involve pedestrians being hit by cars,” DiBlasio said.
Pedestrians jaywalk by crossing against the light, crossing mid-block, straying out of the crosswalk, and by dashing into the street from between two parked cars, he said.
On the “summons,” one violation is described as “Pedestrian failed to exercise due care when crossing a roadway creating a safety hazard.” Beneath that are the words, “You are hereby summoned to appear at: The nearest intersection, in the crosswalk, crossing with the signal.”
“People do a double take when they see it. Sometimes, they’ll come back to us and ask, ‘Do I have to go to court?’ They think it’s a real summons,” DiBlasio said. “We’re doing this because we want to grab people’s attention.”
The intersection a transit hub, with the R train’s 86th Street station, the S79, S53, B1-and B16 buses all intersecting. In addition, the corner is the gateway to the Bay Ridge 86th Street Business Improvement District which contains dozens of shops. The area sees a large volume of cars, truck, buses, and pedestrian traffic.
Pedestrians often race across the street against the light to catch a bus.
“Eighty-Sixth Street and Fourth Avenue is a prime spot for accidents in our community,” Josephine Beckmann, district manager of Community Board 10, told the Eagle. “We had a fatality there last year. The woman who was killed was crossing in between two buses.”
In a report issued by the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) in 2012, the intersection was listed as a “high pedestrian crash location.” Between 2006 and 2010, there were 23 accidents at the intersection, according to the DOT report. Thirty-two percent of the accidents along the 86th Street corridor in Bay Ridge that involved pedestrians were cases in which the person was jaywalking by crossing mid-block, DOT reported.
DiBlasio also stationed his officers at other busy intersections in Bay Ridge, including Fifth Avenue and 86th Street.
Bringing awareness to the importance of safety is crucial, Beckmann. “Education is important. We welcome the precinct’s efforts,” she said.
On the back of the “summons,” a list of safety tips was printed. The tips included, “Cross roadways only at intersections” and “When crossing roadways, use all of your senses. Avoid talking on your cell phone or having your head down texting.”
DiBlasio said cell phone use while crossing the street is a no-no. “People walk with their heads down,” he said. “They’re too busy texting to look up to see if a car is coming. I always tell people, ‘It could be your last text.’”