By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
After Bill de Blasio vowed to stem the rising tide of pedestrian fatalities in the city and outlined several new safety measures, the district manager of Community Board 10 offered ideas on how the mayor could make Bay Ridge streets safer.
Josephine Beckmann said that 65th Street, a heavily trafficked thoroughfare, could use some safety improvements under the mayor’s new safety transportation plan. The mayor vowed at a press conference last week to reduce the number of pedestrian fatalities down to zero in 10 years.
“The 65th Street corridor, especially at Sixth and Seventh avenues, is a dangerous roadway for motorists and pedestrians. It’s a large volume area,” Beckman told the Brooklyn Eagle. “That whole area has really been built up over the past few years. Where you used to have just warehouses, you have thriving businesses, new residential buildings, and schools. There is a large volume of pedestrian traffic there now.”
The intersection of 65th Street at Sixth Avenue contains a Gowanus Expressway exit as well as local vehicular and pedestrian traffic. There are numerous car accidents at that intersection and at several other spots along 65th Street, Beckmann said.
In fact, Beckmann said the entire 65th Street corridor, from Third Avenue in Bay Ridge, all the way to Bay Parkway in Bensonhurst, could use safety measures, although she quickly added that her community board is responsible only for the area stretching from Third Avenue to 14th Avenue.
“Saving lives is of the utmost importance,” Beckmann said, praising de Blasio’s initiative.
Eleven New Yorkers were been killed in traffic accidents in the first two weeks of the 2014, including seven pedestrians.
"We think there is an epidemic here, and it can't go on," de Blasio said at a press conference held just a block from where 8-year-old Noshat Nahian was struck and killed while walking to his Queens school in December.
The mayor, whose plan to eradicate traffic fatalities by 2024 is called "Vision Zero," said he was commissioning a task force comprised of leaders from the New York Police Department, Department of Transportation, Department of Health and the Taxi and Limousine Commission charged with coming up with plans to make the city's streets safer.
But certain steps will be taken immediately, de Blasio said.
The city will use traffic cameras to issue more tickets — not just warnings — to enforce the speed limits on certain streets. Additionally, the NYPD will deploy more officers to enforce against serious traffic violations.
De Blasio said he planned to dramatically expand the number of streets that carry a reduced, 20 mph speed limit and petition the State Legislature to give the city more authority to install traffic cameras throughout the five boroughs.
Beckmann said several features of the “Vision Zero” plan could be incorporated into a project to increase safety on Bay Ridge streets.
In addition to the 65th Street corridor, another spot that should be scrutinized is the intersection of Fourth Avenue and 86th Street, according to Beckmann.
Committee members pointed out that the intersection of Fourth Avenue and 86th Street is a transportation hub with five bus lines (B1, B16, S53, S79 and S93), the R subway train, thousands of cars and thousands of pedestrians all intersecting.
An estimated 16,000 people are getting on and off buses and entering and exiting the subway station each day, Committee Chairman Doris Cruz said.
The corner also marks the gateway to the 86th Street Bay Ridge Business Improvement District, which runs from Fourth Avenue to Fort Hamilton Parkway and attracts thousands of shoppers a day, she said.
Among the traffic dangers, according to board members: drivers making turns who don’t give pedestrians the right of way, drivers who park in bus stops, pedestrians who jaywalk, either by crossing against the light or crossing in the middle of the street and simply the sheer volume of traffic.
De Blasio met with several families who lost children in crashes and was clearly moved by their plight. He spoke haltingly, frequently sighing to compose himself, and repeatedly invoked his own children when discussing protecting the city's youth.
"This is the core of our lives," he said.
Several victims' relatives wiped their eyes during the mayor's remarks. Many vowed to go with him to Albany to petition the Legislature if needed.
"We simply have to do something," said a tearful Amy Cohen, whose 8-year-old son, Sammy Cohen Eckstein, was struck and killed by a van in October in Brooklyn. "For him. For any child."
--Jonathan Lemire of the Associated Press contributed