By Trudy Whitman
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
On Aug. 17, 2012, Ellen Meyers, a Boerum Hill resident, was crossing Pacific Street at Court when a car heading west on Pacific brushed her leashed puppy, Mambo. By the time she reached the veterinarian across the street, the dog had died in her arms.
“The car didn’t stop, although people started yelling,” Meyers reported. “I don’t think the driver ever saw us.”
This past July, Bob Dehler had a close call with another speeding vehicle at the same intersection, jumping out of the way when he saw disaster heading toward him.
“My leg gave out because of a previous hip injury, and I stumbled in the street,” Dehler said during a phone interview. Like many others, Dehler now walks up to Atlantic Avenue to cross at the stoplight. “There is no way to cross safely at Pacific Street,” he stressed.
According to Scott Gastel, a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation (DOT), there have been no fatalities at this location going back to 2007, although there have been seven on-record pedestrian injuries from 2007-2011. A study earlier this year, he added in an email exchange, determined that the intersection did not meet federal guidelines for a traffic signal.
Many in the neighborhood believe that if all accidents at the hazardous crossing were reported, it would be clear that the intersection does warrant a light. In the meantime, what else can be done to keep both pedestrians and drivers safer?
Pacific and Court is on the boundary of Boerum Hill and Cobble Hill, and the Boerum Hill and Cobble Hill Associations have battled in tandem to bring safety measures to the corner. “We and the Cobble Hill Association pushed for the in-street bike racks in front of Bare Burger [northeast corner] as a ‘day lighting’ tactic to improve driver sight lines,” Howard Kolins, BHA president, told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Before the bike rack, he added, “cars had to block the crosswalk to see beyond parked traffic, which was dangerous for pedestrians crossing the eastern sidewalk.”
But, Kolins remarked, “The addition has only been partially successful in bringing some order there.”
The BHA president called the two-block stretch of Court south of Atlantic “a mess.” “We still have cars sitting near the bike racks creating a barrier to visibility” as well as “double parking on both sides of the street near Trader Joe’s.” Add the additional vehicles parked at no standing zones just south of Pacific, and you have the proverbial accident waiting to happen.
New York City Council Member Stephen Levin has taken up his constituents’ cause with a petition to DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan that he is asking concerned citizens to sign. The petition describes the “limited visibility and a multitude of distractions in the congested area [that] have been the cause of many accidents, fender-benders, and near-misses at this corner.” It requests that “DOT conduct a full study of the Pacific Street and Court Street intersection and immediately implement traffic mitigation measures that increase visibility and create safe pedestrian crossings.”
“DOT has its metrics and criteria for traffic lights,” Howard Kolins explained, “so the intersection, although dangerous, does not have sufficient numbers of accidents to qualify for a light.” Kolins said that he understands “quantifiable metrics,” but observable dangers must account for something too. With the assistance of Steve Levin’s office, Ellen Meyers, the woman who lost her dog, arranged a meeting with a group of concerned neighbors and Chris Hrones, DOT’s Downtown Brooklyn Transportation Coordinator, last January. The stakeholders (this reporter was one) met at the intersection where, within a few minutes, the hazards there were evident. As ameliorative measures, the group discussed the addition of a bike stand at the southeast corner, a curb cut and no standing sign on the northwest corner, and the elimination of newspaper boxes.
Howard Kolins suggested to this newspaper that DOT might also consider pedestrian barricades on the sidewalk and reversing the one-block of Pacific Street to run eastbound.
For Meyers, changes to the menacing intersection would mean a lot. Not only did she lose a beloved pet there, but the issue had been important to her daughter, Hope Reichbach, who, at the time of her death at age 22, was an aide to Councilmember Levin. The killer corner was an item on the Traffic Task Force agenda for a meeting Hope was to run the day of her death.
You could sign the petition to Commissioner Sadik-Khan, or visit Councilmember Levin’s office at 410 Atlantic Avenue. Above all, report any accidents that you have or observe to the 76th Police Precinct.