By Trudy Whitman
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Over 300 people have signed a petition begun on July 27 asking the Department of Transportation to implement pedestrian safety measures at Congress and Hicks Street. As the Columbia Waterfront District continues to fill with families, this dangerous intersection is a tragic accident waiting to happen, stop sign promoters insist. One building alone, 100 Congress Street, directly on the corner of Congress and Hicks, is home to 30 children, who often cross the street at this point to access Van Vorhees playground.
Indeed, at an information event organized at the site by Lisa Seibold-Winder and Darby Mingey on Aug. 7, speeding cars were observed at rush hour barreling right onto Hicks from Congress, sometimes jumping the curb. Tire marks are visible there.
The petition noted that vehicles use “Columbia Street and Hicks Street as access/egress to the BQE.” Due to BQE construction and daily rush hour traffic, vehicles have been “increasingly exiting the BQE at Atlantic Avenue and racing onto Congress to connect back with Hicks, in an attempt to avoid traffic. This is especially noticeable with professional vehicles, such as transport trucks and livery vehicles.”
Contacted by this newspaper before the information session, Cobble Hill Association President Roy Sloane said he was not aware of the event and had not received any complaints.
Sloane wondered if the petitioners knew that “we have been working on this issue with a substantial degree of success” over the past several years. Community Board 6, he added, had just voted in favor of several changes. And Sloane, community advocate Jerry Armer and City Council Member Brad Lander have met with the Department of Transportation to discuss resolutions for traffic issues in this area. These include adding pedestrian bump outs at all BQE crossings on the east side of Hicks Street as well as the return of alternate-side-of-the-street parking to the east side of Hicks.
“This will reduce the three moving lanes of traffic down to two,” Sloane’s email said, “to significantly calm traffic moving north on Hicks Street east.”
The petitioners, however, are advocating for other changes that will slow west-east traffic turning south. To cut down on speeding, they are asking for a stop sign at Congress and Hicks and two speed bumps on Congress between Columbia and Hicks. They also want two distinct crosswalks — one across from the west corner of the Congress/Hicks intersection and a more visible crosswalk than the one that currently exists on the east side of the intersection.
In conversations with DOT, said Lisa Seibold-Winder, her group was told that recommendations from a study of the intersection would not be available until February 2013. That’s not soon enough, she insisted. She also said she would contact Roy Sloane in an attempt to coordinate efforts.