Officials respond to community petition drive
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Kensington community spoke and the New York State Department of Transportation listened. That’s how elected officials and civic leaders described it after the state agency finally signed off on a city plan to install a pedestrian island and other features to make the intersection of Ocean Parkway and Church Avenue safer to cross on foot.
The New York City Dept. of Transportation developed a plan several months ago at the behest of Councilman Brad Lander (D-Park Slope-Kensington) and community leaders who charged that there were too many accidents occurring at the intersection. But because Ocean Parkway is a state roadway (the Prospect Expressway runs along Ocean Parkway for a portion of its route), State DOT had to approve the plan before the safety measures could be installed.
Lander expressed concern that State DOT was dragging its feet on the plan. He and a group of community residents and transportation advocates visited Governor Andrew Cuomo’s midtown Manhattan office last week to hand-deliver petitions calling on Cuomo to light a fire under State DOT and get officials to move.
On Wednesday, it was learned that State DOT has given the city the green light to move forward with the safety plan.
The safety features to be installed include: the construction of a pedestrian refuge island, with protective barriers, on the northern crossing of the intersection, where pedestrians can safely wait when crossing the intersection; the installation of high visibility crosswalk markings; and the placement of "Traffic Signal Ahead" signs along Prospect Expressway, as well as speed limit signs on Ocean Parkway.
“These improvements will make a real difference for pedestrians who have to cross this intersection every day,” Lander said.
Construction by New York City DOT Transportation will start as soon as possible, possibly this fall, Lander said.
In June, Ngozi Agbim, a 73-year-old Kensington resident, was struck and killed by a truck while she was crossing the intersection. The New York Daily News reported that Agbim was the former head librarian at LaGuardia Community College in Queens.
Kensington residents expressed relief at Wednesday’s decision by State DOT officials. “This announcement is an exciting sign that NYS DOT is listening to its constituents and is open to working with local elected officials and NYC DOT,” resident Neil Reilly said.
“The NYS Department of Transportation has finally heard what local residents have been saying for over a year: their neighborhood is not a highway,” said Ryan Lynch, associate director of Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a non-profit transportation policy watchdog organization. Ryan also lives near the intersection.