Park Avenue in Clinton Hill Awaits Fixes as Another Crash Caught on Camera

Last September, local elected officials joined the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership and students from Benjamin Banneker Academy on Brooklyn’s Park Avenue to clock speeding drivers. The Partnership released a report offering suggestions to city agencies about how to improve pedestrian safety on the dangerous avenue, which has a crash rate higher than three-quarters of Brooklyn streets. More than a year later, the city has yet to advance any significant changes.

In the meantime, the crashes continue. One hotspot is the intersection with Washington Avenue, which in the span of 20 days saw two drivers run red lights and crash into other vehicles, sending vehicles onto the sidewalk or through the crosswalk. Last month, a driver heading north on Washington Avenue ran a red light and struck another vehicle traveling west on Park Avenue. The westbound driver careened onto the sidewalk, and the car smashed through the front door of the Fresh Fanatic supermarket. The store captured the crash on its security camera.

Then last Tuesday at approximately 11:20 a.m., a northbound driver on Washington ran the same light, crashing into a westbound van driver before spinning through the crosswalk and into a bike-share station (above). Immediately after this crash, a third driver began driving the wrong way on the eastbound lanes of Park Avenue, crashing head-on into an SUV. FDNY says four people were transported to Woodhull Hospital after last week’s back-to-back crashes, including one person with serious but nonfatal injuries.

“We are puzzled that DOT isn’t taking the next logical step and prioritizing this project,” the Partnership said in a statement last week.  In addition to NYCHA’s Ingersoll and Whitman Houses, there are eight schools along this short stretch of Park Avenue. Community Board 2 unanimously supported the plan in June 2012 and a petition has gathered more than 1,000 signatures. The project is also supported by Council Member Letitia James, Assembly Member Joe Lentol, and Borough President Marty Markowitz.

“The traffic along Park Avenue has been consistently dangerous,” James said in a statement. “It is time DOT take action to address safety along the strip.”

The Partnership did note that DOT has begun to implement some of the report’s smaller recommendations, including installation of nine new street lights and daylighting the areas near seven crosswalks — removing parking to improve visibility for pedestrians and drivers. In May, DOT installed a temporary message board encouraging drivers to slow down. DOT said it has also added accessible pedestrian ramps at crossings and is conducting a study of traffic signals on Park Avenue to potentially retime lights for slower speeds.

While important, these changes do not alter the speedway-like design of Park Avenue, where drivers have been measured going as fast as 53 mph. Last year’s report included safety recommendations such as neckdowns, raised crosswalks, new street trees and additional on-street parking. Asked about its plans for Park Avenue, DOT said it is “continuing to review potential traffic calming proposals for the corridor.”

The Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership wants more than review. The group is urging DOT’s office of research, implementation, and safety to hold additional community meetings and implement design changes. “At this point,” the group said, “there is no indication that DOT will do this in 2014.”

The intersection of Park and Washington, where the recent crashes occurred, has a red light camera, but it is not positioned to catch drivers running the red on Washington. Danelle Davis is the property manager of the Chocolate Factory, the building housing the Fresh Fanatic grocery, and was on her way to a traffic safety meeting when last week’s crash occurred. “They went right through the light like it didn’t exist,” she said. “Who has to die, really? We’ve been trying so hard to get any of this put forward.”

Last year’s report also called on NYPD to step up its speed limit enforcement. This section of Park Avenue is within the 88th Precinct, which has come under fire from area residents for failing to enforce traffic laws. Deputy Inspector Scott Henderson, the precinct’s commanding officer, said at last month’s precinct community council meeting that the precinct has issued 810 traffic summonses along Park Avenue.

Through the end of October, the precinct had issued a total of 7,565 traffic tickets. Only 62 of those tickets are for speeding — that’s one speeding ticket every five days.