Cumbo Calls for Safer Atlantic Ave, and Trottenberg Promises Action

Photo: Ben Fried
City Council Member Laurie Cumbo with advocates from the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, Make Brooklyn Safer, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, New York League of Conservation Voters, and Transportation Alternatives. Photo: Ben Fried

Minutes after Council Member Laurie Cumbo and street safety advocates called for immediate action to reduce traffic violence on Atlantic Avenue, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told the audience at a Vision Zero forum in Crown Heights last night that DOT intends to make Atlantic one of its early priorities for safety fixes.

Atlantic Avenue is one of the biggest and most dangerous streets in the city, running east-west across the length of Brooklyn. It routinely ranks near the top of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s list of the borough’s deadliest streets for pedestrians. From 2002 to 2013, more than 1,400 pedestrians and cyclists were injured on Atlantic.

At a press conference preceding last night’s Vision Zero town hall at Medgar Evers College, Cumbo stressed the need to act soon. “We can’t wait for another child to be the face of why we need Vision Zero,” she said. “So many of these accidents could be avoided with the right measures.”

As it happens, the city intends to tackle Atlantic Avenue soon. During the forum, Trottenberg said Atlantic would be one of the 50 street safety projects DOT takes on this year. Noting that Atlantic Avenue is a big, wide, heavily trafficked street, Trottenberg said, “That’s the kind of street that DOT views as a challenge, and we want to step up.” The city’s Vision Zero action plan calls for “arterial slow zones” on streets like Atlantic that see a disproportionate share of injuries and deaths.

The nature of the improvements to Atlantic has yet to be determined. Signal adjustments to slow drivers and give pedestrians more crossing time could be implemented very quickly, but Atlantic is ripe for a much more extensive overhaul. In a press release, Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White suggested bus lanes, protected bike lanes, and pedestrian safety features should all be part of a redesign.

In Cumbo’s district, which encompasses Fort Greene, Prospect Heights, Clinton Hill, and parts of Crown Heights — not to mention the throngs of people who now walk to and from events at the Barclays Center — Atlantic is “a place where people are afraid to cross the street to get to one neighborhood from the other,” said Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council. “It should be a pedestrian-friendly, safe street, that can unite neighborhoods instead of divide them.”

Keep your eyes peeled for public workshops where you can weigh in on Vision Zero initiatives like improving Atlantic Avenue. Trottenberg said yesterday that DOT will be putting on events in Brooklyn on April 24 and April 29 for residents to share ideas about how to make neighborhood streets safer, though the details aren’t on the agency’s calendar yet.