Marty Golden Goes Full Crazy In Attacking Proven Street Safety Improvement

Out with the old, in with the new: State Senator Marty Golden objected to a street safety improvement on Gerritsen Avenue. Photo: Twitter
Out with the old, in with the new: State Senator Marty Golden objected to a street safety improvement on Gerritsen Avenue. Photo: Twitter

State Senator Marty Golden is not an engineer or an urban planner, but he played one on Twitter on Saturday, demanding that the Department of Transportation remove life-saving street-safety improvements on Gerritsen Avenue — changes that have reduced injuries from dozens to zero.

Golden posted a two-minute-plus rant on social media, standing on one of the pedestrian safety islands on Gerritsen Avenue, complaining about the safety feature that, he claims, “is not working.” (Never mind that he could stand in the middle of the road for 2:20 without being hit by a driver.)

“I’ve never seen such an over-engineered project in my life,” says the non-engineer, who once ran over a pedestrian, who later died. “Between the bike line [sic] and this, it just makes it impossible.”

Impossible to do what, he never says. But Golden does love to drive fast — his car has been captured speeding 14 times — so perhaps he was complaining that DOT’s changes make it more difficult to speed on the stretch between Avenue X and the waterfront.

But you were saying, Senator?

“It’s eight accidents already,” he says to a woman off camera.

“Really?” she responds.

He never answers the woman off camera. Of course not. City statistics show that crash-related injuries on the strip are down dramatically since the safety measures began to be installed in late 2016. There have been no reported crashes this year.

“If the bike lane wasn’t there,” he adds, “it might have worked…but the narrow streets here. … They’re not working. It’s going to hurt people. And that’s wrong. … It should end next week.”

Golden returns again and again to the notion that pedestrian safety islands are a flawed design.

“I understand you want to make the community safe, but this is over-engineered,” Golden continues in his rant. “This is overdoing it. … And lost parking spaces.”

DOT spokesman Scott Gastel said the agency is “closely monitoring the impact on traffic and safety” and confirmed that DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and Golden “spoke as recently as Friday and will remain in contact.” It is unclear if Trottenberg will give in to Golden’s request to make the roadway less safe.

One thing that Golden does not mention in his rant: why the DOT made the safety changes in the first place: They were expedited in late 2016 after a drunk driver killed teenage cyclist Sean Ryan a few months earlier.

But it wasn’t just that one incident that prompted DOT to make the improvements.

Before the changes, the overly wide Gerritsen Avenue was well known as a drag racing strip with a history of speeding and crashes. Between 2007 and late 2016, there were four fatalities on the street and many crashes. After two fatalities — the  deaths of Joseph Ciresi and James Miro in 2015 — the Times called Gerritsen Avenue “a popular setting for drag racing.”

The paper also noted that “the small-town culture of the area” meant that “nearly every night drivers speed down ‘The Avenue,’ as it is known [yet] are almost never reported to the police.”

Then-12-year-old cyclist Anthony Turturro was severely injured by a driver in 2004 at the same intersection where Ryan was killed, and the city made some safety improvements, but backed off on full concrete pedestrian islands and painted bike lanes for Gerritsen after some residents made Golden-esque complaints.

But after Ryan was killed, neighbors, including Turturro himself, marched down Gerritsen Avenue to demand that the city address speeding. That’s when DOT moved ahead in earnest.

Here's what Gerritsen Avenue used to look like when it was dangerous and more appealing to Marty Golden.
Here’s what Gerritsen Avenue used to look like when it was dangerous and more appealing to Marty Golden. Photo: NYC DOT

The timing was perfect because about a month later, the state’s highest court ruled in favor of Turturro, who had sued the city claiming that bad street design led to his injuries. The ruling was a game-changer because it held that cities could be considered legally responsible for injuries stemming from bad street design. The jury in the case awarded $20 million to Turturro, agreeing with his contention that the DOT knew about the dangers of the roadway, but didn’t do enough to fix them. Golden didn’t mention the Turturro case in his rant, either.

And he also didn’t mention that this year, there have been zero injuries to pedestrians, cyclists or drivers, according to city stats. Compare that to 2017 (10 injuries), 2016 (1 fatality), 2015 (1 fatality), 2014 (1 fatality, five injuries), 2013 (2 injuries) and 2011 (11 injuries).

Some of Golden’s constituents immediately expressed their concern over his demogogic post.

In making the video, Golden was channeling another untrained would-be urban planner and office colleague. Last year, fellow State Senator Tony Avella made similarly frothy objections to a street safety project and claimed his design would be better than the Department of Transportation’s. And U.S. Congressman Joe Crowley also claimed that he knew better than city planners when he objected to the DOT’s plans for paired protected bike lanes in Sunnyside.

Footnote: Avella and Crowley ended up losing their re-election bids. Golden’s may have a similar day of reckoning on Nov. 6, when he takes on Democrat Andrew Gounardes.