Dear Marty Golden: This is an Opinion Column and You Are A Street Safety Menace

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

It’s not the street. It’s the stupidity.

State Senator Marty Golden claimed over the weekend that the city’s installation of pedestrian safety islands on Gerritsen Avenue caused “eight accidents in three days” — but that’s flat out untrue, the NYPD and Golden’s own spokesman confirmed this week.

“There was one accident on Gerritsen Avenue in October,” a spokesman for the NYPD told Streetsblog in an email, outlining the Oct. 5 incident. “A bicyclist [was] traveling in the bike lane when an operator of an ATV rear-ended him. The operator of the ATV left the scene on foot prior to police arrival. The 48-year-old male bicyclist complained of pain, however they refused medical attention.”

That one crash — a hit-and-run in the bike lane that was not connected to the new pedestrian safety islands that Golden says are dangerous — is a far cry from the senator’s widely disseminated claim that “there have been eight accidents” because the islands have narrowed the roadway.

A spokesman for Golden reiterated the senator’s claim.

“As for the number of accidents State Senator Marty Golden referred to in his video, there are photos of each accident on Facebook, from which we based our data,” said the spokesman, John Quaglione. “Feel free to continue to review social media as you did with his recent live video.”

I told Quaglione that I couldn’t find any such photos on Facebook, so he sent me screen shots of text messages he’s been getting from constituents.

The screen shots contained six photos. Here is what each depicts:

  1. A black sedan that drove onto the pedestrian island and got stuck.
  2. A silver sedan that drove onto the pedestrian island and got stuck.
  3. A traffic sign directing drivers around the pedestrian island that appears to have been knocked down, perhaps by one of the two drivers above.
  4. The same photo of the warning sign, but from a different angle.
  5. A photo of a handwritten sign reading, “Not Even 24 HRs & A Truck Hit Me! Now What!”
  6. A photo of a small gray SUV that drove onto the pedestrian island and got stuck.

He later sent over another screen shot of a text message from a constituent, “Just saw another person crash into the island on Devon and Gerrtisen. Thank God she just missed the pole! But she was up on the island.”

Handwritten sign

So let’s add that all up: four inept drivers who can’t even properly steer their cars on a roadway, and a sign wanting us to believe that a 6,000-pound vehicle hit someone, yet still left him or her physically able to draft and install a sign, and text it to John Quaglione.

That’s the “data” that led Golden, who is not an engineer, to stand on one of the pedestrian islands and declare, “I’ve never seen such an over-engineered project in my life.” He also said, “the narrow streets here. … They’re not working. It’s going to hurt people. And that’s wrong.”

You see what’s going on here, right? Since this is an opinion column, I’ll offer mine: State Senator Marty Golden refuses to see that inept, speeding drivers are the menace we need to combat, choosing instead to decry the proven measures that keep pedestrians safe from these rogues.

Here’s why: State Senator Marty Golden loves cars. He loves driving them fast. He wants pedestrians to be physically isolated from roadways. He once intimidated a cyclist by impersonating a cop. He opposes basic street safety measures such as, dedicated bus lanes, lower speed limits and, most famously, speed cameras (which have caught 4.5 million drivers — including Golden 14 times!).

He once drove into a pedestrian, who later died.

And now, pedestrian safety islands are in Golden’s crosshairs.

Quaglione told me the senator is a better judge of public opinion in Gerritsen Beach than I am. On that we agree. And you can certainly find drivers in Gerritsen Beach who share Golden’s fact-free opinion that pedestrian safety islands, lower speed limits, enforcement cameras and other safety measures are bad. There was even one such person in a largely sympathetic News12 story this week who screamed into the camera, “It’s a waste of money! It’s going to get someone killed.”

In fact, the safety measures on Gerritsen will do — and are already doing — just the opposite. Since the street was narrowed and the bike lane installed last year, there have been no reported crashes on Gerritsen, according to city statistics and the NYPD. There were 16 injuries from crashes on the same strip last year, largely because of rampant speeding before the roadway was narrowed.

Between 2007 and late 2016, there were four fatalities. Those deaths prompted the city to finally take action and install measures to slow down Gerritsen Avenue’s notoriously fast drivers.

The Department of Transportation declined to comment for this opinion piece, but people who care about saving lives on Gerritsen Avenue were happy to fill the void.

“We deserve leaders who care more about saving lives than they do about Facebook live,” Golden’s Democratic challenger Andrew Gounardes told Streetsblog. “While there are real concerns from the community about the islands on Gerritsen Avenue, it’s the responsibility of all public officials to be truthful in the information they present to the neighborhood, especially on issues of public safety. I am disappointed in Golden’s hurried response but sadly, not surprised.”

Maureen Landers, co-founder of Bay Ridge Advocates Keeping Everyone Safe (B.R.A.K.E.S.), added.

I was surprised to see Senator Golden critique the pedestrian island. I trust engineers and professionals in road design over hyperbole. As a leader, I believe it is Senator Golden’s job to demonstrate to his constituents that road design works. Instead he capitulates to angry motorists who are not concerned about safety but instead are interested in getting where they need to go faster. My son was hit by a car in Bay Ridge. … A pedestrian island like the one installed on Gerritsen would have protected him.

Quaglione denigrated activists like Landers as “Bay Ridge folks, who oppose anything Marty does [and] couldn’t find Gerritsen Beach on a map,” so I’ll humor him by ending this opinion column with a quote from a bus driver who lives in the neighborhood (and, presumably, could find it on a map).

“You gotta understand, a lot of people in this neighborhood drive like maniacs,” the driver, Chris Kennedy, told News12. “This divider will help.”

So there it is, Senator Golden, that’s my opinion column. Care to debate the facts?

Gersh Kuntzman is Editor-in-Chief of Streetsblog. When he gets angry, he writes the Cycle of Rage column. They’re archived here.