Campaign targets dangerous corners

Sal Licata

The stream of traffic along Bruckner Boulevard makes crossing the street an adventure.

With accidents on the rise, police step up summonses

Crossing the street is a challenge in Hunts Point, where hundreds of trucks clog local streets on their way to and from the industrial zone.

On a recent afternoon, more than a dozen people waited on Hunts Point Avenue to cross the street under the Bruckner Expressway. They got halfway across before the light changed again, then huddled under the elevated highway.

It’s an everyday occurrence to see knots of pedestrians stranded midway because the street is so broad and the light doesn’t stay green long enough to get across it.

“The lights are like Jekyll and Hyde at this intersection,” said Robert Delgado, one of the Hunts Point residents headed from Hunts Point Avenue toward Southern Boulevard.

“You have the Walk symbol on one side, but by the time you get to the middle, the sign has changed.”

“It’s very hard to cross the street,” said Hunts Point resident Dolores Castillo, who was standing at the intersection of Hunts Point Avenue and East 163rd Street. “You always see puzzled faces in the middle of intersections because the lights change too quickly.”

As Mayor Bill de Blasio kicks off a campaign to protect pedestrians, traffic-related injuries in Hunts Point and Longwood are on the rise. The number of pedestrians injured jumped from 79 to 116 last year, according to statistics compiled by the NYPD. Three people died in traffic accidents locally last year.

Six intersections are especially accident-prone for cars and pedestrians, according to Rafael Salamanca, the district manager of Community Board 2:

  •  Hunts Point Avenue and the Bruckner Expressway
  • East 163rd Street and Southern Boulevard
  • Westchester Avenue and Southern Boulevard
  • Hunts Point Avenue and East 163rd Street
  • Tiffany Street and the Bruckner Expressway
  • Longwood Avenue and the Bruckner Expressway

The first three accounted for most of the pedestrian injuries in 2013, according to NYPD statistics.

In an effort to reduce the number of injuries, the local precinct and community board have planned a series of awareness campaigns.

The precinct sponsored a contest in local schools, asking students to create posters depicting the right way to cross busy intersections. Those who attend Board 2’s next meeting will vote to select the winners from among nine finalists chosen on March 6. The three posters with the most votes will be printed and put up around the most dangerous cross streets in the neighborhood. The winning students will receive an award from funds provided by State Senator Jeffrey Klein, according to police officials.

Police officers are giving out more summonses to drivers for moving violations, Deputy Inspector Philip Rivera, commander of the 41st Precinct, told the community board at its February meeting.

Through March 9 of this year, the police have given out 1013 summonses, compared to 972 in the same period of 2013, according to statistics compiled at the local precinct. Although the increase is relatively small, officials said this year they have concentrated their ticketing in pedestrian-rich areas, as opposed to last year.

Police have written 239 summonses at Southern Boulevard and East 163rd Street, compared with 50 in the same period last year. On the other side of the Bruckner at Hunts Point Avenue, they have written 377 tickets, an increase of 11 over 2013. And at Westchester Avenue and Southern Boulevard, they have handed out 202 tickets compared to just 14 in 2013.

“We’ve had a lot more accidents reported in 2013 than previous years,” said Nora Green, a community affairs officer at the 41st Precinct. “We are just looking for improvements on these incident numbers.”

As part of the community board’s efforts, volunteers will pass out flyers with safety tips at the most dangerous corners.

The community board will also conduct a survey of these areas in an effort to get the city Department of Transportation to listen to the board’s recommendations on how to improve their safety.

The city agency has not been responsive to those concerns in the past, according to Salamanca.

“We have made recommendations to the Department of Transportation before but very few were taken into consideration,” Salamanca said. “We, as residents here, know what we need fixed and we must move forward in a more aggressive way to make sure our recommendations are not only heard but acted upon promptly.”

One recommendation will call for adding a left-turn arrow to the traffic light at Longwood Avenue and Bruckner Boulevard. Currently, vehicles making a left from Bruckner Boulevard onto Longwood Avenue never have the right of way. They must  wait for cars and for pedestrians to cross before they can proceed, causing gridlock and adding to the hazards for pedestrians.

“Our plans fell directly into place with the de Blasio’s “Vision Zero” plan,” said Salamanca. The plan, announced by the mayor in February, aims to eliminate traffic deaths entirely.

“The board must take advantage of the mayor’s publicity,” said the district manager. “We are interested and we want to go forward with it.”

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