An overflow of concerned community members, parents, and teachers congregated at P.S. 130 on Thursday, January 8, to join New York City Councilmember Brad Lander in hearing the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) plans for safer streets around schools in Kensington and Windsor Terrace.
The November death of 14-year-old Mohammad Uddin, who was run down at the corner of Caton Avenue and East Seventh Street, stirred up controversy about the safety of streets in the area and the construction of a new school, P.S. 437, at that same intersection.
“I think one of the huge problems is that because people are so used to driving very, very quickly on the Prospect Expressway, they exit onto Fort Hamilton Parkway or any of the exits and they’re still in this mindset that they can be flying along at 40, 50 miles per hour,” said Nina Spadola, whose children attend P.S. 230. “I routinely see people come flying off of the expressway and they zip under Fort Hamilton Parkway and they do not slow down.”
DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and DOT traffic planner/project manager Rob Viola presented a program of safety improvements to the standing-room-only crowd.
The new school will cater to nearly 1,000 students, with traffic in the area a major cause for concern for parents with children zoned to attend who cite long crossing distances, speeding vehicles and unsafe turns among their worries.
The DOT has proposed curb extensions, new crossing guards, and reduced speed zones—to be implemented on Kermit Place, East Eighth Street and the corner of East Seventh Street and Caton Avenues for P.S. 437, and on McDonald Avenue, from Caton Avenue to Church Avenue for P.S. 230—to be completed in the spring of 2015, before the opening of the new school.
Additionally, signal and stop sign studies and speed bump studies will be conducted in the surrounding areas by spring.
“These issues, we feel passionately about them because we’re still very raw with the loss,” said Lander. “We all imagine ourselves and we think that could be us, my kids walking to school, my mom walking home from the grocery store, we’re all thinking about it in those ways and it’s very personal.”
Lander also discussed a new law passed by the City Council as part of the city’s Vision Zero effort—a new interactive tool that details traffic injury and fatalities, that will hold people accountable for safe driving in school zones.
“We have had a busy year on the Vision Zero front,” said Trottenberg. “We have done a lot of work reengineering streets all over the city, including things you’ve seen in this neighborhood, making it safer for pedestrians.
“We have been ramping up our speed camera program and we see in places where we put them in, driving speeds can drop by 50 percent in a matter of months,” she continued. “We have a lot of tools that we’re increasingly deploying, right here where we’ve had too many tragedies, but where we can see we’re making some progress.”