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Traffic agents requested for 86th and Fourth

If one local volunteer group has its way, the city will be augmenting its pedestrian safety plan with traffic agents at one problematic local intersection.

Members of Community Board 10’s Traffic & Transportation Committee have requested the agents for the intersection of 86th Street and Fourth Avenue, which has been under the microscope in recent months because of the number of pedestrians struck while crossing there.

Committee Chair Doris Cruz told board members gathered at Shore Hill, 9000 Shore Road, for the board’s January meeting, that committee members had “made a strong plea” for the agents during a meeting with Officer Joe Ellis, the commanding officer of NYPD Traffic Intersections, and Officer Donald Powe, the NYPD’s Brooklyn traffic manager during a committee meeting earlier in the month.

Committee members also agreed to write a letter to the city Department of Transportation requesting left turn signals and roadway restriping at 86th and Fourth, at the suggestion of Ellis, who told committee members “that he would try to place agents at 86th and Fourth for short periods two days a week,” something, she added, that “is not guaranteed.”

In addition, said Cruz, “because of illegal parking at 86th and Fifth and at 86th and Fourth, the committee suggested stepped-up enforcement at these locations only.”

According to the NYPD website, there were 24 collisions at 86th and Fourth in 2013, down from 42 the prior year. There were 18 collisions at 86th and Fifth during 2013, down from 2012 in 2012. There was one pedestrian fatality at 86th and Fourth in 2013, with five pedestrian injuries. There was one cyclist injury at 86th and Fifth in 2013.

In October, 2013, CB 10 voted on the city Department of Transportation’s pedestrian safety plan for Fourth Avenue, accepting certain parts and rejecting others. Among the aspects of the plan that found favor with board members were curb extensions at corners between 86th and 82nd Streets, to shorten the crossing distance and make it easier for pedestrians to get from one side of the street to the other safely, as well as moving the S53 bus stop, now between 86th and 87th Streets, one block south to between 87th and 88th Streets.

At the same time, the board turned down a proposal to narrow Fourth Avenue between 86th Street and Ovington Avenue from two to one lane of moving traffic, with left turn bays added, because of fears that such a move would badly snarl traffic. The board also rejected the idea of a refuge island at 86th Street and Fourth Avenue, and a barrier along Fourth Avenue between 86th and 87th Streets, to discourage passenger drop-offs and double parking.

According to Cruz, discussion at the committee meeting also included a review of another problematic intersection – 65th Street and Sixth Avenue, where there were 56 crashes in 2013, up from 48 the prior year. There have been traffic agents stationed at 65th and Sixth since the beginning of construction of the Gowanus exit ramp there. There were one cyclist fatality at the intersection in 2013, one cyclist injury and one pedestrian injury.

Even after the completion of construction, the agents have been maintained “because of the volume of traffic and other conditions at the site,” according to Cruz, with three agents assigned there between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., except for between 1 and 3 p.m. when they are stationed near schools, and when they are pulled away because of other priorities, such as the traffic associated with holiday shopping. Having the agents at the intersection, Cruz stressed, is also “not a guarantee.”

The board’s actions with respect to Fourth and 86th are “a step in the right direction,” said Stefania Vasquenz, an activist with Bay Ridge Advocates Keeping Everybody Safe (BRAKES). “I think anything that helps improve the flow of traffic will help out there, but I don’t think it’s enough because it’s only one corner. More needs to be done, since the speeding happens in the 70s and 80s. 86th Street is only part of the problem. We need everyone to look at the big picture.”

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