Colton demands DOT investigate fatal Bensonhurst crashes

Alarmed by fatal car crashes on Bensonhurst streets in recent months, Assemblymember William Colton is demanding that the Department of Transportation (DOT) come into the Southwest Brooklyn neighborhood to determine why the deadly incidents are happening.

“What is really troubling me here is that too many people have lost their lives in those accidents. It is very shocking that nothing has been done about it. The matter is very serious and something needs to be done to prevent tragedies like these from reoccurring. I am calling on the New York City Department of Transportation to conduct a full investigation to find out what is the cause of so many fatal accidents,” Colton said in a statement.

The incidents Colton wants scrutinized include:

  • A commercial truck struck and killed a 65-year-old man riding a scooter at 19th Avenue and 71st Street on Oct. 19.
  • A Mack truck struck and killed an 87-year-old man crossing 86th Street at 21st Avenue on Sept. 19.
  • A B6 bus hit an 81-year-old woman crossing the intersection of Bay Parkway and Stillwell Avenue on foot on the night of Sept. 5.

The New York Police Department investigated all of the crashes in the immediate aftermath of the fatal accidents. But Colton, a Democrat whose district includes parts of Bensonhurst and Gravesend, said DOT should launch its own probe to determine if more should be done to make Bensonhurst streets safer for pedestrians, particularly senior citizens.

DOT is looking into the matter, according to an agency spokesperson.

“DOT’s Vision Zero work is largely guided by data, and that our priority areas are determined based on where the most pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries are happening. Following any fatality, DOT reviews the location for potential safety enhancements, and we are looking into potential Safety Improvement Projects within the assemblymember’s district for 2019,” the spokesperson told this newspaper in an email.

Street safety is also a concern of Community Board 11. The board, which advocates with city agencies on behalf of the residents of Bensonhurst, Bath Beach, Mapleton and Gravesend, reached out to DOT last month and asked for a public safety awareness outreach.

DOT experts came to Bensonhurst at the community board’s request several years ago and hosted a pedestrian safety forum for senior citizens, according to District Manager Marnee Elias-Pavia. “We’re hoping they can come down again and do something similar,” she told this paper.

Sections of Bensonhurst and Bath Beach are already included in DOT’s Safe Streets for Seniors program. Launched in 2008, Safe Streets for Seniors allows DOT experts to take a closer look at areas with large senior citizen populations. The experts study crash data and look at factors contributing to potentially unsafe conditions for older pedestrians.

If DOT concludes at the end of the study that action is warranted, the agency puts in safety measures like changes in the timing of pedestrian signals, installing pedestrian safety islands in the middle of the street, widening the curbs and medians, and erecting new signage.

Bensonhurst is the third Southwest Brooklyn neighborhood where elected officials have sought assistance for DOT.

In the wake of a high number of car crashes in Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, Councilmember Justin Brannan, a Democrat who represents the area, asked DOT to conduct a pedestrian safety outreach. Another local lawmaker, state Sen. Andrew Gounardes, organized a pedestrian safety task force to come up with ideas on how to make streets safer.

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