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Eighth Ave. is focus of de Blasio’s Vision Zero expansion

Brooklyn’s Eighth Avenue is one of the busy traffic corridors that will be getting extra attention from the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) as part of an expansion of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero program aimed at reducing the number of pedestrian fatalities on the streets of New York.

The mayor came to McKinley Intermediate School, 7301 Fort Hamilton Pkwy., on Tues., Feb. 19 to announce the start of the next phase of Vision Zero, which includes a new round of Borough Pedestrian Safety Action Plans, a key part of Vision Zero in which traffic-calming measures and other safety features are installed at dangerous intersections where numerous crashes have taken place.

The previous set of Borough Pedestrian Safety Action Plans was launched in 2015.

This time around, a nearly two-mile stretch of Eighth Avenue running from 39th Street to 73rd Street has been put on DOT’s list of Priority Corridors. The DOT will be changing the timing of traffic lights, altering pedestrian signals to give pedestrians more time to cross the street and installing other safety measures on the roadway.

Eighth Avenue was one of dozens of roadways named to the Priority Corridors list. The roster was composed after DOT discovered that a small number of all intersections in New York City, seven percent, are responsible for nearly 50 percent of the crashes resulting in pedestrian fatalities or serious injuries.

Other Brooklyn streets named to the Priority Corridors list are Surf Avenue (Ocean Parkway to Atlantic Avenue), Linden Blvd (Flatbush Avenue to Sapphire Street), and Bedford Avenue (Manhattan Avenue to Flatbush Avenue).

The city will also be doing an educational outreach to communities and beefing up enforcement of dangerous driving.

“Whatever it takes, we will do it immediately,” de Blasio said at the press conference.

The city will be looking at several factors involved in causing crashes.

Speeding is a problem, according to NYPD Chief Thomas Chan, the chief of transportation, who called it, “a major factor in terms of injuries and fatalities.” Another factor is drivers who don’t watch out for pedestrians while making left-hand turns, Chan said. “Left-hand turns cause three times as many injuries,” he said.

DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said the success of the Borough Pedestrian Safety Action Plans can be seen in the statistics. The agency has addressed safety issues in 90 percent of the Priority Corridors and, as a result, there has been a 36 percent decrease in crash fatalities at those locations, she said.

“We’ve seen that our interventions have worked,” Trottenberg said.

Since its inception five years ago, Vision Zero has been responsible for a sharp decrease in traffic fatalities, according to DOT, which reported that fatalities are down nearly a third compared to the year before Vision Zero was implemented.

The mayor said 2018 was “the safest year in more than a century” on the streets of New York City. “You have to go way back to 1910,” he said.

But de Blasio also admitted that there have been seven more fatalities so far in 2019 than there were during the same time period last year. The city will be looking into it to determine why the uptick is taking place, he said.

Another troubling statistic: 17 car crashes took place in the course of a single day, Jan. 14, 2019, in the 68th Precinct (Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights).

Elected officials at the press conference said they were pleased to see the next phase of Vision Zero taking shape.

“The numbers are in and Vision Zero is working,” said Assemblymember Mathylde Frontus, a Democrat who represents Coney Island and parts of Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights.

State Sen. Andrew Gounardes, a Democrat who represents Bay Ridge and other parts of Southwest Brooklyn, talked about the need to “change the driving culture” and said he would fight for state legislation to expand the speed camera program.

“It’s okay if you don’t get someplace five minutes earlier. You are getting there alive,” he said.

Councilmember Justin Brannan, a Democrat whose district includes Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and parts of Bensonhurst, said changing the habits of drivers will be difficult but worth it. “It’s harder to get people to think when they’re behind the wheel of a car,” he said.

One speaker, Maureen Landers, had first hand experience with dangerous drivers. Landers was struck by a car on a Bay Ridge street in 2009. Nine years later, her son was hit by a car.

“I support any and all traffic calming measures,” said Landers, who went on to co-found a grass roots group called Bay Ridge Advocates for Keeping Everyone Safe (BRAKES) with Gounardes.

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