SUNSET PARK — Following the deaths of several cyclists in collisions with cars, Sunset Park businesses, organizations and residents got together on Sunday, Aug. 18 to raise funds for bicycle awareness.
Councilmember Carlos Menchacha was among those who attended the fundraiser, which took place at four businesses: L’Wren, 4004 Fifth Avenue, which organized the event; Minnie’s Bar, 885 Fourth Avenue; Judy’s, 4022 41st Street; and Industry City, 220 36th Street.
Businesses along Fifth Avenue displayed neon-pink flags in solidarity with the cycling community.
Angela Azzolino, founder of the cyclist advocacy group Get Women Cycling, helped organize the day after L’Wren owner Jessica Klaus reached out to her.
“The community wanted to come together to raise money for bicycle awareness and then we made it happen,” she said. “With the timing, it seems like every couple of weeks someone is dying.”
She added that the spike in cyclist deaths has especially affected Sunset Park.
“In regards to the bicycle community, our first fatality happened here in Sunset Park on January 1, New Year’s Day,” said Azzolino. “Jessica was sickened by the fatalities that happened in our neighborhood so I think that’s when she started the planning.”
While the organizing was going on, 52-year-old Jose Alzorriz was riding his bike when he was struck and killed by an 18-year-old driver in Midwood on August 11. The death was personal for Azzolino.
“In between the time we were finalizing the planning, my good friend Jose died while riding a bike,” she said. “Ironically, for a short time, he was a Sunset Park resident. That’s how I befriended him. I think Sunset Park is feeling the pain in particular, but also all of Brooklyn.”
Klaus stressed that some of the deaths have occurred close to home, including that of Em Samolewicz, who was the 18th cyclist killed in New York City traffic this year, at the corner of 36th Street and Third Avenue on Tuesday, July 30.
“This is about bringing the neighborhood together to slow down, stop and think,” Klaus said in a statement. “We all have room to improve. This is about acknowledging there’s a problem. It could be something as simple as learning to open a car door with your right hand instead of your left, and remembering to look.”
Money raised from the day will be donated to Get Women Cycling in honor of Samolewicz.
“The most inspiring part about this is that it’s the community coming together, on its own, and saying ‘these cyclist deaths aren’t statistics, they are human beings, our neighbors, our fellow New Yorkers, and it’s time to put our collective power together and stop more deaths,’” said Menchaca.
Menchaca and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg recently announced that Fourth Avenue in Sunset Park will have protected bike lanes by the end of the year.