Is it safe to cross the street?

Latest pedestrian fatality leaves community shaken

BAY RIDGE — The death of a 66-year-old pedestrian who was struck and killed by a car while crossing the street at Fourth Avenue and 101st Street near John Paul Jones Park on March 5 has left people in the community shaken and demanding answers.

The victim, Frank Decolvenaere, was declared dead at the scene after he was struck by a 2011 Mercedes-Benz 350 sedan driven by a 19-year-old man.

The Home Reporter and various media outlets reported that witnesses told police the driver was speeding.

“He was just out walking his dog. Please, drivers, for the love of God, slow down,” Kayla Santosuosso, a friend of the victim, wrote in a poignant post on Twitter.

“The more we can wean ourselves off of cars, the better,” wrote Santosuosso, who serves as deputy chief of staff to Councilmember Justin Brannan.

“I like my car. But my friend died tonight. And my car is not worth that,” she added.

The NYPD investigation into the circumstances of the fatal crash is ongoing.

Police said a preliminary investigation by the NYPD Highway District’s Collision Investigation Squad determined that the Mercedes driver was traveling southbound on Fourth Avenue approaching the intersection of 101st Street, while at the same time the pedestrian was attempting to cross Fourth Avenue at 101st Street, from east to west, in the crosswalk. The pedestrian was crossing against the pedestrian traffic signal, according to police.

The car struck the victim with such force that he was knocked to the roadway and suffered severe head trauma, police said.

The driver remained at the scene. No arrests were made.

The tragic incident took place less than two weeks after a fatal car crash that took the life of a 26-year-old man in Bensonhurst.

Jose Contla was crossing at 19th Avenue near 86th Street at around 7:25 a.m. when a black VW Passat traveling southbound on 19th Avenue struck him.

The driver kept going.

Contla was rushed to Maimonides Medical Center, where he died.

In a span of five days in February, six pedestrians, including two children, were killed on New York City streets.

The NYPD statistics for the year 2019 were grim. There were 219 traffic deaths in New York last year, including 74 deaths in Brooklyn. In the 13 police precinct that comprise the NYPD’s Patrol Borough Brooklyn South, which includes the 68th Precinct in Bay Ridge, there were 7,916 collisions with injuries in the year 2019. It was the highest total of any patrol borough in the city.

The New York City Department of Transportation has taken steps to make pedestrian crossings safer, including constructing pedestrian islands and changing the timing of traffic signals, as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative. But it’s not clear if the intersection where Decolvenaere was struck and killed is due for a redesign by DOT.

Brannan, a Democrat representing Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and parts of Bensonhurst, said drivers need to be more careful and obey traffic laws.

“Some people drive like there are no laws and have total disregard for the safety of others. As we mourn the loss of Frank, let’s all think about how this happened and how those of us who drive can do our part to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Speeding to save a few seconds is a selfish way to drive and shows utter lack of consideration for our neighbors on foot. This reckless behavior must stop,” he told the Home Reporter.

State Sen. Andrew Gounardes confessed that he was “deeply shaken” by Decolvenaere’s death.

Gounardes announced just last week that he was sponsoring a package of bills aimed at cracking down on dangerous drivers and increasing safety for pedestrians.

“There’s so much we have to do, from street redesigns to passing new laws, and we have to act with urgency like lives depend on it,” he added.

Additional reporting by Jaime DeJesus

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