Crash on Flatbush! Locals not surprised along Slope’s speedway strip

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The horrific hit-and-run accident that critically wounded a mayoral staffer and injured her friend early Sunday morning has put the traffic conditions on Flatbush Avenue in the spotlight, as many are saying the tragedy proves how unsafe the stretch of road is from Grand Army Plaza to the Atlantic Center.

The driver of a green Acura Legend slammed into Erinn Phelan, 22, and her friend, Alma Guerrero, 23, as they were crossing Flatbush Avenue at Prospect Place at around 4:30 am — and then sped off, leaving Guerrero with injuries and Phelan, who works for the mayor as a volunteer coordinator, brain dead. She is expected to be taken off life support this week.

Locals insist that Flatbush Avenue is not just dangerous at night.

“The police need to come down here and just sit, watch and see what’s happening,” said Harriet Robertson, who works at Century 21 nearby.

“I almost got knocked out (by cars) a few times, that’s why I feel so strongly.”

The numbers bear out Robertson’s fears. From Grand Army Plaza to Fifth Avenue — a portion of Flatbush Avenue that excludes the chaotic intersection with Atlantic Avenue — there were 108 crashes that injured pedestrians, 75 crashes that injured cyclists, and one crash that killed a cyclist between 1995 and 2005, according to Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group.

More recent statistics provided by the Department of Transportation show that there were nine crashes along the same stretch last year, including one fatality.

Drivers aren’t the only cause for the accidents, said some, blaming Flatbush Avenue’s odd layout.

“Flatbush runs diagonally as opposed to perpendicular to other streets,” said Craig Hammerman, the district manager of Community Board 6. “Therefore, other streets feed into at odd angles, meaning there are these really long crosswalks.”

The well-trafficked stretch of road presents a completely different set of challenges during the daylight hours. Drivers regularly ignore the “no left turn” sign onto Prospect Place from Flatbush Avenue during peak traffic times.

“The angle here makes the turn difficult, but people do it all the time,” said Joe Butrico, who works at the locksmith at the sketchy intersection.

Flatbush Avenue is a bit of a double-edged sword, Hammerman noted.

“It’s a dual problem similar to Eighth Avenue in Park Slope,” Hammerman said. “In the morning, you’re complaining about congestion. Then in the evening, when the capacity is there, the problem is speeding because there is so much room.”

Phelan and Guerrero were caught in just such a situation when they were hit, with Phelan reportedly pushing her friend out of the way of the car a split second before receiving the brunt of the blow.

The car, with a smashed windshield, was found by cops on Sunday abandoned nearby on Pacific Street between Flatbush and Fourth avenues. Later in the day, it was being held at the 77th Precinct stationhouse as evidence. Cops said the investigation is ongoing.— with Claire Glass

Updated 9:19 am, February 24, 2010: Updated to include a new stat.
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Reader Feedback

tracy from prospect heights says:
NYPD: Please, please, please start enforcing speed limits, stop lights and stop signs! Unfortunately, the dangers aren't limited to Flatbush. Atlantic Avenue, Vanderbilt Avenue, Dean Street and Bergen Street (which I know well) can be just as bad or worse. How many more people need to die?
Feb. 22, 2010, 6:42 pm
Dave from Clinton Hill says:
Very saddened to hear this. The police have the car that caused this horrible accident with a license plate on it, how hard is it to find the driver???
Feb. 22, 2010, 7:31 pm
Richie Rich from Parkslope says:
Flatbush is still a jungle. Hopefully soon after Ratners project complete and more condos being erected will clean up Flatbush.
Feb. 23, 2010, 10:48 am
Steven M. from Prospect Heights says:
What a horribly sad story.

It's yet another side effect of not charging a toll on the Manhattan Bridge. Put on a reasonable high-speed ez-pass and camera-enforced toll and then take away some of the capacity on Flatbush and give it back to the people with wider sidewalks and safer crossings.
Feb. 23, 2010, 11:19 am
Steven M. from phts says:
Dave -- Police have a suspect. Google for "Cindy Jasmin".
Feb. 23, 2010, 11:25 am
Dave from Clinton Hill says:
I just saw it on the news, thx Steven
Feb. 23, 2010, 5:13 pm
Joe from all over nyc says:
I drive a yellow cab from 5pm-5am 6 days a week. The city really needs to sit down with us cab drivers and ask us what avenues, streets, highways we find unsafe for drivers and pedestrians, because we are on the road 10-12hrs a day. I personally thought flatbush ave was a problem because you have pedestrians waiting on the street in active lanes on cellphones text messaging and trying to cross 6 lanes of traffic. The worst is when you come off of the manhattan bridge onto flatbush where they doing construction right after you cross tillary. People try to cut in front of you like daggers. Has anyone ever had their axle broken trying to get onto the manhattan bridge from flatbush? COME ON FIX IT already. We had the problem on Queens BLVD for years and now finally it's safer...fordham road in the bronx? Queensboro plaza? Van Dam St? Willis Ave Bridge? How many people speed on Atlantic Ave by Utica..i have a list...thanx for reading...have a good night.
Feb. 24, 2010, 8:28 pm
Jess Sayin' from WT says:
The city needs to reduce speed limits in residential areas to 15 mph and have cops enforce it so drivers will slow down to 30/40 mph. As it is, cars routinely speed at 50, 60 along city thoroughfares. Pedestrians may or may not be alert but their safety must always come first. All of our lives are in the hands of drivers who have other things on their minds.
Feb. 27, 2010, 10:05 am

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