Anger spurs action: City’s transit chief promises speedy safety improvements to Ninth Street in wake of fatal collision

OPINION: ‘Thoughts and prayers’ won’t stop car nuts — but new rules can
Community News Group / Colin Mixson

A new plan to install protected bike lanes and other to-be-named “pedestrian-safety improvements” along Ninth Street will make it safer for locals to traverse the road where a woman killed two small kids and injured three adults last Monday, according to the city’s transit chief.

Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg on Thursday said her planners were already hard at work on the changes to the Park Slope street where the deadly collision occurred three days earlier.

“We will … present our plan to local residents, businesses, elected officials, and the community board next month to gather valuable input, and plan to implement as soon as the weather permits,” Trottenberg said before members of Council’s Transportation Committee.

Her announcement came amid activists’ impassioned demands for better traffic-calming measures along Ninth Street after Staten Island resident Dorothy Bruns killed 1-year-old Joshua Lew and 4-year-old Abigail Blumenstein, and injured their mothers Lauren Lew and award-winning stage actress Ruthie Ann Miles — who is pregnant — along with the other man when she ran a red light and plowed her white Volvo into the victims as they crossed the road at Fifth Avenue on Monday.

Traffic-safety advocates gathered the next morning to confront Mayor DeBlasio outside the YMCA that he famously travels 12 miles to work out at each day — which is down the block from where the kids died — where Hizzoner told the crowd he wanted to see Albany pass laws imposing stricter punishments on reckless drivers.

The mayor sharpened his rhetoric at a Wednesday press conference, where he expressed his wish that Bruns had been arrested after District Attorney Eric Gonzalez did not immediately charge her in the wake of the deadly crash.

“I wish she was under arrest right now. And certainly measures need to be taken to make sure she will not be driving a car anymore,” DeBlasio told reporters.

And Trottenberg reiterated her boss’s promise to crackdown on road rogues during her testimony before the Council committee, saying DeBlasio plans to craft his own legislation to punish careless motorists.

“The mayor has promised to roll out a set of legislative proposals to address the legal loopholes that allow deadly drivers to remain on New York City roads.”

The commissioner’s pledge to make Ninth Street less hazardous preempted a demonstration on the road planned for 6 pm tonight, and although it came as good news to activists, the promise is unlikely to stop the event, where street-safety advocates will call for a more comprehensive plan to improve roads across the city, according to an organizer.

“The march is to really to communicate the message that these tragic crashes are preventable,” said Doug Gordon, who blogs about traffic safety for Brooklyn Spoke. “Its is more about fixing our streets citywide.”

After transit gurus’ reveal their Ninth Street redesign in April, it will first be reviewed by Community Board 6’s Transportation Committee before landing in front of the full board, which will vote on whether or not to endorse or modify the plan.

And the chances of CB6 members willfully obstructing the project are slim, according to the chairman of the board’s Transportation Committee, who said that even if his colleagues try to block the proposal, the city will likely just ignore the civic panel’s decision given the intense pressure to act in response to last week’s heinous collision.

“I can’t imagine that the board would oppose taking steps to make Ninth Street safer,” said Eric McClure. “And if for any reason it did decide to do that, I can’t imagine the city would let the community board stand in the way of it.”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.