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