Fix it already! Locals demand action, not a study, from city at deadly intersection

Neighbors: State refuses to make Ocean Parkway death trap safer
Photo by Steve Solomonson

They’re dying for a fix.

Brooklynites blasted the city’s transportation agency for waiting to conduct a traffic study before it fixes a perilous Kensington intersection where a trucker fatally struck a man in February, charging that transit leaders should already be well acquainted with the crossing where two people died in the past five years.

“These same issues came up three and a half years ago,” said 25-year resident Mike Rosenbluth, who discussed the treacherous juncture with neighbors and Department of Transportation officials at a Monday meeting inside PS 130. “It’s like the person behind me said, ‘You’ve studied this for 10 years, what more is there to do?’ ”

Community members’ concerns over the intersection at Church Avenue and Ocean Parkway — a massive nine-lane crossing where the parkway meets the Prospect Expressway — flared anew after a motorist behind the wheel of a box truck hit and killed a man crossing the road as the driver turned right from Church Avenue onto the expressway on Feb. 27.

The man — who cops said they have yet to identify in their ongoing investigation of the crash — died roughly five years after a tractor-trailer driver smashed into 73-year-old Ngozi Agbim, killing her as she attempted to cross the intersection in 2013.

Agbim’s death prompted the installation of a pedestrian island to help people navigate the deadly juncture, where no less than 158 others were injured since 2010, according to data from the city’s Vision Zero website.

And more safety improvements are desperately needed, according to locals, who pitched some pedestrian-protection strategies to the Transportation Department’s Brooklyn Borough Commissioner, Keith Bray, at the meeting.

Several attendees suggested the city simply prohibit pedestrians from crossing the intersection on the side nearest the Prospect Expressway, citing their own policies to never cross that side of the juncture because it puts them in the path of cars — especially commercial vehicles, which are prohibited on Ocean Parkway — turning onto the expressway from Church Avenue.

“We have a family policy, we don’t cross on the north side. It’s too dangerous, and we don’t see the need to cross there when you can cross on the south side,” said April Agostino. “My opinion is there should be no crossing there at all.”

But others including Rosenbluth disagreed, arguing that fix would force locals who live on the expressway-side of the intersection to cross it at three other points in order to traverse it entirely.

“Why should they be inconvenienced by having to cross the street three times?” he said.

Officials instead should reconfigure traffic signals around the juncture, so that drivers on Church Avenue get a red light when pedestrians are permitted to cross the intersection’s nine lanes, decreasing the motorists’ chances of hitting a person while turning onto the expressway, according to Rosenbluth.

The city, however, currently has no set plan for improvements — or when they will be implemented — and will begin its process of safeguarding the intersection by looking at quick fixes, such as new on-street markings or signage, that can be made amid the ongoing study to identify more comprehensive changes.

Transportation Department employee Ann Marie Doherty later said that the agency will tell locals by May 1 when they can expect it to release a proposal for fixing the intersection, after Kensington Councilman Brad Lander pushed for a more definitive timeline.

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