Kensington demands street safety changes amid bloody year for pedestrians

ghost bike
A ghost bike marks the spot where a cyclist was killed on Beverley Road in 2017.
Photo by Ben Verde

Amid a particularly deadly year for pedestrians, Kensingtonians are demanding the city redesign the local streets to improve safety. 

“We want the first priority to be safety for pedestrians — then we can worry about the trucks and deliveries,” said Jerry Wein. 

At a Nov. 18 town hall meeting in the neighborhood, Department of Transportation reps assured the community that they would study the area’s roadways, which have seen a number of deaths in recent months — including 10-year-old bicyclist Dalerjon Shahobiddinov who was fatally struck by a car on Foster Avenue, and 60-year-old Olga Feldman, who was killed in a Church Avenue crosswalk. 

But locals fired back, arguing that studies weren’t enough to stop the onslaught of motor vehicles.  

“We’re appreciative of studies, we’re appreciative of the work being done, but what we want is for the priorities to change with the data,” said Wein.

Locals gathered last week for a walking tour of the neighborhood’s most deadly intersections. Photo by Ben Verde

Transit officials did make some promises — such as installing pedestrian islands on Coney Island Avenue — but made no other commitments, like outlawing left turns off of the north-south parkway onto Church Avenue, which they said would require rerouting one of the boroughs busiest truck routes through local streets.

“The changes that have been made are minimal,” said Lisa Bocchini, who lives at the corner of Church and Ocean.

Bocchini said she felt the transportation department was more focused on pedestrian traffic control instead of attempting to slow the massive volume of car traffic that passes through the area each day.

“Who cares about traffic? I care about the pedestrians,” she said. “Pedestrians are not the problem.” 

Making matters worse, residents claim the local police precinct fails to properly enforce traffic violations, including at the numerous car-centric businesses on Coney Island Avenue, who they say illegally park with impunity. 

“The 66th precinct has no enforcement there,” said Patrick Russell. “They don’t do anything.”

Rusell said he made numerous 311 reports about abandoned cars and illegally parked cars on Coney Island Avenue — to no avail. 

“If you’re going to straighten out Coney Island, you can’t have abandoned cars, you can’t have cars repaired on the sidewalk,” he said. “Sometimes you’re forced to walk in the street because they’re repairing cars!” 

An officer from the precinct disagreed — saying he enforced traffic violations so aggressively he received complaints with the Civilian Complaint Review Board. 

“I even got a CCRB because I was there enforcing the vehicles on the sidewalk,” the officer said, referring to the board that reviews cases of police misconduct. 

The officer urged residents to bring their complaints to the Department of Consumer Affairs and have the businesses shuttered — but locals quickly shot that down, saying it was the Police Department’s job to enforce traffic laws, not push for small businesses to close down. 

“It is ridiculous that the 66th Precinct can’t go in and say ‘you know what, we’re going to give tickets to business owners that are breaking the traffic laws,'” said Assemblyman Robert Carroll.