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Slow down! Manhattan Beach group calls for reduced speed limit on ‘Oriental Autobahn’

Manhattan Beach resident Alan Ditchek says cars don’t obey the speed limit on Oriental Boulevard.
Photo by Arthur De Gaeta

Talk about going nowhere fast!

The Manhattan Beach Community Group was in a rush to install the borough’s first “slow zone” on Oriental Boulevard — but has put the brakes on filing the necessary paperwork.

Members are pushing the city to reduce the speed limit from 30 to 20 miles-per-hour between West End Avenue and Kingsborough Community College, claiming it will be more effective than high-tech speed cameras — which a rival group, the Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association, proposes — but decided on Monday not submit an application to meet the Department of Transportation’s Feb. 3 deadline.

The group requested the so-called “slow zone” in an April 2011 letter to Brooklyn Transportation Commissioner Joe Palmieri — six months after four-year-old Evan Svirsky was killed by a B49 bus on the stretch known locally as “Oriental Autobahn,” but President Ira Zalcman said Palmieri never responded.

On Jan. 16, Zalcman published the letter on his group’s website, refusing to elaborate why he waited nine months to pursue the matter — or why he hasn’t put in an application.

“We’re not asking for anything outrageous, people shouldn’t be speeding,” Zalcman said.

The Department of Transportation began accepting applications last year from civic organizations, community boards and elected officials seeking slow zones in their neighborhoods after the agency piloted the measure in the Bronx, modeling it after ones installed in London. City officials say the slow zones reduce average speeds by nine miles an hour, and pedestrian and car-related injuries by 42 percent.

The Department of Transporation did not return our query asking how many speed-related car accidents occurred on Oriental Boulevard in 2011, but Community Board 15 Chairwoman Theresa Scavo said sleepy Manhattan Beach’s attempts at landing a slow zone may screech to a halt: the city wants to put these zones in areas with high concentrations of schools, senior centers, hospitals — and car crashes.

“The Department of Transportation told me they did not think anywhere in the district would qualify,” Scavo said.

Last month, the Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association proposed installing speed cameras along the stretch to address the problem.

“Anything that prevents speeding on Oriental Boulevard would be helpful,” said President Alan Ditchek.

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at dbush@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at twitter.com/dan_bush.

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