Red Hook’s main commercial thoroughfare is a hazardous stretch of asphalt desperately in need of more attention from city officials, critics charged this week.
Residents are weary of the heaving, oversized trucks that rumble down Van Brunt Street, and fearful of the cars they say routinely treat the street like Brooklyn’s autobahn, threatening life, limb and property.
Mark van S. knows the hazards of the roadway firsthand. A motorist plowed into his photo and video installation business at 384 Van Brunt last week, injuring no one but the building, stopping only after it smashed through the storefront.
While he admits the accident may have been a random occurrence, he said it is symptomatic of the wider issue of motorists driving largely unchecked through Red Hook’s narrow streets.
“I don’t feel there is any enforcement,” van S. said. “We need to have additional safety mechanisms, and we don’t.” The hope, he continued, is that the city’s Department of Transportation install additional stop signs. “The city needs to step up and make sure all of our sidewalks are safe.”
With the arrival of IKEA, Fairway, and the cruise ship terminal, Red Hook has seen renewed growth, but with that, additional traffic. “We just need to have the city keep pace with the demands of the neighborhood,” van S. said.
John McGettrick, the co-chair of the Red Hook Civic Association has been petitioning for safer streets for years. The civic’s work paid off in 2007, when a new traffic light was finally installed at Van Brunt and Sullivan Street, but more needs to be done, he said. “Clearly, we want enforcement of the laws with respect to idling, overweight, over-long trucks, double parking, and obviously, more traffic control.”
But police officials said they are a constant presence in the area, most recently conducting a joint operation with the state Department of Transportation, as well as another enforcement operation on Dec. 22.Vincent Marrone, a community affairs officer with the 76th Precinct said 14 summonses were issued during the joint operation on Dec. 7, for a host of infractions, including oversized, overweight trucks. The summonses handed out on Dec. 22 were for environmental infractions, he said, such as idling or illegal parking. “We will definitely be doing more enforcement,” he said.
Transportation spokesperson Scott Gastel said his agency intends to meet with the civic and others in the area to take a look at traffic conditions on Van Brunt Street. He noted that since January 2004, there have been two reportable accidents at Dikeman Street and Van Brunt, where the car used van S.’s office as a makeshift parking lot.
Van Brunt Street resident Ron Kyle isn’t taking any chances. He no longer allows his two children to play on Van Brunt. “Only on the side streets,” he said.Kyle said he’s seen one accident too many near his home, at Van Brunt and Wolcott Street, where most recently a school crossing guard was hit by a car. “And that’s a person standing in a fluorescent vest,” he said.