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Safety dance! Locals want ‘Barnes Dance’ at dangerous intersection

Freestyle: Marine Parker Robin Sherman-Epstein is flabbergasted that the city is not considering Flatbush Avenue and Avenue U for a “Barnes Dance,” meaning lights periodically go red so pedestrians can cross in all directions.
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They’re Barnes-storming mad that the city won’t listen.

Locals are flabbergasted that the Department of Transportation has excluded a notoriously dangerous intersection near Kings Plaza from a new bill requiring the city to study implementing a “Barnes Dance” — where all vehicular traffic stops at once so pedestrians can cross in all directions — at high-crash junctions. The intersection of Flatbush Avenue and Avenue U definitely needs to be included, said one Marine Parker.

“Oh good grief, how do I get it included? I’m not happy, that’s wrong. It’s the most dangerous corner,” said Robin Sherman-Epstein, who pushed for the idea last year. “It’s silly, they are the ones who declared it a dangerous intersection yet they ignore it. It’s so sad because it’s so simple, so cheap.”

The Department of Transportation dubbed the Mill Basin crossing the 16th worst in the city in a 2013 study — but that was the last time the agency ranked high-crash intersections. It now uses Mayor DeBlasio’s “Vision Zero” traffic-safety program instead to determine where additional safety measures are a priority, according to a department spokesman.

The original wording of the bill required the city to look at the top 25 dangerous intersections, but the most recent version — which passed the Council on May 10 with 39 sponsors and is now just awaiting Hizzoner’s signature — omitted the top-25 rule, and only mandates the department to study high-crash corridors generally. And Flatbush Avenue and Avenue U — where four people have died since 2014, according to Vision Zero — doesn’t make the cut, said an agency spokesman.

Council members changed the wording so as to not limit the project to just 25 crossings, said a spokeswoman for Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal (D–Manhattan), who introduced the legislation.

“To give the DOT more flexibility to look at even more intersections — to take on even more intersecti­ons,” said Sarah Crean.

Two people have died at the crossing since 2016, according to Vision Zero statistics. But injuries have declined — there have been 63 since 2012, with none in 2014, 2016, or 2017, according to the city data.

And the department touts its 2015 safety enhancements — when it installed pedestrian safety islands, a median in the buffer at the bus terminal, and an enlarged center median to make it easier for pedestrians to cross — as the for the drop in injuries, said the spokesman.

“We implemented a project at this location in 2015, and the statistics show it has been effective. We took a comprehensive look at the intersection, which entailed a detailed evaluation of the local context, traffic and pedestrian usage,” he said.

But the intersection is still a dangerous mess — the local community board has even pushed for a pedestrian bridge over the two busy thoroughfares — and it still needs major improvements, such as a Barnes Dance, said the district manager of Community Board 18.

“I think it’s a fabulous idea. Something has to be done there. We had suggested an overpass bridge, which would help the pedestrians,” said Dottie Turano. “I was part of the Barnes Dance generation, and at first we laughed about it. People would stop at the corner and do a little dance. I would like to see it there only if they could work out all the kinks. We will keep on top of it.”

And the local pol, who was a sponsor on the bill, supports any additional safety enhancements — a Barnes Dance has value if it gives pedestrians enough time to get to the other side, said Councilman Alan Maisel (D–Mill Basin).

“Anything that could cut down on accidents involving pedestrians would be greatly appreciated,” he said. “If all the cars had to stop, I mean the big question is how much time will people have to cross the street, that’s always the issue. If they give people a good amount of time to cross that would be helpful.”

The Department of Transportation will look closely at the intersection for possible future improvements, the spokesman said.

“We approach intersection design with an open mind and design to the context of each intersecti­on,” he said.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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