Almost a year and nine months ago, I started Best View in Brooklyn with this post about wanting a stop sign on my block. That post came about eight months after I helped collect signatures for the Friends of Sunset Park's petition to have traffic calming measures installed on 41st and 44th Streets at 6th Avenue, two heavily used entrances to Sunset Park itself. An on-line petition was also created to collect signatures for a stop sign and/or other traffic calming. Now, two and a half years after those initial (at least to me) petitions, there's still nothing but speeding cars, fearful street crossers, and disgruntled residents - some of whom have been hit or come too close to being hit by cars at that intersection.
I understand that there are many items that have to be considered when putting up a stop sign or painting a crosswalk. I understand that there is red tape that must be cut or jumped around. However, I can't help but think that there is something other than the safety of residents at stake here. 46th Street has a stop sign at 6th Avenue, and it isn't on the entrance to the park with an elementary school a block away. Is it that police cars and fire emergency vehicles regularly use 44th Street to get to other places? Is it that trucks seem to see it as a one-way short-cut to other destinations? Whatever the reasons, both the 41st and 44th Street entrances to Sunset Park need some attention.
I apologize in advance for the amount of text below, but I figured that if I shared the missives I've sent (at least the emailed ones), it might encourage others to send their own. Community Board 7 has been copied on most of the correspondence I've had, and I'm sure there have been other back and forths of which I am not aware. No matter what your concern or issue or gripe, be active and let someone know. Just like if you choose not to vote but want to share your opinions about the government; just complaining without trying to rectify the problem is hollow and futile.
Dear Marty Markowitz,
In March of 2008 I wrote to request traffic calming measures on my street (I've included the text of the email below). Last August, there was a study done, and it was found unnecessary. I beg to disagree.
Yesterday afternoon a car service car backing up into 44th Street, a one way street in the opposite direction, ran into me and my two children while we crossed the street at the intersection of 6th Avenue. I feel very, very lucky that we escaped with nothing more than dirty pants (the bumper went over the stroller front and my son's legs) and a bruised leg (the handle of the stroller was pushed into my infant daughter's leg). However, it makes me incredibly angry that NOTHING has changed on that intersection - culturally or physically - in over a year.
We're not asking for much. It feels demeaning to have to grovel for basic safety measures. The intersections that cross into the MAIN entrances (6th Avenue and 44th Street and 6th Avenue and 41st Street) of the park teem with children and other residents during the summer. We have no painted crosswalk, no stop sign, no speed bump. We do have an incline which forces us to peek into the street and around parked cars for on-coming traffic. We do have ice cream trucks that idle in the indented space of the sidewalk and block our way. And we do have car service cars who back up into families so that they can sit and wait in front of a fire hydrant for their next call.
I don't believe that the man driving the car was grossly negligent or malicious. However, because we don't have a painted crosswalk, it's not seen as a true place for people to cross. It's not immediately obvious that it is a designated crossing area. Throw us a bone, Marty. Give us something at this intersection so that we can cross more safely. I can't count the amount of times a car traveling in the correct direction has come close to nicking a person visiting the park. Whether they are turning onto 6th Avenue (a right-hand turn) or simply speeding up the hill, it is dangerous.
As I mentioned, I am including the email I sent in March of 2008 to provide some history and context. I look forward to hearing from you.
Sincerely and hopefully,
My Address, #3
Brooklyn, NY 11220
cc: Community Board 7
March 10, 2008
Dear Marty Markowitz,
I am a resident of Sunset Park, and I live on a street adjacent to the park itself. Since last spring, I've been especially concerned about the traffic situation and its impact on pedestrian safety. The Sixth Avenue entrances to the park (on 41st and 44th Streets) have no painted crosswalk, no Yield to Pedestrians sign, no Stop sign, no speed bump to slow traffic that comes up from 5th Avenue or towards 5th Avenue on 44th and 41st Streets, respectively. There are sidewalk indentations to encourage pedestrians to cross towards the park at these intersections, but it can be quite hazardous. I've witnessed and heard about several close calls involving pedestrians heading towards the park with strollers, dogs, or just themselves. These streets are popular shortcuts for car services and trucks as well as regular drivers. Many of these drivers are not residents of the area, and they do not drive with caution despite the proximity to a park utilized by many children.
I wrote to the Mayor's office late in 2007, but somehow my request for a stop sign became a request for a speed limit sign, and that was denied. I received communication that no evidence of speeding was found, and that was the end of the request. While I do believe that many cars and trucks speed up the hill and down the hill, I doubt that a reminder of speed limits would change behavior. What we really need is a stop sign, at least.
I am attaching an on-line petition that represents a fraction of the concerned residents and users of Sunset Park. As I am sure you are aware, this is not a wealthy area, and many residents do not have ready access to the internet. However, we all enjoy the park year-round. Please take a look at the signatures and comments on the petition.
Thank you, as a parent in and resident of Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Please help us to avoid more of the tragic pedestrian accidents that this area has seen of late.
My email address
Here is the text of the September 24th, 2009 email I sent to Mila Kleidman, a Community Assistance Specialist in the Borough President's office:
Dear Ms. Kleidman,
I'm writing a belated Thank You for the attention I received from Marty Markowitz, Sandra Chapman, and you regarding my request for a stop sign and painted crosswalk on both 44th Street and 6th Avenue and 41st Street and 6th Avenue in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. (Because my address is in the middle of the block, I think the location in the last letter from the DOT/Borough President's office was changed to 44th and 41st between 5th and 6th. It's really the intersections at 6th Avenue that need attention.) I know that there are very difficult issues Borough-wide that seem to minimize the traffic problems in our corner of Brooklyn. However, I am hopeful that we will, eventually, manage to make these park-side blocks safer for the thousands of people who frequent Sunset Park and live nearby.
I am in receipt of many letters, dating back to August of 2007, that acknowledge my requests and promise action on the part of the Borough President's office and the Department of Transportation. When I spoke with Marty Markowitz at the July 27, 2009 ceremony for the new UPROSE hybrid bus, I was hopeful that this traffic issue would get a jumpstart. I emphasized to Mr. Markowitz that we really need stop signs and painted crosswalks at the 6th Avenue intersection of 44th and 41st Streets. I even walked him over to the intersection to point out the sightline difficulty that on-coming traffic has due to the incline. That afternoon I received a phone call from you, and within a couple of weeks I had received new letters from the DOT and the Borough President's office acknowledging this as an ongoing concern.
An on-line petition now has over 215 signatures that support traffic calming measures on these blocks.
Here is the link: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/SunsetParkTraffic/index.html
215 signatures may not seem like a lot compared to some petitions that have come from other neighborhoods. However, if you consider that Sunset Park is not an affluent neighborhood with a computer in every living room (or a laptop in every bakery), it's pretty impressive.
I don't want to take more of your time, Ms. Kleidman, so let me just say that I hope our traffic versus pedestrian issue hasn't been simmering on the back burner in the hopes that it will disappear. If there is anything I can do to move the process forward, please let me know. For example, can civilians take out a permit to paint their own crosswalks? I haven't been able to find anything like that, but I have many parents who are willing to donate paint, brushes, and time to make that happen.
Thank you again for the attention we received in August. I really do appreciate it, and I hope to resolve this soon.