In 2013, 12-year-old Sammy Eckstein was hit and killed by a driver at the intersection of 3rd Street and Prospect Park West in Park Slope.
Five years later, tragedy struck two more families forever when their children, four-year-old Abigail Blumenstein and one-year-old Joshua Lew, were fatally hit by a driver who mowed down several people at the intersection of 5th Avenue and 9th Street on March 5.
Last week, residents called on the city to redesign the street to make it safer.
While a more detailed plan will be released in the next few weeks, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has directed planning and engineering experts to analyze and redesign the Ninth Street corridor.
“My heart is broken for those families because I know that crash could have been prevented,” said Amy Cohen, the mother of Eckstein. “No one should have to endure the loss of a child. It is outrageous that our elected officials have not stood up and led so that this did not have to happen.”
Blanca Estava, a Park Slope resident for 32 years, said she often sees situations that are dangerously close to becoming traffic accidents. She’s noticed that it’s become worse lately due to increased congestion.
“A bus can’t stop at the bus stop if a car is stopped there, and then traffic becomes a commotion and the people crossing the street are in danger because the drivers don’t see them,” she explained. “I’m always walking around here, it’s so dangerous.”
Estava admitted that she is nervous crossing the intersection at 9th Street and 5th Avenue, sometimes letting the driver go first because they are so rushed. She finds it especially difficult when she has her two-year-old and five-year-old grandchildren with her.
In addition to last week’s fatal crash, on Friday morning there was a crash on Glenwood Road in Midwood where a young child and a few other people were struck by a driver who lost control of a vehicle.
The crash at 9th Street and 5th Avenue has prompted swift action for change.
The children were on an afternoon walk with their mothers, Lauren Lew and pregnant Broadway star Ruthie Ann Miles, who were both also injured in the crash but survived.
The driver of the Volvo that struck the group of three adults and two kids, Dorothy Burns, has several health problems, including multiple sclerosis.
Burns is reported to have had a seizure causing her to speed through a red light. After striking the pedestrians, Burns’ car continued on until it slammed into parked cars further down the street.
Prior to the fatal crash, Burns had 11 traffic violations, including four speeding violations in school zones
State Senator Jose Peralta is pushing his bill that proposes a 60-day license suspension for drivers convicted of two speeding violations within a school zone in an 18-month period. Peralta argued that the bill is similar to current work zone law.
“If we can protect adults, why can’t we protect children?” he asked.
He also called for more implementation of the speed camera program. Currently, there are speed cameras around 140 schools, but some elected officials want to increase the camera presence to 290 schools by 2022.
According to DOT, there has been a 63 percent decline in speeding violations where there are school zones with speed cameras.
“This is not a cash grab,” Peralta said. “If you don’t speed, simply put, you won’t get a ticket.”
A poll conducted by Transportation Alternatives found that 60 percent of drivers supported the use of cameras, and an additional 20 percent were somewhat supportive.
“For too many years, some Albany lawmakers have stood in the way of common sense of the improvements that will protect our kids,” said executive director Paul White.
White would like to see safety improvements made on Queens Boulevard purused on all city streets.
Assemblyman Robert Carroll and State Senator Jesse Hamilton are also seeking a mandatory reporting requirement for all healthcare providers of a patient under their care who has a chronic illness that can suddenly impair their driving.
“This would make sure that any person suffering from seizures or other impairments would not be able to operate a motor vehicle,” Carroll said. “This is necessary to ensure that tragedies like this don’t happen again.”
He maintained that the person’s diagnosis wouldn’t be revealed, but there needed to be a way to flag it in order to increase public safety.
Hamilton added that it was up to the Department of Motor Vehicles to investigate and find out whether or not a person is qualified to drive.
“No parent should have to cross the street wondering if their child is going to get hit by a car,” Hamilton said. “Driving is a right, but it’s not a right to inflict harm and injure other people in our community.”
The only way to see change is to create constant pressure, said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who said he sees the dangers of the road firsthand when he rides his bike.
Adams supported the package of bills, adding that if the community has all the tools, including the ability to allow police officers to identify drivers who are reckless, “we’re going to have a close system of safety that will enhance how our roadways are protected.”
Adams announced that there will be two white ghost bikes placed at the intersection of 9th Street and 5th Avenue in memory of the children.
“That vehicle may have stopped when it hit another vehicle, but the impact of what it has done to this community will continue to travel and the pain will not dissipate as the days go on,” Adams said.