By Julie Shapiro
LOWER MANHATTAN — A dangerous intersection under the Brooklyn Bridge is getting an overhaul, the Department of Transportation announced last week.
Nine pedestrians have been injured in the past five years while navigating Pearl and Frankfort streets, the DOT said. The intersection involves not just those two roads, but also ramps leading to and from the Brooklyn Bridge and FDR Drive, which means the traffic comes from several directions at once.
"A lot of people have trouble figuring out the right way to cross," said Matthew Roe, planning and research manager for the DOT’s Office of Road Safety. "There’s no guidance."
The DOT plans to add new crosswalks and "Yield to Pedestrians" signs, plus crossing signals that will tell people when it’s safe to step off the curb. The DOT will also add a pedestrian refuge island at Dover and Pearl streets and expand an island one block north at Pearl Street and Wagner Place, Roe said.
John Fratta, chairman of Community Board 1’s Seaport/Civic Center Committee, said the streets are so difficult to cross that pedestrians "are really taking their lives in their hands."
"I’m glad you’re doing something," Fratta told Roe at a CB1 meeting last week. "This intersection has been dangerous for years."
Ann DeFalco, a parent activist who lives nearby in Southbridge Towers, said traffic moves so quickly beneath the Brooklyn Bridge that she’s often thought she was safe only to have a car whizz past her as she’s crossing.
"I’ve gotten scared plenty of times," DeFalco said.
During peak travel times, Frankfort Street sees as many as 250 cars per hour, Roe said, meaning it’s almost impossible to find a break in the traffic to dash across the street.
The new pedestrian signals will not alter the current traffic light cycles, but rather will instruct people on the safer times to cross, Roe said. Pedestrians will still have to look out for turning cars, just as they do at other intersections throughout the city.
Several CB1 members asked if DOT would change the timing so that cars stopped in all directions to give pedestrians a chance to cross, and Roe said he would look into it.
The city plans to add the new crosswalk markings by the end of the year and the new signals and pedestrian islands when the weather warms up in the spring.