Crossing Where Dashane Santana Died is Among City's Worst

By Julie Shapiro on January 31, 2012 7:29am 

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New Delancey Street Crossing Time
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Billy Figueroa

LOWER EAST SIDE — The Delancey Street intersection where 12-year-old Dashane Santana was recently struck and killed by a minivan has a shorter crossing time than 20 major intersections across the city, a DNAinfo survey found.

Pedestrians crossing Delancey Street at Clinton Street have just 22 seconds to get across 10 lanes of traffic at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge before traffic starts moving again.

Residents say it's not enough time.

DNAinfo compared the deadly crossing to many of the city's notoriously dangerous intersections, from Harlem to Queens, and found that nearly all of them have fewer lanes of traffic and longer walk signals than Delancey Street.

For example, pedestrians crossing the eight-lane Queens Boulevard at Union Turnpike have a full 30 seconds to make it to the other side.

People traversing the six-lane Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard at 145th Street have 40 seconds, nearly double the crossing time on Delancey Street.

Teresa Pedroza, Santana's grieving grandmother, was not surprised to hear that the Delancey and Clinton intersection was one of the worst for pedestrians of the more than 20 DNAinfo surveyed.

"They should take that light out if they're not going to make it longer, or they should put in an overpass," said Pedroza, 51, who lives in the East Village's Jacob Riis Houses.

"It won't cost the city that much," Pedroza added, "and it would [prevent] all of these fatalities."

Other busy intersections with longer crossing times than Delancey Street include West Street at Albany Street, where pedestrians have 31 seconds to cross eight lanes; Houston Street at Essex Street, where pedestrians have 30 seconds to cross eight lanes; 12th Avenue at 23rd Street, where pedestrians have 34 seconds to cross six lanes; Ocean Parkway at Church Avenue in Brooklyn, where pedestrians have 45 seconds to cross 10 lanes; and Atlantic and Flatbush avenues in Brooklyn, where pedestrians have 60 seconds to cross four lanes.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and City Councilwoman Margaret Chin both called on the city this week to increase the pedestrian crossing time at Delancey and Clinton streets.

"Delancey is a wide street and 22 seconds is just not enough time to cross safely," Chin said. "People have enough time to reach the median but then have to rush to the other side.

'The Lower East Side neighborhood is home to many school children and seniors and crossing times should be lengthened to reflect the needs of the surrounding community.”

State Sen. Daniel Squadron (D-Manhattan, Brooklyn) has also called on the DOT to make changes to Delancey Street to improve pedestrian safety.

The DOT plans to present a new plan for Delancey Street to Community Board 3 on Feb. 8, spokesman Scott Gastel said.

But Gastel added that the pedestrian crossing time on all city streets is determined by federal guidelines, and walk signals always allow people enough time either to make it to a median or to get all the way across the street.

"Each intersection is different and signal timing is based on criteria such as intersection geometry and traffic and pedestrian volumes," Gastel said.

"Signal time may vary from intersection to intersection, even along the same street, as the traffic conditions and intersection geometry change, sometimes dramatically, making it difficult to compare one location to another."

Gastel added that the DOT has also made safety improvements to Delancey Street in the past, including adding countdown signals last year.

Still, many people who were crossing Delancey Street at Clinton Street on a recent afternoon agreed that the walk signal is too short.

"It’s a dangerous street because of the timing of the lights," said Mike Martinez, 28, a Lower East Side resident. "There's not enough time for pedestrians to walk. There should be a police officer there 24/7 [to help people cross]."

Yvette Rivera, 42, who lives near the intersection, said she never crosses it when she's with her 3-year-old son.

"He has little legs and it takes him longer to cross — there's no way we're going to get across," she said.

Another local mother, Susan Wong, 56, said she has told her 18-year-old daughter not to cross Delancey Street at Clinton Street.

"It's dangerous — very scary," Wong said. "Too many cars, too fast."

While pedestrians who don't make it all the way across Delancey Street in one light cycle can wait on a median in the center of the street, that puts them right in the line of bikes whizzing onto and off of the Williamsburg Bridge, which some residents said is hazardous.  

The median now houses a small memorial to Santana, with a row of candles, a photo collage and messages from friends scrawled on cardboard.

Pedroza, Santana's grandmother, hopes that all the drivers rushing on and off the Williamsburg Bridge will think of the recent accident and be more careful.

"Everybody's in a hurry," she said. "Nobody wants to let anybody else go in New York."

The DOT will present its plan for Delancey Street safety improvements to Community Board 3 at a special meeting Feb. 8 at 6:30 p.m., at the Seward Park Community Room, 264-268 East Broadway.

With reporting by Tuan Nguyen, Sonja Sharp and Andrea Swalec

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