The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Advocates Want More Safety Improvements at Deadly Ridgewood Intersection

By Serena Dai | October 31, 2014 2:30pm | Updated on November 3, 2014 8:54am
 The intersection of Myrtle Avenue, Wyckoff Avenue and Palmetto Street has long been decried as dangerous.
Myrtle-Wyckoff-Palmetto Instersection
View Full Caption

RIDGEWOOD — Traffic safety advocates claim that not enough has been done to improve safety at a dangerous Bushwick-Ridgewood intersection where three people were killed in separate incidents over the past five years.

The Department of Transportation recently complete a safety improvement project at Myrtle and Wyckoff avenues and Palmetto Street, but didn't include a ban on turns by MTA buses — despite the buses killing a woman in 2013 and a man on Thursday.

The DOT added brighter crosswalks and turn bans for cars during peak hours after 23-year-old Ella Bandes was killed by an MTA bus last year.

But MTA buses were not included in five turn bans intended to improve safety.

On Thursday, a man in his 40s was crossing Palmetto Street around 5 a.m. when an MTA bus turning east onto the street clipped him with its back wheels, according to police. He was pronounced dead at Wyckoff Hospital.

After the incident, the MTA implemented a ban on buses turning right onto Myrtle Avenue from Palmetto Street, MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said. Other changes are still under investigation, Ortiz said.

Ortiz referred questions about why no turn bans were implemented on buses to the DOT. The DOT did not say why the MTA was not included in any turn bans, only that the agency "worked closely" with the MTA on the project.

Bandes' mother Judy Kottick, who has been advocating for changes at the intersection, said Thursday's death proved that both the DOT and the MTA need to do more to improve safety.

The crossing is still "chaotic," she said.

"I don’t think it’s a lot to ask to inconvenience people slightly to save lives," said Kottick.

The Myrtle Avenue, Wyckoff Avenue and Palmetto Street intersection has long been decried as a dangerous area, with six bus routes, truck traffic and two subway stations flooding the area with pedestrians.

Between 2009 and 2013, the intersection saw 33 injuries total, including 17 pedestrian injuries, five severe injuries and two fatalities, according to the DOT.

In 2014, one cyclist and one car passenger were injured, excluding Thursday's fatality, a DOT spokesman said.

After Bandes' death, Kottick, activist group Transportation Alternatives and local elected officials pushed the DOT to make changes.

In July, the DOT implemented the plan, including turn bans for cars during peak hours, curb extensions and more lighting and additional paint for crosswalks.

But Kottick was "discouraged" when she visited in August, saying that many cars ignored the turn ban and that she spotted several near accidents.

Pedestrians need to have their own time to cross, without any vehicles moving forward, she said.

Eight people have been killed by MTA buses this year, according to the agency.

"They clearly need to be more deeply engaged in setting some safety standards that relate to Vision Zero," Transportation Alternatives Deputy Director Caroline Samponaro said. 

Ortiz countered that the MTA has been fully involved with Vision Zero, saying that undercover observational rides, a public outreach campaign and new technology are all being implemented in hopes of improving safety.

The MTA and DOT are still investigating what other steps need to be taken at the Myrtle-Wyckoff-Palmetto intersection in particular, spokesmen with the two agencies said.

For Kottick, the man's death on Thursday "was a punch in the stomach," she said.

Her family and group Families for Safe Streets, made up of families of killed pedestrians, has been pushing hard for changes at the intersection, and the fatality made it feel like their advocacy has been "a failure."

"Our goal has been to try to prevent other people from experiencing our pain," she said. "It’s a really hard thing. We don’t want more members in our group."