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Teen Killed in Hit-and-Run Is Third Traffic Death at Park Slope School

By  Leslie Albrecht and Sybile Penhirin | November 25, 2014 7:40am 

 Mohammad Uddin, Joie Sellers and Sammy Cohen Eckstein were all classmates at M.S. 51.
Third M.S. 51 Student Killed by a Car
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PARK SLOPE — The hit-and-run death of 14-year-old Mohammad Naiem Uddin last week marks a grim trend for Park Slope's M.S. 51 — he was the third student from the school to be killed by a car in the past 13 months.

Mohammad was a classmate of Sammy Cohen Eckstein, the Park Slope 12-year-old who was hit and killed by a car on Prospect Park West on Oct. 8, 2013. Nine months later, M.S. 51 student Joie Sellers, 12, died after being struck by a hit-and-run driver in Flatlands.

Once again, grief counselors were at M.S. 51 on Monday to speak with students and faculty "upset by another senseless tragedy," Principal Lenore DiLeo Berner told DNAinfo New York.

The school is working with P.S. 130, where Mohammad went to elementary school, to raise money for the Uddin family, and Berner and others are advocating for street safety changes to prevent additional deaths.

Mohammad's funeral was held Sunday at the Bangladesh Muslim Center and hundreds showed up to remember the teen as "a smart, funny, generous boy with a bright future," wrote City Councilman Brad Lander in a Facebook post about the service.

He had just started high school at Brooklyn Tech and had a passion for photography, relatives said. He spent much of his free time shooting photos on his iPhone and camera and he was also a strong student and wanted to follow in his older sister's footsteps by studying to be a doctor.

“We're still in shock. It doesn’t feel real. It seems like it’s a nightmare,” Mohammad's 19-year-old cousin Afrin Talukder said at the family's home Friday afternoon.

Even before Mohammad's death, locals had expressed concern about the intersection where he was hit, at East Seventh Street and Caton Avenue.

Lander had written to Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg a couple weeks ago asking that the agency meet with residents to create a street safety plan for the corner, because a new school, P.S./I.S. 437, is under construction there.

The meeting is scheduled for January but a specific date hasn't been set yet, a spokesman for Lander said on Monday.

Though none of the deaths happened near M.S. 51's campus at Fifth Avenue and Third Street, Berner, the school's principal, said she’s hoping to get more crossing guards at the intersections of Third and Fourth avenues and Third Street, where students from Gowanus cross to get to the school.

"I would like to be part of the solution and prevent another student death," Berner said in an email to DNAinfo. Berner said she's also talking to the 78th Precinct and Lander's office about how she can take action.

Berner said teachers will also continue to talk to students about street safety at school assemblies.

M.S. 51 parent association co-president Danielle Kolker said she was horrified to learn of Mohammad's death.

"It strikes terror in my heart as a parent," Kolker said. "I'm constantly telling my children to make eye contact with the driver before they step into the street. You think at 14 they're out of the woods, but they're not."

Though reminders about using caution as a pedestrian are always useful, it's drivers, not pedestrians, who need reeducation, said Eric McClure, chairman of the Park Slope Street Safety Partnership, a group founded in the wake of Sammy's death.

McClure noted that in all three instances, the victims "weren't doing anything that they shouldn't have been doing."

Sammy was playing soccer across from his house, and Joie was standing on a street corner with her mother and sister. Mohammad was on his way home from an after-school program and was crossing the street in the crosswalk when he was hit by a driver who fled and was later arrested, police said.

"All three kids lived in different neighborhoods, and it's a rather stark reminder that people throughout New York City are not safe from traffic violence," McClure said.

"Educating people about being safe on the streets is a good idea, but the responsibility really rests with drivers."