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Kensington Street Safety Upgrades Will Be 'Dramatic Improvement,' DOT Says

By Leslie Albrecht | January 9, 2015 1:59pm | Updated on January 12, 2015 8:42am
 DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg unveiled street safety upgrades for Kensington and Windsor Terrace on Jan. 8, 2015.
DOT Meeting on Street Safety Upgrades in Kensington and Windsor Terrace
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WINDSOR TERRACE — Shorter pedestrian crossings, 20 mph zones and the shrinking of Caton Avenue to one lane in some spots were among safety upgrades city officials unveiled at a long-awaited public meeting Thursday night.

Department of Transportation representatives presented a lengthy list of improvements — some of which have already happened and some that the agency is still studying — to a packed audience at P.S. 130.

“We know there have been a lot of requests in the community and a lot of desire to see some good changes in our streets, and we've put together a package tonight that I think has a lot of terrific things in it,” DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told the audience.

Some of the proposed upgrades, which are posted online, include:

► Reducing Caton Avenue from two lanes to one lane in each direction from Coney Island Avenue to Ocean Parkway.

► Adding new traffic signals at several intersections, including Caton Avenue and East Eighth Street, McDonald Avenue and Terrace Place, and McDonald Avenue and Seeley Street.

► Changing the timing of left turn lanes at Caton Avenue and Ocean Parkway.

► Reconstructing the intersection of Church and McDonald avenues to remove trolley tracks, repair the roadway and install curb extensions to shorten pedestrian crossing times.

► Installing a 20 mph "slow zone" and speed bumps around the new P.S./I.S. 437, which will open this fall at Caton Avenue and East Seventh Street.

Some of the changes will be installed as soon as this spring, while others are still being studied and may happen later this year.

The corner of Caton Avenue and East Seventh Street got special attention Thursday night. It's the site of the new P.S./I.S 437, which will serve nearly 1,000 students, and it's also where 14-year-old Mohammad Naiem Uddin was killed by a hit-and-run driver in November.

DOT project manager Rob Viola promised "really dramatic improvement" at the corner, and said safety upgrades there would "directly address" the conditions that contributed to Uddin's death.

Proposed upgrades include shortening pedestrian crossing times with curb extensions that will push the sidewalk 20 feet farther into the intersection, Viola said. DOT has also requested that the NYPD station a crossing guard there for the new school, and the agency is planning to install high-visibility crosswalks in the area.

Uddin's death added fresh urgency to an issue locals have been working on for years, said City Councilman Brad Lander, who noted that he's been advocating for a stop sign on Ocean Parkway in front of P.S. 130 for five years.

"We all think — that could be us," Lander said of recent pedestrian fatalities, which have claimed the lives of three children who attended Park Slope's M.S. 51. "It's very personal and we feel very vulnerable and at risk on the streets."

Locals lined up after the presentation to pepper DOT with questions, suggestions and firsthand accounts of near-death experiences while crossing neighborhood streets. Audience members said they were impressed with the presentation, but some wondered why changes had taken so long.

One P.S. 230 mom said frustrated parents had been waiting for action on requests — such as a sign warning drivers to slow down near the school — for more than a year, and had expected changes sooner after DOT officials conducted a site visit at the school in October.

"We have parents that are literally ready to block the streets with our cars," said PTA member Heather Abdelrazeq. "Why do we have to have a walk-through to get a sign in front of an elementary school of over 1,300 kids that's on a truck route?"

Trottenberg responded that under Mayor Bill de Blasio's "Vision Zero" initiative, DOT was working to be more proactive on school safety, and urged parents to collaborate with DOT instead of working against the agency.

"There’s no question there’s a lot we can do to do better,” Trottenberg said. “It’s a huge city and we’re not always on top of it like we should be...We rely on hearing input from communities…I hear your frustrations, but please stay in partnership with us.”