A traffic light that shines more brightly than usual
We usually take stop-lights for granted. We stop-on-red, go-on-green, yield-to-pedestrians in the crosswalk, and don’t think too much about it. But the installation of the new traffic-light at Caton Avenue and E. 8th Street signals something bigger: our sorrow at the loss of a young man, and our commitment to do something about it.
In November 2014, a bright young Brooklyn Tech student from our community, Mohammad Naiem Uddin, was killed by a hit-and-run driver who failed to yield as he was crossing Caton Avenue, along a stretch we had known was too dangerous. In the weeks that followed, after we mourned Naiem with his family, hundreds of neighbors came together in his memory to demand change. We resolved to make the area safer for our kids, seniors, and families. Working together with the NYC Department of Transportation (Commissioner Polly Trottenberg came to our community meeting), we developed a plan.
A year-and-a-half later, we have taken many steps to fulfill that commitment. Caton Avenue has been redesigned with safer crossings, pedestrian islands, and built-out curbs. We’ve made the crossings safer around PS 130, PS 230, Bishop Ford, and the new PS 130 Upper School/MS 839. We’ve made safety improvements along Albemarle Road, Terrace Place, and more (you can see a summary below, and keep track of all the changes at our Kensington Windsor Terrace Street Safety tracker).
We’re not finished – just this week, NYC DOT announced plans to study making Seeley Street safer, and there is more to do throughout the area – but we’ve come a long way.
So when we cut the ribbon on the new light at Caton and E. 8th (one that had been so badly needed, and is by itself a very big safety improvement), it was a moment worth marking. At the ribbon cutting, Rabbi Ellen Lippmann, delivered a beautiful blessing for the new traffic light (you can read her full remarks here.) She said, “May this light be a kind of ner neshama, a lamp of the soul, to remind us of Naiem’s loving soul, and a light of protection that ensures that no more are killed in this way.”
This is work we did together. It would not have happened with parents from PS 130 and PS 230, leaders from the Bangladeshi community, support from Community Boards 7 & 12, and the Albemarle Neighborhood Association. Big thanks go to NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and her team for bringing us a real plan for action, and for making sure this work got done. Thanks to these partnerships, and extensive work with NYC DOT, we have made real improvements for pedestrians throughout the surrounding area.
We’re also thinking more deeply about how we pursue justice and safety through enforcement. We have been working with the Brooklyn District Attorney on the case of the driver who killed Naiem. It has wound slowly through the court system, but her license has been suspended the whole time. I believe we will have a just outcome in the coming months.
Meanwhile, working with Transportation Alternatives, Families for Safe Streets, and the Center for Court Innovation, we have established a new, pilot program for driver accountability and restorative justice at the Red Hook Community Justice Center (covering the 72nd, 76th, and 78th Precincts). Modeled on work done around drunk-driving, it aims not only for justice and accountability, but to change expectations and behavior to produce safer streets.
I also want to highlight the incredible work of one of Naiem’s classmates back at MS 51 (you may remember that two other beautiful young people from that class, Sammy Cohen-Eckstein and Joie Sellers, were also tragically killed in crashes). Alison Collard de Beaufort, now a student at Brooklyn Tech HS, and founder of the Vision Zero Youth Council, won the Samsung “Solve for Tomorrow” Challenge to develop technology to keep pedestrians safer. And she has also created this excellent “KidRouter,” an interactive map that finds the least dangerous route for pedestrians, based on NYC’s database of crashes.
Meanwhile, Sammy’s mom, Amy Cohen, has been working tirelessly with Families for Safe Streets in Albany to place speed cameras (with identifying signs) outside every NYC school, to help enforce the speed-limit reduction they won last year – something we know will save many kids lives in coming years.
It will always be too late for Naiem. But in the months since his life has been taken, we have made real progress in our commitment. The new stop-light shines brightly to honor his memory, and to make it a blessing a safety for all of our kids.
Summary of Safety Improvements in Kensington/Windsor Terrace
(Full list/map is available via the Kensington Windsor Terrace Street Safety tracker, a tool that we designed in this work to increase transparency for area street safety projects and ensure a timely completion)
- Improvements to the stretch of Caton Avenue from Ocean Parkway to Coney Island Avenue, where MS 839 and the PS 130 Upper School is located, including
- Converting the corridor to one lane in each direction
- Adding three new pedestrian islands to shorten crossing distances
- A new traffic signal on Caton and East 8th street
- Upgrading visibility and safety at cross walks by “daylighting” and adding curb extensions
- Installing a 20 mph “slow zone” and improving signage and crossings around the PS 230 Upper and Lower Schools
- Improving signage and crossings around the PS 130 Lower School by adding stop signs and a crosswalk between the school and the Fort Hamilton Parkway F/G subway entrance
- Adding a crossing guard at the Bishop Ford UPK Center (K-280) and making significant safety improvements to that intersection, including a new traffic signal
- New speed humps and signage on Albemarle Rd, and planned speed humps near PS 154
- Planned curb extensions to make street crossings safer at:
- McDonald Avenue/Church Avenue (coming this summer)
- Fort Hamilton Parkway/McDonald Avenue
- Coney Island Avenue/Church Avenue
- All 3 are projects funded via PBNYC in District 39
- Reconfiguring two intersections along Terrace Pl to improve pedestrian safety:
- Terrace Place/19th Street/11th Avenue
- Terrace Place/Windsor Place/Prospect Park Southwest
- NYC DOT is currently studying making Seeley Street one-way in Windsor Terrace and will present results at an upcoming Brooklyn Community Board 7 meeting