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Atlantic Ave. woes continue

If members of the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) are making New Year’s resolutions for 2008, area residents are hoping that one of them will involve improving traffic conditions along Atlantic Avenue, particularly near Hoyt Street. “I don’t know what the statistics are, but I’ve been living near the corner of Hoyt Street and Atlantic Avenue for 35 years and it has been the site of many accidents, one of them fatal,” Margaret Cusack, president of the Hoyt Street Civic Association, told this paper last week. Witnessing the aftermath of an accident at the corner on the morning of December 28, Cusack was inspired to call for a renewed traffic mitigation effort. “Many of us who live in the neighborhood would like to see the speed limits lowered and better enforced and perhaps a special turn signal or turn lane installed to lessen the number of car crashes and protect pedestrians,” she wrote in an e-mail. No one was injured in Saturday’s accident, where one car slammed into another at the intersection after the vehicles traveling down Hoyt Street blew through a red light, witnesses said. Still, the accident is systemic of the problem in the heavily traveled thoroughfare. “We have our garden at that corner,” Cusack said. “We have concrete planters along Hoyt Street to keep cars from jumping the curb and slamming into it. “It’s easier to move a concrete planter than repair an ironwork fence,” she explained. Residents said that there have been hundreds of accidents and at least three fatalities along Atlantic Avenue corridor between Hicks Street and Flatbush Avenue. According to police reports, two of those fatal incidents took place near each other just days apart near in 2006. In one of those cases, area native Al Fernandez was crushed to death when a speeding car jumped the curb and barreled into him. Fernandez, who recently moved out of the neighborhood to Staten Island, was chatting with longtime friends on a bench when the car struck him. The other pedestrian death involved a man walking down the middle of Atlantic Avenue. The man was reportedly intoxicated when he was killed, according to officials. The two deaths sparked area residents and members of the Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association (AABA) to hold a protest demanding that the DOT install more traffic mitigation procedures, as well as remove some that they believe help traffic flow. “Atlantic Avenue is a destination, not a highway,” said AABA president Sandy Balboza, who believes that a healthy amount of the accidents on Atlantic Avenue have to do with speeding conditions. “The key is the signal timing of the traffic lights,” Balboza said. “It needs to be changed to slow the cars down, because when the signals are all green cars rush down to make each light.” “This part of Atlantic Avenue has a lot of small retail shops, more restaurants and more pedestrians walking around than ever before because they live here,” she continued. “It can’t be looked at as a highway anymore.” To that end, AABA is calling on the city to remove the current “no parking zone” along Atlantic Avenue between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., which was installed to produce more vehicular traffic flow during rush hour. Balboza believes that banning parking in the late afternoon not only hurts area businesses, but increases speeding, as well as the chances that cars will jump the curb and hit pedestrians. With Janette Sadik-Khan replacing Iris Weinshall as head of the DOT, Balboza hopes that some changes are on the horizon. “The new commissioner seems to be concerned with pedestrians and bikers – all of the uses of the road,” said Balboza. “I always like to be optimistic that something good would happen. We want a safer road rather than a highway.” As this paper went to press, DOT officials were still tabulating the most recent accident numbers along Atlantic Avenue for release. According to published reports, there had been 346 vehicular accidents along Atlantic Avenue from Hicks Street to Flatbush Avenue between 2005 and November, 2006.

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