Following yet another traffic-related fatality early Saturday morning, when 21-year-old nursing student Marisol Martinez was struck and killed by an MTA bus at the intersection of Union and Meeker Avenues, local electeds, led by Councilmembers Steve Levin and Antonio Reynoso, urged Mayor Bill de Blasio, to make North Brooklyn a top priority area for his Vision Zero plan, which seeks to completely eliminate traffic-related deaths in the City by 2024.
On Sunday afternoon, Levin and Reynoso, along with State Assembly Members Joe Lentol and Maritza Davila, traffic-safety advocates, families who had lost loved ones to traffic accidents and concerned residents gathered at the intersection of Borinquen Place and Grand Street to highlight the series of recent traffic deaths in the neighborhood and to compel the mayor to speed legislative efforts on Vision Zero.
“No family should endure the suffering that Marisol’s family is undergoing today, that hundreds of families in NYC go through year after year,” said Levin. “Because the pain and the suffering that is caused to the families who lose a loved one and the indescribable loss of the potential of hope, of future, is just unacceptable and we cannot just stand by and let this happen time and again.”
Martinez’ cousin, Jose Gonzales, who was with her at the time of the accident, also took to the podium to express the grieving family’s deep anguish. He could not hold back tears as he recalled how one of the last things he told her was that he was sorry to have missed her birthday.
“I couldn’t get near her, and my friend just kept screaming for the bus to stop,” said Gonzales recounting the incident. “She had such big dreams.”
Among the measures for safety elected officials called for included an increase in number of crosswalks, cameras that monitor speeding vehicles, more speed bumps in school areas, and more S1 Gards on buses, a device fitted on tires of buses that prevents pedestrians from getting struck.
Williamsburg led the city for the most number of traffic deaths in the city last year, with 8 people killed in traffic-related accidents, according to I Quant NY, an online Data Analysis tool which studied the police department’s crash data for its study.
Among those present at Sunday’s press conference were parents who had similarly lost children in traffic accidents. Last month aggrieved parents formed Families for Safe Streets, an organization that will continue to urge the Mayor to keep to his promise on implementing Vision Zero.
Ken Bandes was one such parent. He lost his daughter, Ella, who was the same age as Marisol Martinez, last year when she was struck by a B52 bus on Myrtle Avenue in Bushwick.
“Ella had great promise, zest for life, and was the light of our lives,” he said of his daughter who at the time of her death was applying to PhD programs and working in a psychology lab at Columbia University. “She was loved and adored by her friends and family and has left a devastated mother, brother and father. We suffer everyday without her and will do so forever.”
The venue for Sunday’s press conference was also an example of how successful traffic safety measures could be implemented in the neighborhood, Reynoso pointed out.
The pedestrian islands and extended curb cuts at Borinquen Place and Grand Street came as a result of a community initiative led in part by Reynoso after the death of Leopoldo Hernandez who was run over by two cars at the same intersection two years ago.
“We haven’t seen a death since,” said Reynoso on the implementation of the changes. “It is an example of the little work the department of transportation has to do to make our streets safe. It should not take a tragedy to get the city to pay attention; we should be taking a proactive approach that prevents these incidents from happening at all.”
Transportation Alternatives, a traffic-safety advocacy group, has been working with local politicians and residents to create forums on Vision Zero and has already amassed 1,300 signatures. The electeds at the press conference ensured that they would further pressure the MTA to work together with them to create solutions in the coming months.
The MTA was notably absent from Sunday’s gathering.