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8th Ave. fear - Moms feel unsafe crossing

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Three-year-old Wyatt Smith of Park Slope can walk quite capably on his own, but when he’s with his mother and they’re crossing Union Street and 8th Avenue, he’s compelled to sit in a stroller.

Wyatt’s not a lazy boy.

But conditions are just too dangerous at the intersection to take any chances, according to the child’s mother, Joanna Oltman Smith.

For over two years, Smith has been beseeching city agencies to do something about the potentially treacherous corner – with little progress to report. 

“I feel that crossing the intersection with him in the stroller,  I  have more control of his movement,” she said. “If I thought it was safe, he might be walking.”

Smith said the problem is that Union Street can’t handle the volume of cars that rumble through on their way to Grand Army Plaza and points beyond.  Traffic is at its worst during weekday afternoons, but can also be a challenge in the mornings, she said.

For Smith, taking Wyatt and her other son to a nearby park can be a long day’s journey into fright.

“Even the crosswalks are not properly painted,” she noted.

Since 2007, Smith has asked that the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) re-time signals to allow cars ample time to get through the intersection. Another idea is to  paint the intersection with cross hatches, indicating when cars are in a forbidden zone.  She also suggested no right turns from 8th Avenue to Union, except for buses.

“It’s having a really negative impact on the overall integrity of the neighborho­od,” said Smith.  “If people can’t get to where they want to go, they are less likely to come here.”

“I’m incredibly frustrated by all this,” she added.

Scott Gastel, a spokesperson for DOT, said signs instructing motorists to “keep the intersection clear” are “clearly visible.”  Their addition “was found that to be a necessary improvement for the area, and we find the signs to be clearly visible,” he added.

According to DOT data, there have been no fatalities at this intersection in the last five years, and there has been an average of one pedestrian injury per year over that time.

Better police enforcement at the intersection critical, Smith told Deputy Inspector John Argenziano, the commanding officer at the 78th Precinct.

“I don’t see the precinct doing anything,” she told the deputy inspector at the 78th Precinct Community Council last week. “I see zero enforcement.”

Argenziano said that there is enforcement on 8th Avenue. “This is one of our busier intersections, and we will be there and try and get you some help.”

The top cop held true to his word. Smith said an officer was at the intersection giving out moving violations a day after the Feb. 24 meeting.

“I was amazed and overjoyed,” she said. 

Smith said that overall, she was impressed by the deputy inspector and the cops at the community council.

“But I have some frustration that I  have to be such a squeaky wheel to be heard,” she added.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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