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Hazard lights: Locals say new Belt Parkway lamp posts are dangerous

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The new lamp posts recently installed along a portion of the Belt Parkway are a hazard to drivers, according to locals who are pushing to have them moved behind safety barriers, despite the city’s assurances that the light poles are safe.

Local drivers complained to Assemblyman William Colton (D–Bensonhurst) about the street lights between the Bay Eighth Street and Cropsey Avenue exits of the parkway, which line the shoulder inside the guard rails too close to the road for many drivers’ comfort.

“It doesn’t make sense,” said Colton. “It defeats the purpose of the guard rail. They’re designed to prevent serious injuries. I just wouldn’t expect that they wouldn’t be used in this situation.”

He said light fixtures on the Belt Parkway are usually placed either behind barriers or several feet away from the edge of the road, creating a “clear zone” in the event that a vehicle drifts or swerves off the road.

The assemblyman wrote to the Department of Transportation on June 9 asking the city to either move the lamp posts farther from the roadway, or install barriers that would prevent vehicles that veer off the road from crashing into the poles.

Colton’s letter noted an accident that took place on May 25 near the parkway’s Erskine Street exit, when a vehicle ran off the road and hit a poll that was near the edge of the roadway and not behind a guard rail. The driver was killed on impact, while three passengers were injured.

“It is important that our city government takes the steps necessary to protect drivers and passengers from public safety hazards on our roadways,” Colton wrote. “These light poles, which have been placed near the edge of the roadway without any protective barriers or guard rails, can possibly be hit by vehicles that deviate off the thoroughfare at high speeds. If a vehicle hits one of these light poles at such a high speed, it’s very probable that the driver or passengers will be seriously hurt or killed in the crash.”

One Gravesend resident who contacted Colton’s office said that about three weeks ago he saw two of the light poles damaged and laying on the ground by the Bay Parkway exit.

“They were completely destroyed,” said Joe DiGiacomo, who drives up and down the Belt several times a day. “Bits and pieces were all along the side of the right lane and the shoulder. And then the DOT guys just put the bases of the posts right back in the same place. It’s ridiculous. Someone didn’t think this through.”

But the Department of Transportation says that’s the idea: the lamp posts are designed to break apart on impact.

The department also took issue with Colton’s mention of the Erskine Street crash as an example of the danger, saying that the accident happened off the mainline of the parkway, with the car striking not one of the new light poles but rather a gantry sign pole, which did not have a breakaway design.

Reach reporter Eric Faynberg at (718) 260–4587 or by e-mail at efaynberg@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @ericfaynberg.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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