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Ridgites intensify calls to better protect 69th Street pier

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The Parks Department has widened the temporary bollard it placed at the entrance of the 69th Street Pier following a public outcry, but an incident earlier this month shows that the city still must do more to keep cars off the jetty, Ridgites say.

A drunk driver skirted the phalanx of bollards entirely and drove onto the pier in the early morning hours of Dec. 10, in the second incident of an unauthorized vehicle plowing onto the pier in a little more than a month.

Both the Parks Department and the police have a responsibility to do whatever is necessary to protect the popular pier and ferry stop, according to a local who witnessed and reported the Dec. 10 incident to police.

“The police should definitely have officers patrol that area more frequently, especially on weekends. It’s packed full of people,” said Robin Shuad, who regularly visits the pier and the nearby Shore Road Promenade. “And Parks needs to make sure that the bollards are in place and that you can’t get by them unless you’re an official vehicle.”

A Sheepshead Bay man was at the wheel of a 2017 Nissan Sentra on Dec. 10, when he swerved around the line of six bollards and crashed into a decorative rock on the pier just after 7 am. The man was asleep at the wheel with the engine running when police arrived at the scene, and his breath reeking of alcohol, police said.

On Nov. 6, a 54-year-old man committed an apparent suicide-by-car off the pier after driving through the gap left by a missing bollard.

One of the six heavy bollards was missing since late 2016, according to Shaud, when a drag-racing driver knocked it off while doing donuts — an account that a local fisherman corroborated last month. The Parks department installed a slender, temporary metal bollard in place of the missing one following the Nov. 6 incident, but the replacement still left wide spaces on either side that would allow a car to pass. After the Dec. 10 incident, Parks widened the temporary bollard by adding wings on both sides of it to narrow the gap, according to a department spokeswoman, but she added that Parks has no plans to make any other changes to the pier.

Shaud pointed out that the added wings likely would not have deterred the drunk driver, because it appeared that he got onto the pier by simply driving through one of the two eight-foot-wide gaps on either end of the line of bollards.

One Ridgite who meets up with her running group at the pier every week said the Parks department should install more barriers to close off the pier to cars.

“I think there should be more physical barriers or bollards protecting the entrance to the pier and bike path,” said Liz Donohue, who added that she has had a few near-accidents with cars while running or biking on and around the pier. “I think giving fewer cars access could make it safer.”

Shaud said that the 68th Precinct should consistently send officers out to patrol the pier to prevent dangerous situations before they occur, and that more regular patrols could have a deterrent effect.

“They should put police out there, they should park their car, be a visible presence, and walk around on the pier and make sure people aren’t doing things they shouldn’t be doing,” she said. “The 68th Precinct has squad cars that should be there.”

The police department did not respond to repeated requests for comment about how often officers currently patrol the area.

Councilman Justin Brannan (D–Bay Ridge) said he plans to make protecting the pier a priority.

“Cars do not belong on the 69th Street Pier and should not be able to broach those lifesaving bollards,” he said in a statement. “I will make sure the pier is fortified immediately so that people can enjoy it safely.”

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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