The deaths of two children on the streets of a Brooklyn neighborhood last week prompted renewed calls at a memorial vigil Sunday among those seeking expanded street safety measures in the community.
Gathered at the corner of Blake and Pennsylvania Avenues on March 1, community leaders placed the blame on reckless drivers for the deaths of Payson Lott, 7, and Patience Heaven Albert, 10, just 48 hours apart.
“This is not the way any city – especially this city – should be. This is a city where we should prioritize our children, our most vulnerable, especially in the communities that need it the most like here in East New York, over cars,” Danny Harris, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives, said. “We know the answer, the way to make our streets safer for everybody. Our mayor has the cure and he continues to withhold it from the communities that need it the most.”
The driver who killed Lott on the morning of Feb. 27 had been traveling east on Blake Avenue before turning south on Pennsylvania Avenue when she hit the young boy and his mother. Lott died a short time later, and his mother is recovering from a head injury.
Wilfredo Florentino, the chair of Brooklyn Community Board 5’s Transportation Committee, told reporters Sunday that his advocacy from the advisory board has been largely ignored by the Department of Transportation.
“New York City and the Department of Transportation have been willfully negligent. They have failed our community time-and-time again. our demands for action on our streets have fallen on deaf ears,” Florentino said. “The [incident] that occurred on Crescent Street only a few days ago; right before that accident there had been a request in July 2019 [for street safety improvements], which was denied by [DOT]. They had all the evidence but unfortunately failed us once again.”
de Blasio invoked the name of Patience Albert and other street death victims last week as he signed Councilman Brad Lander’s Reckless Drivers Accountability Act, known officially as the Dangerous Driver Abatement Program, as it was passed three weeks ago.
“Vision Zero has proven it can be done but Vision Zero is a living, breathing thing,” de Blasio said at the Feb. 26 bill signing. “It is supposed to evolve and get better all the time. It’s always supposed to demand more of us. Today we are giving more.”
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams highlighted at Sunday’s vigil a lack of attention paid to poor communities and people of color with regard to the need for redesigned streets.
“One of the primary concerns that we’re having is that the city has made street redesigns in which our street safety is clearly that there is a failure to [extend redesigns] to East New York, south Jamaica, Queens, south Bronx, and that must stop,” Adams said.
amNewYork Metro reported on Thursday that the woman behind the wheel of the car, Susan Pierrot, 48, that struck Lott has been charged with aggravated unlicensed operator, failure to yield to a pedestrian and failure to exercise due care.
The city is looking to improve upon a bloody 2019 for traffic fatalities. Last year, DOT data indicated that there were 218 total traffic fatalities, including 121 pedestrian deaths and 29 cyclist deaths. It was the deadliest year for cyclists in two decades.