Wednesday, May 01, 2013

NYPD: felony assaults down, accidents up since opening of arena; questions about roles of TEAs and pedestrian safety managers

Several Atlantic Yards issues came up last night at the monthly meeting of the 78th Precinct Council of the New York Police Department (NYPD).

Notably, Deputy Inspector Michael Ameri, the commanding officer, said that felony assaults are down compared to last year, "which I find remarkable, because everybody was so concerned about the Barclays Center." In other words, there have been no drunken rampages.

He did acknowledge that accidents have been up in the last six months, correlating with the arena opening though not necessarily attributable to that, given that the precinct boundaries also expanded: "Let's be honest, we have an increase in traffic, and increase in pedestrians."

Improving traffic safety, and an accident follow-up

His new executive officer, Martha Doble, has responsibility for traffic and pedestrian issues. Doble said NYPD would push education (flyers urging pedestrians to walk carefully), engineering (speed bumps, traffic cones), and enforcement to cut down on incidents.

Ameri was asked for more details on the incident in which an elderly man was killed by a truck last month at the treacherous intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenue.

He called it an "unfortunate situation" not connected to any arena event. The "elderly man... did step in the traffic" between two parked cars, not at a crosswalk, and was caught on the back wheel of a slow-moving truck. 

While the truck driver may have been cited for some equipment issues, he was not cited for failure to yield to a pedestrian.

Ameri did get thanks from neighborhood advocates for protecting a bike lane at Bergen Street and Flatbush and getting officers' and precinct cars off the sidewalk at Bergen Street east of Sixth Avenue near the precinct house.

TEAs ignoring rules?

One resident noted that a city traffic enforcement agent (TEA) last week parked a van in a pedestrian plaza in front of Pintchik Hardware at Bergen and Flatbush, though the whole adjacent block was open with legal parking.

The resident asked the agent if the van belonged to him, got a vague answer. The resident asked the agent to move the van, and was told he'd do so, but didn't.

"I know they're not under your command, but can we do something to not get them to block pedestrian areas," he asked Ameri.

"That's my pet peeve," Ameri responded, noting that, while the TEAs do not fall under his jurisdiction--they're under the NYPD's transportation bureau--it does not excuse their behavior

TEAs and pedestrian safety managers

TEAs are assigned to ensure the flow of vehicular traffic, while private pedestrian safety managers--in the case of the arena, hired via traffic consultant Sam Schwartz Engineering--are supposed to ensure the safety of those crossing the street.

Can they stop traffic?

"To the point of pedestrian safety," Ameri responded, acknowledging it was "maybe a gray legal area."

One resident said such manager were waving cars through red lights during the early days of the arena operation

"I guess, technically, it's not supposed to work that way," Ameri said. "Will pedestrian managers stop a vehicle for pedestrian safety and flow? Yeah."

Peter Krashes of the Dean Street Block Association asked how long the pedestrian managers, who initially had a two-month contract, and the TEAs, which Forest City Ratner was supposed to pay for, would last.

Ameri pointed to arena Community Affairs Manager Terence Kelly. Kelly said the issues could be discussed May 7 at the next Atlantic Yards Quality of Life meeting.

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