200 safe-streets supporters gathered Sunday at the nexus of Myrtle Avenue, Wyckoff Avenue, and Palmetto Street along the Bushwick-Ridgewood border to hold a vigil for victims of traffic violence.
One year ago, 23-year-old Ella Bandes was killed by an MTA bus while crossing this intersection. At least 285 other pedestrians, cyclists, and skateboarders lost their lives on New York City streets in 2013, with 17 more so far this year.
Relatives of four victims – Ms. Bandes, Sammy Cohen Eckstein, Allison Liao, and Renée Thompson – shared their grief over a megaphone, bringing many in the crowd to tears. Several elected officials spoke in favor of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero campaign, which aims to eliminate pedestrian fatalities by 2024.
Many activists have put recent focus on excessive speeds, the top contributing factor for pedestrian deaths. Traffic measures are controlled by Albany; Mr. de Blasio has made securing home rule a goal of his administration.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams lent his voice to the effort. “You have a commitment from me – in this borough of Brooklyn, we will lead the way for the entire city,” Mr. Adams said. “We’re going to make sure the 20-miles-per-hour speed limit happens here.”
All stood before a banner with the names of the 300-plus victims since last January. The display was prepared by the event’s sponsors, Make Brooklyn Safer and Make Queens Safer, two community groups that formed in late 2013 to combat what several speakers called “an epidemic”.
A plea was written above a dozen blank lines: “Help us stop these deaths.”
The list struck even seasoned advocates. “To think about the numbers is one thing, but to see the names is so powerful,” said Juan Martinez, general counsel of Transportation Alternatives.
Also moved was a local teenager, who looked confused as he worked his way through the crowd. Upon reaching the intersection, he stared for several seconds at the banner.
“Holy crap. That’s a lot of people,” he said, before dashing (safely) across the street.
PREVIOUSLY: Celebrating Vision Zero, advocates inaugurate a new era for livable streets (January 1, 2014)