Candlelight vigil for those lost to traffic accidents
by Andrew Shilling
Jan 29, 2014 | 1083 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Deputy Borough President Diana Reyna. (Photo by Dimitry Gudkov)
Deputy Borough President Diana Reyna. (Photo by Dimitry Gudkov)
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(Photo by Dimitry Gudkov)
(Photo by Dimitry Gudkov)
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(Photo by Dimitry Gudkov)
(Photo by Dimitry Gudkov)
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Traffic heading through the three-way intersection of Myrtle, Wyckoff and Palmetto avenues in Bushwick is often thick, as MTA buses make sharper than 90 degree turns and mingle with the cars weaving between support beams from the overhead subway line.

The chaotic intersection is also one of many in Brooklyn that has seen its share of pedestrian traffic accidents in 2013.

In the weeks following Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative launch, numerous Brooklyn advocacy groups and elected officials met over the weekend to hold a vigil for those lost and to pull together unified support for pedestrian safety.

“It was at this site, one year ago, that Ella Bandes was hit by an MTA bus and later died of her injuries,” said Keegan Stephan, an organizer with Right of Way, a traffic advocacy group. “The memorial for one person grew to a vigil for everyone killed in traffic in 2013, then into a rally for Vision Zero, the goal to eliminate traffic fatalities.”

The mayor’s Vision Zero plan calls for the improvement of at least 50 dangerous corridors throughout the city, an expansion of 20 m.p.h. speed zones, greater focus from the NYPD Traffic Enforcement Unit, and the implementation and expansion of speed cameras.

Judith Kottick, the mother of Ella Bandes, was there with over 100 supporters to join Right of Way and others in their fight to bring a safer future to city streets.

“It has been more than a year since Ella was killed,” Kottick said of her daughter. “We have been pleading with the city to fix this intersection ever since, and still nothing has been done.”

The families of Sammy Cohen Eckstein, Allison Tam-Liao, Luis Bravo and Renee Thompson were also there for the vigil to remember their loved ones, also lost in roadway tragedies.

“Ally was full of life and such a joyful presence in our close-knit family. She was crossing the intersection with the light, holding her grandmother’s hand when a driver recklessly made a left hand turn without yielding to the pedestrians in the intersection,” said Allison’s mother, Amy Tam-Liao. “The driver has walked away with no punishment, but our family is not able to walk away intact like he is.”

Lisa Newman, an organizer with Make Queens Safer, reminded that while so many have been lost in accidents, even more are injured every year.

“In addition to the hundreds of people killed every year, thousands more have their lives irreparably altered by traffic violence,” Newman said.

Councilmen Mark Weprin and Antonio Reynoso joined other local elected officials to call for safer streets at the rally, supporting the Vision Zero initiative.

“Brooklyn will lead the push for 20 m.p.h. zones,” Weprin said, adding that he intends to push for legislation to enable swift prosecution of reckless drivers.

Reynoso added,” We need to make the city safe for people, not cars.”

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