Safety signals approved by DOT following group’s activism
By Jessica Meditz
Following residents’ months of advocacy and pleading with the DOT, new stop signs have been implemented at the intersection of Stanhope Street and Fairview Avenue in Ridgewood.
As of Dec. 1, crosswalks are now at the intersection.
Residents say the intersection, just steps away from Grover Cleveland Park, has been a danger to pedestrians and the community at large for as long as 20 years.
In late 2019, a man was hit by a car and killed at this intersection, and other residents have said they felt unsafe crossing the street due to the lack of safety signals.
In response, Ridgewood residents Nicole Galpern and Becca Kauffman co-founded Crosswalk Fantasy Committee early this year.
The goal of the organization is to raise awareness of the intersection, get the community involved and make requests to the DOT in hopes to achieve the goal of stop signs and crosswalks at the T-shaped intersection.
“It just became this glaring, strange void in city infrastructure. You could just stand there for minutes upon end and never get any reprieve from drivers,” Kauffman said.
“We felt like it was going to be important to amplify the voices of the neighbors here and their experience of the street, because unlike someone sitting at an office at the Department of Transportation receiving a uniform request, these people are actually on the ground experiencing the dangers of being a pedestrian in their own area.”
Galpern shared that she and Kauffman both became passionate about making the intersection safer, and wanted to put in the work to get the safety signals implemented.
The team was in constant communication with the DOT since March, submitting requests, making phone calls and sending their petition — which garnered over 600 signatures following the rally they held at the intersection on March 19.
They also spoke with Community Board 5, who submitted a letter to the DOT on their behalf. They also received support from community leaders such as Juan Ardila, Councilman Robert Holden and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards.
In addition to the standard bureaucratic, straightforward ways of getting the request off the ground, Crosswalk Fantasy Committee wanted to execute their mission in a creative and engaging way.
“I loved the idea of a more creative approach to this, doing something more colorful and not making a civic duty so dreary in our neighborhood. I thought it should be more engaging and I think we came over our desire of making this a more pleasant experience,” Galpern said.
Kauffman considers their initiative to be a socially engaged art project, as seen by the compilation of artwork, audio recordings, photos, postcards and more they’ve put together.
Inspired by the role of a crossing guard, Kauffman has a personal goal of being an Artist in Residence of the NYC DOT.
“I’m really intrigued by the crossing guard as a utilitarian role. It also is a performance on the street in public space, and I think of it choreographically like a dance…kind of like a mime act in a way,” they said.
“I wanted to perform as a crossing guard at the intersection. I think of it as a sort of like theatrical intervention at this rally and march that we organized together. We had a bunch of volunteers too, and we all donned high visibility workwear.”
Crosswalk Fantasy Committee received an email from the DOT on Aug. 4 saying that after “months of evaluation,” the stop signs and crosswalks were approved.
On Nov. 17, the new stop signs were implemented at the intersection of Stanhope Street and Fairview Avenue. The crosswalks were painted shortly after, following a “high priority” ranking by the DOT.
The pair feel that the crosswalks are essential, as cars appear to miss the new stop signs or are ignoring them.
In celebration of the new safety signals, Crosswalk Fantasy Committee plans to host a “Party at the Crosswalk” on Sunday, Dec. 18. The community at large is welcome to attend.
For more information and updates about Crosswalk Fantasy Committee’s activism and the status of the intersection, follow the group on Instagram @crosswalkfantasy.