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Seniors living in and around the Warbasse Houses went toe-to-toe this week with New York City Department of Transportation brass demanding the city reverse new changes made in their community.
Elderly residents — some with canes, wheelchairs and walkers — packed the meeting room at 545 Neptune Avenue for New York City Councilman Domenic Recchia’s “emergency town hall meeting.”
They where there to challenge traffic changes made in June at two busy intersections: West 5th Street and Neptune Avenue and Brighton Beach and Coney Island avenues.
The DOT recently adjusted the timing of the traffic lights at those locations as part of a pilot program involving all five boroughs called Safe Streets for Seniors.
But the resulting timing couldn’t be worse for elderly residents here who complained that they felt a lot more secure before the tinkering took place and the local “Barnes dances” were removed.
A “Barnes dance” is a street crossing system that stops traffic and allows pedestrians to cross intersections in every direction at the same time.
“In 12 seconds cars are turning on me,” neighborhood resident Barbara Teitelbaum told DOT Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Joseph Palmieri. “We are not numbers, we are people. We cannot trust the cars. We want our Barnes dance back.”
The DOT has specific guidelines for “How to cross Neptune Avenue.” They are as follows: “Wait for a fresh walk signal. Look both ways. Check for cars coming through the light. Start crossing. Continue to check for turning cars.”
It’s those turning cars that have senior citizens frightened. Not only do they say that the “Leading Pedestrian Intervals” do not provide them with enough time to safely cross the street, they say it does nothing to stem the tide of oncoming traffic.
“You did not take into consideration the amount of elderly people here,” said Sal Cooperman, vice-president of Trump Village #3.
Cooperman urged the DOT to install new left turning signals in the area and implement larger yield signs to better protect elderly pedestrians.
“If they’re not yielding, I cannot help this,” Palmieri said. “That’s enforcement.”
Before the new changes, DOT recorded eight accidents involving elderly pedestrians at West 5th Street and Neptune Avenue between 2001 and 2006. The agency recorded 10 more crashes at Brighton Beach and Coney Island avenues during the same period.
Despite the numbers neighborhood residents still say they want their Barnes dance reinstituted.
“I can’t stand here and say I can bring it back,” Palmieri said.
“Why not?” seniors roared.
One man called the situation an “emergency” and suggested that the DOT report back to Community Board 13 within a month about making changes.
“We’re not going to sit back and let this go,” Recchia assured residents.
State Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny called current traffic conditions at the intersections a “nightmare.”
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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