As 10-year-old Waseem Anajjar crossed Lafayette Avenue in December 2016 en route to his family’s Hunts Point Avenue bodega to get snacks before school, a van going full speed hit him so hard that Waseem still has tire marks on his body to this day. The van did not stop.
“The hospital saved his life,” said Waseem’s brother Mohammed, 17, who works at the family’s bodega.
Although Waseem got back on his feet following months of treatment, local pedestrians see that hit-and-run as emblematic of the dangers they face in a neighborhood ruled by trucks and delivery fleets.
A fatal accident in November 2015 further drove home residents’ worries. Floria Burton was struck and killed by a truck as she walked to a laundromat. Burton, or Ms. Pat as her friends from the neighborhood knew her, was pushing her laundry cart across Seneca Ave. near her Bryant Ave. home when an idling truck she tried to sidestep suddenly started up, ran her over and then backed over her, unaware that the victim lay underneath. Burton was 55 at the time.
According to the DOT, there were 83 traffic-related injuries along the nine-block span on Lafayette between Tiffany St. and Edgewater Road between 2012 and 2016, 19 to pedestrians and four to bikers.
A half-dozen residents gathered at the corner of Faile Street and Hunts Point Avenue on Apr. 11 to demand the transportation department take immediate action to address the problem. They are pushing the city to deliver on assurances they say officials made to them a year ago to upgrade street safety measures.
- A traffic light at the corner of Tiffany Street and Spofford Avenue, where there are now stop signs.
- A light at the corner of Hunts Point Avenue and Faile Street, where there is a crosswalk but no signage.
- A traffic light at Lafayette and Bryant avenues, where there is now are stop signs at each corner. These streets are part of the area School Improvement Zone.
- A stop sign at Faile and Lafayette avenues, where there is no signage nor is there a crosswalk. This corner is part of the area School Improvement Zone as well.
- Reroute trucks heading to the Hunts Point market to ensure they drive through the perimeter (through Garrison and alongside the factories) and not enter streets where schools are located.
- Signage informing drivers to reduce speed in school areas, and the installation of speeding cameras to enforce lowered speeds.
Bronx Power, an advocacy group based in Hunts Point’s historic BankNote building, says that residents have been waiting for results since meeting with elected officials and transportation department representatives last year.
“Why is it a year later and we still haven’t gotten it,” said Angelica Otero, an organizer with Bronx Power, which organized the rally.
A parent at the rally said he has witnessed parents having to stop their children from getting hit by speeding vehicles in front of PS 48, which his own children attended.
“The cars and trucks here go much too fast,” said Johnny Alvarez, 50, adding that he always accompanies his kids to school on foot, fearing for their safety.
In response to residents’ demands, a spokeswoman for the city’s transportation department responded in an email that improvements are well underway. The spokeswoman said that the DOT is “making Spofford Ave between Coster Street and Faile Street, adjacent to PS 48, a 20 mph School Slow Zone. Signage will be installed soon.”
Additionally, she said, the DOT’s School Safety Improvement Project planned for Lafayette Avenue from Tiffany Street to Edgewater Road “includes a new signalized crossing at Lafayette Ave and Manida Street (installed April 2019), a new stop controlled crossing at Lafayette Ave and Barretto St (installed fall 2018), and adding concrete pedestrian islands at Lafayette Ave and Barretto Street, Lafayette Ave and Manida St, and Lafayette Ave and Hunts Point Ave. Layout work for markings and islands is set to begin shortly.
The spokeswoman added that there is an all-way stop sign at the corner of Lafayette and Bryant Avenue, and the department is conducting a study at the corner at Faile and Lafayette.