Addabbo's plea comes in light of a recent court decision where the city was ordered to pay a $19 million municipal liability claim involving a Brooklyn bicycle accident that left a man brain damaged after he was struck by a speeding car going about 55 mph in a 30 mph zone in Gerritsen Beach. He was 12 when the accident occurred.
The jury’s decision was based on previous warnings the city received from residents of the area about the dangerous roadway. A lawsuit claiming municipal liability may be filed when action or inaction on the part of the city contributes to the serious injury or death of a resident or visitor.
The entire jury award was $36 million, with 40 percent to be paid by the city, 50 percent to be paid by the driver, who had a suspended license at the time, and 10 percent the responsibility of the teen.
According to Addabbo’s office, it is the largest legal payout in New York City’s history.
The city has filed a motion to set aside the verdict, stating its “failure to perform a traffic-calming study or to install certain traffic-calming measures was not a substantial factor in causing the accident.”
But two years before the 2004 accident, the councilman for the area, Lew Fidler, and others sent letters to the Department of Transportation urging a traffic light be installed on Gerritsen Avenue, calling it a “potentially fatal situation.”
The DOT launched a five-year study after the accident and reduced the roadway from two lanes each way to one lane.
The senator is urging city agencies to reconsider their procedures when monitoring unsafe conditions on local streets and intersections, particularly when the concern comes from residents requesting road signs or traffic signals.
“Listening to the people when they complain of a hazardous street situation or intersection is what government should do,” Addabbo said. “If we don’t keep on top of such hazards, we’ll see an increase in juries ordering more enormous settlements to be paid by the city to compensate tragic victims of such government neglect.”
And personal injury lawyers note that the city has an obligation to safety, especially in the wake of its endorsement of the New York City bike sharing program, which will add 10,000 bikes to city streets next summer.
The senator said that quality of life issue are of particular concern to his constituents.
“My two district offices frequently hear from constituents about many such dangerous streets and intersections,” he said.
Addabbo has put in requests for the DOT to install a traffic light at Grand Avenue and Page Place in Maspeth, and street humps at 73rd Place and Metropolitan Avenue in Middle Village and 84th Street and 133rd Avenue in Ozone Park.
He has also called for another speed hump at Rockaway Boulevard and Liberty Avenue at 103rd Street in Ozone Park.
At Crossbay Boulevard and 156th Street in Howard Beach, residents would like to see a delayed green light after a turn arrow was denied. A stop sign is also needed at 156th Avenue and 96th Street, they say.
And at Crossbay Boulevard and 157th, 158th, and 160th Avenues in Howard Beach, residents say a countdown clock is needed, instead of “ Walk/Don’t Walk,” because while a traffic study maintains it takes 38 seconds to walk across the boulevard’s 112 feet at 2.9 feet per second, many elderly people and mothers with strollers do not walk across at that pace.
Addabbo said his office will remain on top of DOT to make sure the requests are fulfilled at these intersections.