Sadly, it was not my first street safety forum, it was quite possibly my third or fourth. However, I don't have the expectation that these things should happen once and never again.
The reason is because street safety, and in many circumstances city planning in general, can tend to be a morass.
Different stakeholders have different visions, and different elements that may be impacting a scenario sometimes aren't realized or discussed for many years.
In 2014, I collaborated with Lisa Bloodgood, then a staffer for Levin's office, to advocate for street safety measures on McGuinness Boulevard. We were inspired to hold the meeting because Nicole Detweiler, a pedestrian, was killed on McGuinness Boulevard.
She had been hit by a truck, and upon investigation the cops found that the driver was driving with a suspended license and had been arrested just a week previous on the Upper West Side.
This was not the first time my friends and I had attacked the dangerous thoroughfare of McGuinness, and our advocacy was a continuation of an earlier initiative.
We held that meeting at Hosh Yoga, a community space that always showed true concern about the community.
With help from Assemblyman Joseph Lentol and Levin, our series of meetings resulted in pedestrian countdown clocks at intersections along the road.
A few years before, in 2010, I had teamed up with my friend Les Brown to do a traffic study on McGuinness Boulevard.
We and several other volunteers, including the Hoffmans and our friend Ron Herrera, sat at intersections along McGuinness week after week in the winter, counting how many cars violated traffic rules such as yielding to pedestrians, accelerating during yellow lights, turning against the light, and more.
Our report showed that drivers violate traffic laws every 17 seconds at the Nassau Avenue intersection.
We were inspired to do the study because of the death of Solange Raulston, a cyclist, who was killed at the same intersection in 2008 by a car who sideswiped her.
In 2010, a pedestrian, Neil Chamberlain, a 28-year-old web developer, was killed in a hit and run while crossing the street.
Last night, at the street safety meeting, we poured over maps of the district with sticky notes and shared our own experiences. Where do trucks speed? Where is it difficult to safely ride a bike and why? Where do we feel unsafe entering the road? Where do we feel like we have to run to cross it?
A man at my table, Eddie, who grew up and still lives on Oak Street, was full of both great ideas and great jokes, but took a serious note when he said, "as an older man I cannot run to cross the street. I don't feel safe crossing most of the time."
As I looked around the room I saw so many generations of Greenpointers sharing our experiences and listening to each other, working to problem solve together. I felt inspired, despite the dire circumstances.
In the room I saw many faces of people who I have seen through my years in the neighborhood, who have taught me how to be a good and respectful advocate.
People like Teresa Toro and Jens Rassmussen, who may not be Greenpoint-born but have both been active in the neighborhood and its issues for decades.
I thought about my friends who I've worked on these issues with before. All of them remain advocates and activists. Many are still in the neighborhood. Many will never get credit or admiration for what they do.
But as I looked at them and listened to them and thought about how much we have accomplished together, I know that we have an amazing, strong, and caring community. And it's what you learn, and do, when you show up that counts.