Friday, December 28, 2007

This time it's the off-ramp

Friday, December 28, 2007, about 10 a.m. This time it's the off-ramp on the same location. It's a major accident, an overturned cement truck. Obviously both off and on ramps need rebuilding. My posting of Sept. 17, 2007 ("It Can Be Done !") gave one idea of how to do it.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

One more: Saturday, December 22, 9:15 p.m.

This is the second accident THAT I HAVE SEEN on this spot on this day. Obviously, those that I see can only be a fraction of those that occur.

Saturday, December 22, 2007, 9:45 a.m.

Accident at same spot !

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Middle of the Night

Thursday, December 20, 2007, about 3:30 a.m. Same spot, new accident.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tuesday, December 11, 2 p.m.

Another collision accident at the t-bone entrance. I must point out, again, that I do not monitor this spot 24-7. The accidents that I can document are obviously only a fraction of all those that occur here.

I recently took a cab drive to Manhattan and chatted with the driver about the t-bone. He told me that the frequency of accidents at this spot is notorious in the profession.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

About 8:30 a.m. While I was away, my wife (not qualified on Nikon SLR) observed the following accident scene at the t-bone: a stalled passenger car, a tow truck behind it, soon followed by a police car.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Depressingly familiar. Another accident at T-Bone. This one on Thursday, November 8, 2007, about 10 p.m.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Second Incident of Day

Friday, November 2, 2007, about 4 p.m. Here is the second incident for the day, same t-bone entrance of BQE. How many of these accidents happen per day ? I don't know, I can only report those I happen to spot. And the authorities have not, so far, responded to my requests for an accounting. Not a good situation.

Ambulance, Police, Distraught Motorist

Friday, November 2, 2007, 9 - 10 a.m. The ambulance shows that this was no mere fender bender. Once again there is suffering, and expense to the tax payer. This would not have happened on a properly designed entrance ramp !

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Another mishap at the T-Bone

Wednesday, October 24, 2007, about 12:15 p.m. That semi-trailer on the left, marked "tex", is stuck. Was it hit by someone at the T-Bone, did it just happen to run out of gas right there ? It wouldn't be right there, with another semi trying to get around it, if there were a proper acceleration ramp.

Suing the State for Dangerous Highway Condition

The State of New York has a special court, the Court of Claims, that has jurisdiction for such cases. See, for example, the case of Bauer v. State of New York (2006).

The bottom line, of course, is that the taxpayer pays, as he always does, for the negligence of the officialdom. How much have Court of Claims highway decisions cost the public ? How much has been paid by the State in out-of-court settlements ? And how much, specifically, has the T-Bone of Congress Street cost the public -- quite aside from the cost in human suffering ? These are some of the questions that I hope to explore in future postings.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

ANOTHER accident: Thurs.,10/18/07, 11 p.m.

Well, here we go again. Another accident, Thurs., 10/18/07, about 11 p.m. And don't forget, I only photograph the ones I happen to see.

These constant accidents constitute notice, "constructive notice" as the lawyers say, that this is not a safe entrance to the highway !

Governments like to hide data on traffic deaths

It seems that the NYCPD and the state's DOT are not alone in foot dragging when it comes to revealing traffic accidents and traffic deaths. Here is an eye-opening story from the Honolulu Advertiser.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Mr. Bloomberg comes through -- sort of

Dear Mr. Mayor,

It's probably just a coincidence. But hours after I wrote to you last, the Police Department has recognized my FOIL application.

Out of three possible cheers, the city deserves at least one for this spurt of activity. At least one, but not quite two, and certainly not three, and here's why:

1) The NYPD letter is dated 9/28/07 but was received by me only yesterday, 10/15/07. It was stamped by a Pitney Bowes machine that does not give mailing date.

2) The letter maintains that my FOIL request was received 9/5/07 while the USPS reports delivery on 8/22/07.

3) The letter states that because of press of other work, etc., "it is anticipated that your request will require more than twenty days." How much longer ? "It is anticipated that a determination will be reached on 1/5/07." That's the date on which the Department will decide on whether to supply the information. And on what date will that take place, exactly ? One, five, zero SEVEN ? Yes, that's what is says.

Well, I don't know. Does all this add up to efficiency ?

In the meantime, Mr. Mayor, there are constant accidents here. As I never tire of saying, the spot is one where fatalities are just waiting to happen.

Respectfully yours

Werner Cohn

Second accident within the hour

Tuesday, October 16, about 3:55 p.m. Less than an hour after the last accident, the school bus (not shown in this view) still awaiting removal, and here is yet another accident. Not a trivial one either; you can see the ambulance. IMHO: Whatever it may cost to fix this t-bone, it would be less than the cost -- in money and human suffering -- of these round-the-clock accidents.

I should point out that I cannot possibly document all the accidents that occur. I look out of the window from time to time, and when I see an accident I photograph it. But I am not a 24/7 surveillance camera. So obviously, what you see on this blog can only be a fraction of what goes on down below in the eye of the t-bone.

Tuesday, Oct. 16 -- another incident


This incident occurred at about 4 p.m., today, Tuesday, October 16, 2007. Some spot, same t-bone problem. This incident involved a school bus loaded with children.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Still another accident, Sun., Oct. 14, 2007

Sunday, October 14, about 9:30 p.m. Another one of those accidents at this t-bone entrance. This one was certainly more serious than a fender-bender. The affected car needed to be carted away.

Mr. Mayor, Sir, Why Not Obey the Law ?

Ruby Washington/The New York Times

Dear Mr. Mayor,

Nice picture of yourself here, don't you think ? And all those law enforcement officers applauding ! But there is a little matter that I need to bring to your attention about of law-abiding, or rather the opposite, on the part of the city.

I have this little blog called BQEWatch, in which I try to point attention to a dangerous entrance to the BQE. How do I know it's dangerous ? Well, to be perfectly honest, I cannot be sure that it's more dangerous than it should be (although I have documented quite a few accidents on it within a period of weeks). I don't know EXACTLY how many people have died at this spot, and I don't know its safety record in comparison with other, safer BQE entrances.

For this reason I have requested the New York Police Department, which is charged with patrolling this highway and with keeping records of accidents on it, to give me the relevant figures. I have made this request under the Freedom of Information Law, FOIL. You will find all the details of my request on my blog.

Well, to get back to obeying the law. FOIL requires a response within five days. My FOIL request, according to Post Office records, was delivered at 8:01 a.m. on Wednesday, August 22, 2007. Today it is October 15. I have not heard from the NYPD at all. Not a word. I phoned the relevant bureau one day and was told that the request is undoubtedly in the building somewhere, and that, no doubt, it will be found soon and properly taken care of. When I volunteered to send a duplicate request, I was told no no no, absolutely do not do that, it would duplicate and complicate matters no end.

So, Mr. Mayor, can you help out on this ?

Many thanks.

Werner Cohn

N.B. The version of this letter submitted to the Mayor had to be somewhat shortened because the Mayor's e-mail arrangement limits messages to 300 words.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Ten worst highway junctions in the world

The British publication Auto Express has an interesting story, with pictures, concerning the ten worst auto junctions in the world. Apparently our t-bone thing on the BQE ranks eleven or so, and for that reason it's not mentioned in this article. But good reading for anyone interested in Death on the BQ Express !

Monday, October 1, 2007

Police Department not responding to FOIL request

To understand just how dangerous the BQE t-bone is at Congress Street, we need to know the frequency of accidents and fatalities at that site, in comparison with sites that have relatively safe ramps. The NYPD, charged with policing the road, has this information. And I requested it, as the readers of this blog know, in August, in accordance with FOIL, the New York State Freedom of Information Law. The Post Office has confirmed delivery to the NYPD on August 22, 2007.

Under the law, the NYPD is required to respond within five days to FOIL requests. Today it is October 1, and I have had no response, despite my phone calls and other follow-ups.

The police department is organized to enforce the law and, obviously, to obey it. But it seems to have a little trouble doing so, at least in this instance.

I might add that I sent an identical FOIL request to the State's Department of Transportation (DOT), which is in charge of the highway, on September 5. I have not heard from this agency either. Could it be that the FOIL function in these agencies is underfunded ? If they had more personnel assigned to this work, perhaps they could at least refuse the information in a timely manner.

Here are the relevant portions of FOIL

3. (a) Each entity subject to the provisions of this article, within five business days of the receipt of a written request for a record reasonably described, shall make such record available to the person requesting it, deny such request in writing or furnish a written acknowledgment of the receipt of such request and a statement of the approximate date, which shall be reasonable under the circumstances of the request, when such request will be granted or denied, including, where appropriate, a statement that access to the record will be determined in accordance with subdivision five of this section. If an agency determines to grant a request in whole or in part, and if circumstances prevent disclosure to the person requesting the record or records within twenty business days from the date of the acknowledgement of the receipt of the request, the agency shall state, in writing, both the reason for the inability to grant the request within twenty business days and a date certain within a reasonable period, depending on the circumstances, when the request will be granted in whole or in part. Upon payment of, or offer to pay, the fee prescribed therefor, the entity shall provide a copy of such record and certify to the correctness of such copy if so requested, or as the case may be, shall certify that it does not have possession of such record or that such record cannot be found after diligent search. Nothing in this article shall be construed to require any entity to prepare any record not possessed or maintained by such entity except the records specified in subdivision three of section eighty-seven and subdivision three of section eighty-eight.
(b) All entities shall, provided such entity has reasonable means available, accept requests for records submitted in the form of electronic mail and shall respond to such requests by electronic mail, using forms, to the extent practicable, consistent with the form or forms developed by the committee on open government pursuant to subdivision one of this section and provided that the written requests do not seek a response in some other form.

For the complete text of my FOIL request, please click here.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Nobody Stops at the Stop Sign -- A Video

The stop sign at the t-bone entrance is something no driver obeys. Why ? Because it would be dangerous to do so. This fact is a telling symptom of what's wrong with this t-bone. The basic wrong of course is the danger to life and limb. But an additional wrong -- perhaps of equal importance -- is that it promotes contempt for the law.

The video shows a number of drivers who simply ignore this sign. It is entirely typical of what happens at the spot all the time. The only time I have ever seen a driver stop at the sign is when there is a car stopped directly in front of him. In other words, during hours of observation, I have never seen a driver who stops because of the sign.

My lawyer friends tell me that in the common criminal law there was a defense of necessity. As I understand it, a person can invoke this defense if he violates the law because of necessity, i.e. when any other action would produce a greater harm. I cannot claim to know enough law here, so I don't know what the legal position of these drivers would be if they were charged. But it is telling that, as far as I can see, the police make no attempt to enforce this stop sign.

This video was made on Wednesday, September 19, 2007, from a spot in the play ground just behind the stop sign. It is the very first video I have ever made.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Monday, September 17, 2007

It Can Be Done !

A reader has submitted a sketch on how to provide an unimpeded acceleration ramp going west (south, actually) from the Congress Street entrance to the BQE.

The sketch (see below) proposes moving both the on ramp and the off ramp north, in order to provide the acceleration ramp, making one of the parks smaller and one larger. It provides better sight lines for cars entering the BQE. Some may argue that it reduces the length of the off ramp, but I think that’s less of a safety issue. It moves the intersection north on Columbia Street, but since it’s not a through intersection there is no reason not to, unless queing to Atlantic is a big issue. I think there may actually be a small net gain in park space, since the ramps are a bit shorter in the east-west direction.

If this proposal proves feasible, it would enable motorists to enter the BQE at this spot safely, for the first time. I think that if it can be carried out it will save lives. Mr. Governor, gentlemen and ladies of the DOT -- take a good look at this !

Monday, September 10, 2007

NYSDOT responds

With the kind help of Assemblywoman Joan Millman, I have obtained a response to my BQE concerns from The New York State Department of Transportation:

Traffic engineers for Region 11 of the New York State
Deparment of Transportation ( NYSDOT) reviewed accident data at the subject location and discussed the accident patterns at the location
with one of the police officers in the nearby precinct. Our engineers
recommend that the entrance ramp remain open, because closing the ramp will cause unnecessary hardship for the motorists. The affected
motorists will have to travel several miles thru the local streets with
traffic signals and several turns, some of which may be difficult for

As you may know, there is no acceleration lane for the entering
motorists. Based on the accident data and the police officer's
recollection,the accidents are mainly caused by the entering motorists
misjudging the gaps between mainline vehicles in a down grade. The
entering vehicles stop abruptly after the STOP sign,thereby causing most of the rear end accidents. Also, the horizontal curve on the mainline, just before the entrance ramp, limits the sight distance for both the mainline and ramp motorists.

The following recomendations have been made for this location:
1. Install a Curve Warning sign with Advisory Speed Limit sign before
the mainline curve;
2. Restrict motorists to their lanes before the entrance ramp by
replacing the existing white broken lane markings with solid white
lines; so that the entering vehicle will concentrate on the right lane.
The solid lines will discourage lane changing before the entrance ramp.

( A work order has already been sent out for items 1 and 2).

3. We are also investigating the feasibility of installing ramp meter
at this location. We have done traffic counts at this location and are
currently evaluating the data.

This leaves the following problems:

A. DOT concedes accidents at this spot, and also concedes that there is no acceleration ramp. But DOT has not, as yet, furnished comparative accident and fatality figures that would allow us to evaluate just how much more dangerous this entrance ramp is when compared to others in the neighborhood. I have requested such data, from both DOT and the NYCPD, but have not had a response from either agency. (The complete text of my FOIL request is available through a link shown on this blog.)

B. DOT mentions no plans for long-term improvement. They do not seem to contemplate the construction of an acceleration ramp at any time in the future. Absent this indispensable feature, I maintain, this ramp should be closed to traffic.

C. DOT maintains that closing the ramp might prove inconvenient to motorists. Yes, no doubt about that. I personally avoid the ramp, spending an extra three minutes or so driving to the next entrance. In my view that inconvenience is small compared to the alternative. DOT's persistence in retaining the status quo (with only slight cosmetic changes) will result in fatalities, I believe. And no, it will be no fun to say "I told you so."

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Robert Moses Strikes on Sunday

It's Sunday, September 9, 2007, 1 p.m., here again, at the t-bone west-bound entrance to the BQE near Congress Street. Robert Moses, bless his soul, strikes again. This time it appears to be a "mere" fender bender. But, as a morbid person may aptly put it, the spot is a fatality waiting to happen.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Trouble on Labor Day

Is it yet another accident, or did the police just happen to spring into action for some other reason at this very same trouble spot ? Either way, here we are again, at the junction of the BQE and its westward on-ramp near Congress Street, Brooklyn. This picture was taken at 11:05 a.m., Monday, September 3, 2007.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Again !

This picture was taken today, Thursday, Aug. 30, 2007, at 5:15 p.m. Yet another accident at this same spot, the BQE on-ramp (going west) near Congress Street. This spot is obviously a fatality waiting to happen. It's not safe. The ramp should be closed to all traffic pending the construction of a proper acceleration lane for entrance to the highway. To paraphrase old Ronnie: Mr. Governor, close that death trap !

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Robert Moses strikes again ?

Here again, on that very same spot -- the on-ramp to the BQE near Congress Street -- is the scene as of 1:15 p.m., Wednesday, August 29, 2007.

As the faithful reader of this blog will know, I have requested the NYPD to furnish accident and mortality figures for this spot. So far no answer. But of course it hasn't been long since this request was filed. So, as old Al Pope would have put it, hope springs eternal that the information is forthcoming.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Accident at the very spot

This photo was taken at 1:30 a.m., Thursday, August 23, 2007. [The time stamp assigned to this posting is off by a few hours]

Monday, August 20, 2007


I have today filed a request for information with Commissioner Ray Kelly of the New York Police Department under FOIL, New York's Freedom of Information Law.

After explaining to Mr. Kelly that we constantly witness accidents on the BQE from our window, I requested that he take a personal interest in the problem at hand.

Next, I detailed the accident information that I seek: number of vehicular accidents, number of injured persons, number of fatalities, and also the average traffic patterns at the following locations:

a. the ramp that I can see from our house, viz. the on-ramp to the westward BQE just north of Congress Street;

for comparative purposes, I have also asked for information for two other ramps that seem to have substantially safer designs:

b. the on-ramp for westward traffic on the BQE at Hicks and Vine, and

c. the on-ramp for eastward traffic on the Prospect Expressway at 19th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues.

For the complete text of my FOIL request, please click here.

Death on the BQE ?

The BQE -- The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway -- was completed more than fifty years ago, in the days of Robert Moses. It was obviously not built for today's traffic conditions. One of its many bad features, from the point of view of today's motorists, are some extremely dangerous on-ramps that are found along its way. (Some of its on-ramps, however, seem perfectly adequate -- for instance the west-bound on-ramp on Hicks and Vine, near Dumbo).

I live in a house from where I can observe a very dangerous on-ramp, the one for west-bound traffic just north of Congress Street. No week seems to go by, it seems, without an accident that I can observe from my windows. Frequently there are ambulances, police cars, and, worst of all, distraught people emerging from automobiles.

The X on the map above shows the spot at which incoming traffic merges with existing traffic. Please note a) because of the curve in the road, the continuing traffic on the BQE has very little distance to see the traffic attempting to merge; b) the traffic attempting to enter the BQE has little distance to observe the continuing traffic; c) there is no acceleration ramp at all; incoming traffic has to enter from a dead stop. As a matter of fact, a stop sign is installed at about the spot marked X.

This picture in an aerial view of the surroundings. I have marked the position of the stop sign with a little black circle.

And here is a closer view of this spot. The stop sign is encircled in black.

This picture shows a car attempting to enter the BQE. It did not stop at the stop sign. Instead it crept ahead slowly into the highway, trying to find an entry. This is the very location where so many accidents occur.

I believe that the driver on this black car did the only sensible thing he could have done under these circumstances. If he had stopped at the stop sign there would have been no safe way for him to enter the traffic flow, IMHO. As a matter of fact, I have not seen a single driver, in several hours of recent observation, who has been foolish enough to make a full stop at this stop sign.