“It’s a toxic and deadly intersection,” Dinah Carlson Neals said of the Main and Partition intersection at the June 2 Village Board meeting.
Neals witnessed her brother, Robert Carlson, get hit by a truck as he crossed at the Main and Partition intersection on Jan. 30. He died from his injuries five hours later at the Albany Medical Center.
“It was a Thursday morning and I was coming up Partition St. to pick up my brother when I saw him get struck. His lower extremities were crushed. I was 100 feet away,” said Neals, who is out of work on the Family Leave Act because of the trauma she suffered.
Prior to the start of the meeting, Neals was asked about an Intent to Sue letter in connection with the death of Carlson, which trustees received several weeks ago. Neals said she “couldn’t talk about it,” and would not say when the actual suit would be filed.
Reading from a prepared statement, Neals said she was there representing the family to ask that something be done immediately to make the intersection of Main and Partition safer for pedestrians.
There are plans to install walk and do not walk signs by the end of the year. Neals asked the village to place signs on Main, Market and Partition streets urging drivers to slow down for pedestrians as soon as possible.
“This will happen again if something is not done now,” she said.
Neals credited Chief Joseph Sinagra for starting the “See, Be Seen” program, a public awareness campaign and enforcement effort that will begin ticketing motorists for failure to yield to pedestrians at crosswalks and pedestrians for jaywalking.
But, she said, it will only work if motorists slow down. She noted that when drivers come around the Market and Main intersection and see the light green at Main and Partition, “drivers say to themselves, ‘I can beat that light,’ and speed up. It’s called an entitled green light.”
Neals also asked Mayor William Murphy to lower the speed limit from 25 mph to 15 mph. He replied that because these are state roads the village cannot change the speed limit.
“This was a man that we loved who died,” Neals said of her brother. “It could have been your brother or sister. You have to do everything in your power to do something.”
“You’re absolutely right,” Murphy told the grief-stricken woman.
He said the village requested pedestrian signage 18 months ago after noting an increase in close calls between pedestrians and motorists but the state said the village would have to pay for it. Only after the death of Carlson did the state agree to install the signage, which also requires a brand new traffic light.
Neals also asked trustees to put in more crosswalks along Main and Partition streets. Murphy said trustees are looking at installing crosswalks on Partition St. at the intersection with Jane St. and Main St. in front of Smith Hardware.
“Your comments have not fallen on deaf ears,” Murphy said. “We have been working on this for more than a year and will continue to work to make the village safe.”
Why the need for more safety measures? Some officials speculate that it’s a result of increased pedestrian traffic because there’s more to do in the village than in recent years. Neals suggested distraction might have something to do with it.
“All over Dutchess and Ulster counties I see pedestrians walking in a different world, not paying attention,” she said. “They are on their cell phones, browsing, pushing a baby stroller, not expecting to get hit when they try and cross the street. But when it does happen it’s almost always catastrophic.”