By Danielle Furfaro for the Brooklyn Paper
The back end of a tractor-trailer smashed into a wall in Williamsburg where a group of activists were installing a memorial to New Yorkers killed in traffic accidents.
The crash rattled the memorial wall where more than 40 volunteers of the transportation group Right of Way were almost pasted as they pasted silhouettes of 264 dead people on the temporary wall along Kent Avenue and S. Third Street on Saturday.
And organizers said no one was hurt only because time was on their side.
“If we had started half an hour earlier, probably some of us would be dead,” said Right of Way’s Charles Komanoff.
The group spent 10 hours on Saturday hanging wooden planks and then pasting on the 264 5-foot-high, 20-inch wide panels that now covers two-and-a-half sides of the full-city-block construction fence. Each silhouette reads “Killed by traffic” and has the name of the victim underneath.
The 18-wheeler sped around the corner at about 11 am, and the back left portion of the truck slammed into the wall, according to the activists. The force of the crash cracked the wall on impact. The volunteers, many of whom were perched on ladders and scaffolding, were shaken, but no one was injured.
The irony of the situation was not lost them.
“It is shocking that while we were installing a memorial for people killed in traffic, a truck crashed into the memorial,” said organizer Keegan Stephan.
The truck driver spent a half an hour trying to get his truck unstuck, and he finally gave up on getting the giant vehicle back onto the driving lanes of Kent Avenue and instead cut into the separated bike lane, running over several dividers, activists said.
The group installed the memorial to protest what they call the city’s insufficient steps taken to quell traffic deaths in the year since it instituted “Vision Zero” — the mayor’s plan to decrease the number of pedestrian fatalities to zero.
The temporary wall is wrapped around the construction site that will be one of the massive skyscrapers of Two Trees Management Co.’s Domino sugar factory project.
This all happened on the same weekend that the New York City Street Memorial Project, which installs white bike sculptures in spots where bicyclists have been killed, hosted its Ghost Bike ride across the city. The two projects are unrelated, but have many crossover members and supporters.