Dana Jacks was crossing West Drive in Prospect Park near the intersection of Center Drive when she was stuck by a bicyclist at around 12:15 p.m. on June 11, 2011. She sustained serious brain trauma and fractures throughout her face and skull. She was hospitalized for a total of 25 days, 14 of them she spent in the Intensive Care Unit.
Jacks, 37, who lives near Windsor Terrace, filed a notice of claim, the first step to file a lawsuit, against the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and the NYPD for the “negligence, carelessness and recklessness” in the “ownership, operation, inspection, supervision and control” of the roadways in Prospect Park.
The claim, filed by Forrest Cicogni, her husband, and Jacks, who is an actor and was recently in the ensemble of the Off-Broadway performance of “Our Town,” stated that the agencies are “failing to make and enforce proper speed limits and regulations regarding bicycle riders.”
The claim also states that the agencies failed to monitor bike riders and other grievances, all of which resulted in Jacks' serious injuries while trying to cross West Drive.
The New York Post broke the news on Friday about how Jacks is planning to sue for $3,000,000.
Although Jacks is not yet back to her daily routine, nor back to work, in an E-mail to Patch, she wrote:
“My recovery is ongoing and I am receiving wonderful care,” Jacks wrote. “I feel very fortunate to have an amazing support system of friends and family.”
Forrest Cicogni, Jacks’ husband, said in a phone interview on Monday that her recovery has been a long, tough journey.
“Before the accident and after the accident, it is a clear delineation in our lives. The last six months have been about her care,” he said. “It has limited our lives.”
During the public forum at the , the conversation about how to make the drives safer for all users, especially pedestrians, commenced with the committee reading an E-mail from Jacks’ mother, who lives in California, stating that she believes the park's drives are truly dangerous.
“What goes on in that park is scary, bicycles whiz by...” Jacks’ mother wrote. “People I know are fearful of taking their kids there.”
She went on to say that it is unsafe to have cyclists riding the drives without proper training and also suggested that the bike lane on the drives be fenced off to ensure the safety of pedestrians.
“Please don’t forget that someone was badly hurt in Prospect Park this summer and please do what you can,” the E-mail concluded.
On Monday, Cicogni also said big changes need to be made on the park's drives.
“We would like to see a change in the culture of racing in the park. The cyclist have taken over, especially when traffic is heavy,” he said during a phone interview. “There seems to be a delineation between when [cyclists] can do their significant training and the times when people can enjoy the park.”
Cicogni said that he wants there to be specific bicyclist training hours on the drives and also for there to be a gate to the crosswalk which is closed during the specific training sessions so pedestrians cannot cross during dangerous times.
He said crossing West Drive is like “a game of Frogger."
“I would like to see limited interaction between the training cyclists and pedestrians,” he said. “But, I would like to see people have free access to the park, it does need to be shared."
The notice of claim, which was filed on July 29, 2011, states that the Department of Parks and Recreation and the NYPD are responsible for “allowing and permitting bicycle riders to endanger pedestrians lawfully using streets, sidewalks and parks.”
It also states that the city failed to “properly evaluate, study and modify traffic patterns, roadways, sidewalks, park roads and bicycle paths” to ensure pedestrian safety and did not “provide proper crossing patterns and regulations.”
The area where Jacks was struck is considered a “hot spot” by the task force and to help slow down bikers, alert them to the pedestrian crosswalk with signs and installed a “high visible crosswalk."
On Nov. 3, another pedestrian, , who is a volunteer in the park and walks five miles a day on its drives, was struck by a cyclist in the same area and was in a medically induced coma until Nov. 23.
The “hot spot,” which is near the Vanderbilt Playground, is characterized by a long downhill “S” curve, where bikers’ vision is obscured while they gain speed going down the hill. The intersection is considered a place that has a high risk for “potential conflict” between people crossing and cyclists riding.
The New York City Law Department declined to comment on the notice of claim for they have yet to receive the paper work.
The next Prospect Park Road Sharing Task Force meeting will take place in January.
Although the city has yet to respond to the claim, Cicogni said he hopes the potential lawsuit will increase safety for park-goers.
“I'm hoping it will spur change, I am hoping to get the city’s attention and focus on the problem,” Cicogni said. “We need to deal with the safety issues. I am hoping to be able to use that park along with other people. It needs to be safe where we are not dodging cyclists.”