The city needs to do more to protect and secure Bay Ridge’s 69th Street Pier and other open spaces like it, Ridgites said after a still-unidentified 54-year-old man drove his car down and off the pier — which was missing one of its six protective metal bollards — in an apparent suicide in the early morning hours of Nov. 6.
The incident came on the heels of the Oct. 31 truck attack that killed eight people on the West Side Highway in Manhattan, leading one local to say that the city needs to be on higher alert and prioritize protecting places where people congregate by making sure that safety barriers and other forms of vehicle-blocking infrastructure are up-to-date.
“The city should be held accountable for missing or broken infrastructure that is supposed to protect people,” said Ridgite Liz Donohue, who meets up with her running group at the pier every week.
Eyewitnesses told the New York Post that the man who drove off the 69th Street Pier on Nov. 6 sped down it’s length in about ten seconds, at 60–70 miles per hour, swerving around tables and benches, after he entered the pier through an open space left by the missing bollard. The Parks Department, which has had jurisdiction over the pier since 2001, said that it did not remove the bollard and did not know how or when it went missing.
Local fisherman George DeNot, who visits the pier every day, said that drag-racing drivers doing donuts with their cars knocked the missing bollard off earlier this year, but the police department did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the allegation.
But the missing bollard was not the sole factor making the pier accessible to cars — a determined driver could still enter the pier through the 8-foot-wide gaps on either side of the row of heavy bollards — so there’s no way to truly protect the pier from ill-intentioned drivers without a constant police presence, DeNot said.
“They would have to have a cop on the beat around the clock here,” said DeNot, who did not witness the Nov. 6 incident. “The man [who drove his car off the Pier] was on a mission.”
Following the Nov. 6 incident, the Parks Department installed a temporary metal bollard in place of the missing one to deter vehicle access, and replaced three sections of fencing at the end of the pier that the driver plowed through before plunging into the water. A spokeswoman said that the department does not have funding to replace the heavy bollard, but that it will continue to monitor the temporary one. A different spokeswoman said that the department would not have a cost estimate for a new bollard until there was a finalized plan to install it on the pier. In August, New York Magazine reported that a single bollard can cost around $2,500, with installation costing up to the same amount.
The safety bollards were first installed on the pier by the city Economic Development Corporation in 2000, when it built the pier, a year before handing it off to Parks Department, according to an agency spokesman.
DeNot said that he’s witnessed enough suicides at the pier first-hand to know that they’re not an unusual occurrence there — but this was the first one he knew of by car.
“There’s always a suicide on this pier,” he said. “That’s not the first one. Many times. Usually they jump.”
The police department did not respond to repeated requests for comment about the history of deaths at the pier or how often officers patrol the area.