Gary Zammett Sr. left his house in Canarsie on Wednesday evening to go to Howard Beach to buy a slice of cheesecake for his wife, Celeste. He hopped on his bike and pedaled across the borough border.
Less than two hours later he was dead at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center.
Zammett was struck by a car in the intersection of 160th Avenue and 84th Street and died only about 90 minutes later. The driver stayed at the scene and no charges were filed.
Now Zammett’s family, busy planning his funeral, and residents who live near the scene are searching for answers and looking for the city to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again.
“It’s been a little difficult for my cousin’s wife,” said Sheniqua Jones, Zammett’s cousin.
Jones said she did not know Zammett’s exact age, just that he was in his late 50s or early 60s.
“That’s the last thing you expect,” Jones said. “You don’t expect a family member to say ‘I’ll be right back’ and then not come back.”
Jones said Zammett suffered extensive injuries to his face and limbs, and his funeral will be closed-casket. She and her family went to the scene after the accident and residents nearby told them the corner was a disaster waiting to happen. Until it did.
Eighty-fourth Street is a major thoroughfare in the Rockwood Park section of Howard Beach. It is the only two-way route in that section of the neighborhood besides Cross Bay Boulevard and connects the community with Lindenwood on the other side of the Belt Parkway.
“That intersection was a ticking time bomb that exploded,” said a resident who lives a block away, who identified himself only as Gary. “We need more lights on 84th Street.”
The intersection has a four-way stop — as do most of the others along 84th Street — but Gary and other residents say drivers often run the signs. Jones said she and her family witnessed cars jumping the stop sign at the scene when they visited after the accident.
“We saw cars physically run straight through the stop sign,” she said.
Immediately after the incident, police officers pulled over drivers near the intersection who ran through stop signs or were not wearing their seatbelts.
Karyn Petersen, district manager of Community Board 10, said the board has not received any requests for lights along 84th Street, but has for other means of traffic control, including turning lanes near St. Helen School.
Jones said she would request a traffic light be put at the intersection and at least two residents said they would join her in calling for one. She is also looking to have the street renamed for her late cousin.
Zammett’s funeral is set for Saturday at Layne Funeral Home at 1078 Bergen St. in Brooklyn and he will be buried at Canarsie Cemetery. Jones said she and Zammett’s family will go out to the intersection after the funeral to place flowers and a photo of her cousin near where he was hit.
A few years ago a traffic light was installed two blocks north of the accident site at 158th Avenue and there has always been a light at 157th Avenue, where St. Helen School and the Rockwood Park Jewish Center — and a kindergarten at the center — are located.