Dashane’s sign is a symbol of the need for safer streets
BY ZACH WILLIAMS | There’s a sign now at Clinton and Delancey Sts. showing that out of needless tragedy some good can emerge.
The co-naming of that intersection as Dashane Santana Way recognizes a safer intersection compared to that through which Santana crossed on Jan. 13, 2012, when a Williamsburg Bridge-bound automobile killed the 12-year-old aspiring performer.
At a Sun., Aug. 3, unveiling of the new street co-naming sign, local elected officials and family members spoke to the community efforts following the accident, which led to extended crossing times and traffic islands, among new other safety measures.
“The Lower East Side community will never forget her,” said Councilmember Margaret Chin, who sponsored the co-naming with fellow Councilmember Rosie Mendez. “Out of Dashane’s tragedy came an inspiring community movement that forced the city to make permanent changes to Delancey St. that have saved lives. That’s her enduring legacy.”
Dashane Santana was walking home from Castle Middle School, on Henry St., when a 2008 Toyota fatally struck her as she bent down to retrieve a dropped book bag. The intersection of Clinton and Delancey Sts. was the site of 129 total injuries — including to motor vehicle occupants, cyclists and pedestrians (10) — between 2006 and 2010, as well as one fatality from 2006 to 2012.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said in a statement that it took cooperation between the state and city to address the numerous safety concerns at the eastern end of Delancey St. that existed two and a half years ago when Dashane was killed.
At that time, Dashane — who had a special ability for her age to forge relationships across generations — had her first job lined up at the U.S. Open, Borough President Gale Brewer said. The young girl’s tragic legacy will ensure the future safety of children and adults who cross the wide intersection just before the Williamsburg Bridge, added Brewer, whose own 14-year-old nephew died in a bicycle accident.
Dashane’s name, Mendez said, will become synonymous with the ongoing effort to make the streets safer for all. Naming streets after traffic victims, she noted, can highlight the underlying goal of Vision Zero — the city’s effort to reduce traffic-related fatalities.
“If something good comes out of a tragedy, while it’s still sad, we need to be happy for the good,” Mendez said.
Shamika Benjamin, Dashane’s mother, could not hide her grief as she spoke to the roughly three dozen people assembled for the occasion. Tears came to her eyes as she summed up the loss of her beloved daughter in one sentence.
“She’s gone but she will never be forgotten,” she said.
Classmate Siniya Waller also succumbed to emotion as she addressed the crowd. She saw Dashane the day before her death, but would not attend school the next day.
Another friend of Dashane’s, Turahn Woody, consoled Waller as he spoke of moments Dashane will never share with them.
“If she was still here with us, she would have graduated with us in the same class, with a prom,” he said.
Teresa Pedroza said in an interview that she found a new calling after her granddaughter’s death. Pedroza soon became involved not only in transportation activism but also housing and environmental justice. For the past year, she has also served on the Community Board 3 Transportation and Public Safety / Environment Committee.
Pedroza’s helping others navigate the challenges of living in the Lower East Side all stems from the calamity of Dashane’s untimely death three weeks before her 13th birthday.
“They don’t know how the system works,” Pedroza said, “and I just got caught up in this whirlwind and here I am today.”