Brooklyn parents are mourning the death of a beloved public school teacher who was killed in a hit-and-run crash earlier this week.
Matthew Jensen, 58, was fatally struck by a Rolls Royce driver while crossing the notoriously dangerous McGuinness Boulevard near Bayard Street just after midnight on Tuesday, police said.
The victim taught at P.S. 110, and was described as a “ray of sunshine” known to just about everyone in the Greenpoint grade school. In addition to teaching in the school’s English as a Second Language program, Jensen was an avid soccer player and a lover of gardening, parents said.
“He just had a smile that would light up a room,” recalled Erica Young, the president of the school’s Parent Teacher Association. “Even if your child didn’t work with him, he knew your child.”
Devastated to hear about Mr. Jensen at my daughter’s school. He was a terrific teacher who said hello to her every morning at drop off — he was always there at the gate. He will be greatly missed. https://t.co/inKg9nOCAK
— Christopher Werth (@c_werth) May 19, 2021
Jensen, who lived in Greenpoint, also helped greet students when they arrived at school, and administered temperature checks throughout the pandemic.
“He was a presence in the community. You saw him on weekends, you saw him at the farmer’s market,” Young added.
A preliminary police investigation found that Jensen was crossing against the light when he was hit by the driver of a black Rolls Royce sedan, who then left the scene. No arrests have been made.
McGuinness Boulevard, a five-lane arterial roadway that splits the neighborhood, has long listed among the city’s most dangerous corridors for pedestrians and cyclists. One study conducted by Transportation Alternatives in 2012 found that two-thirds of drivers sped along the boulevard.
So much pain. So much rage to see this happen, and happen, and happen in my district. Do you know in 2010 myself and some neighbors did a study of reckless driving on this street? I want to tear my hair out. But also I want to legislate traffic violence out of existence NOW. https://t.co/YsBP4iHlPT
— Emily Gallagher (@EmilyAssembly) May 18, 2021
Two years later, the city designated McGuinness a “slow zone,” and vowed to deter speedsters by retiming traffic signals and stepping up enforcement. While traffic deaths have decreased in the years since, at least two dozen people have been injured in crashes on the roadway — including a cyclist who was killed by a box truck driver two summers ago.
Councilman Steve Levin, who represents the area, said there had been little noticeable improvement. “The [Department of Transportation] has not done any real traffic calming on McGuinness Boulevard,” Levin said. “It hasn’t really gotten better in 10 years. It remains a problem.”
Jensen’s death comes as pedestrian fatalities have surged citywide this year, the apparent result of a nationwide increase in reckless driving that began during the pandemic and has continued as more people returned to the roads, according to transportation experts.
City data shared with Gothamist shows there have been 47 pedestrians deaths so far this year, the highest total to date since Mayor Bill de Blasio took office.
Jensen’s death comes weeks after an East Harlem science teacher, Helen Sink, 57, was fatally struck by a box truck driver on Lexington Avenue, near her school, P.S. 7. Sink was remembered as “one of the pillars of the school.” The driver, who had been making a right turn onto Lexington from 124th Street, stayed at the scene. He was not immediately charged.
Inquiries to the Mayor’s Office and the Department of Transportation were not immediately returned.