To both congregants and city officials, the car crash on the front steps of Congregation Poale Zedeck last week brought to light the dangers of the Shady and Phillips avenues intersection.
As Poale Zedeck will work to repair the damage to the synagogue’s front courtyard, City Councilman Douglas Shields is taking action to garner funding for sidewalk barriers.
The crash occurred last Tuesday around 8:30 p.m. while congregants were inside praying. Thirty-year-old Squirrel Hill resident Adam DiSabato, with passenger Steven Bradford in tow, barreled up Poale Zedeck’s front steps, crashing through a cement wall but missing the actual building. Both DiSabato and Bradford were chased and held by congregants until police arrived. The crash caused an estimated $30,000 in damage. No one was injured.
Shields met with congregants Rocky Wice and Jay Angel on Tuesday, May 4, to plan a line of barriers for the Shady Avenue sidewalk. Shields stressed that the barriers were an important project for the city, regardless of cost.
“It’s our street, our bend [in the road], our problem,” said Shields. “It’s not how much we’re willing to spend, but how much we need to.”
Shields said money for the barriers would come from city funds designated for neighborhood needs projects.
While a metal guardrail could be built most quickly, congregation leaders prefer a barrier both strong and aesthetically pleasing, suggesting large flower pots or columns.
“We’ve got a historic synagogue here,” said Shields. “We want something that will reflect the architecture.”
Shields, Wice and Angel also discussed further routes to lessen the intersection’s danger, including affixing “dangerous curve” signs and finding a way to make the traffic lights more pronounced, as the close proximity of the light at Phillips and Shady avenues and Shady and Tilbury avenues are often confusing.
“The visual perception of these lights can be a problem,” said Wice.
DiSabato is still being held at the Allegheny County Jail on $10,000 bond. His charges include damage to property, reckless driving and institutional vandalism, among others. According to congregants, DiSabato spoke of being the messiah when apprehended.
DiSabato is currently scheduled for a preliminary hearing at the Pittsburgh Municipal Court on May 6.
Poale Zedeck President Dean Pollack said the congregation “is past the shock stage.
“No one in community is upset about people who are involved in the accident,” Pollock added. “The congregation took it in stride.”
As no one was hurt in the accident, Poale Zedeck congregants feel lucky, but determined to prevent a future accident, as similar incidents, though not as severe, have occured before.
“I’ve seen children playing on those steps waiting for their parents,” said Shields. “We are so very, very lucky that no one was hurt in this mess.”
(Justin Jacobs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)