1 2 3 4

Pol Position: Watch your speed, cameras on 24/7

Representatives up in Albany recently agreed to extend the speed camera program in New York City for the next three years. As part of the agreement, speed cameras citywide will now remain operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Speed cameras have proven to be a useful tool in reducing speeding within the 750 school zones they are located, however, New York State law previously limited the hours of operation to 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. on weekdays.

According to a report by Transportation Alternatives, 59 percent of all traffic fatalities in New York City occurred during the hours when the cameras were turned off.

DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez and State Assemblywoman Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas highlighted the issue in a recent op-ed about Earl Hall, a 48-year-old Jamaica resident, who was killed less than a block from his home.

Hall was walking along Linden Boulevard when a Ford Mustang GT came speeding down the road, hitting the pedestrian and knocking him unconscious, before speeding off. Hall suffered from severe head trauma and despite the best efforts of neighbors, he was declared dead at the scene.

“The data speaks for itself: speed cameras save lives,” Rodriguez said in a statement following the decision by state lawmakers. “With the majority of traffic fatalities now happening overnights and on weekends, expanding the automated enforcement hours of operation is a huge accomplishment for the City and for the safety of New Yorkers… The DOT will continue working around the clock to reduce road fatalities throughout the city and ensure we’re improving traffic safety in historically underinvested communities.”

The effort to expand the speed camera program also followed a push by the Adams administration, who has continued to put pressure on the state to make NYC streets safer.

“Make no mistake about it, this is a major victory for New Yorkers that will save lives and help stem the tide of traffic violence that has taken too many,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement. “We are investing a historic $900 million in street safety and redesigning 1,000 intersections across the City – but we cannot do this alone, and my team and I have been working closely with our partners in Albany for months to get this done.”

Adams indicated that speed cameras are proven to be effective at discouraging repeat speeding behavior, citing how in 2021, a majority of vehicles that received a violation, did not receive a second.

However, according to a recent article from Streetsblog NYC, the agreement was a last-minute effort corralled by Sen. Andrew Gounardes and Assemblywoman Deborah Glick to get what they could out of wavering colleagues before the deadline.

As a result, the bill was watered-down, stripping away additional tools to help reduce reckless driving, including a requirement that would allow the DMV to notify insurance companies whenever a vehicle gets five school-zone tickets in a two-year span.

The article also indicates that a last-minute attempt by City Hall, to widen the radius around which cameras could be placed, forced lawmakers to make a difficult decision.

Glick told Streetsblog that while officials said the cameras would cover most of the City, “they came back just this week to say, ‘well, we think that’s not 100 percent accurate. We think there are gaps.’ You can’t spring something like that at the 11th hour when we’re trying to move a very critical piece.”

Combined with internal concerns about the bill, she and Gounardes ultimately decided that the top priority was extending the hours of operation to keep cameras on 24/7.

This also resulted in the removal of provisions that would suspend registration for drivers given six camera-issued tickets within a two-year span, escalating fines after receiving five tickets, and eliminate current provisions preventing camera-issued speeding violations from becoming part of a driver’s record.

However, the provisions removed from the bill were not part of the Adams administration’s push. As Glick indicates in the article, they were ultimately removed to help make the proposal an easier pill to swallow.

“You have to make decisions whether that provision is the hill you’re going to die on,” Glick told Streetsblog NYC.

In the end, Albany managed to reach a consensus that more than doubles the reach of speed cameras and will keep them running around the clock.

OP-ED: Local Control Will Help Prevent Deadly Crashes

To save lives, Albany must act before the end of current session

By Assembly Member Jessica González-Rojas and Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez

On a late Saturday evening at about 11:30pm in October, 2020, Earl Hall, a 48-year old resident of Jamaica, Queens tried to cross Linden Boulevard near Bedell Street, a residential part of the neighborhood, as he headed to the store. At that time, New York City had already been gripped by the pandemic for about seven months: access to movie theaters, night clubs and indoor dining were all still severely restricted. With so few recreational outlets, especially for the young, Queens had already seen a disturbing upturn in high-speed driving — especially overnight and on weekends.

And so it was to be this night. As Mr. Hall crossed Linden less than a block from his own home, a Ford Mustang GT came suddenly speeding down Linden — he was hit, and knocked unconscious, suffering severe head trauma. Despite the best efforts of neighbors who called 911 and EMTs who arrived quickly after the crash, he was declared dead at the scene, leaving behind a stunned and grieving family. Meanwhile, the driver of the Mustang fled the scene — another high-speed hit-and-run crash of the sort we have also seen too often under the pandemic.

Across the country, high-speed crashes have increased dramatically over the past two years. There can be no excuse for criminal reckless driving, and we are grateful that the NYPD investigation resulted in an arrest in this case. But we know we have the tools in New York City to help prevent deadly crashes like this one — because this fatality happened within one of the 750 school zones Citywide that are protected by school speed zone cameras.

However, because of a state law that limits cameras’ operation to 6am until 10pm on weekdays, the cameras nearest the crash were turned off that night. That is why we two – representing legislators concerned about traffic safety and the Administration of Mayor Eric Adams—have joined together to call on the state legislature to change that law, and allow cameras to operate 24/7. In fact, we are now pushing for Albany to grant New York City full local control of traffic laws governing automated enforcement.

We believe that to that to stop such senseless tragedies, changing the law is just common sense. Since the start of the pandemic, the number of deaths that happen when speed cameras are turned off has surged — and now represent 60 percent of all fatalities (prior to the pandemic, deaths in these hours represented fewer than half of fatalities). As New York City has started to recover and has opened up, the bad habits and worse consequences of overnight speeding have been very hard to break. We believe that New York City needs to be able to control its own destiny, so we can quickly make the changes that meet this current crisis – and local control will help us do that.

We know speed cameras save lives, as they reduce speeding by over 70 percent in school zones – where we have seen traffic injuries decline by 14 percent. While cameras cannot and do not prevent every fatal crash, they clearly create a culture of accountability for drivers that makes our streets measurably safer. In fact, while pedestrian deaths have skyrocketed nationwide during the pandemic, New York City’s pedestrian fatalities have remained relatively stable – we believe in large part due to the presence of speed cameras.

We need to expand that protection, including greater control of where these cameras can be located. Supporters of local control, including families of crash victims, have traveled to Albany this month, united around this legislation. As the Mayor has said, we need to be as focused on traffic violence as gun violence because “traffic safety is public safety.”

Under the leadership of Speaker Carl Heastie, Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and Governor Kathy Hochul, we have an enormous opportunity to make our streets safer. Changing these state laws will not bring crash victims like Earl Hall back—but could prevent more lives like his being needlessly lost on our streets in the years ahead.

Jessica González-Rojas represents the 34th Assembly district in Queens. Ydanis Rodriguez is New York City’s Transportation Commissioner.

Raised crosswalk proposal moves forward

A new raised crosswalk may be coming to an intersection near you.

Community Board 1 voted on Thursday to send a letter to study the proposal for a raised intersection on the corner of Olive Street and Maspeth Avenue. By having intersections that are flushed with the sidewalk, motorists are encouraged to slow speed and yield to pedestrians, according to the National Association of City Transportation Officials.

Currently, there are only 17 raised intersections in the city as part of the New York City Department of Transportation’s in house raised crosswalk program, according to a DOT representative. The DOT also stated that they have installed another 13 raised intersections as part of other Capital projects.

Mayor Eric Adams has pledged to convert 100 dangerous intersections each year into raised intersections.

“DOT crews are working diligently to increase the number of raised crosswalk to meet the Mayor’s goal. We have identified a number of locations that will be built with our in-house forces, some of which are already in construction. DOT is also working with our partner agency Department of Design and Construction to identify additional locations for inclusion in the capital program,” a representative from DOT said in an email.

Paul Kelterborn, a transportation committee member of Brooklyn Community Board 1, believes that this Williamsburg intersection is a perfect candidate. Kelterborn, a member of Friends of Cooper Park, believes that this improvement is necessary in large part to the influx of new residents that will be coming to the community.

The Cooper Park Commons, a new building with 557 units of housing and 200 shelter beds, will be opening soon and Kelterborn believes the raised intersection is one of the policy proposals that will help accommodate the influx of thousands of new residents.

Kelterborn’s proposal advocated for the raised intersection to use different materials and colors to differentiate the intersection. In the interim, Kelterborn believes the DOT should add curb extensions for shorter crossing distances and increased visibility, install planters and granite blocks to keep cars out of pedestrian space, as well as remove parked cars that block visibility on street corners.

While the raised intersection is a new proposal, features such as curb bump-outs have been requested for over a decade. The first calls for safety improvement were proposed in 2008 when residents complained about the intersection’s “fast-moving and unchecked vehicle traffic.”
A pedestrian safety plan that advocated for bump-outs at the intersection was recommended in 2010 by the Cooper Park Neighborhood Association. The DOT made some minor traffic calming and signage changes in 2015 that critics say didn’t adequately address the street safety conditions in the area.

In 2019, the Greenpoint Renaissance Enterprise Corporation – a group of North Brooklyn community organizations – sent a letter to the DOT to express their concern about street safety.

But now, in 2022, over a dozen community organizations from the St. Nicks Alliance to elected politicians like Councilwoman Jennifer Gutierrez have endorsed the raised intersection as a solution for the Cooper Park area.

“I hope with a new administration that has a focus on street safety that we will be able to get something ambitious like this done. The DOT has been unresponsive in the past” Kelterborn said in an interview. “We need to be proactively making streets safer rather than reactive.”

Queensboro bridge closure causes disruptions

Last week, the DOT intermittently closed off a portion of the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge to pedestrians and cyclists.

According to a construction bulletin, shared just one day prior to the bikeway closure, the department identified that the bikeway would need to be closed off on Thursday and Friday, in 15-minute intervals, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., in order for construction workers to lift heavy steel over the pathway connecting Long Island City and Manhattan.

New York City Councilwomen Julie Won and Julie Menin said that this unplanned level of obstruction was not discussed as a potential option during their discussions with DOT regarding the upper deck replacement and is indicative of a lack of concern for the safety of pedestrians and cyclists who use the bridge.

In response to the last-minute announcement, both Won and Menin issued a statement calling

on the department to allow the south outer roadway to be used for uninterrupted pedestrian and bike access for the duration of the anticipated closure since the car-bearing roadway will be unaffected.

While the upper deck replacement project is expected to extend into late 2023, Won said that the possibility of future unplanned closures is an unacceptable cost of the project.

“Closing off the bridge to everyone who is not in a car for any period of time is completely unacceptable and is the inevitable result of delaying the pedestrianization of the South Outer Roadway for an extra two years,” Won said in a statement. “If the possibility of further closures exists, DOT must open the south outer roadway now to ensure free and unobstructed passage for pedestrians and people on bikes at all times.”

Prior to the announcement, both Won and Menin sent a letter to the DOT on Feb. 3 in regards to the delay of the conversion of the South Outer Roadway into a pedestrian path.

“For the health and safety of our city’s residents and environment, it is vital that we make it easier, not harder, for cyclists and pedestrians to get around our streets and bridges,” Councilwoman Tiffany Cabán said in a statement. “I am proud to join my colleagues in opposing this closure and calling on DOT to open up the south outer roadway immediately.”

DOT officials, however, say that the department has been actively engaged with both Won and Menin in regard to the project since they sent their letter in February and that despite the inconvenience caused by the closures, they cannot attempt to lift the steel over live traffic.

“These brief, 15-minute closures are needed to facilitate the bridge’s upper deck replacement,” a DOT spokesman replied. “We are carefully considering the needs of cyclists and pedestrians during our work and have limited the house of these closures to ensure the path remains safe and accessible during rush hours.”

FSSA dance instructor Olivier Heuts says he has walked across the bridge pathway every single day on his way to work for the past 21 years and has yet to encounter any delays or closures.

“It has never been closed ever,” Heuts said. “I’ve never had that problem.”

Heuts said his commute was unaffected by the intermittent closures as he typically crosses the bridge during its peak hours — leaving around 7 a.m. each morning.

He also said that the ongoing construction of the bridge’s upper deck and the increased flow of scooters and mopeds along the bikeway has made his commute increasingly hazardous and far less pleasant over the years.

“To tell you the truth it has become a big headache in the morning,” Heuts said. “For the first few years, it was very quiet in the morning, but it has been exacerbated by all these construction crews working.”

Fill the Form for Events, Advertisement or Business Listing