Group criticizes DOT rollout in Ridgewood

Residents hope for pedestrian ramp at Stanhope & Fairview

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

As of Dec. 1, the troublesome intersection near Grover Cleveland Park in Ridgewood, where a man was killed in 2019, has brand new crosswalks and stop signs.

After spending the better part of 2022 fighting for these safety signals and pleading with the Department of Transportation (DOT), Ridgewood residents Nicole Galpern and Becca Kauffman have achieved their “Crosswalk Fantasy” at Stanhope Street and Fairview Avenue.

The duo co-founded Crosswalk Fantasy Committee in response to the man’s death and a public unease about the lack of safety in that intersection.

It wasn’t much longer after their celebrations, which included a “Party at the Crosswalk,” lots of signage and high visibility workwear fashion statements, that a local civic group pointed out what they saw was missing: a pedestrian ramp.

Juniper Park Civic Association took to Twitter on Saturday, Jan. 7 to point out the omitted part of the job and call on Councilman Robert Holden to take action.

“Kind of weird to see supposed safety advocates ‘proclaim a crosswalk fantasy realized’ when there’s no pedestrian ramp here. Half-assed @NYC_DOT jobs should never be celebrated,” the group tweeted. “@BobHoldenNYC hopefully will see that the job gets done.”

Juniper Park Civic Association took to Twitter to express their dissatisfaction with the incomplete project.

During their communication process with the DOT, Galpern and Kauffman turned to local leaders to help spearhead their efforts, including Holden and Gary Giordano, district manager of Community Board 5 – both of whom penned letters of support for the implementation of crosswalks and stop signs at the intersection.

Daniel Kurzyna, Holden’s chief of staff, said that from his recollection, he does not remember the topic of a pedestrian ramp coming up explicitly, but only because he thinks it’s a given that a ramp should be installed, also.

“Naturally, when a crosswalk is installed, it should be paired with a pedestrian ramp…We’ll be reaching out to the DOT about this,” he said.”

Galpern and Kauffman told the Queens Ledger that they asked the DOT for a “redesign of the intersection,” which should have included the pedestrian ramp.

“We’d be thrilled if [Holden] sent the DOT a letter of support for a pedestrian ramp,” they said.

Pedestrian ramps are a requirement under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), and the DOT says on their webpage that “any alteration triggers the obligation to provide ADA-compliant ramps to the maximum extent feasible.”

Despite some pushback from Twitter user, @BushridgeBrigad, who accused JPCA of mocking the Crosswalk Fantasy Committee, the civic association maintains that its criticism is of the DOT for not completing the job.

Christina Wilkinson, JPCA secretary, said she takes issue with the Committee’s signage that was left up weeks after their “Party at the Crosswalk.”

“It should be noted that bolting laminated signs to public property and flyers on poles is illegal, could result in Sanitation fines and illegal postering makes it harder for community groups to maintain the cleanliness of the neighborhood,” she said.

In another Twitter reply, JPCA argued that it’s a positive thing that more safety measures were implemented, but “no community minded group posts illegal signage bragging about a routine civic request being fulfilled.”

Kurzyna assures that Holden is committed to ensuring the safety of those in the area.

Our office is actively reaching out to the DOT to inquire about the progress of installing pedestrian ramps at Stanhope Street and Fairview Avenue,” he said. “The installation of crosswalks at this location was an important step forward, and we will continue advocating for better measures that keep our community safe.”

Stop signs, crosswalks added to intersection of Stanhope St. and Fairview Ave.

Safety signals approved by DOT following group’s activism

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

Residents rallied earlier this year to express their concerns of Stanhope Street and Fairview Avenue. Photo: Erik Augustine

Following residents’ months of advocacy and pleading with the DOT, new stop signs have been implemented at the intersection of Stanhope Street and Fairview Avenue in Ridgewood.

As of Dec. 1, crosswalks are now at the intersection.

Residents say the intersection, just steps away from Grover Cleveland Park, has been a danger to pedestrians and the community at large for as long as 20 years.

In late 2019, a man was hit by a car and killed at this intersection, and other residents have said they felt unsafe crossing the street due to the lack of safety signals.

In response, Ridgewood residents Nicole Galpern and Becca Kauffman co-founded Crosswalk Fantasy Committee early this year.

The goal of the organization is to raise awareness of the intersection, get the community involved and make requests to the DOT in hopes to achieve the goal of stop signs and crosswalks at the T-shaped intersection.

Crosswalk Fantasy Committee has been advocating for safety signals at the intersection since early this year.

“It just became this glaring, strange void in city infrastructure. You could just stand there for minutes upon end and never get any reprieve from drivers,” Kauffman said.

“We felt like it was going to be important to amplify the voices of the neighbors here and their experience of the street, because unlike someone sitting at an office at the Department of Transportation receiving a uniform request, these people are actually on the ground experiencing the dangers of being a pedestrian in their own area.”

Galpern shared that she and Kauffman both became passionate about making the intersection safer, and wanted to put in the work to get the safety signals implemented.

The team was in constant communication with the DOT since March, submitting requests, making phone calls and sending their petition — which garnered over 600 signatures following the rally they held at the intersection on March 19.

They also spoke with Community Board 5, who submitted a letter to the DOT on their behalf. They also received support from community leaders such as Juan Ardila, Councilman Robert Holden and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards.

In addition to the standard bureaucratic, straightforward ways of getting the request off the ground, Crosswalk Fantasy Committee wanted to execute their mission in a creative and engaging way.

“I loved the idea of a more creative approach to this, doing something more colorful and not making a civic duty so dreary in our neighborhood. I thought it should be more engaging and I think we came over our desire of making this a more pleasant experience,” Galpern said.

Kauffman considers their initiative to be a socially engaged art project, as seen by the compilation of artwork, audio recordings, photos, postcards and more they’ve put together.

Inspired by the role of a crossing guard, Kauffman has a personal goal of being an Artist in Residence of the NYC DOT.

Becca Kauffman admires the role of crossing guards, and sees this project as a performance on the street in a public space. Photo: Erik Augustine

“I’m really intrigued by the crossing guard as a utilitarian role. It also is a performance on the street in public space, and I think of it choreographically like a dance…kind of like a mime act in a way,” they said.

“I wanted to perform as a crossing guard at the intersection. I think of it as a sort of like theatrical intervention at this rally and march that we organized together. We had a bunch of volunteers too, and we all donned high visibility workwear.”

Crosswalk Fantasy Committee received an email from the DOT on Aug. 4 saying that after “months of evaluation,” the stop signs and crosswalks were approved.

On Nov. 17, the new stop signs were implemented at the intersection of Stanhope Street and Fairview Avenue. The crosswalks were painted shortly after, following a “high priority” ranking by the DOT.

The crosswalks were painted on Dec. 1.

The pair feel that the crosswalks are essential, as cars appear to miss the new stop signs or are ignoring them.

In celebration of the new safety signals, Crosswalk Fantasy Committee plans to host a “Party at the Crosswalk” on Sunday, Dec. 18. The community at large is welcome to attend.

For more information and updates about Crosswalk Fantasy Committee’s activism and the status of the intersection, follow the group on Instagram @crosswalkfantasy.

CB5 gives thumbs up to Glendale street conversions

DOT conducted area-wide study

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

Since late 2021, residents of Glendale have advocated that a select few streets in the neighborhood be converted from two-way to one-way.

They started a petition in favor of conversions of the streets, citing their 30-foot width with parking on both sides — making it difficult for cars to fit while driving in both directions and thus, causing sideswipes to occur.

In response, Queens Community Board 5 requested the Department of Transportation (DOT) perform an area-wide traffic study, from Myrtle to Cooper Avenues, and from 60th Lane to Cypress Hills Street.

Following their investigation of the area between January and June of 2022, the DOT recommended the following: that 60th Lane be converted to one-way northbound operation from Cooper Avenue to 75th Avenue, 75th Avenue to one-way eastbound operation from 60th Lane to 64th Street, 64th Street to one-way southbound operation from 75th Avenue to Cooper Avenue and 64th Place to one-way northbound operation from Cooper Avenue to Cypress Hills Street.

Eric Butkiewicz, chairman of CB5’s Transportation Committee, said that when the DOT presented their findings to the committee at a recent meeting, it was clear to them that the proposed north-south conversions are the right choice for the area.

“We didn’t find any significant impact on traffic flow, while also giving the residents what they’re looking for and seemingly reducing the risk of sideswipes and other accidents,” he said.

Butkiewicz noted that there was more debate among the committee in regard to the conversion of 75th Avenue to one-way eastbound operation from 60th Lane to 64th Street. The conversion of this street was not included in the initial petition started by locals, rather, was added by the DOT.

The committee was informed by the DOT that around 250 cars per hour, at peak hours in the morning, travel westbound on 75th Avenue. Therefore, if the street were to be converted to one-way eastbound traffic, those 250 cars would be rerouted to Cooper Avenue.

“This raised concerns in the committee that by routing 250 cars per hour to an already congested Cooper Avenue could pose severe problems, because Cooper Avenue is incredibly narrow also,” Butkiewicz said. “The concern is that we’re just going to take this problem, put it somewhere else and still be stuck with the same problem.”

As a result of the discussion, the vote was a six-to-six split for the conversion. Although it did not pass, Butkiewicz said the committee members who voted against the conversion of 75th Avenue committed to keeping a close eye on it going forward, recognizing the issues it faces.

On Nov. 9, CB5 held their monthly public meeting, where the whole board voted on the proposed north-south street conversions that were voted unanimously in favor by the Transportation Committee.

The board voted unanimously in favor of the north-south conversions with the acknowledgement that they will not recommend the eastbound conversion at this time, but will continue to monitor 75th Avenue and make changes if need be.

The Transportation Committee will pen a letter to the DOT with their decision, and it is ultimately up to them to take action and implement the conversion.

The DOT informed them that it could be a year-long process to put up the signs that would make these proposed streets one-way.

Relatives of killed DoorDash worker demand justice; Tran family speaks out

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

Locals built a memorial for Be Tran at the intersection of Myrtle and Seneca Avenues in Ridgewood.

Anh Tran wanted nothing more than for her 74-year-old father, Be Tran, to come home to Flushing and relax on the evening of Aug. 14.

She pleaded for him to stop working as a DoorDash driver so she could take care of him — in return for all the years he did the same for her.

“Don’t worry,” her father said to her in a text message.

Little did she know that those would be the last words she would ever hear from him.

During what is believed to be his last food delivery of the night, Be Tran was struck by a hit-and-run driver in a black BMW with Florida license plates at Myrtle Avenue and Hancock Street in Ridgewood.

Tran was pronounced dead at the scene.

The suspect is still at large and the case is being investigated by the NYPD Highway Collision Investigation Squad.

Tran’s death sparked feelings of shock, anger and sadness within the community, and activists rallied to demand more action from the city they live, work and commute in every day.

Nearly two weeks after the hit-and-run collision, community members and volunteer activists Chong Bretillon and Elizabeth Amber Gomez organized a candlelight vigil with the Tran family to honor his life and legacy.

“Thirteen nights ago on this very street, a man I called father, a man who spent his lifetime paying for his family, building and living the American dream, today we have gathered to celebrate his life,” Anh Tran said to the small crowd at the vigil.

“The cruel individual who killed my father and inflicted this pain upon my family and I is still out there,” she continued. “We have been shedding light and raising awareness about this horrific tragedy through the news, media and social media to bring justice and a semblance of peace in our hearts.”

Tran and her sister, Tina expressed their gratitude to the community for the endless support, including the memorial built by local activist groups on Myrtle and Seneca Avenues and all the donations that went toward their father’s funeral.

Tran started a GoFundMe page for her father on Aug. 15, where she described him as a “kind, caring, charismatic, funny and extremely hard-working individual.”

Close to 900 people donated — from other local DoorDash drivers to Tran’s high school classmates from Vietnam — to support the family, quickly raising over $40,000.

Early last week, Tran’s funeral was held at Quinn-Fogarty Funeral Home in Flushing.

His younger sister, Truyen Swinger, flew to Queens from her home in Florida when she heard the news about her brother.

She, Tran and their six other siblings were born and raised in Vietnam. Swinger said that Tran was in law school before he was drafted to the Vietnam War, where he served as a lieutenant.

“We went through thick and thin together…we survived the Vietnam War before we came to America,” Swinger said.

“My brother is a very hard worker and a very devoted father. This loss is just such a shock.”

Truyen Swinger and Anh Tran demanded justice for their brother and father, Be Tran.

Swinger said that “something must be done” for street safety citywide, especially to protect the elderly and disabled, and wishes people would drive slower and more carefully.

Her words struck up conversations on possible options for the DOT to implement to end traffic violence and accidents.

Juan Ardila, the Democratic candidate for Assembly District 37, which represents parts of Long Island City, Maspeth, Sunnyside, Woodside and Ridgewood, pointed out that there are five roads at the intersection where Tran was killed, and only four traffic signals.

“We all deserve to have safe streets and be able to work with peace and dignity. Especially coming from an immigrant background, where being a delivery worker is one of the few occupations that is attainable for working class people,” Ardila said.

“This is something that impacts all lives…immigrant populations, people of color and working class people,” he continued. “We need to ensure that we are responsive to this situation, that we understand the need and the demand because right now, we are asking for robust infrastructure and robust protection,” he continued. “It’s the No. 1 rule to look out for each other.”

Bretillon argued that this incident is being underrepresented, and believes that if it were a gun-related matter, it would have made state or national news.

Transit activist Chong Bretillon co-organized the vigil and advocated for the Tran family.

“Traffic violence happens every single day in this city and disproportionately impacts senior citizens, immigrants and people of color. The police do not enforce dangerous driving behavior, such as speeding and failure to yield. The DOT designs clearly dangerous intersections and terrible curb conditions despite years of complaints, crashes, injuries and deaths,” she said.

“Mr. Tran was a delivery worker and essential worker. Unlike people who work in offices, schools or buildings, his workplace was the streets. He brought hot, fresh food to people who are safe in their homes, who order online, who aren’t even thinking about the dangers that delivery workers face,” she continued.

“Lack of safe infrastructure and lack of speed limiting street design means delivery workers are placed in unsafe conditions every single day. Not only that, but they’re vulnerable to violence, robberies and assault by other people. Their bikes are often stolen and lastly, they’re subjected to harassment and ticketing by the NYPD themselves.”

Anh Tran said that she wishes it didn’t take someone losing their life to resolve these issues.

“I just hope this incident can actually bring light to this, and hopefully they can take this seriously,” she said. “We don’t need any more New Yorkers to get killed, and I wouldn’t want any other family to go through what I’m going through.”

Tran said that she and her family will not stop searching for justice, and had just four words for the person who killed her father, “You will be caught.”

Ridgewood rallies for killed DoorDash worker

Groups, pols demand DOT make streets safer

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

Two back-to-back hit-and-run incidents took the Ridgewood community by surprise in mid-August.

On Aug. 14, 74-year-old Be Tran, a DoorDash worker and father of two, was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver at Myrtle Ave. and Hancock St.

In response, and to demand an end to traffic violence in the neighborhood, Ridgewood Tenants Union and Transportation Alternatives organized a rally on Seneca Ave. — in the vicinity of where Tran was killed.

Adrian King, the owner of King’s Juice Bar in Ridgewood, was on scene when the hit-and-run occurred.

For over a year, King has fought for a traffic signal at the intersection of Weirfield St. and Seneca Ave., due to the countless traffic accidents he’s witnessed.

“I’m so frustrated because I’ve been in Ridgewood for 40 years, and I love Ridgewood. The issue with Ridgewood is that it’s a community based on community, attention, love, dedication and looking out for each other. Today’s generation is a different world,” King said.

“Focus, pay attention, stop thinking about yourselves. When you’re on the street, anything can happen, forces that we can’t control,” he continued. “But if you collectively think about each other, it will be a better place anywhere in the world — so focus.”

Raquel Namuche, founder of Ridgewood Tenants Union, who has worked closely with King to combat this issue, informed the crowd that the Queens liaison for DOT responded to their inquiry for a traffic signal at the intersection.

“We will be in touch about the study at Weirfield St. We are unable to send a representative today,” the DOT representative said in an email. “We are also working to get details around the fatal crash on Seneca Ave., and are looking to see if there are ways to further enhance safety for all street users.”

Namuche argued that the DOT be more prompt and vigilant in regard to pedestrian safety in the community. 

“We need them to do it now. Here at this intersection, it’s been over a year. There’s been numerous accidents, and we can share videos of all the accidents that Mr. King and our neighbor, Robert Diaz, have been tracking here,” Namuche said.

“It is unacceptable. Mr. Tran should not have died. The hit and run on Wyckoff Ave. and George St. should not have happened. That should not be happening, not in Ridgewood, not anywhere in this city,” she continued. “And as long as it keeps happening, we know that DOT and the Mayor are not keeping us safe. And that’s what today is about. They are not enhancing our protection in any way, shape or form, and we need them to do it now.”

State Senator Michael Gianaris and Councilwoman Jennifer Gutiérrez accompanied the groups and numerous community members in attendance.

“I brought this intersection to the attention of the DOT a year and a half ago, and they are still studying it. This is a problem we see everywhere,” Gianaris said. “The city knows what it needs to do to make these places safe. They just need the will to do it.”

Gianaris explained that the city studies and scores a certain intersection before additional protections are added to it.

Part of the score is how many crashes the site has seen, and another is how many people have been injured or killed.

“Queens Boulevard used to be known as the ‘Boulevard of Death’ because so many people were killed in crashes, and after all those deaths, they finally did something about it,” Gianaris said.

“So they have to wait until that happens to get the score high enough to realize that an intersection needs protection,” he continued. “The city has it backwards.”

“Someone who is still working at 74, risking their life every single day to provide for their family and to contribute to an economy for a city that says ‘I don’t care about your safety’ is a slap in the face to [Tran’s] family and their story of coming here to the United States,” Gutiérrez, who represents portions of Ridgewood, said.

“The city has done way too much to empower drivers, at the cost of pedestrians, at the cost of cyclists, of our seniors and of our children. It’s time that we make that change,” she continued. “We need to continue to push DOT. It’s unacceptable that there exists a rubric for how many deaths need to occur for mitigation to happen. I am extremely frustrated.”

Kathy Park Price, a Brooklyn organizer for Transportation Alternatives, said that residents of city streets know them best, and that the organization will stand in partnership with elected officials to do more.

Kathy Park Price, a Brooklyn organizer for Transportation Alternatives, spoke at the rally.

“We know what works and we need to take action immediately…We need to rely on street design and infrastructure to affect change,” she said.

“We know from the DOT that road diets, bike lanes, pedestrian highland, sidewalk expansions, turn calming and leading pedestrian intervals all deliver impressive injury reductions for everyone, including older adults,” she continued.

The program concluded with a moment of silence to honor Be Tran, and a poem read by Michelle Bounkousohn, a member of Ridgewood Tenants Union.

The poem was written in Vietnamese by Ngo Thanh Nhan, Bounkousohn’s grandfather, in memory of his life and legacy in the community.

The poem, Tran’s picture, flowers and candles were placed on the corner of Myrtle and Seneca Aves. as a memorial for him.

On Aug. 10, three people, including a mother pushing her child in a stroller, were hit by an unlicensed driver at Wyckoff Ave. and George St.

The suspect wanted for that incident has been identified as 28-year-old Tyshawn Baldwin.

The hit-and-run driver who struck and killed Tran remains at large, and the investigation is ongoing.

Queens needs better bike lanes

If listening to DOT spokespeople has taught us anything, it’s that “jersey barriers” and “baffle walls” are the appropriate lingo to use for a cement barrier.

It is something that Transportation officials really need to consider with regards to the “protected bike lanes,” because it’s apparent they are not very well protected at all.

Creating an interborough bike network is a fantastic idea, but DOT really needs to weigh its options when it comes to the implementation because there are some serious issues with some major thoroughfares in Queens.

For instance, placing bike lanes along Queens Boulevard really needs to be reexamined. They seem out of place along “the Boulevard of Death,” without some sort of physical buffer between the street traffic and bike traffic.

They have concrete dividers between cyclists and drivers in places like Downtown Brooklyn and parts of Lower Manhattan, where they have proven to be effective.

Earlier this year, DOT announced plans to fortify these delineated bike lanes, but thus far little has been done to deploy jersey barriers in Queens, with the first half of the project focused on Manhattan.

However, at other locations like Cooper Avenue in Glendale or Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside, there is literally nothing separating cyclists and motorists whatsoever. Just a few painted lines signifying where the lanes begin and end.

The way the “protected” bike lanes are currently situated poses a serious hazard to both motor vehicle operators and cyclists. The existing plastic road dividers do little to nothing to stop a speeding vehicle from charging into the pathway.

With the added use of e-bikes and scooters, these already busy thoroughfares have become even more treacherous for pedestrians. Dozens of irresponsible cyclists and drivers will blow through red lights, zip through pedestrian crosswalks at excessive speed, and sometimes people will even pop up onto the sidewalks.

To make matters worse, on any given day, there are guaranteed to be a few motorcycles and moped riders jumping in and out of the bike lanes in order to evade vehicular traffic patterns.

State traffic laws do allow for e-bikes and scooters to use the designated bike lanes, but they do not allow mopeds, motorcycles, ATVs, or any other form of vehicle that are required to be registered with the DMV.

Even though operating these vehicles in the bike lane is a violation, law enforcement doesn’t seem to be doing much to prevent this from happening. This is why people continue to do it.

Without penalties, people think its perfectly acceptable to drive their 40 mph mopeds in and out of the lanes and onto the sidewalks, not realizing that they’re still going fast enough to cause serious harm to cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers.

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.”

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