Council Members Vow to Back AARP Pedestrian Safety Goals

QuinnAARP.JPGFrom left to right: Council Members Jessica Lappin, Christine Quinn, and James Vacca, AARP State Director Lois Aronstein, and NYC Aging Commissioner Lilliam Barrios-Paoli. Photo: Ben Fried
Electeds and other officials gathered with representatives from AARP today to pledge support for street improvements and to call on Albany to pass complete streets legislation.

Kicking off a day of street surveys across the state, the group met at the corner of Ninth Avenue and 23rd Street, an intersection that had been particularly hazardous for the older residents of the nearby Penn South co-op.

One Penn South resident recounted her memories of living above the intersection before a redesign of the corridor brought refuge islands along Ninth to protect both pedestrians and cyclists. "Every time I heard a siren on Ninth Avenue," she said, "I ran out to see if it was one of our seniors."

Council Speaker Christine Quinn praised "the success we've had at 23rd and Ninth," and promised that the city would "replicate" it. "I'm looking forward to more safely strolling across intersections across the city," Quinn said. Quinn also noted the development of Age-Friendly NYC, a set of 59 initiatives to help New York City become more hospitable to a growing senior population. Traffic calming and street redesigns were an important piece of that document.

AARP's top pedestrian safety priority is complete streets legislation working its way through the state legislature. That bill, which has the support of the chairs of the transportation and aging committees in both the Assembly and Senate, would ensure that all streets statewide are designed with the needs of pedestrians, cyclists, people with disabilities, and transit riders in mind.

AARP street surveys account for drivers who speed and block crosswalks, pedestrian crossing times as they relate to signal lengths, and other important safety metrics. Five-hundred intersections across New York State were to be observed today, 70 of them in the city. Results will be sent to both the state and local departments of transportation. Once the data is analyzed, Quinn said, individual council members will follow up with DOT on trouble spots in their respective districts. Some city-wide policies may be necessary, added Quinn, but "a lot of that will come from the data."

New council transportation chair James Vacca, an AARP member himself, said that New York City needs to be "a safe, safe haven" for all its residents. Improvements are necessary, he said, in order for senior citizens to have "safe access to anywhere they want to go."

Vacca and Quinn could step up by attaching their names to Intro 120, which would require NYPD to publicize traffic crash information, enabling citizens and advocates to more effectively push for safety improvements. Plugging the bill today was co-sponsor Jessica Lappin, chair of the Committee on Aging. "We are a city of walkers," said Lappin, but "when you start pushing a stroller around, you start to notice where there aren't curb cuts, or where it's hard to cross the street."