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Grand Concourse Will Be the Next Arterial With 25 MPH Limit

NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan, Council Member Vanessa Gibson, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and Assembly Member Mark Gjonaj unveil the city's second "arterial slow zone" this morning. Photo: Stephen Miller

NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan, Council Member Vanessa Gibson, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and Assembly Member Mark Gjonaj unveil the city’s second “arterial slow zone” this morning. Photo: Stephen Miller

Local elected officials and advocates joined NYC DOT and NYPD this morning to unveil the city’s second “arterial slow zone” on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, where speed limits will be dropped to 25 mph and traffic signals will be retimed to discourage speeding.

The lower speed limit will apply to 5.2 miles of the Grand Concourse from East 140th Street in Mott Haven to Moshulu Parkway in Bedford Park. Along this stretch of the Grand Concourse, there were 12 fatalities between 2008 and 2012, including seven pedestrians, according to DOT. Speeding is the leading cause of traffic fatalities in New York City.

“This is not the Daytona 500,” said Assembly Member José Rivera at this morning’s event. “We should consider placing speed cameras all along the Grand Concourse.”

That’s unlikely to happen immediately. State law limits speed cameras to streets with school entrances within a quarter-mile, prevents them from operating overnight and on weekends, and caps the number at 20 cameras. (DOT has five cameras running and hopes to bring the remainder online this spring.)

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East 106th Street Road Diet and Bike Lanes Head to Manhattan CB 11

DOT is proposing a road diet for East 106th Street. CB 11's transportation committee could vote on it as soon as next month. Image: DOT

DOT is proposing a road diet for East 106th Street. CB 11′s transportation committee could vote on it as soon as next month. Image: DOT

Running between Fifth Avenue and FDR Drive, 106th Street in East Harlem should provide a key bike connection between Central Park and Randall’s Island. NYC DOT is proposing a road diet and painted bike lanes [PDF] to improve safety on the street, and Community Board 11′s transportation committee could vote on the plan soon.

At 60 feet wide, 106th Street currently has two car lanes in each direction, even though one lane each way could handle the existing traffic. The connection to the Randall’s Island bike-pedestrian bridge at 103rd Street is also tricky to navigate. This is especially important since 106th Street is the most direct connection between Central Park and Randall’s Island, due to the prevalence of large super-blocks in East Harlem.

The present design contributes to the disproportionate share of traffic violence on East 106th Street. There were two  pedestrian fatalities in separate crashes in 2005, and a cyclist was killed at the intersection with Park Avenue in 2000, according to CrashStat. It ranks in the top third of Manhattan’s most dangerous streets, according to NYC DOT.

DOT is proposing a classic four-to-three lane road diet, converting the existing four car lanes to two car lanes, bike lanes, and a center median with left-turn lanes. At Second and Third Avenues, median islands would make intersections safer for pedestrians by turning one 60-foot crossing to two 25-foot segments.

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Atlantic Ave First of 25 “Arterial Slow Zones” to Get 25 MPH Limit This Year

As drivers zoomed by on Atlantic Avenue this morning, local elected officials and advocates joined NYC DOT and NYPD to unveil the first of the city’s “arterial slow zones,” major streets where the speed limit will be dropped to 25 mph from the current citywide limit of 30 mph. Traffic signals will also be retimed to a 25 mph progression, to help keep motorists’ speeds in check.

25 mph white-and-blue speed limit signs will join retimed lights on Atlantic Avenue and 24 other major streets. Photo: DHFixAtlantic/Twitter

25 mph white-and-blue speed limit signs will join retimed lights on Atlantic Avenue and 24 other major streets. Photo: DHFixAtlantic/Twitter

The arterial slow zone program, mentioned briefly in the city’s Vision Zero action plan in February, will focus on some of the city’s most dangerous streets. Arterials like Atlantic make up only 15 percent of New York’s roadways but account for 60 percent of the city’s pedestrian fatalities, according to DOT.

“New Yorkers are asking what we can do to fix these streets, so today we’re taking immediate action,” said Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

“When we look at the family members who have lost loved ones, the pain never dissipates, and it never stops hurting,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. ”We can have a smooth traffic flow of vehicles without having a reckless and senseless traffic flow of blood.”

Streets chosen for this new program will receive new 25 mph speed limit signs, design fixes from DOT, and focused enforcement by NYPD, though the extent of the design and enforcement changes remained unclear at today’s press conference.

First up: 7.6 miles of Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn and Queens, from Furman Street in Brooklyn Heights to 76th Street in Woodhaven. (The project does not include the easternmost section of Atlantic as it approaches Jamaica.) From 2008 to 2012, there were 25 traffic fatalities along this section of Atlantic, including 10 pedestrian deaths. DOT said the new speed limit would go into effect by the end of April. By the end of the year, 25 major arterial streets will have lower speed limits and retimed traffic lights, the agency said.

Trottenberg said that these 25 “arterial slow zones” will count toward the 50 “intersections and corridors” the Vision Zero action plan promised would receive “safety engineering improvements” from DOT each year. ”We’re starting with the slow zones but we’re also going to be doing some redesigning, too,” she said.

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Top Cuomo Aide: Albany Will Pass Speed Cam Expansion Bill By End of April

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s top aide said this morning that the governor is committed to signing a bill to expand the number of New York City school zone speed cameras before the end of April. The firm stance comes after a plan to expand the number of speed cams in NYC stalled during budget negotiations.

WNYC’s Brian Lehrer asked why speed cameras were cut out of the recent state budget deal, and Cuomo secretary Larry Schwartz responded:

There was a dispute between the Senate and the Assembly regarding speed cameras in Nassau County. So because we needed to get the budget printed, we’ve all agreed that in the month of April, both houses will pass a speed camera bill for New York City, Nassau and Suffolk county. And quite frankly, if there’s anybody else that wants to be included, we’re happy to include them. And we’ll get a bill passed before the end of April and the governor will sign it because he supports speed cameras.

The Assembly is in session Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday next week, followed by the Senate on April 23 and 24, before both chambers convene for the final three days of the month. Commitment to a timeframe is a very positive indication from the governor, who said on Tuesday only that a speed cam bill would pass “shortly.”

While the news today is good, it could be better. The proposals up for debate in Albany keep NYC’s speed cams shackled to a narrow set of streets and turned off most of the time.

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Pedestrian Islands Coming to Deadly Northern Boulevard Intersection

The striped median on Northern Boulevard at 61st Street, right, is set to receive concrete pedestrian islands, like those on Hillside Avenue, right. Image: DOT

The striped median on Northern Boulevard at 61st Street, right, is set to receive concrete pedestrian islands, like those on Hillside Avenue, right. Image: DOT

The intersection of Northern Boulevard and 61st Street in Woodside, where an unlicensed truck driver making a left turn through a crosswalk killed 8-year-old Noshat Nahian on his way to school last December, is set for some pedestrian safety fixes after months of work by elected officials and street safety advocates.

Members of Make Queens Safer said they hoped it was the first of many design changes DOT would make to Northern Boulevard, which ranks as one of the most dangerous streets for pedestrians in Queens.

The plan for the 61st Street intersection, first reported by the Daily News, includes the addition of concrete pedestrian islands and the elimination of left turns from westbound Northern Boulevard to southbound 61st Street. It will also adjust signals to increase crossing time for pedestrians and feature new school zone crosswalk markings and signage. DOT has already restricted some on-street parking to “daylight” the intersection’s northeast corner and improve visibility for pedestrians and drivers. Construction is set to begin this month and wrap up within weeks.

Immediately prior to announcing his Vision Zero agenda last January at PS 152, where Nahian was walking to school before he was killed, Mayor Bill de Blasio visited the intersection with Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

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New Vision Zero Details Emerge at Astoria Town Hall

Last night, more than 100 people gathered in Astoria for the latest in a series of Vision Zero town halls bringing together residents,  city officials, elected representatives, and advocates to talk about street safety. New information regarding City Hall’s current thinking about the safety of trucks and large vehicle fleets came to light, and officials also hinted at opening more street safety data to the public.

NYPD and DOT will hand out this flyer at high-crash intersections.

NYPD and DOT will soon start handing out this flyer at high-crash intersections.

While the city continues to flesh out policies, Queens residents affected by traffic violence came to last night’s meeting seeking answers and highlighting areas where the NYPD still needs to improve.

“We haven’t heard from the police yet. It would be nice to find out as much information as possible,” said Satie Ragunath, whose father-in-law Kumar was killed in a hit-and-run while crossing Northern Boulevard earlier this month. “We’d like to know, what can you guys do about accidents that have already happened?”

Deputy Inspector Kevin Maloney, commanding officer of the 114th Precinct, told Streetsblog that the Collision Investigation Squad was unable to find surveillance video of the crash and was broadening its search area, using cameras on nearby blocks in an attempt to identify the hit-and-run driver. “I’ll talk with the detective in charge of that investigation and I’ll be sure he speaks to you,” Maloney told Ragunath.

Chris Vanterpool said he and his 3-year-old son were struck by a turning driver two weeks ago while they were in a crosswalk near their Astoria home. Vanterpool said it was difficult to get information from the precinct after the crash. “I had to make 10 phone calls to get the report number,” he said, and when he wanted to get a copy of the crash report, the precinct required a $10 money order. “It costs $15 at the bank to get a $10 money order,” Vanterpool said.

Maloney, who spoke with Vanterpool about the crash after the forum, told Streetsblog that the precinct tries to focus on speeding, cell phone use, and red light summonses. The five officers in its traffic enforcement division, as well as a handful of patrol officers, are trained to use the three LIDAR speed guns available at the precinct.

“When I was a cop, precinct cops didn’t even shoot radar,” Maloney said. “Since then, the department’s evolved, so it’s something that on the precinct level we take seriously.”

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Victims’ Families Optimistic About Change After Meeting Albany Lawmakers


During yesterday’s trip to Albany, members of Families for Safe Streets not only won over a key new backer of legislation to set the city’s default speed limit at 20 mph, they met with more than 30 legislators to ask for lower speed limits and more automated enforcement.

“It was absolutely exhausting, emotionally and physically,” said Mary Beth Kelly, whose husband was killed by a tow truck driver in 2006 while the couple was riding their bikes on the Hudson River Greenway. “It’s very hard for us to keep telling our stories over and over again.” But Kelly said that more than ever, she thinks now is a time when victims’ families will make a difference. “I’ve been doing this seven-and-a-half years,” she said, “and the sense of hopefulness that I have right now is probably greater than it’s ever been.”

In their meetings with lawmakers — including Speaker Sheldon Silver and the staff of Assembly Transportation Committee Chair David Gantt — Families for Safe Streets focused mostly on lowering the city’s default speed limit to 20 mph, but also talked about the importance of expanding automated enforcement.

“The speed camera program is only operational during school hours,” said Transportation Alternatives general counsel Juan Martinez on the bus ride to Albany. “That’s a big problem, because 77 percent of people who are killed in speeding crashes are killed after school hours — in the evening and on weekends.”

The State Senate’s budget proposal includes a nine-fold expansion of the existing school-zone speed camera program, but Assembly Member Joe Lentol said it was unlikely to survive to the final budget. “It was a tremendous lift to get just 20 speed cameras last year,” he said.

Despite the challenge of making progress in Albany, the families remain undeterred.

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Overcoming Skepticism, Lentol Joins Families to Back 20 MPH Speed Limit


Yesterday, members of Families for Safe Streets traveled to Albany to speak with legislators about legislation to lower NYC speed limits and increase automated enforcement of dangerous driving. They came away with an early victory: Assembly Member Joe Lentol of Brooklyn, a street safety ally who had been skeptical of a bill to lower the city’s default speed limit to 20 mph, surprised the families by showing up at their press conference and giving a moving speech about why he now supports the measure.

“I understand why this is a difficult bill for some of my members, and for a lot of people. They believe that they can safely speed. Even I do. All of us do. We think that we have things under control, and that we are able to speed at will and be able to stop,” said Lentol, who chairs the Assembly Codes Committee, which would play a key role in the bill’s passage. “We’re wrong. We can’t always put our foot on the brake and stop the car.”

“Speed kills,” he said.

This morning, I asked Lentol, who has backed neighborhood slow zones and 20 mph speed limits on some of his district’s most dangerous streets, why he had hesitated to come out in support of the bill, sponsored by Assembly Member Dan O’Donnell. “I think I misunderstood the O’Donnell bill,” he said. The proposal would set a default citywide speed limit of 20 mph, while allowing the City Council to set higher speed limits where it sees fit. (For the record, since City Council members don’t always let good policy guide their transportation decisions, this override power should rest with NYC DOT instead.)

“I don’t see why we can’t have a lower default rate of speed,” Lentol said. “If you don’t see a speed limit sign that says 30 or 25, you as a driver have to understand that the default speed limit is 20. That should be the law.”

Lentol’s support came after families met with him in Albany yesterday. “It was a lack of understanding that this is a default, and there can be adjustments up,” said Ellen Foote, whose son Sam Hindy was killed in a 2007 crash. “He listened to us.”

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Victims’ Families Head to Albany, Calling on Legislators to Save Lives

Families of some of those included on this map of traffic fatalities are meeting with legislators today in Albany. Map: Families for Safe Streets

Families of traffic violence victims on this map are meeting with legislators today in Albany. Map: Families for Safe Streets

The State Senate budget released late last week includes a plan to expand New York City’s school zone speed enforcement program from 20 cameras to 180 cameras. As the Senate, Assembly and Governor Cuomo enter budget negotiations, families of traffic violence victims are in Albany today to meet with legislators and push for policies that would do more to reduce traffic violence: lowering the citywide speed limit and giving NYC control of automated enforcement.

Amy Cohen, whose son Sammy was killed on Prospect Park West last October, is one of the organizers of Families for Safe Streets. At the group’s second monthly meeting earlier in March, its members decided to make the trip to Albany. Today, about a dozen people who lost their children to New York City traffic violence, or were injured themselves, got up before dawn and boarded a bus to the capital.

“Many of the families that are going don’t tend to know the different legislative options,” Cohen said. “Most of the people going haven’t been to Albany for this kind of thing.”

Families have set up meetings with more than 30 lawmakers, including their own representatives and legislators from the places where their loved ones were killed. The day includes meetings with Speaker Sheldon Silver, Assembly transportation committee chair David Gantt of Rochester, and members of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus.

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Hit-and-Run Driver Charged With Reckless Driving for Killing 5-Year-Old

Last night just before 8:30, five-year-old Roshard Charles was crossing Empire Boulevard between Nostrand Avenue and Rogers Avenue with his mother, his baby brother, and a friend. They were just outside his family’s apartment when a double-parked driver threw her car in reverse, hit the gas and killed the boy as he was about to reach the sidewalk. The driver fled the scene, but now faces hit-and-run and reckless driving charges.

Rashard Charles. Photo: DNAinfo

Roshard Charles. Photo: DNAinfo

DNAinfo spoke this afternoon with Roshard’s mother, 27-year-old Rochelle Charles:

“I was with my baby. He was right here with me. She double parked. She wasn’t moving. She was just there. We were already walking, about to go on the sidewalk. And that’s when she started reversing really fast…I said, ‘Stop!’ I banged on [the van]. She reversed back. She heard me. She looked back. She tried to get him out of the wheel. And then she just drove off…How could you leave like that? I kept telling her to stop.”

Witnesses lifted the boy onto the hood of a nearby car and attempted to keep him awake before paramedics arrived, according to the Daily News. Charles was taken to Kings County Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. NYPD says no one else was injured in the crash.

“I love him so much. I took really good care of him,” Rochelle Charles told DNAinfo. “Saturday we went to Applebee’s. It’s just me and him. Last week, we went to the movies.”

The Daily News reported that the child “darted away from his mom” before the driver crushed him, but other media accounts do not include this allegation, and NYPD told Streetsblog this afternoon that this claim was not part of its record of the crash. The Collision Investigation Squad continues to investigate the death.

After striking Charles, driver Elizabeth Mayard, 23, of Brooklyn, fled the scene, running red lights as she drove westbound on Empire. According to the Wall Street Journal, another driver who saw the crash followed her for two blocks before she pulled over and the witness convinced her to go back to the crash scene. Another witness at the scene described Mayard as hysterically crying and apologizing. She now faces charges for leaving the scene of a fatal crash, reckless driving, and three red light violations.

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