Slow Down to Save Lives

Statement by Assemblyman Lentol urging the use of traffic controlling measures in New York City
November 7, 2012
New traffic controlling measures must be introduced in New York City to combat the overwhelming amount of speeding that takes place along our thoroughfares every day. As speeding continues and population rises, the likelihood of death increases exponentially. Brooklyn serves as the perfect testing grounds for traffic calming measures, as it has long served as a central commuting artery for all five boroughs, with the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) connecting motorists from New Jersey to Staten Island and back.

During the past legislative session I introduced a bill that would authorize the City of New York to install and operate a pilot program of speed cameras on McGuinness Boulevard, one of the most dangerous streets in all of New York City (A.10556). According to a study released by Transportation Alternatives and the McGuinness Boulevard Working Group, who conducted a series of speed surveys, over 66% of cars speed on McGuinness Boulevard. They also found that from 2005-2009 there were 57 motor vehicle crashes involving bicyclists and pedestrians, which resulted in four deaths. Unfortunately, speeding has inherently become regular practice along this street and history has something to do with it.

With a quick look back in time one would understand why so many speed down McGuinness Boulevard, it was meant to be a thoroughfare from the beginning. The street was originally named Oakland Street and then in the 1950s the name was changed to McGuinness Boulevard. The demolition of 87 buildings along McGuinness Boulevard occurred in 1959 to begin the process of widening the route to a four-lane street. The population was increasing and the need was developing for a larger road to connect Brooklyn and Queens.

This four-lane thoroughfare that stretches through the heart of Greenpoint from the Pulaski Bridge to the BQE has allowed motorists for the past five decades to easily commute through Brooklyn. Yet as a connection to a regularly utilized highway, it has created a habitat for speeding. As one may allude, McGuinness was built as a connecting roadway and naturally drivers have grown accustomed to speeding, but we must return our roads to the neighborhood streets they once were. McGuinness Boulevard isnt the only roadway that is notorious as a speedway in Brooklyn. A recently released report by the Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project studied Park Avenue in Brooklyn, which runs underneath the BQE, to propose various ways to increase pedestrian and bicyclist safety. Park Avenue, as the report describes, has become an alternative for motorists attempting to avoid traffic congestion on the BQE, and as a result motorists travel along Park Avenue at high speeds as they would on the BQE right above. The introduction of speed cameras along Park Avenue, similarly to McGuinness Boulevard, would serve as an efficient means of reducing the safety risks of pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists.

Many who criticize the introduction of speed cameras cite their cost, the resulting restrictions on traffic mobility and the fear that speed cameras will be abused by the police and the city, while many in support describe the possible revenue stream from ticketing. However, this issue is not solely about generating revenue, it is about saving human life. Additionally, the bill I introduced specified a location for the cameras to be installed. A case-by-case approach to installing speed cameras is the right approach, as community input should be factored into where the cameras are placed. Speed cameras have been proven to reduce speed, increase safety and save lives, but there are several other traffic calming measures, at significantly lower costs, that should be instituted such as adjusting the timing of signals, the installation of additional signage and curb extensions the list goes on and on.

By 2030 we are expecting the population of New York City to climb to nine million, an increase of one million people. An important question to ask when considering enhancements to public safety is how many residents will be affected? With an ever-changing landscape in Brooklyn, largely resulting from an ongoing exodus from Manhattan, our population will likely increase more proportionately then all other boroughs. Just take a look around Brooklyn today and you will see countless residential buildings sprouting up we must prepare for these changes and improving the safety of our citizenry is a perfect place to start. I urge everyone in Brooklyn and throughout New York City to think seriously about the benefits of speed cameras and how they can have a positive impact on the safety of everyone for years to come. Ensuring the safety of our citizens should be our number one priority. It is certainly mine.