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Morning Spew

Annual Reminder: New York’s Deadly, Polluting Streets Are a Policy Choice

A new year in Albany means a new chance to improve our streets.

10:19 AM EST on January 5, 2023

Two trucks crashed into a lightpole in Manhattan as FDNY members mill around.

A recent crash in Manhattan. It did not appear that anyone was severely injured. (Hell Gate)

"Motor vehicles are first, highways are first, and everything else is an afterthought," the head of the National Transportation Safety Board told the New York Times this past November, in a story about why more people die from traffic violence in United States than any other developed country in the world.

The rule could just as easily apply to New York. Despite eight years of "Vision Zero" policies under the previous administration, traffic fatalities in 2022 were still higher than they were a few years ago. Statewide, traffic deaths are up 20 percent since 2020.

While our international peers give their city centers back to pedestrians, and our neighbors in New Jersey implement policies that have eliminated traffic fatalities, New York can feel hopelessly stuck in the past. We're somehow still debating whether Grand Army Plaza should actually be a plaza for people. The Adams administration can't even keep their promise to build more bus lanes, let alone keep them clear from obstructions. Parts of New York City will be underwater in a few decades—some of them are already underwater every month!—but sure, let's invest in a massive construction project on a six-lane highway through the heart of town.

January is when the Albany agenda is set, so a group of more than 100 advocates known as the New York State Safe Streets coalition is pushing the legislature to pass a package of six bills called the Safe Streets Act.

New York City doesn't even have the power to set its own speed limit? Sammy's Law, named after Samuel Cohen Eckstein, a 12-year-old killed by a speeding van driver on Prospect Park West in 2013, would change this.

There's also no law that requires drivers to give cyclists three feet of space when passing them—the Safe Passage bill would do that.

More significantly, there are two pieces of "complete streets" legislation that would force more road projects to adhere to traffic-calming, pedestrian-safe designs, and apply them when routine maintenance is done (this is Hoboken's "not-so-secret secret sauce," and a big part of how they've been able to eliminate traffic deaths).

The package also includes a bill that would force car manufacturers to install speed governors in new models and limit the size of those massive trucks and SUVs. (For a governor who is too bashful to attempt to regulate the airspace in New York City, this legislation, which takes aim at the entire automobile industry, will be a hard sell.)

There's so much more to be done to drag New York's ass into 2023. We'll be watching to see if Governor Kathy Hochul and the legislature are up to the task.

More stuff to read and consider:

  • Another day, another associate of Mayor Eric Adams is involved in some shady shit.
  • Speaking of Mayor Adams: On Wednesday, hizzoner unleashed a seven-minute tirade against Mayor Bill de Blasio's staff for criticizing his tenure in a handful of news stories. Someone at Zero Bond should pour the mayor a double.
  • At least 14 Democrats have already come out against Governor Hochul's pick for the top state judge, but the nomination took another huge blow after Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said that the legislature was looking for someone who didn't have so much prosecutorial experience.
  • Speaking of that judge, Hector LaSalle, here is a rundown of some of his more troubling decisions.
  • Deliveristas are getting a "hub" on the Upper West Side!
  • The State Assembly is still considering whether to expel Republican Lester Chang, who claimed he lived in Brooklyn to win his seat in November, only for it to be later revealed that he has a rent-stabilized apartment in Manhattan that by law must be his primary residence.
  • Is New York turning into Los Angeles? Maybe, if you're paid to write stories with that headline.

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