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Queens Chronicle

Council bills take aim at speeders

Speed hump mandate passes near schools; 25-mph side streets sought

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Posted: Thursday, December 5, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:27 am, Thu Dec 12, 2013.

Queens officials are hailing the City Council’s passage of a bill that will result in speed humps on busy streets that run past schools, and are pulling for one that would reduce speed limits on some side streets while mandating approval of slow zones.

Bill 732-A, introduced by Councilwoman Debi Rose (D-Staten Island), mandates that the Department of Transportation install one or more speed humps on a minimum of 50 streets per year adjacent to public or private schools.

The schools must have at least 250 students at or below 12th grade.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), in a statement issued by her office, said reducing speeding will reduce traffic fatalities in the city.

“This legislation will help to protect pedestrians — especially our youngest pedestrians,” Quinn said on Nov. 26. She expected Mayor Bloomberg to sign it into law.

While the vote in the Council was unanimous, the bill may have had no more ardent supporter than Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), a retired schoolteacher at PS 199 in Long Island City.

Dromm pulled plenty of shifts on early-morning and dismissal-time bus duty in his previous career.

And he said the combination of young children, large school buses and busy streets with morning traffic can have horrifying results.

“One day, about eight or nine years ago I was in the schoolyard for the morning arrivals,” Dromm said. “I saw a little girl get hit by a car as she was crossing the street ... Fortunately, she wasn’t killed. But she was banged up quite a bit.”

Dromm stated flat out his belief that traffic-calming measures do work to reduce speed near schools. He said this year he was successful at getting $300,000 in the DOT’s budget for such devices near a pair of schools in his Jackson Heights district.

Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton), who has been asking the DOT for speed humps, slow zones and other measures in Southeast Queens since taking office in February, welcomed the citywide approach.

“It is critical that we do all we can do as elected officials to ensure that our children can travel to school without worrying if a speeding car will end their lives,” Richards said in a statement issued by his office. “The law we passed is a step in the right direction in ensuring that we protect our children at all cost.”

While it’s not exactly a companion bill, Richards and Dromm also said they support legislation introduced by Councilman David Greenfield (D-Brooklyn) that would, as presently written, reduce the city speed limit from 30 miles per hour to 25 on one-way, single-lane streets.

That would affect a large percentage of residential streets in the borough.

“This is for kids who run into the street after a ball,” he said. “It’s for kids, the elderly, dogs who run into the street.”

It does represent some bargaining with the Bloomberg administration. Greenfield’s initial desire was for 20 miles per hour on a larger number of streets.

“It also would mandate the establishment of at least seven slow zones per year,” Greenfield said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

Slow zones, when approved by the DOT, get residential neighborhoods reduced speeds, signs, street markings, the elimination of parking near corners to “daylight” intersections and other measures.

“Twenty-five miles per hour will save lives every year,” Greenfield said.

Again, officials on the Queens side of the border are in agreement.

“Thirty miles per hour is just too fast for some side streets,” said Gary Giordano, district manager for Community Board 5.

“I can see not wanting reductions on Woodhaven Boulevard or Queens Boulevard,” he added. “But in a residential area, 30 is pretty quick. And if a pedestrian walks out into the roadway, God help them, because it can take a driver three car lengths to stop.”

Giordano also would like to see more ways of combating thoughtless drivers who refuse to yield the right of way to pedestrians. Richards said he welcomes just about any or all possible remedies.

“Speeding on residential streets is an issue across my district and one I have been combating for years,” he said. “I am very excited for the opportunity to deal with this problem on a large scale.”

Dromm said three young children in his district have been hit by vehicles in recent months. He said a major danger to residents comes from people who literally are just passing through.

“Drivers use Jackson Heights as a shortcut to get from Northern Boulevard to Queens Boulevard,” he said. “If something slows them down it’s to the advantage of all pedestrians, and even the drivers. The thing about crashes is that they’re preventable.”

Richards hopes that whatever version of Greenfield’s measure ultimately passes will have teeth.

“We need to make it clear that dangerous driving will not be tolerated in our neighborhoods, and there will be hell to pay for anyone who puts our friends and family members at risk,” he said.

Greenfield is cautiously optimistic that the Council can get a suitable measure to the floor for a vote before the end of the year, when a new Council and speaker take office along with new mayor Bill de Blasio.

A sticking point is that the city must get the changes approved in the state Legislature. But Greenfield is confident they will be able to do so in January or February.

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