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Queens Chronicle

Vision Zero bill leaves Council questioning

Committee doubts plan will work to city’s benefit if left unchanged

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Posted: Thursday, February 27, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 12:34 pm, Thu Mar 6, 2014.

When Mayor de Blasio announced his “Vision Zero” plan, it was well received by most city officials.

Now that the official plan — that aims to eliminate traffic-related deaths within the next 10 years — has been put before the City Council Transportation and Public Safety Committees, it seems de Blasio and his Vision Zero task force may need to go back to the drawing board on some of his proposals.

The oversight hearing, held Monday in the City Council chambers, allowed testimony from traffic safety activists and residents who lost loved ones to fatal car accidents.

“Our only child is gone forever and our life is in shambles,” said Debbie Kahn, the mother of Seth, who was hit by a city bus driver who had just returned from suspension for texting and driving. “No more deaths in traffic violence are acceptable. Please don’t let anybody else go through what we’ve been through. It’s unbearable.”

Many parents, including Kahn, held a framed photo of their loved ones while they gave their testimony.

While the testimonies were emotional, that didn’t stop the committee from grilling the NYPD’s new Transportation Bureau Chief Thomas Chan, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and the Taxi and Limousine Commission’s Acting Executive Conan Freud.

The most common question had to do with police resources. As the Highway Unit has lost 44 percent of its employees over the past 10 years, many Council members were skeptical that the 211 officers the unit does have will be able to crack down on speeders and other traffic rule violators.

“We are going to have to get that Highway Unit back to at least what it was before 9/11,” Councilman Jimmy Vacca (D-Bronx) said. “Even when it comes to reducing the speed limit, there has to be enforcement.”

De Blasio promised to add at least 50 more officers to the Highway Unit, but city officials fear the numbers are still too low.

What’s more, if the mayor’s request for more red light and speed cameras and 200 additional radar guns on top of the 56 the city owns now is approved, it will be even more difficult for the NYPD to keep up.

Despite the committee’s concern, Chan said the unit will focus solely on highways while side streets will continue to be patrolled by NYPD precinct officers.

Councilman Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn) didn’t feel that was enough.

“We should be honest,” he said. “This is a big change in NYPD culture. Recruits don’t sign up for the Academy to write speeding tickets.”

Another suggestion made was to include the Department of Education in de Blasio’s Vision Zero task force.

City Council members aren’t the only ones critical of the plan, some taxi drivers are furious with parts of the plan, too.

There is a possibility of cab drivers’ fare meters automatically shutting off when they drive 10 miles over the posted speed limit.

There will no doubt be another hearing conducted by the two committees and changes might have to be made

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