Advocates Call on Mayor to Fund Safe Streets After the Loss of Two Children

Families for Safe Streets' Sufio Russo speaking outside City Hall last night. Photo: David Meyer
Families for Safe Streets’ Sofia Russo speaking outside City Hall last night. Photo: David Meyer

In the wake of two fatal crashes that claimed the lives of children in Queens last week, members of Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets gathered on the steps of City Hall yesterday evening to call on Mayor de Blasio to increase funding for life-saving street redesigns.

Traffic deaths in NYC are rising this year after declining the first two years of de Blasio’s term. “Vision Zero is off course,” said TA Executive Director Paul Steely White. “It’s just heartbraking to see the numbers creep back up again.”

In Ozone Park last Monday, a motorist killed 13-year-old Jazmine Marin as she crossed Cross Bay Boulevard with a friend on their way to school. Four days later, an unlicensed van driver backed into and killed 8-month-old Navraj Raju as his mother pushed him in a stroller on an Astoria Boulevard sidewalk.

Both fatalities happened in areas identified by DOT as priorities for Vision Zero street redesigns. According to TA, two-thirds of all traffic deaths since the beginning of 2015 have occurred in Vision Zero priority areas.

“The two kids who died last week died on streets that the mayor has already identified as dangerous, but the mayor has not fixed,” White said. “To identify dangerous streets and not fund fixes on those streets — that is not Vision Zero.”

Traffic fatalities reached record lows in the first two years of the de Blasio administration, when the mayor pushed Albany to pass a 25 mph city-wide speed limit and expand the city’s speed camera program. But pedestrian and cyclist fatalities have increased in 2016.

Despite the continued carnage, the mayor has declined the City Council’s requests for increased funding for DOT street redesigns. White and Families for Safe Streets’ Sofia Russo, whose daughter Ariel was killed by a curb-jumping driver in Manhattan in 2013, said they hope the mayor changes course in his next budget, a preliminary version of which will be released in January.

“If our elected officials are really serious about Vision Zero, we need them to support this inititive with real resources and funding,” Russo said. “We pray for [families who have lost loved ones] and we know their pain, but this is not enough. We have to fight for safer streets.”

Families for Safe Streets and TA will return to City Hall later this month for the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.

At the same event last year, Mayor de Blasio promised to take Vision Zero “a lot farther” in 2016. This year, activists are demanding he back that promise with real resources.

“Early on [in his term], the mayor was listening,” White said yesterday. “We’re not so sure that mayor is listening any more.”