Families of Crash Victims Pledge Action to Save Lives on Day of Remembrance

Family members of victims of traffic violence remember the loved ones they lost. Photo: David Meyer
Family members of victims of traffic violence remember the loved ones they lost. Photo: David Meyer

New Yorkers who lost loved ones to traffic violence gathered at City Hall Park yesterday to mark World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. They called on Mayor de Blasio as well as elected officials in Albany to do more to prevent the hundreds of deaths that happen on NYC streets each year.

“Collectively, our story is one that’s impossible to ignore,” said Hank Miller, whose 30-year-old sister Victoria Nicodemus was killed by an unlicensed curb-jumping driver in Fort Greene last December. “We have to work together with our elected officials to prevent these tragedies, and to make sure no other families have to come up here and talk about their loved one lost to preventable tragedies.”

Under Mayor de Blasio’s “Vision Zero” initiative, traffic fatalities in NYC reached a record low in 2015, but this year the number of lives lost is escalating. At the current rate of progress, the city won’t come close to achieving the goal of zero traffic deaths by 2024. Families for Safe Streets, Transportation Alternatives, and the City Council leadership have all called on de Blasio to increase funding for street safety redesigns, but the mayor has not adjusted his budget in response.

Meanwhile, this year Governor Cuomo and state legislative leaders failed to advance legislation to expand the city’s automated speed camera program.

In a moving ceremony, elected officials read the names of the more than 200 New Yorkers, many unidentified, who lost their lives to traffic violence so far this year. Then the members of Families for Safe Streets read the names of their lost loved ones.

Families attached yellow ribbons to a "zero" statue. Photo: David Meyer
Families attached yellow ribbons to a “zero” statue. Photo: David Meyer

“We demand that we achieve Vision Zero, so that we do not have more families here next year,” said Families for Safe Streets’ Amy Cohen, whose son Sammy Eckstein was struck and killed near Prospect Park West in 2013.

At the Day of Remembrance event last year, Mayor de Blasio committed to taking his effort to eliminate traffic deaths “a lot farther,” but he has yet to back that up with the funding necessary to bring street safety improvements to every corner of the city.

Instead the mayor has rebuffed those criticisms, saying earlier this month that advocates are “sometimes trying to justify their own role without looking at the facts.”

Photo: Juan Restrepo
Photo: Juan Restrepo

In the last few weeks, de Blasio has been consumed by responding to the election of Donald Trump. And in the wake of that monumental event, yesterday’s memorial gathering felt muted compared to years past. But Council Member Brad Lander, who arrived at the ceremony after attending a vigil at a swastika-defaced Brooklyn park, assured the aggrieved families that the current political climate will not leave them behind.

“In the days ahead, even as we have more organizing to do, we will stand steadfast with you and we will not lose focus on what is necessary to do so that next year we do not have this list,” Lander said, fighting back tears. “I have found in this group of people a kind of courage and solidarity and ability to fight through darkness and make change happen and bring about something better that we are all going to need.”