Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel Takes on Drivers Speeding Through Brownsville

Without speed cameras in effect, Ampry-Samuel said she fears for the safety of her son and other children when they go back to school in two weeks.

Alicka Ampry-Samuel (right) and her mother Ernestine Turner watch as drivers whip around the corner of Howard Avenue and Pitkin Avenue. Photo: David Meyer
Alicka Ampry-Samuel (right) and her mother Ernestine Turner watch as drivers whip around the corner of Howard Avenue and Pitkin Avenue. Photo: David Meyer

On September 5, New York City students go back to school, and Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel will watch her son head to junior high in Brownsville. Like every parent, she’ll worry about him as he walks to class on the city’s treacherous streets. And because Republicans in the State Senate have let the city’s speed camera program expire, there’s a lot more to worry about than last year.

“I want to be able to feel secure in knowing that he can just go across the street to catch the bus,” Ampry-Samuel said. “As a mom, I can’t help but feel that way.”

Ampry-Samuel is the lead sponsor of the City Council resolution calling on the state legislature to renew and expand the speed camera program. To call attention to the dangerous conditions in her district, this morning she headed out to the corner of Howard Avenue and Pitkin Avenue with her mother, Ernestine Turner, and members of Families for Safe Streets to measure driver speeds with radar gun. Over half an hour, they clocked dozens of drivers speeding to catch the light or whipping around the corner turning from Pitkin onto Howard.

Turner has first-hand experience with reckless drivers on Brownsville streets. When she was 11 years old, a driver struck her just a few blocks north of this intersection. The experience continues to shape how she walks around the neighborhood.

“I’ll tell you this: I make sure to stand up on that sidewalk,” Turner said. “I’m still scared to cross this street.”

At Pitkin and Howard, elderly people, children, and cyclists struggled simply to cross the street. “It’s just like a jet that comes through,” said one elderly woman who stopped to talk to the council member before crossing Howard with a walker.

“It’s dangerous over here,” said another man, who was stopped at the curb on his bike. “They speed, they don’t stop, they don’t slow down.”

Crossing Howard Avenue. Photo: David Meyer
Crossing Howard Avenue. Photo: David Meyer

Brownsville is full of wide streets and complicated intersections like Howard and Pitkin, and Ampry-Samuel said her office has been in touch with DOT about bringing safety improvements to the intersection. But street redesigns often take years to come to fruition. The speed camera program had made an immediate difference, reducing speeding at locations with camera enforcement by 63 percent.

Now, when school starts late this month, students at nearby Brownsville Ascend Lower School will have to contend with drivers who can speed with impunity. All because state senators Marty Golden, Simcha Felder, and John Flanagan have not reauthorized the speed camera program.

“This is a shame that right now we’re having this conversation just two weeks before school is supposed to open,” said Ampry-Samuel. “Those children are out at 3 o’clock, and when they get to this intersection, it’s one of the most dangerous intersections in our borough.”