Oh, Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round Some Random Poles!

Streetsblog goes on the offensive against Staten Islanders who are telling reckless drivers where the should slow down for speed cameras — by warning them that they should slow down everywhere!

Fools rush in where mayors fear to tread.
Fools rush in where mayors fear to tread.

The mayor dodged our question about whether he would take action against people who are warning reckless drivers about the location of speed cameras in Staten Island with yellow ribbons. The DOT is observing radio silence. And the local councilman loves the Yellow Ribbon Vigilante movement.

So we took matters into our own hands on Monday with a twist on that old adage: If you can’t beat ’em, beat ’em!

Yes, we were frustrated that city officials don’t seem to have a problem with drivers who only slow down if they know there’s a camera ahead, so we tied yellow ribbons around a few dozen random trees on Staten Island. The goal is obvious: if the yellow ribbons are only flying near known speed camera locations, drivers will only slow down there. But if there are yellow ribbons all over Staten Island, maybe drivers will slow down … all over Staten Island.

So, you’re welcome, residents of Annadale Road, Arden Avenue, Bay Street and Front Street (and please don’t cut down our ribbons!).

We were moved to act because speeding is rampant on Staten Island — more than 155,000 speed-camera tickets were issued last year by the islands 80-odd camera systems. Nonetheless, Council Member Joe Borelli does not think speeding is nearly as serious a problem as other issues (he rightly pointed out that Annadale needs some crosswalks, STAT!).

We fixed it for you, DOT. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
We fixed it for you, DOT. Arden Avenue in Annadale. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

Borelli, of course, famously has five camera-issued speeding tickets — three since May, 2018 — so his sympathies lie with his recklessly driving constituents (though, in an extended interview with Streetsblog at the Annadale Terrace restaurant, he promised he would “go slower.” But he also said that speed limits should be higher on many roads in Staten Island, where, unlike the rest of the city, some residential streets have posted speed limits of 30 miles per hour, and some arterials are posted at 40).

Here was one telling exchange between Streetsblog and the lead-footed Borelli, who complained that Arden Avenue — a residential two-way street in his neighborhood, has a 30 mile-per-hour speed limit since the de Blasio administration reduced it from 35.

Streetsblog: I was just on Arden Avenue and anywhere else, it would be 25. Drivers were going so fast! And you’re saying it should be posted 35, which means that since cameras only issue tickets at 11 miles per hour above the speed limit, drivers would be going 45 on that road! That’s really fast, don’t you think?

Borelli: Not on some roads, no.

Streetsblog: On that road, it is! It’s residential. It’s narrow. [For the record: Since January, 2018, there have been 74 crashes, injuring 25 motorists, just on the three-quarter-mile section of Arden Avenue in Annadale.] And since speed cameras only trigger at 11 miles per hour or more, if you get a ticket, doesn’t that make you say, “Ooh, I shouldn’t’ve done that. I feel bad. That’s really fast”?

Borelli: That view is not shared by the majority of my constituents.

Streetsblog: Yeah, I’m trying to figure out why that is.

Borelli was not the only critic of our efforts to slow down drivers on Staten Island. Before sitting down with the council member, I tweeted a picture of myself hanging yellow ribbons. A few minutes later, I received this voicemail on my phone:

Nice! And then, later in the day, we spotted yellow ribbon crusader — and recidivist speeder — Scott LoBaido on the street with his “Speed Cam Ahead” sign (with de Blasio wearing devil’s horns and a dollar sign on his forehead). LoBaido kicked off the Yellow Ribbon vigilante movement last week with a rally and a grassroots effort, but I didn’t realize that sometimes, he just stood in front of his house.

Maybe he heard I was giving him some competition.

Scott LoBaido — anti-camera vigilante. Photo: Streetsblog
Scott LoBaido — anti-camera vigilante. Photo: Streetsblog

A reminder: The Yellow Ribbon Vigilante movement on Staten Island prompted us to write a parody of the old Tony Orlando hit, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon.” It’s performed below by The Speeders, with lyrics under the Soundcloud embed. Enjoy.

I’m drivin’ home, I’m going fast
I’ll slow down if a camera I should pass
The good news is my neighbors help me drive so recklessly
Hanging warning ribbons to help me keep my speed (to help me keep my speed)

Whoa, tie a yellow ribbon ’round the cam’ra pole
Why must pesky cops try to slow my roll?
If I just see a ribbon ’round the cam’ra pole
I’ll have to slow down, put on a frown, and drive under control!
If I just see a yellow ribbon ’round the cam’ra pole.

These camera systems punish me
It’s a war on cars — as everyone can see
The mayor calls for safety, but he really just wants money
Driving fast is what we do — Americans are free!
Driving slow is such a tease

Whoa, tie a yellow ribbon ’round the cam’ra pole
Why must pesky cops try to slow my roll?
If I just see a ribbon ’round the camera pole
I’ll have to slow down, put on a frown, and drive under control!
If I just see a yellow ribbon ’round the cam’ra pole.