Call them the Department of Transformation.
Activists with the road-safety group Right of Way strung up a bunch of fake 20-mile-per-hour speed limit signs over the weekend in Fort Greene, Park Slope, and Greenpoint, neighborhoods they say desperately need speed limit reductions to slow traffic fatalities. The guerilla signage is meant to build support for city road planners who want to squeeze drivers, not to attack them for failing to lower the speed limit on city streets, the road warriors said.
“We’re not trying to turn anyone against the Department of Transportation — we’re trying to help them out,” said Right of Way organizer Keegan Stephan. “I hope that this event helps build momentum.”
Right of Way targeted neighborhoods that the city has passed over for so-called “Slow Zone” designations that would have brought a 20-mile-per-hour limit along with traffic-slowing features such as speed humps. Neighborhoods including Prospect Heights, Clinton Hill and Bedford-Stuyvesant were picked for the designation last year, with the city citing high rates of crashes and injuries, but the activists say the recent deaths of 9-year-old Lucian Merryweather, who was fatally hit by the driver of a Ford Explorer in Fort Greene in November, as well as Samuel Cohen Eckstein, who was killed by a motorist in October on Prospect Park West, should be enough to motivate the city to make those areas Slow Zones.
Cohen Eckstein’s mom said that lowering the limit is a matter of life and death.
“If the speed limit had been 20 miles an hour, Sammy would probably still be alive,” Amy Cohen said after protesters installed a sign on a Park Slope street.
DeKalb Avenue, which runs from Queens to Fulton Street in Downtown, is an extremely dangerous corridor for pedestrians, as is the intersection of Kent Street and McGuinness Boulevard in Greenpoint, according to Stephan. Ramped-up traffic enforcement is also vital to making the borough’s mean streets safer, he said.
“We’re pushing for Slow Zones, and then after they’re installed, we absolutely have to have enforcement,” he said.
A spokesman for the Department of Transportation pointed to Mayor DeBlasio’s Vision Zero report, which calls for eight new Slow Zones per year, as evidence that safety is the agency’s number-one concern.
“We continue to work with all our Vision Zero partner agencies as well as stakeholders in communities across the city to target speeding and dangerous driving,” said spokesman Nicholas Mosquera, adding that it has been a longstanding city practice to remove unauthorized placards.