Slow ‘em down! Boerum Hill seeks big cut in speed limit

Slow ‘em down! Boerum Hill seeks big cut in speed limit
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Boerum Hill residents are pushing the city to slam the brakes on reckless drivers by cutting the speed limit to 20 miles per hour in their exclusive brownstone enclave.

The Department of Transportation is considering including the neighborhood in a preliminary traffic-calming program in hopes of deterring cars and trucks from using the area as a short cut to and from the East River bridges.

“We need to encourage people to go slower,” said Howard Kolins, president of the Boerum Hill Association, which along with Councilman Steve Levin (D–Brooklyn Heights), formed a traffic task force to help the issue gain traction.

The zone — which would shave 10 mph from the city standard — would cover a large area bounded by Court Street, Fourth Avenue, Pacific Street and Baltic Street, according to Levin spokeswoman Hope Reichbach, who grew up in Boerum Hill, and said the area has become a victim of its own success.

“Traffic has definitely gotten worse,” she observed.

And along with the number of cars, residents have also multiplied — another reason locals support the go-slow zone.

“It’s a good idea,” said resident Beth Marchese. “I have a baby, and it’s like no one ever stops. There are so many kids here, it’s Baby Central.”

Kolins suggested the Boerum Hill plan could emulate England’s “20 is Plenty” program, which includes better signage and physical barriers to make speeding more difficult. The program, started in 2001, is credited with reducing traffic fatalities across the country.

The prospect of a speeding ticket, which can range in price between $45 to $300, is already an incentive to slow down, yet speeding along Atlantic and Fourth avenues has spread, turning intersections such as Dean Street and Boerum Place into danger zones, locals said.

“The people who speed don’t live here,” said Sarah Wikenczy, the civic association’s traffic czar. “It’s not their kids they will run over, so they don’t care. They are just trying to get from Point A to Point B.”

Transportation officials did not provide comment or traffic data in time for our Autobahn-quick online deadline.

The city is planning to test a 20 mph pilot program on some Bronx streets, after a city safety study found that pedestrians made up more than half of all traffic deaths from 2005 to 2009.

“Even 10 miles per hour too fast can mean the difference between life and death,” Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said in December.

For now, 20 mph zones are limited to areas near schools and hospitals.

But if the Bronx data is promising, some 75 new zones citywide could be created, officials said.

For residents, that’s promising news.

“They should change it, Angelina Olmo said as she surveyed the scene at Warren and Smith streets. “There is so much traffic here, especially on the weekends, people are all over the place.”