Zero tolerance: Grieving Slope parents say they’ll hold DeBlasio to his promise to end crash deaths

Slopers: How can we be calm at a time like this?
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Street safety advocates and Park Slopers descended upon Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s Jan. 1 inauguration ceremony to remind the freshly-minted executive that he promised to bring traffic deaths in the city down to zero by 2024.

The group of about 15 activists, including the parents of 12-year-old Samuel Cohen Eckstein, who was killed by a van on Prospect Park West in October, handed out “Vision Zero” stickers outside City Hall while brandishing a giant sign congratulating the mayor. They caught the attention of the newly appointed Department of Transportation head Polly Trottenberg, who said the ambitious safety goal is first on her agenda, according to the transportation news website Streetsblog.

“It seems clear to me that the new administration will make achieving Vision Zero a real priority,” said Eric McClure, founder of the Park Slope Street Safety Partnership, adding that he expects Trottenberg and DeBlasio to begin laying out a street safety game plan within the next few months. “The rally was definitely a success.”

Slopers, including the Cohen Ecksteins, had a prominent presence in the small crowd waiting in the cold to catch the attention of inauguration ticket-holders. Amy Cohen and Gary Eckstein have been pushing for a 20-mile-per-hour speed limit on residential roads ever since their son’s death, saying that such a limit would have saved him.

In August DeBlasio promised that, if elected, he would enact more 20-mile-per-hour zones across the city, improve at least 50 dangerous corridors and intersections, and prioritize traffic enforcement. But that cannot happen without voters pushing him, the Council, and the state to enact legislation, Cohen said.

“When there is political will and pressure from voters, change happens,” Cohen said. “Our family has been devastated by [Sammy’s] death. We cry for him every day and do not want anyone else to suffer as we are suffering.”

Cohen and her husband Gary Eckstein testified before the City Council at a Oct. 31 Transportation Committee hearing to persuade Council members to pass a bill lowering speed limits, but the law has since stalled.

Activists with the group Right of Way have devised an online “Vision Zero Clock” that will count the number of traffic deaths in real time to keep the issue fresh in DeBlasio’s mind.

Transportation czar Trottenberg will come to the office from a post as third in command at Obama’s transportation department, where she headed up a grant program and pushed bike, pedestrian, and public-transit-friendly guidelines. The car critic group Transportation Alternatives praised her appointment to rule New York’s roads.

Reach reporter Megan Riesz at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her on Twitter @meganriesz.
Forward: Bill DeBlasio pledged during his fall campaign to drive down traffic deaths to zero.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham