Lentol Wants 20 MPH Speed Limits on Big, Dangerous Brooklyn Streets

This afternoon, Assembly Member Joseph Lentol announced that he’s sent a letter to Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg asking for 20 mph speed limits on the busiest, deadliest roads in his district.

Assembly Member Joe Lentol. Photo: Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership
Assembly Member Joe Lentol. Photo: Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership

“There are three main streets within my district that are notorious for speeders – McGuinness Boulevard, Kent Avenue, and Park Avenue,” Lentol wrote in the January 21 letter [PDF], noting that Mayor de Blasio has proposed expanding the number of 20 mph zones across the city. “I urge you to consider these three roadways when determining where to introduce these new speed zones.”

All three streets strike fear into local residents. Campaigns for traffic calming on McGuinness Boulevard and Park Avenue have led to a few changes by DOT, but advocates along those streets are calling for more significant measures. DOT, which already redesigned much of Kent Avenue to include a two-way protected bike lane, recently proposed a traffic calming plan for the avenue in South Williamsburg after a speeding driver killed a young couple and their unborn child in a hit-and-run crash. The plan has been approved by Community Board 1 and is scheduled to be installed this summer.

State law currently requires streets with speed limits below 25 mph in New York City to include some kind of additional traffic calming measure. “Street layout changes are something that the DOT’s engineers would be tasked to design,” Lentol told Streetsblog in an e-mail. “How DOT and the NYPD goes about that is up to them — of course with community input.”

If DOT agreed to Lentol’s request, it would signify an increased willingness to adjust speed limits on major streets. The city’s Slow Zone program launched with a focus on residential streets but not bigger roads, which consistently see high rates of traffic injuries and fatalities. DOT’s stance could be changing. Recently, the agency lowered the speed limit on Prospect Park West to 25 mph, independently of a Slow Zone project. Streetsblog has asked DOT if it has a response to Lentol’s letter.

Separately, Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell’s bill to lower the citywide speed limit to 20 mph, except where the city council or DOT say otherwise, has gained support from co-sponsors Walter Mosley, Rhoda Jacobs, Gabriela Rosa and Ellen Jaffee.

Lentol said he liked the legislation’s goals but would not commit to backing the bill, which would replace speed limit signs across the city. “I will have to take a more comprehensive look at this legislation to understand the variables involved,” he said, “including of course the cost with such a drastic policy change.”

  • Max Power

    Unless they redesign the streets, posting new speed limit signs will do little to reduce speeds on those roads.

  • Daniel

    On Park Avenue I’d be ecstatic to just have the existing speed limit enforced. I think the DOT could help enforce this by making the lights turn red ahead of anyone going over the speed limit. For the particularly dense, there would have to be some signage initially explaining how to avoid the red lights.

    I believe Kent Avenue is slated for a redesign, and the continiung death toll on McGuinness just screams for a full redesign including extensive traffic calming efforts.

    These three are low hanging fruit for Vision Zero, but I see the 20 mph citywide default not as a solution for steets like these. I see it more as an aid for those quiet residential streets where good drivers drive at 20 mph or less already.

  • com63

    I think you can only do timed lights on one way streets. Since park ave is two way, you can’t do it since timing the lights in one direction would make the other direction bad.

  • Daniel

    Oh, I don’t mean timed lights. I mean have a speed camera, but instead of issuing tickets turn the next couple lights ahead of the speeding car red and give the vehicles crossing Park Avenue an earlier (and longer) green. Once that cycle finishes the light returns to its regular schedule.

  • Aunt Bike

    Sounds like a great idea. I can just hear the drivers who already claim red lights make people speed (!?!) screaming about something like this.

    Know what would eliminate drivers failing to yield to pedestrians? Four way red lights at intersections to stop all vehicles to allow pedestrians to cross without dodging turning cars from two directions.

  • Joe R.

    A better approach is to have a digital sign at each intersection displaying the maximum speed you can drive at in order to avoid stopping at the next light. Maybe when drivers see that speeding only gets them to the next red light faster they’ll slow down.

  • Mark Walker

    Street design is the best tool in the toolkit. But even if enforcement is just second best, it would still provide a deterrent. Once drivers know that speeding ticket are the inevitable result of speeding, either via camera or cop, and the fines mount up, they’ll get the message. Street redesign takes time. A well-aimed sting operation can be set up overnight. On the flip side, street redesign is a permanent improvement, and the sting operation can disappear whenever the cops lose interest. Covering all bases with a combination of tactics might be the best way to go.

  • com63

    Ha! that’s a great idea. A punitive traffic light system. Go the speed limit and the lights play nice, speed and they are deliberately mean to you. That’s great!

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