Victims’ Families Optimistic About Change After Meeting Albany Lawmakers


During yesterday’s trip to Albany, members of Families for Safe Streets not only won over a key new backer of legislation to set the city’s default speed limit at 20 mph, they met with more than 30 legislators to ask for lower speed limits and more automated enforcement.

“It was absolutely exhausting, emotionally and physically,” said Mary Beth Kelly, whose husband was killed by a tow truck driver in 2006 while the couple was riding their bikes on the Hudson River Greenway. “It’s very hard for us to keep telling our stories over and over again.” But Kelly said that more than ever, she thinks now is a time when victims’ families will make a difference. “I’ve been doing this seven-and-a-half years,” she said, “and the sense of hopefulness that I have right now is probably greater than it’s ever been.”

In their meetings with lawmakers — including Speaker Sheldon Silver and the staff of Assembly Transportation Committee Chair David Gantt — Families for Safe Streets focused mostly on lowering the city’s default speed limit to 20 mph, but also talked about the importance of expanding automated enforcement.

“The speed camera program is only operational during school hours,” said Transportation Alternatives general counsel Juan Martinez on the bus ride to Albany. “That’s a big problem, because 77 percent of people who are killed in speeding crashes are killed after school hours — in the evening and on weekends.”

The State Senate’s budget proposal includes a nine-fold expansion of the existing school-zone speed camera program, but Assembly Member Joe Lentol said it was unlikely to survive to the final budget. “It was a tremendous lift to get just 20 speed cameras last year,” he said.

Despite the challenge of making progress in Albany, the families remain undeterred.

“Since I’ve become a member of this group, I’ve spoken to a few family members on my side,” said Marian Geocos, whose daughter Amelia was killed by a van driver on First Avenue in 2008. Geocos’s brother-in-law is a retired police officer with young children who lives on Staten Island. “I was surprised by his response. He said, ‘I am terrified of driving on Staten Island,'” Geocos said. “It’s very different when you become a parent.”

Yesterday, Geocos met with legislators, including Assembly Member Matthew Titone of Staten Island. “It left an impression on them,” she said. “They seemed to really listen to us.”

“We’re not only legislators, we’re parents,” said State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky of Queens. “This could happen to anybody. Driving is a very dangerous situation where people have to be careful, and you see the consequences when people don’t think.”

Dan O’Donnell is the lead Assembly sponsor of a bill to lower the city’s default speed limit to 20 mph. “As a person who does have to drive in New York City, I now drive 20 miles per hour,” he said. “And you know what I’ve learned? You can get where you need to go by going 20 miles per hour.”

Families for Safe Streets will be back in Albany later this session. “It is emotionally exhausting, that’s for sure, but I would definitely do it again,” Geocos said. “If it does make a difference, I would do it again.”

  • jooltman

    These people, who have lost so much, care deeply about the rest of us. My faith in humanity is restored.

  • Eric McClure

    Amen.

  • Thank you for everything you’re doing. This takes real courage, and true compassion for others.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

De Blasio Signs 25 MPH Legislation, Promises More NYPD Bike Enforcement

|
It’s official. This morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio, surrounded by administration appointees, elected officials from the City Council and state legislature, and families of traffic violence victims, signed legislation that lowers New York City’s default speed limit to 25 mph. The law takes effect November 7. Before the bill signing, de Blasio crossed Delancey Street near where […]

Traffic Violence Victims’ Families Tell Their Stories at City Hall

|
Before the big City Council hearing on street safety legislation this afternoon, elected officials joined families of traffic violence victims outside City Hall to push for speed camera and speed limit bills in Albany, along with more traffic enforcement and better street designs from the de Blasio administration. Three weeks ago, 22-year-old Kelly Gordon was struck and killed […]

Families of Traffic Violence Victims: Implement Vision Zero Now

|
Nearly 100 people gathered yesterday afternoon on the steps of City Hall to launch Families for Safe Streets, a group of New Yorkers who have lost loved ones to traffic violence. Families for Safe Streets are demanding an accelerated timetable for the Vision Zero plan to eliminate traffic fatalities within a decade. Speakers yesterday included […]