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Stringer, Squadron, and Silver Call for Safer Chinatown Streets

3:50 PM EST on January 23, 2009

064.jpgWill Silver follow through in Albany to make streets safer for his Chinatown constituents?

In response to the crash that killed two young children on a Chinatown sidewalk yesterday, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and State Senator Daniel Squadron have released a nine-point plan to improve safety on the neighborhood's streets. From Stringer's press release:

The plan calls for "zero tolerance" traffic
enforcement; the banning of trucks and buses from traversing local
streets; more pedestrians safety measures such as bollards and speed
bumps; and a comprehensive traffic management plan to serve residents,
businesses and vehicles passing through the neighborhood.

This is a thorough plan that includes several politically daring ideas. It would alleviate the scourge of double-parking by properly pricing on-street spaces. It would expand sidewalks and accelerate the implementation of traffic-calming measures. It even calls for congestion pricing, among other traffic management techniques.

There's always the temptation to be cynical -- and some of the recommendations for community board input are tough to swallow in light of recent events -- but this is a moment that should not go to waste. While it's terrible that two children had to die to garner such attention, this horror story has nakedly exposed the systemic failures inherent in the way our streets are designed, managed, and policed. A galvanized Chinatown community backed by a handful of elected
officials is a start. More New Yorkers and advocates for safer streets
will have to keep up the pressure.

The first person to whom appeals should be directed has got to be
Shelly Silver. The Assembly Speaker who allowed congestion pricing to
die on his watch
now calls for that same policy to be adopted. He's got
his name in Stringer's press release and a nice direct quote
calling for "the city" to implement the whole nine-point plan.

There's no doubt that the City Council, Mayor Bloomberg, and his deputies at NYPD and DOT need to follow through on this plan, and the fact that City Hall has not publicly responded to the tragedy is shameful. And don't forget the Manhattan District Attorney's office, led by 89-year-old Robert Morgenthau, which is sticking to its policy of granting negligent drivers carte blanche to kill and maim without consequence. But if the
Speaker is really committed to the safety and well-being of his
Chinatown constituents, much of the responsibility lies with him and
his caucus. There is a clear legislative agenda to be pursued: tougher state traffic laws, to start with. We'll see if Shelly cares enough to carry the fight out of his PR office and into the statehouse.

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