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CB 7 Chair Says Its Street Safety Task Force Isn’t About Street Safety

At the beginning of 2014, drivers killed three people -- Cooper Stock, Alexander Shear, and Samantha Lee -- on the Upper West Side in a matter of days. Neighbors turned out by the hundreds at vigils for the victims, and came out again to pack meetings demanding action. In response, Community Board 7 formed a street safety task force. More than a year later, there's little to show for it, and now CB 7 chair Elizabeth Caputo says the task force wasn't created to tackle street safety issues in the first place.

"." Photo: LinkedIn
"The intent was never to be a street safety task force," says CB 7 chair Elizabeth Caputo. Photo: LinkedIn
"." Photo: LinkedIn

The task force was created a month after Mayor de Blasio unveiled his Vision Zero agenda at an Upper West Side school near where Stock, Shear, and Lee were killed. Led by board member and city planner Ethel Sheffer, it was formed to address "street safety, design, and livability," according to minutes from March 2014 [PDF]. Sheffer said the group would meet monthly or bi-monthly, reported DNAinfo.

"We want to make it clear that we are working hard on this," Caputo said at the time.

More than a year later, the task force has stalled, and Caputo says it was never meant to be a street safety task force.

"It was never designed to meet more than a couple times a year,” she told Streetsblog on Tuesday. “It was not, and it was never intended to be, a way to remove safety issues out of [the transportation] committee and onto another committee.”

Longtime transportation committee co-chairs Andrew Albert and Dan Zweig have stood in the way of street safety improvements in the neighborhood since the 1990s.

"The intent was never to be a street safety task force," Caputo continued. "CB 7 is committed to safety on every committee, and in particular on this one, on transportation." Next month's transportation committee meeting, she said, will be devoted to a broad range of bicycle safety and education issues.

One task force member had a very different take on the current situation. "It just sort of disappeared," he said. “I understood that the goal was supposed to be traffic safety and then I was told it wasn’t traffic safety, but that it was some sort of amorphous design of the community. I don’t know what that means.”

So, what has the not-a-street-safety-task-force been up to? Caputo said it will publish the results of a survey about West End Avenue -- which has already been redesigned -- sometime in the next month. After that, it's an open question. "They may change their focus, and they may change their priorities," Caputo said. "The goal now is to try and really move things forward with that team of people, and involve the community, and figure out where we go from there.”

Sound vague? It's been that way since the initial hype, said the task force member. "It wasn’t even clear to me what the point was," he said. "There’s never an opportunity to discuss safety. Safety is something we can’t discuss, and I’m really tired of it."

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