DOT Axes Midland Beach Slow Zone, and Staten Islanders Seem OK With That

20 mph speed limits won't be coming to Midland Beach, but sped humps might. Image: DOT [PDF]
20 mph speed limits won’t be coming to Midland Beach, but speed humps might. Image: DOT [PDF]
DOT has shelved a Neighborhood Slow Zone planned for Staten Island’s Midland Beach neighborhood over local opposition to a 20 mph speed limit on one of the streets within the project area. Borough President Jimmy Oddo, who supported the Slow Zone as a council member, is now applauding DOT for canceling it.

The news came in a letter from Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg to Oddo and his City Council successor and former chief of staff, Steven Matteo. While the Slow Zone is dead, DOT says it will consider speed humps on cross streets in the neighborhood.

Neighborhood Slow Zones include speed humps, 20 mph speed limits, and signage to slow drivers in residential areas. Community Education Council 31, a group of volunteers who advise the city on education policy for the neighborhood, first applied for the Midland Beach Slow Zone in 2011, said president Michael Reilly, and resubmitted its application in 2013.

DOT accepted the Midland Beach application that year and announced it would be implemented in 2016. The zone is bounded by Father Capodanno Boulevard, Hylan Boulevard, Midland Avenue, and the Miller Field recreation area [PDF].

All streets in the zone were to get a 20 mph speed limit, and speed humps were to be installed on most streets, but not Lincoln Avenue and Greeley Avenue, which cross the neighborhood between Hylan and Father Capodanno.

The Slow Zone received a letter of support from Oddo, who was soon after elected borough president in 2013. Matteo, who served as Oddo’s chief of staff since 2006, then became the local council member.

The plan was supported by the Community Board 2 transportation committee, Reilly said, but stalled at the full board over opposition to a 20 mph speed limit on Greeley Avenue, which is a shortcut for drivers avoiding parallel Midland Avenue.

That’s when Oddo and Matteo began to turn against the project.

Image: Council Member Steven Matteo/Facebook
Image: Council Member Steven Matteo/Facebook

Greeley has one lane in each direction, a striped median, and parking on both sides of the street. The speed limit was lowered to 25 mph last year as part of the citywide speed limit reduction.

“I have long fought for real solutions, but a 20 mph speed limit on Greeley Avenue is not realistic, not rational, and not a real solution to the problem,” Oddo said in a statement. “We need only to examine how ineffective the 25 mph speed limit is not only on Greeley, but in other corridors. Not only do we have cars that continue to speed, we have a whole cadre of new frustrated drivers. I think DOT made the right decision and I am hopeful that this latest study will lead to actual action to slow down traffic on Greeley.”

“I still believe that the placement of a well-placed stop sign along Greeley Ave is the answer and we will continue to advocate for that simple traffic calming measure,” Matteo said on his Facebook page.

CEC 31’s Michael Reilly isn’t heartbroken over the death of the Slow Zone. “We submitted [the zone] as a guide, because we knew that DOT would tweak any submissions. And they went forward with it as submitted,” Reilly said. “Greeley was a two-way heavily traveled street that just fell into that border.”

“We were in full support of the slow zone. Not for making Greeley a 20 mile an hour zone. That was just ridiculous,” Midland Beach Civic Association Yasmin Ammirato said in an email. She said the group’s members are looking forward to the additional speed humps on side streets.

Like Greeley Avenue, those streets will retain a 25 mph speed limit.

  • BridgeTroll

    Wait, am I reading this correctly? They wanted a “Slow Zone” because drivers were speeding but they do not want to lower the speed limit?

  • dave “paco” abraham

    Remember when Vision Zero seemed like a thing the mayor & DOT actually cared about? It was nice to dream for a while.

  • Bahij

    This project, despite being rejected by those who initially called for it, is just one more unrealized initiative in the DOT. All of these studies, planning exercises and presentations for never-to-be-implemented improvements do waste the time and effort of the DOT while they’re clearly stretched thin working throughout the city.

    Can’t say I have a solution, because the DOT can’t just focus on neighborhoods that are clamoring for safety improvements, because it would lead to others being neglected.

  • Alex 3speed

    I actually get it. They want to slow cars down but not slow down cars.

  • Many people, including the mayor, are in favor of Vision Zero until they realize what they have to do to actually achieve it.

  • Andrew

    Lots of people are all in favor of safety (or any other lofty goal) up until they’re asked to make a (real or perceived) sacrifice of their own.

  • BBnet3000

    When are neighborhood local streets (ie ones that can’t be used as a crosstown route by drivers) coming to NYC? Why do our residential neighborhoods have to put up with such high traffic volumes and the noise/danger that this brings?

  • JamesR

    I don’t think they are coming, sadly. At least not until we get a new mayor. IMO we hit Peak Livable Streets under JSK’s tenure.

  • BBnet3000

    One person’s neglected is another person’s left alone. That’s exactly what some CB’s want and I have no idea why so much time and money is wasted preparing and presenting half-assed plans to them.

  • Joe R.

    Probably more like they want other people to slow down on their block while they drive as fast as they want on other people’s blocks.

  • Joe R.

    Really the only way to achieve near zero traffic fatalities is to radically reduce traffic volumes. I’m sure by now the mayor and everyone else in positions of power realize this. That’s also why we won’t see any real progress on this front. Telling people they just can’t drive is not something anyone in a position of power has the stomach for.

    And then of course you have those who are completely clueless, like Matteo, and think stop signs (or traffic signals) are a traffic calming measure. Is it any wonder between the spineless and the clueless that all progress on reducing traffic violence has come to a grinding halt?

  • Staten Island, where I live, is a kind of Bizarro World. The above mentioned Staten Island City Councilman Steve Matteo is against $50 tickets for speeding in school zones but wants $250 tickets for littering.

    Borough President James Oddo, instead of working to get ferry riding tourists to stop and spend money on Staten Island wants to charge them and only them to ride the ferry.

    Another Staten Island City Councilman once publically encouraged drivers to park in bike lanes, and just as publically hoped the police would not ticket them.

    Staten Islanders reelected Congressman Michael Grimm after he publically threatened to throw a reporter off a balcony. I don’t think they ignored it, I think they thought it was a positive thing. They elected and reelected Guy Molinari to a variety of offices, and that idiot used to challenge people to fist fights.

    I used to imagine Mayor Bloomberg scratching his head trying to figure out Staten Island. Now I imagine Mayor de Blasio doing the same. I’m also waiting for Donald Trump to get high poll numbers on Staten Island. When President Obama was reelected people here were walking around stunned.

  • JoshNY

    To play devil’s advocate, there is a bit of logic to what they’re saying. Part of the objection seems to be based around the idea that, if nobody drives 25 when the speed limit is 25, then what difference will it make if the speed limit is 20 instead? And that’s true. Changing the speed limit alone isn’t really enough to make much difference.

    Of course, I don’t hear them calling for speed enforcement or street redesigns either

  • Boris

    I used to live in the neighborhood, and I’m a little bit familiar with the power dynamics there. What happened is, the community board never formed an opinion on this (in fact, as the article says, the transportation committee was in favor) but because Yasmin Ammirato is both on the board and the leader of the Civic, the board kowtowed to her rhetoric. I was at that CB meeting. Her main argument is that lowering the speed limit won’t do anything (e.g. the drivers will continue to speed). Which begs the question, why are you against it if nothing will change?

    The real issue, however, is something else completely – Staten Islanders and DOT are just talking past each other. The slow zone proposal was a cookie-cutter project, and both sides lack the imagination to propose something that works. It’s true, changing some signs is not going to change behavior on its own. There is a well-known menu of options for slowing cars down and improving safety, such as raised crosswalks, bulb-outs, daylighting, chicanes, etc. DOT proposed none of those solutions. There was also no attempt to get the community involved – no charette or workshop of any kind. DOT knows that it has to try harder with Staten Island than other boroughs, but instead of taking the politicians at their word and working with them, everyone just throws up their hands.

  • If there is no change, then why oppose it. If you change the limit and now drivers are speeding by 10 mph over the limit, you have a much stronger argument for additional changes.

  • Flakker

    To be fair, litterers should be summarily executed.

  • Flakker

    EXACTLY. The SI Advance bitches nonstop about de Blasio’s mostly imaginary failings then also bitched that he doesn’t visit enough (“…and the portions are so small!”). Stop trying to please everyone and start worrying about the stuff you can control, where the greatest number of people are concentrated anyway.

  • There is an issue of lack of enforcement on Staten Island, one of our precincts, the 120th, leads the entire city in a traffic ticket decline. By more than twice that if all other precincts. You have to scroll down (or why not read the whole thing?) to get to the info.

    Logically, saying as the Midland Beach and local politicians are saying, that there is no point to lowering the speed limit because it’s not enforced points to an enforcement problem, not a speed limit problem. And neither Staten Island’s drivers or politicians seem to care much to advocate better enforcement.

  • Well, looks like somebody’s got Staten Island figured out. I don’t.


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