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Safe Streets Advocates to Mayor: We’re Just Waiting For Your Signature

12:01 AM EDT on May 30, 2019

Scores of activists rallied at City Hall last month to argue that Mayor de Blasio has decelerated Vision Zero. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

Mayor de Blasio now has no choice but to sign a bill that requires the city to redesign streets for safety after a veto-proof majority of council members passed the long-stalled legislation on Wednesday.

The Council overwhelmingly passed Intro. 332, the so-called Vision Zero Design Standard, which requires the Department of Transportation to establish a checklist of safety-enhancing street design elements for each major transportation project — and declare why it did not make improvements if it chooses not to. Its passage is a direct confrontation to the de Blasio administration, which initially opposed it — but now sees the writing on the wall.

“This bill reinforces DOT’s ongoing practice: ensuring that all safety enhancements are reviewed for any project. We thank the Council for working with the Administration on this bill,” said City Hall spokesman Seth Stein.

The mayor's support is a 180-degree turn from when the Department of Transportation testified against the bill back in August. DOT Chief Operations Officer Margaret Forgione argued then that it was unnecessary because the city already considers safety in its redesigns and its reporting requirement would cost time and money — though it often declines to institute the safest designs.

Stein declined to answer further questions about what caused the administration's about-face.

But the bill remains largely unchanged from the original version that DOT opposed — it’s actually even stronger because it includes a larger scope of streets that could be subject to redesigns than before, according to Transportation Alternatives' Interim Co-Director Marco Conner.

So it likely took pressure from the 46 council member sponsors, including Speaker Corey Johnson, to get City Hall on board. 

Johnson announced earlier this month that he would finally bring the bill to the floor for a vote because so many people are dying on city streets — at least 69 people have been killed so far this year. Fatalities are up 31 percent so far this year compared to the same period last year, according to the NYPD.

In a subtle dig to the mayor — who has been campaigning around the country — Johnson said the life-saving bill sat idle for too long.

“It’s an important bill. Smart street design saves lives,” said Johnson, who is mulling a run for mayor in 2021.

The bill is a major victory for New Yorkers, said its sponsor, Manhattan Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, who chairs the transportation committee.

"The bill goes along with my goal ... to make our city one of the most walkable, pedestrian, and cyclist friendly in the nation!" Rodriguez said on Twitter.

The city now has the opportunity to finally make all streets safer without the red tape that's held it back for too long — now all the bill needs is de Blasio’s signature. He has never vetoed a bill — and should not now, advocates say.

"We urge Mayor de Blasio to consider the families of those 69 New Yorkers who have been killed in traffic this year as he weighs whether to sign this bill," said Conner. "The City Council has stated loud and clear that the era of scattershot, piecemeal implementation of Vision Zero must come to an end. By requiring a more systematic approach to preventing injury and death on our streets, the Vision Zero Street Design Standard discourages the arbitrary and politically-driven omission of life-saving interventions while giving street design experts the flexibility to implement context sensitive solutions that prioritize safety above all else."

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