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EXCLU: Council Transportation Chair’s Car Sped Through School Zones 17 Times in a Year

Transportation Committee Chair Selvena Brooks-Powers has racked up a lot of speeding tickets on her gray Nissan. [Editor’s note: We have diffused the Council member’s plate because her office said that showing the plate “puts her and her family at risk.”] Photos: Julianne Cuba (main); Gersh Kuntzman (inset)

Do as I say, not as I do.

Council Member Selvena Brooks-Powers, who chairs the Council’s Transportation Committee and represents one of the most dangerous places in the city for pedestrians and motorists, has been caught speeding in school zones a whopping 17 times in the last 11 months, including receiving seven camera-issued speeding tickets so far this year.

Her car has been nabbed for school zone speed violations 22 times overall (plus one for blowing through a red light) since May, 2020, or roughly once a month.

Brooks-Powers represents Arverne, Brookville, Edgemere, Far Rockaway, Laurelton, Rosedale, and Springfield Gardens — and as the leader of the essential committee, she works with advocates and colleagues to protect vulnerable road users, and ensure the safety, reliability, and accessibility of public transit for every New Yorker. Since 2019, nine pedestrians and 12 motorists have been killed in her Southeast Queens district, according to city statistics, and there have been 10,421 reported crashes, causing 4,076 total injuries, including to 360 pedestrians and 82 cyclists.

But Brooks-Powers seemingly needs a lesson in street safety herself. The pol has been slapped with so many camera violations that she is required under the Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program to take an in-person safety course, or risk having her car impounded by the sheriff. (Click here for the full driving record attached to Brooks-Powers's gray 2019 Nissan.)

A list of tickets associated with the car Queens Council Member Selvena Brooks-Powers drives. Source: City records via How's My Driving
A list of tickets associated with the car Queens Council Member Selvena Brooks-Powers drives. Source: City records via How's My Driving
A list of tickets associated with the car Queens Council Member Selvena Brooks-Powers drives. Source: City records via How's My Driving

When asked about the laundry list of tickets associated with the car, Brooks-Powers admitted that she, and not her husband with whom she shares the car, had racked up “most of” the tickets for reckless driving in school zones. She also expressed remorse, promised to slow down, and thanked Streetsblog.

“Understanding the emphasis on traffic safety I absolutely pledge to do better as public safety is very important to me,” said Brooks-Powers. “Thank you for keeping me honest.”

Brooks-Powers's tickets have been paid, according to a Department of Finance database, so her car has never been at risk of being towed away or booted — a possibility for any driver with more than $350 in adjudicated overdue tickets.

And since camera-issued tickets do not show up on a driver's record, she is not at risk of getting her license suspended or revoked, despite a history of reckless driving. Cameras only issue a ticket if the driver is exceeding the posted speed limit by 11 or more miles per hour.

The Council Member's office did not respond to a request for comment about who's paid for the two dozen tickets. And neither Brooks-Powers nor DOT answered questions about whether she has in fact received the letter alerting her to the requirement that she complete the safe-driving course. (DOT has said it will not reveal whether car owners who are subject to the Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program's safety course have, indeed, taken the course. Streetsblog has consistently called on the agency to change this policy, as it makes it impossible to independently judge the success of the program, though the DOT is obligated under city law to provide a report on participation in safety classes within 13 months of the law going into effect.)

Brooks-Powers told Streetsblog just weeks into her new role as committee chair that she commutes to the People’s House by both train and car. And she said "there’s so much more to be done" on "pedestrian safety."

Since January, she has been visiting her colleagues' districts, as well as talking to transportation advocates and experts, to hear their priorities for their own communities, and the best way forward to continuing working to curb traffic violence and easing congestion.

She has been fulfilling that promise — albeit a little too quickly. Brooks-Powers has visited at least nine of her 50 colleagues’ districts across the five boroughs, and her car has been nabbed for speeding in school zones on two of those occasions:

    • On March 11, the day she headed down to Red Hook to visit Council Member Alexa Avilés’s district, where the two pols discussed issues such as “crumbling streets, increase in truck traffic,” Brooks-Powers got a camera-issued speeding ticket at Cross Bay Boulevard and 159th Avenue.
    • And on March 25, the day she visited Council Member Linda Lee’s district just north of her own in Eastern Queens to discuss the “accessibility of our buses,” Brooks-Powers got another ticket at the same Cross Bay Boulevard location.

As part of his push to invest $904 million in making streets safer, Mayor Adams on Saturday said he wants to "proactively" get reckless drivers off the road. But it's unclear how the mayor would rein in speedsters like Brooks-Powers; if she pays her tickets or attends the safe driving class, she can't be towed or booted. And because camera-issued tickets don't count on a driver's license, state and local authorities won't act — unless she hits something or someone, but even that's dubious.

And something else that may need to be on the mayor's agenda: A Streetsblog analysis of the city's vast camera system revealed that many tickets are issued in neighborhoods where major thoroughfares like Conduit Boulevard, Atlantic Avenue and Brooks-Powers's nemesis, Cross Bay Boulevard, are located. Such roadways have not been redesigned for safety as many roads have in communities with greater White populations. The result is not only many speeding tickets written in communities of color, but also that residents of those neighborhoods are disproportionately the victims of road violence.

With her driving record exposed, Brooks-Powers now joins the ranks of several of her current and former colleagues, who have also proven themselves to be speed demons, including Council Member Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island), Council Member Francisco Moya (D-Corona), and Council Member Justin Brannan (D-Bay Ridge); former Council Member Paul Vallone (D-Queens); and two former Brooklyn Council Members, now Comptroller Brad Lander, and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.

But the current chair of the council transportation committee has managed to outpace them all, getting nearly as many tickets as Williams did in half as much time, according to the 2018 Daily News story at the time.

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