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#StuckAtDOT: It Takes Years (and Years) to Get a Speed Hump in this City

Council Member Rita Joseph wants more speed bumps. But they take years. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

A Brooklyn City Council member has a simple question for the Department of Transportation: Why does it take years and years (and sometimes years and years and years) to put in a simple speed bump?

Council Member Rita Joseph — a former public school teacher — said she recently requested a speed hump to slow down drivers in her Flatbush-Prospect Lefferts Gardens district only to be told by a DOT official that the process first takes two years of study.

"In response to a speed hump request, my office was informed by the DOT that [regarding] speed humps, 'Studies are finalized after two years. The result of the study will be provided in two years’ time,'" Joseph said in a letter to DOT last week. "This delay is unacceptable."

Her letter outlined 12 locations within her district for which she had sought a speed hump; only one was approved, but it has not been installed yet. Eight were marked on the DOT website as "denied" and several remain under review. Meanwhile, Joseph's council district has experienced 1,173 reported crashes so far this year, or roughly four per day. Those crashes have injured 87 cyclists, 141 pedestrians and 410 motorists.

"As a former public school teacher who has lost students to traffic violence, and as a mom, making all of our streets safe is a deeply personal priority for myself and my office," Joseph said in her letter to DOT. "Crossing the street should not be a life-or-death issue."

She might not have realized it, but her letter was just the tip of the speed hump iceberg.

An exhaustive review by Streetsblog of the 204 speed humps that the DOT has installed in 2022 revealed that the humps stemmed from 121 requests by the public, elected officials or DOT staff more dating back to 2010. Of the requests (which sometimes yield multiple humps), 91 percent were made in 2019 or earlier — and more than 41 percent were requested in 2016 or earlier:"

One speed bump installed this year on Conselyea Street in Brooklyn dates back to an original request made by a resident on July 26, 2010. And to show that politicians have little sway over the project, State Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-Queens) made a request in July 2015 for a speed reducer on 231st Street in his district that also finally went in this year. (Comrie declined to comment.)

At Conselyea Street hump on Wednesday, residents were pleased that the DOT made the installation, which is on a block with two schools — but couldn't believe that one of their neighbors has been waiting 12 years for the basic safety improvement.

"Someone requested this in 2010?!" an incredulous Rachel H. (she declined to give her last name) told Streetsblog. "I knew that government moved slowly, but not this slowly. Imagine what else could have been built in 12 years."

You gotta admit, it's a gorgeous speed hump. But 12 years is a long time to wait. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
You gotta admit, it's a gorgeous speed hump. But 12 years is a long time to wait. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

To request a speed hump, residents can submit a request via the DOT website. On 311, the page for speed hump service requests points out that "DOT will respond to requests within 12 weeks of receipt." Other requests to DOT come in from community boards, elected officials and sometimes even DOT staffers.

As such, DOT spokesman Tomas Garita said the agency is “reviewing the letter and look forward to continuing to work alongside Council Member Rita Joseph and local residents to improve the safety of streets and roadways.”

That's not satisfactory for activists.

"It should never take two years to implement these straight-forward safety measures," said Sara Lind, chief strategy officer at Open Plans (full disclosure — a sister organization with Streetsblog). "What’s the delay? Whatever is causing it — staffing, funding, process, political will — needs to be addressed immediately. The city must have the ability to respond swiftly to basic requests like these. We can’t ask a community, or any other, to wait while they experience another 800+ crashes."

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