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Opinion: Gov. Hochul’s Failure to Act on ‘Complete Streets’ Will Mean More Senseless Road Death

Why won’t Gov. Hochul sign the complete streets bill? Rendering: Massengale & Co LLC, Gabriele Stroik Johnson

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New York State passed its first — and only — Complete Streets law in 2011 after my 14-year-old daughter Brittany was hit and killed on Sunrise Highway, one of the deadliest roads on Long Island.

Brittany was a gifted child who excelled in anything she did. She played guitar and could read music since she was 9, sang, was an honor student, was very artistic, and earned her Silver Award in Girl Scouts. She was just trying to walk to our local school in Wantagh, but to get there, she had to cross six lanes of traffic. She had decided to walk instead of taking the bus because she wanted to see some of her fav orite teachers before school started.

She never made it across.

The loss shattered my life, scarred my community, and the consequences reverberate to this day.

Every single day hurts.

Sandi Vega
Sandi Vega
Sandi Vega

At the time, I found some solace — like many others in Families for Safe Streets – by turning my grief into purpose: I dedicated myself to making sure New York State was prioritizing the systematic construction of safe, complete streets infrastructure — from Buffalo to Syracuse to Ithaca and to Wantagh. Every child deserves to make get around safely. No parent, husband, wife, mother, daughter, or son should receive the news that a loved one was hit and killed going about their everyday life.

I remember feeling relieved when a bipartisan group of elected officials in Albany responded to Brittany’s senseless death by taking concrete, legislative action designed to get New York State’s Department of Transportation to do more to build safe, complete streets. That is, streets designed to slow speeding cars, give pedestrians and people riding bikes more space, and prioritize the flow and efficiency of above-ground transit. Complete streets are proven to reduce serious injuries and fatalities by around 30% on average where they are implemented.

The 2011 Complete Streets Act was a hopeful sign of progress for safe streets in New York State. Brittany’s death, I thought, was not in vain.

It’s been frustrating to see that until 2022, Albany has largely failed to develop and strengthen the 2011 law. It was never supposed to be the end-all-be-all, it was supposed to be the beginning of a more ambitious agenda to save lives. The fact that since Brittany died, more than 10,000 New Yorkers have been killed on our roads statewide, tells us all we need to know.

It’s with this background, that I find myself shocked and deeply appalled that despite both the Assembly and Senate passing the Complete Streets Funding Bill (S3897/A8936), Gov. Hochul still has not signed it into law.

This is a bill that would make it easier for municipalities across New York State to invest in complete streets projects and save lives. It is being asked for by cities, towns, and villages all over the state. And an overwhelming majority of speakers during October’s complete streets Assembly hearing in Albany spoke in favor of it. There is simply no excuse not to sign it into law.

If Gov. Hochul fails to act, she must know that she will be the singular source of further delay — and she will singularly own the grief and trauma that that delay causes. It would be an ugly stain on this governor’s record. It will also compel those of us fighting for safe streets in New York State to continue to raise our voices ever higher - knowing that we are all that’s left to speak for those who we’ve lost, and for those who we will lose yet.

Sandi Vega is a member of Families for Safe Streets. The group and other advocates will rally outside Gov. Hochul’s Midtown office at 633 Third Avenue (between 40th and 41st streets) at noon on Dec. 15 to demand action.

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