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
Why won't Gov. Hochul sign the complete streets bill? Rendering: Massengale & Co LLC, Gabriele Stroik Johnson
It's our December donation drive. Click  this link to donate.
It’s our December donation drive. Click this link to donate.

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

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.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Caption Contest: Time to Expand Car-Free Broadway [Updated]

|
Just another day at 53rd and Seventh. Photo: Gawker. Hey, here’s some of that pulse-pounding New York City energy that a few people wish we still had in the middle of Times Square. Instead of propelling a vehicle through midtown streets, the energy embedded in this taxi’s tankful of gasoline has been converted into giant […]

Wanted: Your Eyes on Your Streets

|
Bikes on the Governors Island Ferry in New York City. Photo by Benjamin Running. We need your help. We want to see what you’re seeing when you’re out there on the streets of America, and we’re going to be asking you to send us your pictures on specific themes in the weeks to come. This […]

Complete Streets Passes Legislature Unanimously, Cuomo Expected To Sign

|
Complete streets legislation passed both houses of the state legislature unanimously yesterday. With Governor Andrew Cuomo expected to sign the legislation, safer and more inclusive road design should be coming soon to streets across the state. “Everyone knew that something had to be done,” said AARP New York legislative director Bill Ferris, “so the political […]

TSTC to Cuomo: Complete Streets Save Lives

|
Despite streets that remain far too dangerous for walking — 3,485 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes during the past decade in the New York metro area alone — efforts to pass a complete streets bill are still stalled in the state legislature. The legislation, which would require all street projects that receive state and […]

Cuomo Will Sign Complete Streets Bill Into Law

|
Governor Andrew Cuomo will sign complete streets legislation into law, his office announced in a press release today. Once signed, the law will require all major transportation projects in the state to consider all users, including pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. “New York’s roadways should safely accommodate all pedestrians, motorists and cyclists, and this legislation will […]

NY Counties Oppose Complete Streets Bill Without Understanding It

|
Last year’s legislative session in Albany included a number of victories for supporters of smart growth and safer streets, including the passage of the Smart Growth Public Infrastructure Policy Act, Hayley and Diego’s Law, and bus lane camera enforcement for New York City. But the complete streets bill, which was passed by the State Senate […]