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Anti-Vision Zero Town Hall Postponed After Pols Bail Following Little Boy’s Death

Opponents of Vision Zero decided against criticizing the city's signature road safety initiative on Thursday night — and all it took was the killing of a little boy.

12:03 AM EDT on October 27, 2023

Council Member Crystal Hudson, with backpack, talks to residents, cops, Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, and Deputy Mayor Phil Banks (with sunglasses) after a 7-year-old boy was killed near Fort Greene Park on Thursday morning.

Opponents of Vision Zero decided against criticizing the city's signature road safety initiative on Thursday night — and all it took was the killing of a little boy.

Hours after 7-year-old Kamei Hughes was killed by a tow truck driver near Fort Greene Park and two pols who had promised to address local concerns bowed out, the town hall meeting promoted by foes of Vision Zero was abruptly canceled. The local officials Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso and Fort Greene Council Member Crystal Hudson had told the opponents they could not “in good conscience” show up to the meeting where the city's efforts to reduce road violence were on the agenda for attack. 

“In light of yet another innocent life taken way too soon to senseless traffic violence on our streets, we cannot attend tonight’s meeting. Holding a forum where Vision Zero will be criticized in the neighborhood next to where a young boy’s life was lost to traffic violence sends the wrong message to the community and to our borough,” the two officials wrote in an open letter to the church pastors hosting the conversation.

Brown Memorial Baptist, where Rev. Anthony Trufant has led efforts to block street safety projects for years, is roughly one mile from where Kamei died. 

Trufant said the cancelation was due "to the heartbreaking loss" and the fact that the two pols "won’t attend,” he wrote in a note on the church door.

Kamei had been riding a green kick scooter on Myrtle Avenue when he was struck by the unidentified tow truck driver, a 54-year-old traffic enforcement agent, as she made a right onto N. Portland Avenue. 

Several witnesses also said that the driver had been on the phone and speeding when she plowed into the boy, who had been riding alongside his mother in the 7:30 a.m. crash. The driver dragged the child far down the block.

"I heard a [smack], then I heard the mother scream, 'They killed my baby,'" said Antwoan Hayes, a witness. "She tried to keep going. She ate that light and she was speeding. ... The mother was screaming, 'They killed my baby!'"

Hudson arrived on the scene later that morning, along with Reynoso, and Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Phil Banks, originally telling Streetsblog that she had planned to appear at the meeting in just several hours. 

But she and Reynoso soon after changed their minds, writing in their open letter that that evening was “not the time to rethink a street safety program,” though they added that they still “welcome a specific list of concerns.”

One neighbor who showed up on Thursday evening in anticipation of the meeting said he’s concerned more with reckless drivers than with open streets. 

“There’s car crashes here all the time. I'd like to see some sort of enforcement for running red lights, some sort of speed enforcement, really simple things,” said Ben, who lives right next to the church and asked that only his first name be used because of how contentious the issue is. “Does anyone give a shit about people driving like crazy?”

Pedestrian deaths are down this year, but overall deaths are similar to those of previous years in the Vision Zero era:

Chart: DOT

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story reported the wrong name for the victim based on incorrect information provided by the NYPD.

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