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Council Member Crystal Hudson Demands More Street Safety Projects, Including Ashland Pl.

The Brooklyn lawmaker issued a strong call for safety after the killing of a young boy by a tow-truck driver.

Photos: (Main) David Meyer/(Hudson) Gersh Kuntzman|

Fort Greene Council Member Crystal Hudson is calling for more street safety improvements in her district after the death of Kamari Hughes (inset).

Safety first, political foes second.

Days after a young boy was run down and killed on an unsafe street, Brooklyn Council Member Crystal Hudson issued a strong call for safety in the face of two opposing factions in her diverse Fort Greene district: a small-but-vocal anti-Vision Zero who object to Hudson's stated support for the street safety initiative and street safety advocates who felt Hudson wasn't vociferous about that support, including remaining silent when the Adams administration abandoned a crucial bike project at the behest of a wealthy real estate developer.

In a lengthy email to her constituents sent on Saturday morning — two days after the death of Kamari Hughes, 7, Hudson said the death "underscores the dire need to continue our fight for safer streets in District 35 and across the city."

She called safe streets a "moral obligation" that will require "tireless advocacy from you all, support across all levels of government, and significant funding. But that doesn’t mean we can’t fight."

Specifically, Hudson called for the city to:

  • Finish the Ashland Place bike lane, about which she had previously expressed "some concerns." Now, however, Hudson wants it finished. Currently, the southernmost block of the project has not been completed, raising serious safety concerns because the portion with the protected bike lane ends by dumping cyclists into oncoming traffic, as this video shows.
  • Reauthorize and fully fund the Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program, a program that allowed the city to impound cars of repeat recidivist drivers who failed to take a city-run safety course, or reoffended after taking the course. The Council let the law expire, but the Adams administration has done nothing to reauthorize it, calling it a failure (though critics say the DOT failed to properly implement it). Hudson will seek funding to recreate it, this time with "robust implementation."
  • Add more crossing guards. As Streetsblog reported, the Adams administration is cutting crossing guard positions, even though the dangerous job protects children. "I will work with Speaker Adrienne Adams to secure additional funding for crossing guards in the upcoming budget negotiations and to move oversight of them away from the NYPD over to the Department of Transportation.
  • Install more bulb-outs, no-parking (or daylighting) zones, and shortened crosswalks at as many intersections as possible within a half-mile radius of any school.
  • Speed up slowing down cars: DOT is very slow to approve requests for speed humps, a constant complaint of council members, including Bob Holden in Queens. Hudson wants the DOT to reduce its review time by at least 50 percent.
  • Identify five corridors in her district for protected bike lanes (her district is 31st out of 51 Council districts for protected bike lanes with just 1.3 percent of street mileage protected, according to data crunched by MIT and Transportation Alternatives). "Our district remains woefully behind when it comes to the installation of new protected bike lanes," Hudson said.

Hudson confirmed that she will still be the fulcrum that makes sure that the DOT hears from "all viewpoints" on street safety projects, a promise that had put Hudson in the middle of warring parties (the anti-Vision Zero contingent that includes longtime residents of the district vs. progressives that include longtime residents, too, but also younger residents). At one point last month, she admitted that she once canceled a meeting over a street safety project in her neighborhood because "the pro-bike folks" had planned to attend.

"My office will create a District 35 Street Infrastructure Advisory Board (aka the D35 Streets Squad)," she said. "It will be composed of D35 residents from all backgrounds with all viewpoints on such projects, who will meet with myself and DOT staff regarding all proposed projects in the district, and will be tasked with sharing information and soliciting feedback on these projects that our office and the board can provide directly to DOT."

This proposal follows Hudson's self-styled role as mediator ... in a district where 68 percent of the residents do not have access to a car and only 10 percent drive themselves to work, according to census stats.

"I am committed to ensuring that your voices are heard," the lawmaker said at a "Downside of Vision Zero" town hall last month. "I've been advocating for many of the things that you all want to see happen. DOT has not been a great partner — that's like the best way I can say it."

Scorn of some street safety activists didn't appreciate that comment, finding it counter to her campaign commitments to expand bike and bus infrastructure, as Streetsblog recently reported.

“She needs to stand for something at this point. What do you stand for, what is your vision for the future of your district?” Brian Blessinger, a volunteer with the Fort Greene Open Streets Coalition, said earlier this month.

The stronger letter on Saturday definitely created more goodwill for Hudson from advocates for safe streets.

"I don’t think we’ve ever doubted Council Member Hudson’s commitment to safe-streets issues. If we had a criticism, it would perhaps be that she’s a bit too considered in wanting all of her constituents, not all of whom are dealing in good faith, to feel they’re being heard," said Eric McClure, the executive director of StreetsPAC. "Unfortunately, her district has also become one of a couple ground zeroes for street-safety backpedaling by City Hall, which, rather than pushing forward on projects to calm traffic and promote alternatives to driving, has kowtowed to the grievances of powerful interests."

McClure said he was heartened that Hudson's statement "lays out quite clearly the steps that need to be taken, and her commitment to taking them."

But he reminded the freshman lawmaker of the danger of letting opponents of street safety use “process” as a barrier to action.

"Putting wheels on [open street] barricades so they’re easier for an older person to move is a constructive step," he said, but "fighting to save a parking space at a corner where a blind spot may have contributed to a child’s death is not."

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