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NYPD Hands Out ‘Vision Zero’ Awards After 257 People Were Killed and 40,000 Injured Last Year

Police brass on Friday said that 70 of its 77 precincts — or 91 percent — failed to achieve Vision Zero in 2023, yet the agency handed out awards anyway.

11:40 PM EST on January 26, 2024

Photo: Julianne Cuba|

NYPD brass and Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi handing out awards to officers for achieving Vision Zero, though 91 percent of precincts did not.

Police brass on Friday announced that 70 of its 77 precincts — or 91 percent — failed to achieve Vision Zero in 2023, capping a year in which more than 39,000 were injured and 257 people were killed on city streets.

Of course, that wasn't the NYPD's spin. Rather, top brass announced the first-ever Vision Zero Awards at an inaugural ceremony at 1 Police Plaza where NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban and Chief of Transportation Philip Rivera set aside last year's grim statistics to honor the seven precincts where, they claimed, road fatalities fell to zero.

Those seven precincts were the First, Seventh, and Central Park Precincts in Manhattan, and the 67th, 76th, 81st, and 83rd Precincts in Brooklyn. Rivera also recognized the 77th Precinct in Brooklyn for achieving the largest drop in the number of fatalities (1 vs. 9) between 2023 and 2022.

Fatalities are not the truest statistic for judging road safety because in a city of nine million people, spread across some areas with lots of pedestrians and others where there is lots of driving, they're not statistically significant. A better measure — one used by the Department of Transportation — is injuries.

By that measure, there was nothing to celebrate on Friday:

Indeed, statistically speaking, there was little to celebrate about 2023 from a safety perspective citywide. In 2023, there were 96,086 reported crashes, or roughly 262 per day. And 51,630 people were injured in crashes last year, up 4.4 percent from the previous year's 49,451.

And 29 cyclists were killed in 2023, the highest of the Vision Zero era.

Plus, it’s not even clear if the NYPD’s statistics are accurate. On the NYPD's own website, fatality stats are linked to the city’s Vision Zero View website. But Vision Zero View reports, for example, that:

  • the 77th Precinct logged two fatalities in 2023, not one (and had five, not nine, in 2022).
  • the 67th had two in 2023, not zero.
  • Central Park logged one in 2023, not zero.
  • the 76th logged two in 2023, not zero.

A spokesperson for the NYPD couldn’t explain the discrepancies but said it may have something to do fatal crashes occurring at the borders of each precinct.

“I’d just refer you to what our official data was,” said Lt. Jessica McRorie.

Advocates for street safety were appalled at the hastily arranged celebration at 1 Police Plaza, and Rivera's suggestion that his agency was "achieving zero fatalities ... through vigorous enforcement and education.”

“Evoking Vision Zero in any celebration feels tone deaf and totally missing the point. Our streets are getting more dangerous, even if a handful of precincts are not,” said Sara Lind, co-executive director of Open Plans, Streetsblog's sister organization.

Lind added that it’s especially insulting to commend members of New York’s Finest when they are among the biggest perpetrators of violating traffic laws, whether by illegal parking, speeding, or going through red lights.

“We should not be giving out any Vision Zero awards until our city leadership commits to pulling out all the stops to reverse the way our streets put lives in danger every day,” she said.

Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez did not attend the ceremony, and his agency declined to provide the number of people who were either killed or severely injured in 2022 and 2023 — a crucial metric that advocates say is largely overlooked when it comes to creating policy changes, but is life-altering for victims.

Elizabeth Adams, the deputy executive director for public affairs at Transportation Alternatives, suggested that the NYPD event itself was a sham.

“Police enforcement won't get us to Vision Zero. Redesigning streets to slow down drivers, while physically protecting pedestrians and bike riders, will,” Adams said. "We need self-enforcing streets and automated enforcement, which work 24/7/365, without bias and with proven citywide results."

Streetsblog asked Rivera why he chose to have a public ceremony for a handful of commands after a year with so little good news.

He said that the city has previously privately recognized precinct commanders and officers whose precincts achieve significant drops in road violence, and that he felt it should be done in public — a change that comes as both the mayor, the NYPD, and the DOT have come under fire in recent months for shirking responsibility of maintaining safe streets, and repeatedly capitulating to the needs of car owners and other powerful private interest groups at the expense of more vulnerable road users, like pedestrians and cyclists.

“We wanted to do something that was very public to make sure that everyone knows how important the goal of obtaining zero is in New York City,” he said.

One in 10 serious bicyclist injuries citywide took place in the seven precincts being honored, according to Transportation Alternatives.

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