Maria del Carmen Porras-Hernandez was our neighbor, an immigrant from Mexico, and a single-mom with a 13-year-old daughter. On Monday, she was walking in the crosswalk at Coney Island Avenue and Church Avenue, when she was struck and killed by a car making a right-turn.
More than 100 people have been killed by traffic violence on the streets of our city so far this year, including 15 cyclists, more than were killed all of last year. There is an epidemic of traffic violence happening on our streets.
Last night, I joined over 1000 people gathered in Washington Square Park for a vigil organized by Transportation Alternatives (and, as always, with searing remarks from Families for Safe Streets) to mourn for those lost — and to build the solidarity needed for change.
Because traffic deaths are preventable, if we have the political will to take bolder action. In an epidemic, we all have to step up and do more.
So I wanted to let you know what I’m doing, both citywide and in our community, and to give you an update on the Reckless Driver Accountability Act.
Redesigning streets and intersections constructed with only cars in mind is critical to making our city safer for everyone. We are making some progress, but for those who have lost loved ones to traffic violence, for those who commute daily by bicycle on dangerous streets, it is not coming fast enough. That’s why I support Speaker Corey Johnson’s bill for dramatic increases in protected bike and bus lanes, thousands of safer intersections, and a comprehensive plan to transform our streets.
In our ongoing efforts to make the streets of our district safer, we rely on your help to identify problem areas. My office keeps an interactive map to track traffic safety requests. You can visit the map, submit your own suggestions for traffic safety improvements, and let our office know so that we can continue to follow up here. Together, we’ve seen real progress throughout our district, including the new bike lanes on 9th Street, and now the first stretches on 4th Avenue.
In Kensington, on the blocks near where Maria was killed just outside our district, we’ve narrowed driving lanes, added lights and speed bumps along Caton Avenue and Albemarle Road, and made improvements around PS 130 and PS 230. Following from a town hall we organized last year with Assembly Member Bobby Carroll, the Department of Transportation is wrapping up construction of significant physical and signal changes to improve the notoriously dangerous Church and Ocean Parkway intersection where several people have been killed. (You can see the new design here). But it’s nowhere near enough, and we welcome your suggestions for where to focus next — including bringing a protected bike lane to Fort Hamilton Parkway — and your advocacy for faster action.
But street redesign alone is not enough. We don’t yet have all the facts about the crash that killed Maria, but we know that the police charged the driver for failure to yield to a pedestrian and failure to exercise due care — like the driver who killed Naiem Uddin a few blocks away in 2014. And the driver who killed two young children at 5th Avenue and 9th Street a year ago.
We must also turn our attention to reckless driving. That’s why I introduced the Reckless Driver Accountability Act — to focus on the most dangerous 1% drivers, who operate their cars like weapons aimed at their neighbors. You know, because you see them out there driving recklessly, and the data makes clear that a very small percentage of drivers do disproportionate harm. To insist that they change their driving before they kill someone, or to get them off the streets if they won’t.
Many of you have been asking, with the urgency of this epidemic, about progress on the bill. Over the past three months (since Albany acted to restore and expand the speed camera, which is a critical part of the program), we’ve been meeting regularly with City Hall, the DOT, the NYC Sheriff, the Law Department, and the Speaker’s Office to work out the details of a groundbreaking new program that is appropriately severe for the worst offenders, grounded in restorative justice, and possible to implement with existing data and city resources.
So today, we are providing a detailed update on where things stand with the Reckless Driver Accountability Act here. I am optimistic that we are near consensus with the de Blasio Administration on how to move forward. We will have a new draft of the bill in the coming weeks, and I believe we will be able to move forward to pass it this fall.
That does not mean advocates should relent in their pressure. I wanted to give you a detailed and transparent update on where we are — but real change only happens through both hard work inside and strong pressure outside. So, keep tweeting at/calling me, my colleagues, and the mayor until we get it done.
Redesigning streets and cracking down on reckless driving will not bring back Maria, or Devra, or Ngobi, or Naiem, or Sammy. This is a time to mourn together, to support their families, and to take urgent action together to meet this epidemic head on. We can do this. And we must.