Cuomo signs bill allowing city to lower speed limit to 25 mph

By Bill Parry

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill Saturday that gives New York City the power to lower its speed limit from 30 to 25 mph. The legislation seeks to lower the number of vehicle and pedestrian collisions, news that comes as a relief in western Queens — especially in neighborhoods that have Northern and Queens boulevards to worry about.

State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) voted in favor of the bill, calling his district “home to some of the most heavily transited and accident-prone streets in the city.”

The danger posed by speeding motorists caused him to fight for 20 months to secure a school crossing guard for PS 206 near Lefrak City. Peralta is now seeking crossing guards at more than a dozen other locations in three area police precincts.

Deputy Inspector Michael A. Cody, commander of the 115th Precinct in Jackson Heights, said, “The 25 mph limit helps with safety, especially in school zones and districts where senior citizens walk. We will use this new tool to help lower pedestrian injuries and help our overall Traffic Management Plan.”

When Cuomo signed the bill, he said, “We have seen too many injuries and deaths as a result of traffic accidents, and this legislation will be yet another step in our efforts to make New York’s streets safer for all.”

It was music to the ears of Dr. Kaushal Shah at the Trauma Center of Elmhurst Hospital Center, one of the busiest in the city because of vehicle-pedestrian collisions. The problem is so endemic there that the hospital held a daylong Citywide Pedestrian Injury Summit in December.

“I applaud Gov. Cuomo for continuing to make decisions that improve the lives of New Yorkers,” Shah said. “Lowering the speed limit in the city will likely reduce the number of pedestrian injuries but will definitely reduce the severity of injuries. It could be the difference between having emergent surgery and simply going home with a splint for a broken bone.”

The lower speed limit is a key component of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan, which seeks to eliminate traffic and pedestrian fatalities in the next 10 years.

“This is another vital step toward making New York City streets safer for every family. Our Vision Zero initiative’s mission is to save lives, and that is precisely what this legislation accomplishes.”

Now Peralta wants the focus to shift back to children’s safety. In a letter he sent to Chief Thomas Chan, head of the NYPD’s Transportation Unit, Peralta points to an Arterial Slow Zone under construction on a 4.2-mile stretch of Northern Boulevard, between 40th Road and 114th Street.

“Three schools that are without crossing guards face onto that especially busy portion of Northern Boulevard,” Peralta wrote. “Arterial Slow Zone or not, whatever the rate of speed of a vehicle, a child is no match for an automobile. School crossing guards are essential to the kind of comprehensive street safety plan our children need and deserve.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.