New York Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed Wednesday to stem the rising tide of pedestrian fatalities in the city, outlining several new safety measures including installing new safety cameras and issuing more speeding tickets.
Eleven New Yorkers have been killed in traffic accidents in the first two weeks of the year, including seven pedestrians. Last week, a 9-year-old boy was struck and killed by a cab while crossing the street with his father on the Upper West Side.
"We think there is an epidemic here, and it can't go on," de Blasio said at a press conference held just a block from where 8-year-old Noshat Nahian was struck and killed while walking to his Queens school in December.
The mayor, whose plan to eradicate traffic fatalities by 2024 is called "Vision Zero," said he was commissioning a task force comprised of leaders from the New York Police Department, Department of Transportation, Department of Health and the Taxi and Limousine Commission charged with coming up with plans to make the city's streets safer.
But certain steps will be taken immediately, de Blasio said.
Starting Thursday, the city will use traffic cameras to issue more tickets — not just warnings — to enforce the speed limits on certain streets. Additionally, the NYPD will deploy more officers to enforce against serious traffic violations.
De Blasio said he planned to dramatically expand the number of streets that carry a reduced, 20 mph speed limit and petition the state Legislature to give the city more authority to install traffic cameras throughout the five boroughs.
De Blasio met with several families who lost children in crashes and was clearly moved by their plight. He spoke haltingly, frequently sighing to compose himself, and repeatedly invoked his own children when discussing protecting the city's youth.
"This is the core of our lives," he said.
At a vigil Wednesday for the boy killed last week, family members said traffic safety changes were long overdue.
“The fact that people can drive into them and kill them and get away with a traffic violation is utterly appalling,” said Barron Lerner, the uncle of Cooper Stock.
Stock was struck at West 97th Street and West End Avenue, which neighbors say has always been dangerous.
As the mayor spoke in Queens earlier, several victims' relatives wiped their eyes during his remarks. Many vowed to go with him to Albany to petition the Legislature if needed.
"We simply have to do something," said a tearful Amy Cohen, whose 8-year-old son, Sammy Cohen Eckstein, was struck and killed by a van in October in Brooklyn. "For him. For any child."