MOUNT EDEN — A group of civic-minded Bronx youngsters worried about the cars that zoom dangerously past their Mount Eden after-school center successfully campaigned to get the city to lower the speed limit in the neighborhood, the group learned this week.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced Tuesday that Mount Eden is one of 13 neighborhoods citywide included in an expansion of the DOT’s Slow Zone program, which looks to make streets safer for pedestrians by lowering speed limits in residential areas and adding other traffic calming measures.
A group of local middle school students submitted an application to the Slow Zone program in February, asking that the area around their afterschool program, at East 172nd Street and Townsend Avenue, be considered for a future Slow Zone site. The kids, most of them sixth, seventh, and eighth graders, are members of the Bronx Helpers, a youth group run by the nonprofit New Settlement Apartments.
“We’re really thrilled,” said Daniel Asselin, a youth facilitator for New Settlement. “We really didn’t know if this was going to happen or not.”
Members of the Bronx Helpers' Pedestrian Safety First committee worked hard to ready their Slow Zone application, counting and photographing traffic signs in the neighborhood, researching the number of schools and hospitals, and collecting letters of support from local leaders and elected officials.
Their efforts appear to have done the trick: Mount Eden was chosen for the Slow Zone program in part due to “strong community support,” according to the DOT.
The Slow Zone will be implemented in a .08 square-mile area between East 170th Street and East 174th Street, bordered by the Grand Concourse to the east and Jerome Avenue to the west. An average of 12 traffic-related injuries occur in the neighborhood each year, according to the DOT.
The streets within the Slow Zone will have their speed limit lowered from 30 miles per hour to 20 miles per hour, with the areas marked by a blue gate and the new speed limit stenciled in large letters on the street. Other tactics, like traffics signs and speed bumps, will be added to slow hasty drivers, according to the DOT.
"It just becomes a more pedestrian-friendly and neighborhood-friendly street," Asselin said.
Three other Bronx locations — in Riverdale, Baychester and Eastchester — will also get Slow Zones, as will nine areas in the remaining boroughs.
The Slow Zone program was introduced in 2010, and neighborhoods are selected based on applications submitted by the community. The first was implemented in the Claremont section of the Bronx last year.
"We are continuing our assault on the number one traffic killer: speeding," Mayor Bloomberg said Tuesday. "We've seen success already where we have installed Slow Zones and we expect safety will improve as speeding is reduced in these communities."
According to city data, traffic fatalities were at an all-time low last year, with 243 deaths.
The Slow Zone isn’t the first traffic success for the Bronx Helpers. The group has been working to reduce speeding on their block for the last three years, and in May, the DOT agreed to“daylight” the intersection at East 172nd Street and Townsend Avenue, which means that No Standing signs were added to one corner to keep cars from parking there and increase visibility for both cars and pedestrians.
The Bronx Helpers’ Pedestrian Safety First team breaks for the summer, but Asselin said he thinks the students will be reinvigorated when they start back up in the fall, thanks to their Slow Zone victory.
"They've been really excited this is kind of just the icing on the cake," he said. "I don't think it's really hit them yet, what they've done, the huge impact they've had on this neighborhood…if it wasn't for all the hard work they’d done, this just wouldn’t have happened."