WOODSIDE — Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed to make the city's streets safer for pedestrians on Wednesday, when he laid out his administration's "Vision Zero," plan to reduce traffic fatalities and crack down on dangerous driving in the wake of nearly 300 traffic deaths last year.
Some measures will be immediate. The mayor announced that the city's recently installed speed cameras will start issuing tickets beginning on Thursday. He also plans to increase the number of police officers assigned to the NYPD's Highway division, which enforces serious traffic violations.
The mayor made the announcement outside of P.S. 152, in Woodside, just blocks from where a third grader, Noshat Nahian, was struck and killed by a an unlicensed truck driver while crossing Northern Boulevard on his way to school Dec. 20.
De Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton said they have an officer stationed at the corner of Northern Boulevard and 61st Street where the 8-year-old was killed, and that the busy intersection will be getting a crossing guard.
"I see this through the eyes of a parent, I see this as a father," the mayor said at the announcement, where he was joined by families holding photos of loved ones lost to traffic fatalities. "This is an area in which we simply have to do better."
Starting Thursday, six speed cameras at undisclosed locations will begin issuing $50 tickets to speeding drivers, where they had previously only issued warnings. They're part of a 5-year program approved by a State law in August that will allow for the installation of up 20 speed cameras near schools.
De Blasio has said he will push for "home rule," on traffic cameras, which would allow the city to install them at its discretion instead of being dependent on state approval.
Bratton, meanwhile, said he's increased the NYPD's Highway division personnel by 10 percent since taking office at the start of the new year, and plans to add another 60 officers to the 210 currently assigned to the division.
"This is an effort that the mayor has prioritized and rightfully so," the commissioner said. "A life lost is a life lost, whether by murder or traffic accident."
There were 286 traffic fatalities in the city last year, the mayor said, and the level of deaths has sparked outrage among activists and calls for change. There have been 11 traffic deaths so far in 2014, seven of them pedestrians.
De Blasio also said he's launched a new multi-agency "working group," which will help him implement his "Vision Zero" plan, with the ultimate goal of reducing traffic fatalities to zero over the next decade.
The NYPD, Dept. of Transportation, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and Taxi & Limousine Commission are set to deliver a report to the mayor by Feb. 15, in which they'll outline concrete plans on traffic safety issues like how to to deter dangerous driving, create more 20 MPH zones across the city and improve dangerous corridors and intersections.
"It will be a measure that will keep us accountable and it will be a road map for our efforts ahead," de Blasio said.