Parents of Samuel Cohen-Eckstein testify to City Council in favor of Safe Streets Act to lower spped limits to 20 mph on residential streets under 60-feet wide

Grieving Parents to city council: Lower speed limits!

Never Again: Amy Cohen and Gary Eckstein, seen here on the right descending the steps after their son Samuel's funeral, testified before the City Council in favor of the Safe Streets Act on Oct. 31.
The Brooklyn Paper
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The grieving parents of a 12-year-old boy struck and killed by a car in Park Slope last month spoke tearfully before the City Council last Thursday morning, in the hope that their testimony might prevent their tragedy from befalling others.

The family of Samuel Cohen-Eckstein testified Oct. 31 at a Transportation Committee hearing to persuade the legislators to pass a bill mandating a 20-mph speed limit on most residential streets throughout the city.

“The proposed legislation before this committee, to impose a 20-mile-per-hour speed limit in all residential neighborhoods in the city, cannot bring our beloved Sammy back,” said Amy Cohen, who’s son was killed by a van on Prospect Park West on Oct. 9. “But it would surely ensure that other families do not suffer as we have, and that more lives are not needlessly cut short.”

The Safe Streets Act, which David Greenfield submitted to the Council in 2011, would establish 20-mph speed limits on all residential streets less than 60-feet wide.

If enacted, New York City would join other major international in setting a lower speed limit for motorists — including Paris, Tokyo, and London, which passed a similar measure in September, according to Transportation Alternatives, which claims that a lower speed limit would help make New Yorkers safer on their neighborhood streets.

“Around the world, it’s been proven that lower speed limits save lives,” testified Paul White, executive director of the organization, who joined Cohen, her husband Gary Eckstein, and their daughter Tamar to speak in support of the legislation.

“Studies show that a one-mile-per-hour reduction in average speed on pedestrian-dense urban streets with low average speeds will lead to a six-percent decrease in traffic crashes,” said White. “And New York is home to the most dense urban streets in the country.”

More than 1,200 New Yorkers were injured in traffic crashes every week, 58 people lost a limb or suffered other life-altering injuries, and five city residents were killed by cars each week last year, according to a Transportation Alternatives spokesman.

After their son’s death Cohen and Eckstein asked that donations be made in Samuel’s name to Transportation Alternatives.

Alan Bortnick, a decade-long member of Community Board 10, who is frequently critical of the Department of Transporta­tion’s various traffic calming measures, said he would be just fine with Greenfield’s bill if it only affected roadways that were 30-feet-wide or less, but bluntly stated that the bill, as written, would effectively grind city traffic to a halt.

“He’s out of his cotton-picking mind,” said Bortnick of Greenfield. “If he wants to limit this to 27 and 30-foot-wide streets, I’m in agreement with him. But 60 feet wide, those streets are generally main arteries. You would create such a slowdown in traffic that it would become physically impossible to get anywhere in the city.”

With city street lanes ranging from 9 to 16-feet wide, Greenfield’s bill could potentially affect all “residential” roads between having anywhere from two to six lanes.

The Cohen-Ecksteins support the bill, but acknowledged that the Safe Street Act is by itself would change little without the support of the mayor and, in particular, the NYPD, which they said had a poor record for citing speedsters in their local precinct.

“To be effective, the reduced speed limit would require enforcement,” said Cohen. “That would involve a commitment by the mayor and the NYPD to prioritize enforcement of traffic safety. Shockingly, there were no citations for speeding in September for the precinct where we live.”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at or by calling (718) 260-4514.
Updated 10:16 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

A from Brooklyn says:
Stop quoting Bortnick. The man knows nothing.
Nov. 4, 2013, 8:08 am
BrianVan from Gramercy says:
What A from Brooklyn said.
Nov. 4, 2013, 9:26 am
bkmanhatposeur from brokeland says:
It is not necessary to drive 60 MPH on the residential streets & avenues. Cameras, speed bumps, and even bike lanes to slow down the savage drivers.
Nov. 4, 2013, 9:28 am
fj from Red Hook says:
Broad deployment of "20's Plenty" will be more positively disruptive than Citi Bike and will greatly advance NYC safety, mobility and contribute to reducing our very costly dependency on cars.
Nov. 4, 2013, 9:40 am
S from PPW says:
Please please please stop giving ink to Mr. Bortnick. First, he lives no where near where this crash took place an knows nothing of its circumstances. Second, he really doesn't know anything about traffic engineering. Third, his lone contribution to the "debate" about safe streets is to demand a parking space in front of his home. Fourth, you discredit your own reporting when you include him. Fifth, you dishonor this bereaved family.

Really, cut him loose.
Nov. 4, 2013, 10:05 am
fj from Red Hook says:
"20's Plenty" is a no brainer in the pedestrian dense central business district where the average effective speed is something like 9 miles per hour and will further advance tourist appeal and dollars.
Nov. 4, 2013, 10:11 am
Chicken Underwear from Park Slope says:
and cameras

and enforcement.

and lets get drivers to stop at red
Nov. 4, 2013, 10:44 am
A Request from Everyone says:
Please, abort Bortnick already.
Nov. 4, 2013, 10:47 am
Mustache Pete from Fort Greene says:
I dislike Bortnick's views intensely, but have to agree that 30mph is fine on broader through fares. 20 mph on Flatbush Ave. or Ocean Pkwy just isn't realistic. But yeah, 20mph on 27- and 30-foot-wide streets along with speed bumps and the like would make a difference. It also has a better shot at becoming law.

To me, the real issues are the NYPD's lack of enforcement, no speed cameras, DOT's delays in getting traffic-calming solutions installed (partially due to obstructionists like Bortnick) and necessary cooperation between agencies.

There was another tragedy on Dekalb Ave. this weekend. Though tragic, I'm hopeful that the death of these children will not be in vain and that effective traffic enforcement will be a priority at the top level of city agencies -- especially a new DOT and NYPD commissioner.
Nov. 4, 2013, 11:19 am
Joey from Clinton Hills says:
it's like the gun laws...enforce them!
Nov. 4, 2013, 12:48 pm
Larry Littlefield from Windsor Terrace says:
"Alan Bortnick, a decade-long member of Community Board 10, who is frequently critical of the Department of Transportation’s various traffic calming measures, said he would be just fine with Greenfield’s bill if it only affected roadways that were 30-feet-wide or less, but bluntly stated that the bill, as written, would effectively grind city traffic to a halt."

Hey reporter, call Botnick back and tell him that the 60 feet includes sidewalks -- and virtually all the one-lane, one-way streets in the city are thus 60 feet wide. It is a standard size of a New York City street.

Does that mean he approves?

Streets with two lanes are generally 80 feet wide, though there are some narrower exceptions. The really big arterials, of which NYC has relatively few, are 100 feet wide or more.
Nov. 4, 2013, 1:29 pm
Lisa from Williamsburg says:
with the death of a nine year old boy in Fort Greene/Clinton Hill on Saturday who was hit by an out of control driver when the van jumped the curb, we really need better enforcement of traffic safety. I see drivers speeding, running stop signs, red lights, not respecting cross walks, etc. ALL the time. With the rise in fatalities in Brooklyn, something needs to be done. If slowing the speed limit helps (AND there's enforcement to back it up), I think saving lives is better than backed up traffic.
Nov. 4, 2013, 2:24 pm
Bronx Guy from Bromx says:
Ever tried to calculate your average speed?

A lot of people think 30 MPH is too slow on primary thoroughfares. You probably average 15 MPH with all the lights.

The problem is the speeding between those stops.
Nov. 4, 2013, 3:04 pm
Vinny Polack from Greenpoint says:
Just put speed bumps on residential streets, but not on the avenues and thoroughfares. Problem solved cheaply with passive enforcement.
Nov. 4, 2013, 3:06 pm
Doug from Bed Stuy says:
What difference does a new speed limit make if it's never enforced? I've written numerous times to elected officials, the police commissioner and precinct commanders about the total lack of enforcement of traffic laws and, not coincidentally, the total lack of respect for them. If I get a response at all, it is a platitude. No changes are ever made.
Nov. 4, 2013, 3:17 pm
ty from pps says:
Vinny --
My block has 2 speed bumps and a stop sign at the end. The same people who like to floor the accelerator between stop lights also floor it between speed bumps and barely slow for the stop sign.

It has to be an all-of-the-above approach and this includes the NYPD doing their job (not passive enforcement).

The 20's Plenty approach is a great addition.

(And PLEASE stop validating Bortnick.)
Nov. 4, 2013, 3:18 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Honestly, I find that lowering the speed limits is just punishing the many for the actions of a few. Compared to most cyclists and pedestrians, most of motorists actually follow the law. I would even be surprised if most of the pedestrians and cyclists that got hit weren't following the rules themselves, so start practicing what you preach before you tell others what to do. Seriously, lowering the speed limits on signs will hardly do anything as long as there is hardly any enforcement of it, and reckless drivers know that they can get a way with it as long as nobody important is watching. As for Bortnick, he doesn't deserve any personal attacks, because you all had your say, so let him have his, plus the paper should show both sides of the issue, not just limit it to just one side only.
Nov. 4, 2013, 4:07 pm
ty from pps says:
(convincing, but fake... right?)
Nov. 4, 2013, 4:18 pm
Parent from Brooklyn says:
Two dead kids in three weeks, both killed by drivers, one of whom was so clearly violating many laws that the police charged him immediately, something they rarely do.

But, yeah. Cyclists and pedestrians don't follow the law as much as drivers.

Tal, go away. Or, here's a better one: let us know when and where you'll be the next time you come to Brooklyn so we can all see if you'll make these offensive arguments to a person's face.

Please, name your time.
Nov. 4, 2013, 4:20 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Parent (assuming this is not ty's alter ego being just minutes apart), never did I say condone reckless drivers. The only who feels that way is you. I find it ironic that you claim I said something offensive when you are the one who is demanding censorship, which I have never called on anyone. As long as there isn't much enforcement, lowering the speed limits does next to nothing. I do give my condolences to those that got hit, but punishing everyone who drives for the act of a few is just as bad. Seriously, before you start telling others to follow the rules, start following themselves, because I doubt those pushing for motorists to follow every letter of the law do the same themselves, so talking about the pot calling the kettle black. I only say this because you tend to sound like a parent who tells their child not to smoke but smokes themselves and then says that they only meant someone else's health while making an excuse for their own usage. One other thing, don't try to threaten me, because it doesn't work on the Israelis, which is why we are able to stand up to cowards such as Hamas.
Nov. 4, 2013, 7:06 pm
Abe Foxman from Occupied Land says:
Oh Brother. Tal's now invoking THA JOOOOOOZE again
Nov. 4, 2013, 7:30 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I always find it interesting how members of the anti-car crowd like to use alter egos to make it sound like there is more of them when there really isn't.
Nov. 4, 2013, 8:01 pm
P from Brooklyn says:
Tal, name your time and place. We'll all meet you there. And fake Tals can come, too.
Nov. 4, 2013, 8:17 pm
gecko from usq says:
A better name for Slow Zones might be Life Zones.

And, while we're at it the City should ban cars from flood zones as they start floating around and can be real dangerous and cause lots of damage.

And, in any case, we won't be taking climate change seriously until we start banning cars from vast areas of this planet
Nov. 4, 2013, 8:26 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Sorry to say it, but cars don't give the most to climate change, factories and buildings do, but I don't hear you doing anything to stop those hence being selective here.
Nov. 4, 2013, 8:36 pm
Other Michael from Park Slope says:

Just go away.
Nov. 4, 2013, 9:42 pm
jay from nyc says:
The police are not enforcing the traffic laws, and its really clear they don't from just reading how many tickets they give out.
I can stand in front of my building and watch cars runs red lights and stop signs, on average, once per 30 seconds, and drive into areas where cars are not allowed in directions they are not allowed to drive once every five minutes. I have even seen this happen while a cop is sitting right there.
I am not opposed to chainging the speed limit where it makes sense, but I am so frustrated with the out right lawlessness that is on our streets and teh lack of enforcement is the ONLY reason things are as bad as they are. That does not mean that things like traffic calming don't have value, they do, I just can't get my head around the idea that unless the law is actually ruthlessly enforced all day, every day that any of these proposals will work. I think that, based on what I see, that people are not actually in favor of having traffic laws, and that is why they are not enforced and are ignored
Nov. 4, 2013, 9:43 pm
Brownstone from Park(ing) Slope says:
Traffic law as practiced by Alan Bortnick.

"Auto Uber Alles"

Unfortunately, Germany won WW-II.

(No parking on the driveway,
No driving on the parkway.)
Nov. 4, 2013, 10:22 pm
jooltman from Park Slope says:
As Greenfield pointed out, a speed limit reduction would protect drivers from the devastation of killing someone. The current speed limit puts all law-abiding drivers at risk for becoming killers.
Nov. 4, 2013, 10:24 pm
Rob from Greenpoint says:
This is a welcome development!
Nov. 5, 2013, 5:56 am
bkmanhatposeur from brokeland says:
Actions of a few Tal? How about the nore frequent but less reported bicyle v car collisions. A car is more dangerous than a speeding bicycle. I think lower speed limits, speed bumps, and bike lanes to lower traffic speed.
Tal your are the Taliban-antibicycle Jihadi.
Nov. 5, 2013, 11:30 am
Rufus Leaking from BH says:
" on average, once per 30 seconds,"

Hyperbole much?
Nov. 5, 2013, 12:36 pm
ty from pps says:
Since almost no one actually comes to a stop at the stop sign at the end of my block (and there have been collisions, with ambulances called), I don't think Jay's comment is hyperbole.
Nov. 5, 2013, 12:56 pm
Rufus Leaking from BH says:
"I don't think Jay's comment is hyperbole."

Once again proof that you know EVERYTHING!
Nov. 5, 2013, 2:32 pm
ty from pps says:
Hmm... Rufus.
Nov. 5, 2013, 2:50 pm
Rufus Leaking from BH says:
2880 times per day if the "average" is every 30 seconds.

Quite scientfic!

Learn the difference between "Mean" and "Average."
Nov. 5, 2013, 3:09 pm
Jay from nyc says:
no Rufus not hyperbole at all. It actually is that bad at teh intersection by my building. Sometimes its even worse. What is really amazing is that when someone actually stops for the red light and waits then people behind get mad and start honing like crazy. A few times I have even seen a angry driver get out of his car and start yelling at the person following the law and waiting for the light to change. Its a dangerous intersection and people and kids nearly get hit there every day.
Nov. 5, 2013, 3:20 pm
ty from pps says:
Rufus... "mean" and "average" are the same. If you would like to discuss the difference between mean/average and "median" and "mode" (and the most appropriate way to use these measures), that would be oh-so-very enjoyable.
Nov. 5, 2013, 3:40 pm
Rufus Leaking from BH says:
2880 times a day!

Sometimes 3 times a minute!

Nov. 5, 2013, 4:25 pm
Jutin from Parkslope says:
NYPD need to enforce the speed limit in 8th Ave.
Not enough enforcement on the car service that go 60 mph. I've seen a number of them blew red lights.
After 10 pm, park slope is indianapolis speedway.
Nov. 5, 2013, 5:01 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
For the record, I have called out numerous reckless drivers in both the past and present. However, I hardly hear any cyclists or pedestrians calling out lawbreakers of their kind. Until then, you have no obligation to tell motorist what to do until you start practicing what you preach. For example, for every accident caused by motor vehicles or even failing to obey traffic lights and signs, I can say the same thing for all cyclists and pedestrians that flout the laws as well, and I know you don't like being called out at your own game. If you really want the streets to be safe, then everybody who is using them must follow the rules with no exemptions to anyone otherwise it will be seen like George Orwell's Animal Farm where one group of animals were always subject to laws and had constant enforcement while the other group of animals were exempt and acted as if the laws didn't apply to them. I know many will call for me to be burned to the stake for saying this or probably wish I died in either a murder or terrorist attack for saying this, but the truth does hurt.
Nov. 5, 2013, 6:05 pm
jay from nyc says:
oh you are SUUUUUCCCCHHHH a martyr Tal. Ghandi, Mandeala, King, and Tal.
Nov. 5, 2013, 6:10 pm
ty from pps says:
No, Tal. You are suggesting anyone would take the effort. You're not worth it. You are just a stupid little man living in his mom's basement. For the record, I have called you out numerous times both past and present for being an ignorant dummy head.
Nov. 5, 2013, 7:15 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Ty, you have proven time and time again that you nothing more than a whacko attacko as Michael Moore would say rather than having a real debate.
Nov. 5, 2013, 9:07 pm
Other Michael from Park Slope says:

Please just shut up and go away.

We are trying to make things better and you are not helping
Nov. 6, 2013, 7:50 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Other Michael, there is no point of lowering speed limits, and there are two main reasons why it would hardly help. The first is that as long as there is hardly any enforcement on this rule, many will still be tempted to disobey that law and live to talk about it. The other is that other groups such as the one you are part of has no tendency for playing their part of following the rules, so you have no obligations to tell others what to do when you hardly practice what you preach. If enforcement should be done on speed demons and other reckless drivers, then same should be applied to the bike zealots and jaywalkers as well. Who am I kidding here? Trying to explain you biased anti-car haters tends to have the equivalence of trying to get the Muslim Brotherhood to accept Israel as a nation for the Jews, and we all know how that goes. What I can never understand is why one group has to follow every letter of the law when others can be exempt from them, which is why I gave the Animal Farm reference. Believe or not, there are more pedestrians that fear cyclists even more than motorists especially when they have the tendency to disobey numerous traffic lights and signs much more constantly than motorists ever do.
Nov. 6, 2013, 4:41 pm
Other Michael from Park Slope says:

You just proved my point. Go home, you are drunk.
Nov. 7, 2013, 6:51 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I don't advocate for making any local streets into a racetrack, so that claim has just been debunked. . If you don't like the fact that you live in a country where others can state something doesn't agree with you, then move to Zimbabwe and become the next dictator as you can have traffic calming forced on everyone by pointing guns to them and saying that they have agree to having it or you will blow their brains out.
Nov. 7, 2013, 11:12 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Other Michael, you actually described yourself, not me, and cut the impersonation especially when I was out of the house for most of today unlike someone who comments early in the day as if they don't have a job or life.
Nov. 7, 2013, 3:58 pm
Other Michael from Park Slope says:

I don't tell people how to design roads in Zimbabwe, so maybe you can stop telling us how to design our roads in Brooklyn.
Nov. 7, 2013, 8:50 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Other Michael, just as I already said you are just re-reading a reflection in the mirror, because it's all backwards. Plus I have never called anyone an stupid or a idiot just for disagreeing, that was something you guys did with your disrespectfull comments as proof. As my mother brought me up to behave, if you have nothing nice to say to someone, then don't say anything at all. Even though I do tend to disagree with a lot of things here, I don't attack the person, I just disagree with the viewpoint as Michael Moore does especially when he mentions conservatives like George W Bush with what they believe on, but he doesn't hate them personally. Just like how Israel is always the whipping boy of the Middle East when in reality everybody knows deep down inside that it is Hamas who causes all the problems.
Nov. 8, 2013, 12:06 pm

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