Livable Streets: Speed Cameras, Car Services, Sweeping Kits

The Civic Council’s Livable Streets Committee focuses on enriching our community’s urban environment and street life. Our agenda is a broad one, and the topics we covered at our Feb. 3 meeting showed that range.

Red light cameras were controversial when they first hit city streets in 1994, but the investment has more than paid for itself, in both dollars and human lives.

Speed cameras, one of the issues we discussed, represent a means to keep our streets safe for all users. Lindsey Ganson, the safety campaign director for Transportation Alternatives, provided some very compelling data on the effectiveness of speed cameras, and talked about an initiative now afoot to install 40 such devices citywide.

In her presentation, Ganson noted that speeding is the biggest cause of traffic-related deaths in the city (about 44% from 2005 to 2009). Since cameras were first installed at intersections throughout the city in 1994, fatalities have dropped 35% at those sites; collisions, more than 40%.

Currently, there are 175 red-light cameras, which snap two shots of your infraction: a long shot of your car and a close-up of your license plate. A ticket is then mailed to your house. Ganson fended off some of the typical misconceptions about tickets as revenue builders, because when speed cameras do their job, fewer tickets are generated in the long run as drivers become more sensitized and responsive to speed limits.

The Civic Council supports the installation of speed cameras, and would be delighted to have this neighborhood be included in the pilot program.

Meanwhile, the Livable Streets Committee will be issuing a letter to owners of car-service companies. The letters will urge them to re-educate their drivers on the rules of the road, and let drivers know residents are aware of the infractions (speeding, red-light running, U-turns, honking, etc.) and will be watching.

The letters will be issued in English, Spanish, and Arabic, with copies sent to our local elected officials and to Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky.

Keeping our community clean is another aspect of livable streets. We will be providing clean-up kits at the next Civic Sweep (now rescheduled for Sunday, April 10) on a first-come, first-served basis to community members who want to beautify their blocks.

The kits — consisting of scrapers, paint and brushes, litter picker-uppers, and other important tools — will cost approximately $100 each. If this is successful, we will offer more kits at future Civic Sweeps.

We will also broaden our publicity for clean-up awareness by including schools and PTAs in our efforts. We will reach out to the Park Slope Food Coop (already a partner in our Civic Sweeps) to investigate making regular neighborhood clean-ups a Coop shift.

Livable Streets meetings take place every first Thursday of the month, 8 a.m. at Ozzie’s, 249 Fifth Ave. E-mail committee co-chairs Judith Lief and Candace Woodward at

fro m the Winter 2011 Civic News