Atlantic Avenue: First Major NYC Road to Get Lower Speed Limits

A major thoroughfare in Brooklyn and Queens is getting the Vision Zero treatment.

New York City officials announced Wednesday that a 7.6 mile stretch of Atlantic Avenue, from the Brooklyn waterfront to 76th Street in Queens, will be the first of 25 planned "arterial slow zones." To discourage speeding along these multi-lane, wide roadways, traffic lights will be re-timed, the speed limit will be lowered from 30 to 25 miles per hour, and police will step up enforcement of moving violations.

"Citywide, arterials like Atlantic Avenue make up 15 percent of city streets, but they account for 60 percent of pedestrian fatalities," said Polly Trottenberg, the city's transportation commissioner. "Crashes on these roads tend to be more deadly."

She said 25 people were killed along Atlantic Avenue between 2008 and 2012. But it's not alone.

"Queens Boulevard...Northern Boulevard, Bedford Avenue," said Amy Cohen, a member of Families for Safe Streets and the mother of a traffic crash victim. These are "roads designed like highways that encourage excessive speeding. It is imperative that these streets be redesigned." 

So far this year, 58 people have died in traffic crashes on New York City streets.

Lowering the speed limit citywide is a key component of Mayor Bill de Blasio's Vision Zero plan for traffic safety. Another: more control over photo traffic enforcement like speed cameras. But in both cases, Albany is holding the reins. Currently, the city is limited to deploying 20 speed cameras near school zones. (And due to the city's procurement rules, only five cameras are in place — although Trottenberg said the next 15 should be up and running this spring.)

Those five cameras, according to DOT spokesman Scott Gastel, have issued 14,500 tickets since they went live in January.

"We have a powerful map that shows the current restrictions on where and when we can deploy speed cameras," said Trottenberg. "A lot of areas that are high-crash areas, we can't use those cameras right now. So that's a bigger issue we're going to need to tackle in Albany."

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said he was delighted with the new speed limit restrictions on Atlantic, which he said sends an important message to drivers.

"We can have a smooth traffic flow of vehicles," he said, "without having a reckless and senseless traffic flow of blood."

The changes on Atlantic Avenue will be completed this month.