New York City Council asks state to drop speed limit to 25 mph

Under current law, the city can lower the

Under current law, the city can lower the default speed limit of 30 mph on an individual roadway by posting extra signs alerting motorists. Authorities earlier this year did so on busy streets like Atlantic Avenue, where the limit was reduced to 25 mph along its nearly 8 miles. The de Blasio administration is seeking Albany's permission to make the default 25 mph citywide. Here, Atlantic is shown at the intersection of Washington and Underhill avenues. (Credit: Theodore Parisienne)

The fate of City Hall's proposal to lower the five boroughs' default speed limit to 25 mph is in Albany's hands.

Thursday is the last day of the legislative session, and it was uncertain Wednesday whether State Senate Republicans would allow a vote on the plan to reduce the limit from 30 mph. If not, the city may have to wait until next year.

Cutting how fast motorists may drive would save lives, says Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has touted the plan as part of his Vision Zero traffic-safety goal to eliminate pedestrian deaths within a decade.


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By a vote of 38-2 Wednesday, the City Council formally asked Albany for permission to lower the limit, but State Senate Co-Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), who shares control of the flow of legislation in the chamber, said he hasn't decided whether the bill would make it to the floor.

"I know how important it is to Mayor de Blasio, and he's certainly one of my best friends," Skelos said with a smile.

The two men are not allies.

If it adjourns this week as expected, the legislature isn't scheduled to return to Albany until January, though it has the option of returning at any time.

A memo to legislators from the mayor's office said that at 30 mph, a pedestrian has a 1 in 5 chance of being killed when struck by a motor vehicle. At 25 mph, the chance of death goes down to 1 in 10. Going slower also means drivers can stop in a shorter distance, potentially preventing an accident entirely, the memo says.

The state must approve much about New York City governance, from speed limits to most taxes, but won't make a change the city wants without the kind of vote passed Wednesday by the council, called a home-rule message. The council had voted last week to seek the speed-limit change, but a new vote was needed because it corresponded to an older version of the Albany legislation that has since been updated.

The council has largely been behind the mayor on Vision Zero, though the two Republican council members present Wednesday -- Steven Matteo and Vincent Ignizio, both of Staten Island -- voted "no," saying that the authorities should crack down using existing laws.

Asked whether he had evidence to counter the mayor's, Matteo said, "I don't have empirical evidence on me, but I know firsthand that the people who are doing 60 in these 30 mile-per-hour zones, that they're not going to drive slower because it went down to 25."

With Yancey Roy

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