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Group: Lower Long Beach speed limits

Long Beach residents Richie Boodman, left, and Omar

Long Beach residents Richie Boodman, left, and Omar Karom have been campaigning to have speed limits lowered in the city. (Sept. 5, 2012) Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Michele Reinbach says it's time for Long Beach to slow down.

She and a group of supporters are hoping to expand through the entire city a public safety initiative intended to reduce speed limits in one tiny Long Beach neighborhood.

The President Streets -- a nine-block enclave in east Long Beach where some street names commemorate Woodrow Wilson, William Howard Taft and others -- could soon have its speed limit slashed from 30 mph to 15 mph by legislation before the City Council.

Reinbach, who has campaigned for public safety projects since a neighbor died in a car accident two years ago, sees the proposed change as something to build on. She and a group of supporters are pushing for a reduction in the citywide speed limit from 30 mph to 20 mph.

"Tragedy shouldn't have to hit home for someone to get involved in saving lives," she said.

A public hearing on the President Streets speed limit legislation is scheduled for Sept. 19 at 7 p.m. at Long Beach City Hall.

Reinbach, the chairwoman of the city's advisory public safety commission, said she and her supporters soon will produce a formal proposal to lower all local speed limits to 20 mph.

The exceptions would be two main thoroughfares -- Park Avenue and Long Beach Boulevard -- where the speed limit is 35 mph. Neighborhoods where the speed limit has already been lowered to 15 mph -- including the Canals and West End -- would keep current limits.

Lowering local speed limits would likely require a traffic study to determine the degree to which speed contributes to accidents, City Manager Jack Schnirman said.

"Before it becomes a real proposal that the City Council can look at, it needs to get that vetting and study," he said.

Sgt. Eric Cregeen, a spokesman for the Long Beach Police Department, said lowering the speed limit to 20 mph would be excessive. He said Long Beach's accidents are not caused solely by speeding.

"Every accident had its own set of circumstances," he said.

The proposal would need approval from the State Legislature and City Council. Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach) and state Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said they are open to the idea.

"If the residents believe that further steps are necessary and city officials agree, it's a conversation we would be open to having," said Scott Reif, a spokesman for Skelos.

Council president Len Torres said he also would be receptive to the proposal.

"In the long run, to have a safer Long Beach is really what the goal is," Torres said.

Reinbach's speed limit push is modeled after the "20 Is Plenty" campaign, which has spawned local movements around the United States and United Kingdom.

One such campaign is under way in Park Slope, Brooklyn, said state Sen. Eric Adams (D-Prospect Heights), who represents the area. The proposal will go before the Senate in January, he said.

"It's not a very comfortable situation," said Richard Boodman, a supporter of Reinbach's campaign, adding that speed limits should be lowered "for the purpose of saving lives and people."

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