Brooklyn Boro

TransAlt executive director arrested with families of people killed by reckless drivers during protest

June 22, 2018 By Clarissa Sosin Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Protesters hold a banner that reads, “Children are going to die,” shortly before being arrested.  Photos courtesy of Joe Cutrufo, Transportation Alternatives

Amy Cohen should have been snapping photos of her son Sammy at his high school graduation on Thursday. Instead she was part of a group protesting outside of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Midtown office in support of legislation that could have saved his life. After a speeding driver crashed into and killed her 12-year-old son while he was walking from his middle school to soccer practice in Park Slope four years ago, Cohen is pushing for the state Senate to vote on a bill that would install more cameras to catch and ticket speeding drivers.

“People are dying and they are treating this like a game. They are playing Russian Roulette with people’s lives,” said Cohen. “It’s really incomprehensible. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare.”

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When the Senate’s legislative session ended this week without the bill being brought to the floor for a vote, Cohen and other members of Families for Safe Streets, a project that Cohen helped co-found with the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, took to the streets outside of Cuomo’s office in Midtown Manhattan demanding that he order the Senate to reconvene for a vote. The group blocked traffic and nine people were arrested, including Paul Steely White, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives who was there along with other staff members to stand in solidarity with the families.

“They are willing to put themselves on the line,” said Thomas DeVito, Transportation Alternatives director of advocacy and one of the nine people arrested that day about the families protesting. “This isn’t about their kids. Their kids have already suffered the greatest consequences. This is about protecting every other person’s kids.”

He and the other eight protestors arrested were released around 11 p.m. that night DeVito said. This is not the first time that the higher ups at Transportation Alternatives have been arrested for protesting. Former President Ann Sullivan and former Executive Director Jon Orcutt were arrested during a rally in 1992 according to a press release on the advocacy group’s website.

The legislation that they are fighting for would extend and expand a four year old pilot program that placed cameras throughout the city to catch and ticket speeding drivers from 140 cameras to 290 cameras citywide according to a New York Post story.

Data from Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office shows that the ticket issuing cameras reduce speeding by 63% and pedestrian injuries by 23 percent.

“It has undoubtedly saved lives,” DeVito said about the program. “The lack of action and leadership to make sure that this program is expanded is breathtaking.”

The program is set to end on July 25 and it is unclear whether the cameras will be removed or remain unused where they are.

In the meantime, Cohen and the others plan to keep fighting.

“It was a pilot. The pilot was working. If you have an epidemic,” Cohen said. “You pass out the vaccine!”


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