Children under 18 account for 43% of car crash victims in Manhattan’s East Harlem neighborhood. But just a few blocks south, in the moneyed Upper East Side, the same age group accounts for less than 15% of neighborhood car crash victims.
That’s the conclusion of the new report “Child Crashes: An Unequal Burden”(pdf), released Thursday by Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group. According to the group’s research, of the East Side’s top ten intersections for motor vehicle crashes that kill or injure child pedestrians and bicyclists, “nine are located in close proximity to public housing developments in East Harlem and the Lower East Side.”
The report draws upon data from 1995-2009 that the group received after filing Freedom of Information Law requests to the New York State DMV.
The city DOT is disputing the way Transportation Alternatives (TA) is presenting the data.
“There were a record-low three child pedestrian fatalities citywide last year, none of them in any of the neighborhoods cited in the report,” said Seth Solomonow, a department spokesperson.
He cited agency statistics that show serious crashes went down 64% in the Lower East Side’s Community Board 3 and 38% in Harlem’s Community Board 11 over the course of the study period. In 2011, the number of traffic deaths in New York City fell to the lowest levels in a century– a 40% drop from 2001.
A deeper dive into the data shows rates did indeed drop everywhere — but that injury rates remain consistently higher in poorer neighborhoods. In East Harlem in 1995, for example, 107 children were injured by cars. By 2009, that number had fallen to 47. But that’s still higher than the Upper East Side, which had 32 injuries of children at the highest point, and 17 in 2009. Children under 18 make up about 30% of the population of both neighborhoods.
TA concludes children on Manhattan’s East Side are three times more likely to be hit by a car in a neighborhood where public housing is nearby. Just last week, a 12-year-old girl was killed crossing a street on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. She was a resident of the Jacob Riis Houses.
The report singles out East 125th Street and Lexington Avenue as the worst intersection in Manhattan for children.
Melissa Mark-Viverito, the New York City Council member who represents East Harlem, called the report “alarming.”
“This really just kind of exacerbates the urgency and really demonstrates that particularly in my community, where I represent the most public housing in the city of New York, where I have the most number of developments, that this is a real immediate danger,” she said.
She said she will bring together community groups and the NYC DOT to work collaboratively on the problem. Mark-Viverito has also been working with the local community board to bring protected bike lanes to East Harlem — a project which was recently derailed but she said is expected to go before the board again in March.
In an email, Paul Steely White, Transportation Alternatives’ executive director, said “the NYPD must protect these children and hold dangerous drivers accountable.” The report calls for more targeted enforcement of traffic laws by the NYPD, as well as speed cameras. The group also says other city agencies, like the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, as well as the New York City Housing Authority, need to further study “what neighborhood built environment factors…may drive these neighborhood-based differences in child crash rates.”
Transportation Alternatives acknowledges that the DOT has worked hard to make the streets safer. “We’re pushing the NYPD to step up,” said Jennifer So Godzeno, pedestrian advocacy manager. But, she says, “the NYPD is completely failing to use these penalties. When you look across time, 60% of these crashes are attributable to drivers breaking laws. But we don’t see the NYPD making enforcement of these laws a priority at all.”
No response yet from the NYPD.