It’s a nickname that's well earned. According to state Department of Transportation (SDOT) data, between 2005 and 2009 there were 57 car accidents involving pedestrians or cyclists on the McGuiness Boulevard, resulting in four fatalities.
In an effort to curb speeding and fatal accidents, Assemblyman Joseph Lentol introduced legislation last week to install cameras that would ticket motorists speeding on McGuinness Boulevard. If passed, these speed cameras would be the first in New York.
“We’ve experienced a lot of [accidents here], and this legislation intends to stop it,” Lentol said in an interview. “If you’re not going to drive the speed limit, you should be prepared to face the consequences.”
In the past, Albany has shot down any speed camera bills introduced by downstate legislators. However, Lentol’s proposal comes amid a recent push for these devices.
His proposal calls for speed cameras that would detect and cite motorists driving over the 30-mph speed limit. The number of cameras, location and speed at which one is ticketed would be determined by local government, Lentol spokesperson Catherine Peake said.
Ticketed motorists would later receive a ticket and fine in the mail. The fines would be equal to those of a traditional speeding ticket, Peake said.
However, motorists ticketed by a speed camera would not receive points on their license, due to the “constitutional issues” of being cited by an unreasoning piece of technology, Lentol said.
“I don’t like the idea that you can’t confront a camera in court,” Lentol said. “But that’s the price you pay for technology.”
These issues raise a red flag for many speed camera critics, who claim the technology is nothing more than a revenue generator for local governments.
“Speed cameras deny the driver due process of law,” AAA spokesman Robert Sinclair Jr. said. “We see them as revenue enhancers. We don’t like them.”
Despite these legal issues, many Greenpoint residents fed up with the Boulevard’s dangerous traffic would welcome the cameras.
“The traffic (on McGuinness Boulevard) is horrible,” said Maria Carrion, an employee of McGuinness Truck & Auto Parts. “I hope they do it (install speed cameras) tomorrow.”
Resident Carolyn Grifel said McGuinness Boulevard has recently shifted from industrial business to residential housing, creating a “treacherous” situation for local pedestrians and cyclists. Grifel said she once witnessed a hit and run on the Boulevard, involving a cyclist who was not severely injured.
Mariah Robertson, who lives on nearby Eckford Street, avoids cycling on McGuinness Boulevard altogether. “You shouldn’t ride your bike on McGuinness,” she said. “It’s really dangerous.”
Slowing down may improve safety. Speeding is a factor in approximately 25 percent of traffic fatalities, including many involving cyclists, DOT spokesman Nicholas Mosquera said.
But while speeding motorists are partly responsible for fatal accidents, others say reckless pedestrians shoulder the blame as well.
“Everyone is crossing the street even when the light is telling them not to,” Greenpoint resident Renata Prodka said.
For this reason, Sinclair said he believes traditional law enforcement, improved road engineering and traffic safety education are the best approaches to reducing road deaths.
“If you look at the details of these accidents, a lot of them have to do with people jaywalking,” Sinclair said. “It’s lunacy to think you can (safely) jaywalk across McGuinness Boulevard.”
Traffic and community groups have employed a number of recent efforts to improve road safety, including the DOT’s “That’s Why It’s 30” campaign, the Annual Memorial Ride and Walk in Greenpoint, and “ghost bikes” to memorialize those killed in traffic accidents.
Still, problems with speeding and unsafe road practices persist.
On March 27, the McGuinness Boulevard Walking Group, a coalition of community and advocacy groups, released a study that found 66 percent of motorists exceed the 30-mph speed limit on McGuinness Boulevard.
“The cameras are necessary because we’ve tried everything else,” Lentol said. “We’ve got a lot of history on how to stop the speeding on McGuinness Boulevard. The objective of this proposal is to save lives.”