Last week, Councilman Costa Constantinides unveiled legislation that would remove criminal or civil penalties for crossing in the middle of the street. According to the Astoria legislator, anyone who is cited for the violation of not crossing within marked pathways when given a walk signal must go to court to pay a fine.
If passed, the bill would bring the city’s street rules to align with the state, which allows a pedestrian to cross at any point of the street as long as there is no oncoming traffic.
“Every New Yorker crosses in the middle of the block, but that can end in a ticket depending on your skin color,” Constantinides said in a statement. “It’s beyond time we end this system by changing these outdated rules, which no longer reflect New York City’s modern day streetscape.”
The councilman argued that jaywalking enforcement unfairly targets people of color. He cited a Streetsblog analysis that found that Black and Latino New Yorkers received nearly 90 percent of 397 illegal crossing tickets issued last year.
In 2019, almost 40 percent of jaywalking violations were issued in three Bronx precincts, and almost every person fined was Black or Latino, Constantinides noted.
African-Americans and Latinos make up 33 percent of the population within the 76th Precinct, which covers Sunset Park and Red Hook, but received 65 percent of jaywalking tickets.
Safe streets advocates announced their support for Constantinides’s bill.
“In New York, crossing the street should not be a crime, especially one that disproportionately targets Black and brown communities,” said Marco Conner DiAquoi, deputy director of Transportation Alternatives. “This legislation puts people first on New York City’s streets and would help end harmful and unacceptable disparate enforcement.”
Hsi-Pei Liao, a founding member of the group Families for Safe Streets, noted that when his three-year-old daughter Allison was killed by a driver while crossing a Flushing street in 2013, she was even holding her grandmother’s hand. That didn’t save her life or prevent victim blaming, he said.
“Most pedestrians killed or severely injured on New York City streets are struck walking in the crosswalk with the signal by turning drivers,” Liao said. “Enforcement against so-called jaywalking doesn’t address the most dangerous behaviors by drivers, and perpetuates the myth that victims are responsible for their own deaths on our streets.”