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Why a traffic safety project is at the forefront of the upcoming primaries in Brooklyn

Brooklyn traffic safety project has candidates divided ahead of Primary Election
Brooklyn traffic safety project has candidates divided ahead of Primary Election 02:35

NEW YORK - A hot-button issue in Brooklyn has candidates divided ahead of New York's Primary Election -- the McGuinness Boulevard Redesign Project.

Not everyone agrees on the best way to make the road safer.

Assemblymember Emily Gallagher supports DOT traffic redesign  

McGuinness Boulevard cuts straight through the 50th New York State Assembly District. The deadly 1-mile-long stretch of road connects the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway to the Long Island Expressway and has brought the question of traffic safety front and center for the upcoming primary.

"I've seen way too many fatalities, crashes, injuries, scary situations on that road," said Assemblymember Emily Gallagher, incumbent in this race trying to keep her seat for another term. 

Gallagher has been a longtime supporter of a drastic traffic redesign unveiled by the New York City Department of Transportation last year that includes reducing a lane of traffic in each direction and creating protected bike lanes.

"I was very pleased with the level of detail that the DOT had put into the plan, and I am disappointed that it was yanked by the Adams administration and at the last minute," Gallagher told CBS New York's Hannah Kliger, who has covered the controversial plan over the past year.

The mayor is believed to have pulled the plan because there was heavy pushback from a coalition of businesses, many tied to the neighborhood's local film industry which rely heavily on this road. Since then, the Adams administration instructed the city to roll back parts of the plan, leaving confusion and disappointment on both sides.

Challenger Anathea Simpkins calls for more negotiation on traffic issue

The issue is a hot-button topic that has left this community divided. Proponents of the redesign want to see a drastic change to improve pedestrian safety and implement a so-called "road diet." Opponents say it will bring traffic to a standstill.

"We have a lot of industry in this district. They wanted just to be a part of the conversation," said Anathea Simpkins, Gallagher's Democratic primary challenger in the race. A former educator, Simpkins most recently worked as Associate Vice President for Sandy Hook Promise, a violence prevention group. She calls for more negotiation on the traffic issue.

"I'm also a certified mediator. What I would like to do is start a conversation," she told Kliger. "I want to make sure that we're returning to what the goal is originally, which is pedestrian safety."

Both candidates agree something must change on the boulevard.

They also cited other top priorities, like displacement in the district.

"I was also deeply concerned about the loss of affordable, truly affordable housing in this district, especially for working class people," Gallagher said .

Poverty and a lack of resources is also on people's minds, says Simpkins.

"We're a district that has 44 percent of children living below the poverty line. About 25 percent of families and 25 percent of our seniors. We have a large senior population, and we don't have a hospital here," she added.

Early voting kicks off Saturday. The primary election is Tuesday, June 25. 

Have a story idea or tip in Brooklyn? Email Hannah by CLICKING HERE.

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