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DMV Revoked License of Driver Who Killed Allison Liao for Just 30 Days

The motorist who killed 3-year-old Allison Liao could be back behind the wheel before long, as the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles revoked his license for just 30 days.

Photo: Brad Aaron

Following a hearing in early January, DMV administrative law judge Sidney Fuchs determined that Abu-Zayedeh failed to yield the right of way when he ran over Allison as she walked hand in hand with her grandmother across Main Street in Flushing on October 6, 2013. The DMV revoked Abu-Zayedeh’s license, but the length of the revocation was not announced.

“The respondent failed to use due care, as required by VTL Section 1146, to avoid colliding with a pedestrian,” Fuchs wrote in his January 13 decision [PDF]. “There was no credible testimony as to why the respondent did not avoid this collision.”

Though Fuchs found Abu-Zayedeh at fault, he could be driving again as soon as March. A revocation period of ”at least 30 days” begins on February 13, according to DMV documents. After 30 days, Abu-Zayedeh may petition the DMV to have his driving privileges reinstated.

Amy Tam and Hsi-Pei Liao, Allison’s parents, were not available for comment, but issued a statement through their attorney, Steve Vaccaro: ”While Judge Fuchs correctly determined that the driver failed to use due care, it is shocking to learn that this is the official consequence of such an outrageous act.”

The DMV does not publicly post records of hearing outcomes or license revocations and suspensions, making it exceedingly difficult to gauge how this 30-day penalty compares to other cases. However, driving while intoxicated carries a mandatory six-month license revocation, as does “homicide, assault or criminal negligence resulting in death from the operation of a motor vehicle,” according to the DMV.

Last year, Families For Safe Streets met with DMV representatives to recommend several agency reforms, including regular publication of hearing outcomes and other data. The DMV has not contacted Families For Safe Streets since then and has not said if it plans to reform its protocols.

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The Search Is on for Healthy Food Vendors to Serve This South Bronx Plaza

Food vendors could be coming to The Hub, now that it is being rebuilt after reclamation from automobiles in 2008. Image: Garrison Architects

New food options could be coming to Roberto Clemente Plaza at the Bronx Hub. Image: Garrison Architects

In the Meatpacking District, people can grab a seat and buy healthy prepared food from a vendor in a bustling plaza. But New Yorkers who live in less affluent neighborhoods tend not to have the same options — at least not yet. A new effort aims to bring several vendors to a plaza under construction in the South Bronx.

Each of DOT’s public plazas has a local partner in charge of maintenance, tasked with keeping the space clean and putting out tables and chairs each day. While well-funded business improvement districts back plazas in the city’s central neighborhoods, plazas in low-income communities rely on a more diverse mix of supporters, from community development corporations to merchant associations.

Many of the city’s high-profile plazas also include food kiosks or other concessions to help fund maintenance. There are 11 active plaza concessions agreements, according to DOT, but those arrangements are tougher to set up in communities with fewer resources.

Retail offerings near these plazas are often limited. Many residents who commute into Manhattan also do much of their personal spending near work, sapping local retail strips of customers. Plaza supporters in the South Bronx hope they can reverse that pattern, boosting local shopping options and funding plaza maintenance by bringing in vendors.

The idea will be tested at The Hub, a major bus and subway juncture in the South Bronx. While nearby vacancy rates are low, the retail scene — dominated by wireless phone stores, fast food, and discount department stores — could be serving a wider spectrum of the neighborhood’s needs.

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Washington Republicans: Put Seattle’s Highway-Borer Out of Its Misery

If nothing else, the politics of Seattle’s deep-bore highway tunnel fiasco keep getting more interesting. With Bertha the tunnel-boring machine stuck underground and “rescue” efforts literally destabilizing city neighborhoods, a pair of Republicans in the Washington State Senate introduced a bill to scrap the project before any more money is wasted.

After Seattle has spent billions and more than a year and all it has to show for it is a hole in the ground. Photo: Washington Department of Transportation

Washington Democrats won’t back off their support for a risky deep-bore highway tunnel in Seattle. Photo: Washington Department of Transportation

While putting a halt to the underground highway would limit Seattle’s exposure to enormous cost overruns and open the door to more city-friendly transportation options, this effort to bury Bertha comes from outside the city. The Democratic establishment in the Seattle region isn’t rallying around the idea.

Republicans Doug Ericksen of Ferndale and Michael Baumgartner of Spokane co-sponsored legislation to cease spending on the stalled tunnel project and use the remaining money to study alternatives. The text of their bill [PDF] is probably the most sensible thing any politician has said about this project in quite some time:

The legislature finds that the state route number 99 Alaskan Way viaduct replacement project has failed. The legislature also finds that the project as it is currently designed cannot be justified financially and is not in the best interest of the public.

The knock against the bill is that it’s pure theater — a political maneuver to place the blame for Bertha squarely at the feet of Democrats.

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Citi Bike Expansion Plan Gets Going on the Upper West Side [Updated]

uws_bikeshare_map

Participants filled about a dozen tables for two separate hour-long sessions of bike-share station siting exercises last night. Photo: Larissa Zimberoff

A public workshop last night set in motion the planning process for bike-share on the Upper West Side, part of Citi Bike’s phase two expansion that will double the number of stations and reach up to 125th Street by 2017. NYC DOT said the station map for the neighborhood should be finalized sometime this fall but did not give a timeline for implementation.

DOT and Citi Bike staff held the event last night to get feedback from Upper West Side residents and Community Board 7 about where to site new bike-share stations in the neighborhood. Every chair was occupied at both of the one-hour sessions at the Presbyterian Church at 150 West 83rd Street.

“I’ve been waiting a long time for this,” said Joe Robins (Citi Bike member #560) as he sat down at one of the dozen or so tables covered with maps, Sharpies, and colored flags to mark potential bike-share station sites. It was a sentiment many seemed to share.

The question that seemed to preoccupy most participants was: “Will there be a station near my home?” When asked if they would prefer to place stations on the sidewalk, in the roadbed, or in public plazas, most attendees didn’t indicate much of a preference. One gentleman voiced a desire for stations at corners versus mid-block, which has been the typical practice for the current Citi Bike network.

With Citi Bike expanding to the Upper East Side as well, park access and navigating east and west through Central Park was another key concern. While progress has been made on bike access across the park, direct routes are still limited. There will also be no stations in Central Park, consistent with a blanket policy of avoiding station sites inside city parks with evening closures, since Citi Bike stations must operate 24/7.

Another open question is whether NYC DOT will provide a safe northbound bike route on Amsterdam Avenue to pair with the Columbus Avenue protected bike lane. Protected bike lanes on the Upper West Side remain scarcer than in the existing Citi Bike zone, but Community Board 7 has dragged its feet on moving forward with a protected lane for Amsterdam.

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TLC Bolsters Cab Driver Safety Regs, Minus NYC Road Test Requirement

The TLC has no plans to require cab drivers to take a New York City road test. Photo: Trish Naudon-Thomas

The TLC does not require cab drivers to take a New York City road test. Photo: Trish Naudon-Thomas

The Taxi and Limousine Commission voted to revise some of its rules Thursday, strengthening safety requirements for drivers of for-hire vehicles as well as yellow and green cabs. But the TLC still does not require aspiring cabbies to pass a New York City road test before obtaining a hack license.

There are 70,000 for-hire drivers currently licensed by the TLC, according to the agency, transporting almost as many passengers per day as yellow cabs. Surprisingly, until now the drivers of for-hire vehicles — including livery cabs, black cars, and limousines — didn’t have to pass a TLC exam to obtain TLC licenses. The new regulations require a “taxi school equivalent” course for new for-hire applicants and drivers who want to renew their for-hire licenses.

However, some drivers with no TLC-authorized training will still be allowed to drive for-hire vehicles. New drivers may be issued a conditional TLC license and given at least 90 days to complete the training course. Exempt from the training requirement are “New York City police officers and certain persons with military service.”

The TLC instituted a new continuing education component for taxi and for-hire drivers. Traditionally, after their first year with a TLC license taxi drivers were required only to take a general defensive driving course every three years. The revised rules require the completion of a TLC-specific “license renewal course” for taxi and for-hire drivers. It’s not clear exactly what the course will entail, though a TLC summary of the rule revisions suggests it will cover new TLC regulations and “new street design patterns,” in accordance with Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero program.

For-hire drivers will also receive specialized wheelchair-accessibility training under the new rules.

As Streetsblog reported last December, when the TLC held a hearing on the regulations adopted this week, drivers who want a TLC license must already have a for-hire license from the state DMV. The DMV requires a road test, but it isn’t tailored to the crowded street conditions applicants face in New York City.

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People Are Fundamentally Social, Except When We’re Inside a Car

What makes for a good environment inside a car and outside a car couldn't be more different, says Bill Lindeke at Twin City Sidewalks.

When you’re walking, it’s great to be around other people on their feet, but when you’re driving, it’s awful to be around other people in cars, says Bill Lindeke at Twin City Sidewalks.

Bill Lindeke at Twin City Sidewalks was on a high from this weekend, when he attended a pretty spectacular outdoor festival in his hometown of St. Paul. The streets were filled with people and activity. It got him thinking, as fun as it was, it would have been a miserable place to be if you were in a car trying to get somewhere.

He says the things that make pedestrians happy and drivers happy couldn’t be more fundamentally opposite:

The experience led me to dwell on the fundamental difference between walkable cities and a car-based society. Try as we might to reconcile the various “modes” of urban movement, the difference between driving a car and doing just about anything else all comes down to density. Put simply, in a car, more is bad; outside of a car, more is good.

It’s relatively simple to understand. Just look at any car commercial, showing people driving their shining new SUV through a city street. The one common denominator is that in almost every case, the streets are practically empty. The ideal state for driving a car is to be completely alone, to have the city all to yourself.

Now think about any commercial that shows people walking around a city. Typically, you’ll see streets full of other people, maybe dogs, shops, street vendors. The ideal city on foot is full of other people.

You just can’t get around that fundamental opposition. Cars transform us all into misanthropes.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Systemic Failure reports that city leaders in Hamilton, Ontario, voted to remove a dedicated bus lane. Strong Towns shares a case that illustrates how setting limits on infrastructure spending can be a good thing. And Mobilizing the Region says a new report rightly zeros in on New Jersey’s road funding troubles, but identifies the wrong solution.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Speaker’s Race: Heastie Gains Over Morelle (NYTObserverCapital); Nolan Still in Race (NYT)
  • If Vision Zero Is Going to Succeed, NYC Streets Will Need Major Redesigns (Chelsea Now)
  • Prendergast: Willets Point AirTrain Could Actually Cost $1 Billion, Double Cuomo’s Estimate (Capital)
  • Nassau County NICE Bus Driver Kills Pedestrian in Jamaica While Turning (WNBC, Post, WPIX)
  • Former Member Fondly Remembers How Shelly Quietly Killed Congestion Pricing (Capital)
  • Is Skelos Next? Preet Bharara Investigating Senate Leader for Real Estate Ties (WNBC)
  • Most of $1.3 Billion Thruway Bailout Will Go to TZB (CapTon, LoHud); No Toll Hike (LoHud)
  • Not Again: NYPD Busted for Ticketing Cyclists on a Bike Path, This Time in Central Park (Gothamist)
  • Get Ready for L Train Closures on Weekends and Late Nights This Spring (Capital, DNA)
  • Distracted Walking Is Apparently a Real Problem to WCBS
  • Adam Gopnik Learns to Drive a Car in Manhattan (New Yorker)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Just a Reminder: Cuomo Can Take Charge of the MTA Whenever He Wants

At approximately 5 p.m. Monday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he had ordered the complete closure of New York City’s bus and subway systems in the face of an oncoming snowstorm. If nothing else, it was a stark reminder that the transit system is not a political orphan. The MTA is, in fact, Cuomo’s agency.

Photo: NY Governor's Office/Flickr

When it’s convenient for him, Cuomo takes charge of the MTA. When it’s inconvenient, it’s someone else’s problem. Photo: NY Governor’s Office/Flickr

After the blizzard gave only a glancing blow to the city, Cuomo gathered at a morning press conference with his transportation deputies, including MTA Chair and CEO Tom Prendergast. A reporter asked about the cost of shutting down the transit system. ”These were factored in the budget, and this was not exceptional to that process,” Cuomo said. “I’m sure Tom will say he needs a budget increase because of this, but Tom was going to say he needed a budget increase anyway.” Chuckling, the governor patted Prendergast on the arm while they both smiled at the cameras.

Yes, the governor can turn off the transit system with a word, but a budget increase? That’s for Tom to worry about. And nevermind the hundreds of millions of dollars the governor has raided from the MTA’s operating budget since taking office.

Cuomo also likes to create distance between himself and the MTA when the subject turns to the agency’s five-year capital program, which he recently called “bloated.” It was not the critique of an executive determined to find efficiencies and do more with less at one of the most important agencies under his control. Rather, it was a way to separate himself from the MTA and frame the agency as an insatiable bureaucracy.

The MTA currently has a $15 billion funding gap in the $32 billion capital program. Cuomo talks about this problem as if it’s an abstraction, completely separate from his powers to set the agenda, control costs, and raise revenues. “The first budget from every agency also always calls for $15 billion. That’s part of the dance that we go through. That’s why I say it’s the initial, proposed budget,” he said in October. “We’ll then look at that budget and go through, and we’ll come up with a realistic number.”

Building a great transit system that lasts for generations should be a governor’s legacy, not a pesky agency request. But Cuomo has a different legacy transportation project, something he loves to call his own: the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement.

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Koch-Funded Groups: Cut All Federal Funding for Walking, Biking, Transit

The Highway Trust Fund is going broke, but a group of conservatives is pretending that the problem is "squirrel sanctuaries." Image: Brookings

As inflation eats away at the gas tax, the Highway Trust Fund is going broke. But a group of conservatives is pretending that the problem is transit and “squirrel sanctuaries.” Image: Brookings

You know it’s time to fight over the federal transportation bill when the fossil fuel-soaked elements of the conservative movement start agitating to stop funding everything except car infrastructure.

Yesterday, a coalition of 50 groups, several funded by the Koch brothers, sent a letter to Congress arguing that the way to fix federal transportation funding is to cut the small portion that goes to walking, biking, and transit [PDF]. The signatories do not want Congress to even think about raising the gas tax, which has been steadily eaten away by inflation since 1993.

The coalition membership includes many stalwarts of the Koch network, including Americans for Prosperity, Freedom Partners, and the Club for Growth. The Koch brothers recently went public with plans to spend nearly $900 million on the 2016 elections.

The billionaire-friendly coalition is trying to play the populist card. Raising the gas tax to pay for roads, they say, is “regressive” because poor people will pay more than rich people if the gas tax is increased. But eliminating all funding for transit, biking, and walking, which people who can’t afford a car rely on? Not a problem to these guys.

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In Brooklyn, Another Alleged Unlicensed Driver Faces Wrist Tap for Killing

An allegedly unlicensed driver who killed a pedestrian in a Brooklyn crosswalk last month was not charged with criminal negligence by NYPD or District Attorney Ken Thompson. Meanwhile, legislation to increase the penalty for causing a death while driving without a valid license continues to languish in Albany.

The motorist who killed Raul Leone-Vasquez was charged with unlicensed driving and careless driving, but was not charged by Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson with criminal negligence under the “rule of two.”

The motorist who killed Raul Leone-Vasquez was charged with unlicensed driving, a misdemeanor, and careless driving, a traffic infraction, but was not charged by Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson with criminal negligence.

Raul Leone-Vasquez was crossing Bay Parkway at Bath Avenue at around 6:35 a.m. on December 28 when Simcha Rosenblatt hit him with a Toyota Camry, according to the Bensonhurst Bean and the Daily News. Leone-Vasquez, 27, suffered head trauma and died at Lutheran Hospital. His death was reported by several outlets Wednesday, following an NYPD media release.

Rosenblatt, 60, of Lakewood, New Jersey, was charged with aggravated unlicensed operation and failure to exercise due care. The Bensonhurst Bean and WNBC reported that, according to police, Leone-Vasquez was crossing Bay Parkway east to west, in the crosswalk, and Rosenblatt was southbound on Bay Parkway. If that account is accurate, and Leone-Vasquez had a walk signal, it appears Rosenblatt would either have been turning from Bath Avenue onto Bay Parkway or he drove south through the intersection against the light.

Aggravated unlicensed operation is a low-level misdemeanor that stipulates that Rosenblatt drove without a license when he knew or should have known he didn’t have one. It is common for NYPD and city prosecutors to file a top charge of aggravated unlicensed operation when an accused unlicensed driver kills a pedestrian. It’s the same charge applied by police and prosecutors when an unlicensed driver commits a traffic infraction.

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