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Queens BP Melinda Katz Prioritizes Parking Over Affordable Housing

Few things set off alarm bells for car-owning New Yorkers more than the thought of having less parking. So when the Department of City Planning proposed a minor reduction in parking requirements, the community board chairs of Queens got a case of road rage, with Borough President Melinda Katz at the wheel.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz thinks parking mandates are more important than Photo: MelindaKatz/Twitter

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. Photo: MelindaKatz/Twitter

Here’s the problem: The city requires parking for most new development — a mandate that jacks up the cost of housing, even if residents don’t own cars. Senior citizens and low-income households, especially near transit, are less likely than other New Yorkers to own cars, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

As part of a package of reforms, DCP has proposed removing parking requirements for new senior and affordable housing developments within a half-mile of the subway, and to reduce or simplify them elsewhere.

This is a small step in the right direction, unless you’re a car-owning Queens community board chair. The crowd at Monday’s borough board meeting was apoplectic over the idea of eliminating some government parking mandates, reports the Queens Chronicle:

“Where are they going to go? This is crazy,” Community Board 5 Chairman Vincent Arcuri Jr. said…

“I can’t think of any development in this borough where parking wasn’t an issue to some degree,” said Betty Braton, chairwoman of CB 10.

Joseph Hennessy, chairman of CB 6, added that many senior citizens still own cars and don’t get around using public transportation…

Dolores Orr — chairwoman of CB 14, which represents the Rockaways — said the agency was not looking at the “quality of public transportation” in the areas where it seeks to loosen the requirements…

Arcuri added that parking is already hard to find, a point echoed by several other board members.

“I can’t see anywhere in this borough where people would be supportive of downsizing parking requirements,” Braton said, according to the Forum.

They were joined in their opposition by Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, who heads the borough board and appoints community board members. She issued a statement after the meeting:

Read more…

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Cab Driver Who Killed Cooper Stock Remains Eligible for TLC License

The cab driver who killed Cooper Stock is still eligible to be licensed by the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

Cooper Stock

Cooper Stock

Koffi Komlani struck 9-year-old Cooper and his father, Richard Stock, in an Upper West Side crosswalk in January 2014. This week, Komlani pled guilty to careless driving and was sentenced to a nominal fine and a six-month suspension of his drivers license. Though Cooper and his dad were walking with the right of way, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance filed no criminal charges against Komlani.

The TLC opted not to renew Komlani’s probationary hack license when it expired last July — which, under current agency rules, means he could be re-licensed.

“We did opt not to renew, but legally, for all intents and purposes, it was still a simple expiration, and the law provides for the opportunity to reapply for a new license after an expiration,” TLC spokesperson Allan Fromberg told Streetsblog. “But if he were to reapply, he would be subject to a stringent fitness review, which would take his history fully into account.”

Komlani would not be the only cab driver to kill or seriously injure someone and remain in good standing with the TLC. The cab drivers who fatally struck Kelly Gordon and Timothy Keith, and the cabbie who severed the leg of Sian Green, to cite just three instances, reportedly retained their hack licenses.

The law adopted in Cooper’s name, which took effect last September, gives TLC discretion to revoke a hack license only if a cab driver is convicted of a traffic violation or a crime following a crash that causes death or critical injury. The TLC suspended the license of Uber driver Aliou Diallo after he killed Wesley Mensing and injured Erin Sauchelli in Manhattan last January, but reinstated Diallo after the sole charge against him, a ticket for driving without a license, was dismissed by the DMV.

Cooper’s Law was intended to get dangerous cab drivers off the streets. But with drivers who have killed people still eligible for TLC licenses, agency rules clearly need additional reforms.

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Two Community Boards Sign Off on Greenpoint Avenue Bridge Bike Lanes

New bike lanes on the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge (solid blue arrows) have received support from two community boards. Tweaks to Greenpoint Avenue in Brooklyn are also moving ahead, but bike routes in Queens CB 2 are on hold as  Map: DOT

New bike lanes on the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge (solid blue arrows) have received support from two community boards, but the intersection of Greenpoint and Borden Avenues (purple dot) remains in question. Map: DOT [PDF]

Four years ago, DOT shelved a plan that would have added bike lanes to the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, also known as the J.J. Byrne Bridge, after a year of outcry from area businesses and residents. Now, a modified plan has cleared two community boards little more than a month after it was first proposed.

Unlike the previous plan, which put both eastbound and westbound traffic on a road diet, slimming the bridge from two lanes in each direction to one, the new proposal has one Brooklyn-bound car lane and two Queens-bound car lanes [PDF]. Cyclists will have six-foot bike lanes on either side, with four-foot buffers. As in the previous plan, the bike lanes will not be protected from car traffic.

DOT is also proposing adjustments to the Greenpoint Avenue bike lane from McGuinness Boulevard to Kingsland Avenue, where it connects with the J.J. Byrne Bridge. Some blocks will be converted to sharrows, while others will be upgraded to curbside buffered bike lanes that are wider than the current, faded markings, and will be painted green for improved visibility [PDF].

Resolutions supporting both the bridge bike lanes and the Greenpoint Avenue tweaks received overwhelming support from Brooklyn Community Board 1 at its general board meeting on Tuesday evening, according to Transportation Alternatives Brooklyn committee co-chair Becca Kaplan, who was there.

On the other side of the bridge, Queens CB 2 also voted overwhelmingly for the bridge bike lanes at its general board meeting on April 1, according to former CB 2 member Emilia Crotty.

While it’s given a thumbs-up to bike lanes on the bridge, CB 2 has yet to take action on DOT’s second phase of bike routes planned for Sunnyside and Long Island City [PDF].

The proposal, which calls for shared lane markings on Greenpoint Avenue leading northeast from the bridge, includes the intersection of Greenpoint and Borden Avenues, which has long been of concern to local residents.

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
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The Beginning of the End for Dallas’s Trinity Toll Road?

Dallas City Council is endorsing and alternative to the Trinity Toll Road, without formally withdrawing support for the larger highway plan. Image: Trinity Parkway Design Charette

The “dream team” alternative to the Trinity Toll Road in Dallas would build a smaller four-lane road, but it leaves the door open for wide highway later on. Image: Trinity Parkway Design Charette [PDF]

It seems like the Trinity Toll Road — a proposal to build a wide, high-speed road right next to the Trinity River in Dallas — is losing momentum. But the politics of road-building in Texas are tricky, and the highway isn’t dead yet.

Earlier this week, a “dream team” of advisers selected by Mayor Mike Rawlings, who supports the project, came out and said they didn’t think the $1.5 billion highway was necessary, and that it would ultimately undermine efforts to establish a nice park by the river. However, their proposal for a smaller, four-lane road would leave open the option of building a wider highway later on.

In the City Council, legislators are still looking to build the full highway, but now they won’t come out and say it directly. At least, that seems to be the takeaway from the latest intrigue, according to Dallas Morning News’ Transportation Blog reporter Brandon Formby:

In a last-minute amendment, the City Council voted unanimously not to affirm its support of the larger version of Trinity Parkway that’s planned to be built. But it didn’t technically say it doesn’t support it. In a way, it reaffirmed its support for the current large plan in a subsequent 10-4 vote to look at how to incorporate the dream team’s recommendations into the existing, already FHWA-approved plan for the larger road.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • Hit-and-Run Driver Critically Injures 88-Year-Old Man Riding Bike in South Ozone Park (WNBC)
  • Queens CB Members Oppose Even the Smallest Effort to Reduce Parking Requirements (Forum, Q Chron)
  • Queens CB 5 Chair: Woodhaven SBS Street Safety Redesign Will Kill “1,000 Kids a Week” (Q Chron)
  • FiDi Parents Want Enforcement, Crossing Guard After Sidewalk Driver Injures Pedestrian (DNA)
  • DMV Delayed Hearing for Cooper Stock’s Killer Even After Vance Declined to Press Charges (Post)
  • Advance Covers City Council’s BRT Planning Bill; 2nd Ave Sagas Is Not Impressed
  • Suit From Limo Company Claims Uber’s E-Hail System Encourages Distracted Driving (Post)
  • Business for Yellow Taxis Is Down, But Maybe Not as Much as You Might Think (Crain’s)
  • Bronx, Uptown Electeds Call on MTA to Add Fordham Road Subway Line to Capital Plan (Scribd)
  • Here’s What Happens When the Person You Ram With Your Car Is an Off-Duty Cop (Advance 1, 2)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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DOT Scraps Bus Lanes in Kew Gardens Hills for Flushing-Jamaica SBS

This afternoon, the City Council overwhelmingly passed a bill that requires DOT to work with the MTA on a citywide Bus Rapid Transit plan to be updated every two years. The vote came a day after DOT told bus lane opponents in eastern Queens that it will water down a Select Bus Service proposal in their neighborhood.

miller_lancman

I. Daneek Miller and Rory Lancman.

In many ways, the new bill codifies much of the city’s existing BRT planning process. It requires DOT to work with the MTA on a 10-year blueprint for the city’s BRT network updated every two years, taking into consideration the city’s land development patterns and including estimates of how much it will cost to build and operate the routes.

The bill, sponsored by Council Member Brad Lander, passed 49-1. The lone vote against it: I. Daneek Miller, who objects to plans to bring Select Bus Service to the Q44 between Flushing and Jamaica.

“He supports BRT,” said Miller spokesperson Ali Rasoulinejad. “It’s not so much with BRT as it is with the way this process is conducted… If this is the way this process is going to happen, where community voices are not going to be heard, we might not be ready for it.”

Rasoulinejad questioned whether the Q44, which serves more than 28,000 passengers daily, attracts enough people to merit investment. He also cited the potential reduction in on-street parking spaces and said Miller would like the MTA to focus on other projects, like replacing an over-capacity bus depot in his district. (Before joining the City Council, Miller served as president of Amalgamated Transportation Union Local 1056.)

Meanwhile, Miller’s neighboring council member, Rory Lancman, can claim victory in his fight against Flushing-Jamaica Select Bus Service. At a meeting of the Kew Gardens Hills Civic Association last night, DOT said it would not be adding bus lanes to Main Street in that neighborhood.

“We had a very productive community meeting last night,” said Lancman spokesperson Nadia Chait. “The council member found that in that situation the DOT and the MTA had really listened to the community.”

Read more…

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NYC DOT Now Using Automated Counters to Measure Bike Trips

There’s some neat news in NYC DOT’s 2014 bike count announcement that I missed in my haste to post about it yesterday. Last April, the agency began to use loop induction counters to measure bike trips on the East River bridges. The automated counters enable DOT to collect data more often, so we can have greater confidence in the accuracy of the numbers.

Here’s what DOT says about the counters [PDF]:

Starting in April 2014, automated loop induction counters were used on the East River Bridges replacing manual counts by human enumerators. Automated counts have the benefit of providing continuous and more robust data throughout the year. To best equate the automated count data with historical data, each monthly count consists of average daily volume for every non-holiday weekday without precipitation. A typical monthly count now consists of between 11 and 17 days of data, versus 1 to 2 days of data in the previous system.

All told, during the peak months of April through October, DOT collected bike counts on 93 days last year, compared to 10 days in previous years. DOT periodically tests the accuracy of the automated counters by comparing the tallies against hand counts of cyclists.

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Will de Blasio and Mark-Viverito Back Effort to Fully Fund Vision Zero?

bdb-mmv

City Hall will have to double its commitment to street redesigns that prioritize safety in order to dramatically reduce traffic deaths on NYC’s most dangerous streets in our lifetimes, advocates say. That level of spending could be accomplished with a relatively small shift in resources in the city’s total capital budget.

Transportation Alternatives has drafted a letter to Mayor de Blasio asking the administration to dedicate additional resources to redesigning the city’s most dangerous streets. On Monday, more than 100 volunteers for TA and Families For Safe Streets visited council members seeking their support, and so far 19 have signed on.

Advocates want the city to both double its planned investment in Vision Zero capital projects — permanent street redesigns cast in concrete — and scale up its “operational” projects — redesigns made with paint and other low-cost materials that can quickly bring down the death toll on city streets. They also emphasize the need for solid timetables for implementation, to ensure the city stays on track to meet its goals.

On the capital side, that would mean spending $2.4 billion every 10 years to overhaul the most dangerous streets. TA says that level of investment could comprehensively redesign the city’s arterial streets within 50 years.

While that would represent a large increase, it would not be a large share of the city’s total capital budget, which amounted to about $80 billion over the 10-year period from 2003 to 2012. A faster street reconstruction timetable could also save the city money in the long run by reducing lifecycle maintenance costs.

Mayor de Blasio’s “Great Streets” initiative committed $250 million over several years for redesigns of four arterials, including Queens Boulevard and the Grand Concourse, and the preliminary City Council budget recommends doubling that amount. That would be progress, but it’s no substitute for a detailed, long-term funding and implementation strategy.

Outside of the Great Streets program, for instance, DOT is planning just 50 Vision Zero projects a year citywide, some no bigger than a single intersection. That’s not nearly enough to meet the need for street safety upgrades.

“Neighborhoods across the five boroughs are really clamoring for safety improvements on local streets, so there’s an unprecedented demand for what we know are proven fixes,” says TA Deputy Director Caroline Samponaro. “That presents a challenge for the city, but it’s ultimately an opportunity for us to invest in what the next generation of New York City streets should look like.”

Read more…

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Bad Planning and Bad Transit Put Jobs Out of Reach for Milwaukeeans

Milwaukee is the poster child for the special kind of economic oppression that results from a combination of residential segregation, bad transit options, and job sprawl. This is a problem to some extent in almost every city in the country, but it’s worse in formerly industrial cities where big employers have decamped for the suburbs. And in Wisconsin, where the governor and state DOT are determined to spend billions on highway expansions while starving transit, the situation is especially desperate.

Low-income workers who lack cars in Milwaukee face major structural obstacles to employment. Photo: Urban Milwaukee

As Milwaukee bus service shrinks, low-income workers who don’t own cars face even greater structural obstacles to employment. Photo: Urban Milwaukee

Matthew Wisla recently wrote a great synopsis of the problem for the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, which Network blog Urban Milwaukee reposted. Here’s his report:

It has been decades since the city was an engine for regional job growth. “Most of the job growth in recent years is either at the outer parts of the county or outside of the county,” said Kristi Luzar, deputy director of programs, Urban Economic Development Association of Wisconsin. “The biggest problem facing many people in the city is getting connections to jobs.”

Employment in Washington, Ozaukee and Waukesha Counties increased by 56,271 from 1994 to 2009, while the city lost 27,858 jobs, according to a report published earlier this year by the Center for Economic Development at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Reaching suburban employment centers can be challenging for city residents. About 13 percent of city households don’t have access to a car, according to the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.

State budget cuts that began in 2001 forced MCTS to eliminate routes and now the bus system reaches about 1,300 fewer employers than it would have before the cuts began. Approximately 30,900 workers are employed by those businesses in an average year, according to the Center for Economic Development.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • Driver Injures Woman on FiDi Sidewalk, No Charges; Neighbors Say It’s a Regular Problem (DNA)
  • Joe Borelli Wants Right-on-Red, Fewer Car Inspections, Tax Break for Car Commuters (Advance)
  • Bayside Parking Study Shows Space Is Tight — Will BID, Electeds Price Parking or Build More? (TL)
  • Texting-While-Cycling Bill: Gothamist Goes with Facts, Post Falls Back on “Hipster” Headline
  • De Blasio’s Jamaica Plan Includes Streetscape Fixes, Redeveloped Parking Garages (Capital, Crain’s)
  • Dromm Appoints Diversity Plaza Champion Ageh Saleh to Queens CB 3 (Q Gazette)
  • Marcia Kramer Found a Bus Bulb on First Avenue That’s Been Under Construction a Long Time (WCBS)
  • Nicole Gelinas Flags Labor Rules as Another Factor in High Construction Costs (Post)
  • City Breaks Ground on Plaza and Scenic Overlook at Belden Point on City Island (News 12)
  • Gowanus Alliance Calls for Bike-Ped Bridge Across Canal at Fifth Street (DNA)
  • NJ Transit’s Coming 9 Percent Fare Hike Is Probably Just the Beginning (WSJ via 2nd Ave Sagas)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA