Skip to content

Posts from the "City Council" Category

15 Comments

City Council: Drivers With Free On-Street Parking Have Suffered Enough

It may be the Vision Zero era, but some things never change. If you’re looking for cost-free, consequence-free storage of your private automobile in public space, the City Council still has your back.

The bill under consideration today by the City Council’s transportation committee, to nibble away at alternate side parking restrictions, may not be as egregious as previous council ideas like free time at unpaid meters or changing city law to mandate parking permits for teachers. But it did offer an opportunity for council members to inveigh on behalf of put-upon “real New Yorkers” who store their cars on the street for free.

Although the average car owner in New York City has a much higher income than a car-free counterpart, that didn’t stop council members from constantly referring to parking tickets as a tax on the middle and working class.

“It’s the anger of real New Yorkers who feel that the city is using them as a piggy bank and that the middle class is being squeezed by unnecessary tickets,” said Council Member Costa Constantinides of Astoria, who signed on to the legislation after seeing illegally-parked drivers on a swept street get tickets before the parking restriction ended. ”It felt as if it was just for revenue,” he said.

The bill would allow drivers to park during prohibited hours so long as they are “in the vehicle and ready to move” when the street sweeper comes through. ”We should not be going after the working class or middle class,” said Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez, who has pushed the legislation for years. ”[It's] a struggle New Yorkers are all too familiar with.”

The city’s sanitation and police departments testified today in opposition to the bill. ”The signs are put up there for a reason,” said NYPD Inspector Dennis Fulton. “The streets need to be cleaned.”

Read more…

32 Comments

De Blasio Signs Traffic Safety Bills, Says 25 MPH Will Go Into Effect This Fall

Mayor de Blasio signs 11 traffic safety bills this morning at PS 152 in Queens, surrounded by families of traffic violence victims. Photo: Stephen Miller

Mayor de Blasio signed 11 traffic safety bills earlier today at PS 152 in Queens, surrounded by families of traffic violence victims. Photo: Stephen Miller

Earlier today, Mayor Bill de Blasio returned to the schoolyard where he launched his administration’s Vision Zero campaign in January, just feet from where 9-year-old Noshat Nahian was killed last December while walking to PS 152 with his sister. A little more than six months after announcing his intent to eliminate traffic fatalities within 10 years, the mayor signed bills that suspend the licenses of dangerous taxi drivers, require the installation of 20 mph Slow Zones, and make it a misdemeanor to strike a pedestrian or cyclist with the right of way, among other changes.

While today’s press conference struck a celebratory note, the mayor made clear that Vision Zero is a continuing effort. “The vision is to end traffic fatalities in this city. It’s not easy. Nobody said it was easy,” de Blasio said. “When you think about Vision Zero and all its components, fundamentally it comes down to reducing speeding, reducing reckless driving.”

“A special thanks to all the family members of all the individuals who have turned their pain into action and who have had a huge impact in this city and in this state,” he said. “[They] have been fantastic advocates, particularly in Albany.”

With Families for Safe Streets members in Albany last week, the State Senate and Assembly passed legislation to lower the default speed limit in New York City to 25 mph. De Blasio said that the new limit will likely go into effect this fall after Governor Cuomo signs the bill and the City Council passes its own speed limit legislation.

The package of bills that the mayor signed today focuses on TLC, DOT, and NYPD.

Read more…

4 Comments

City Council Passes Home Rule Message for 25 MPH. Is Klein Listening?

Update: The Daily News reports that Klein will be introducing legislation by the end of the week to lower speed limits to 25 mph only on streets with two lanes or less. Streets with more than two lanes would remain at 30 mph, and the local community board would be required to make a request for a lower speed limit before the city could make the change. This would effectively tie the city’s hands on arterial streets, where DOT can already set the limit at 25 mph under current law.

This afternoon in a 44-4 vote, the City Council passed a home rule message asking Albany to pass legislation to lower New York City’s default speed limit from 30 to 25 mph. Now it’s up to the State Senate to introduce a companion bill to legislation sponsored by Speaker Sheldon Silver, and advocates are hoping Senate Co-Leader Jeff Klein will step up.

The City Council wants the State Senate to step up for a lower speed limit. Will Jeff Klein take it on? Photo: NY Senate

“We’re requesting that we be given the authority to establish a citywide 25 mph speed limit, while also making it easier to sign 20 mph speed limits in select locations,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

Streetsblog asked Klein spokesperson Anna Durrett this morning if the senator had a reaction to the home rule message. “I will get back to you,” she said. (So far, she hasn’t.) The window for action from Klein is closing: This year’s legislative session ends a week from tomorrow.

The home rule bill, which unanimously passed the transportation committee yesterday, received wide support at the full City Council this afternoon. Council members were accompanied on the floor by students in the “Council Member for a Day” program, and one of them had a message about the speed limit bill.

“Traffic in the city is dangerous, and by lowering the speed limit from 30 to 25, police can ticket more people who are speeding,” said Christopher Gerbasi, a student at P.S. 128 in Middle Village who was spending the day with Council Member Elizabeth Crowley.

Not all council members agreed with the majority. The four “nay” votes were from Vincent Ignizio and Steven Matteo of Staten Island, Eric Ulrich of Queens, and Jumaane Williams of Brooklyn.

“I am very much in support of the vast majority of Vision Zero, but I’m not convinced that we need to lower the speed limit to 25 mph across the entire city,” Williams said, adding that he supports Slow Zones. Williams said he is aware that people are much safer in crashes at slower speeds, and noted that 20 is even safer than 25 mph, but somehow this did not lead him to vote for the bill. Instead, he said there should be more tickets for drivers violating the existing 30 mph limit. “I am not convinced that it’s not an issue of enforcement,” he said.

After his vote, Williams said on Twitter that “it’s possible” he misunderstood the bill and “would be happy to learn more” — but the issue is out of the City Council’s hands now. It’s up to the State Senate.

8 Comments

Council Bill Would Fine Drivers for Leaving the Scene of a Crash

Council Members Jimmy Van Bramer and Ydanis Rodriguez have introduced a bill that would impose civil penalties for hit-and-run crashes.

Intro 371 would attach escalating fines, based on injury severity, for violating Section 600 of the state traffic code, which deals with leaving the scene. Fines would begin at “not more than” $250 for drivers who leave the scene of a crash, $500 to $1,000 for a crash resulting in physical injury, $1,000 to $5,000 for a serious injury crash, and $2,000 to $5,000 for a fatal crash.

The bill refers to Article 10 of the state penal law for definitions of injury — “impairment of physical condition or substantial pain” — and serious injury — “injury which creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes death or serious and protracted disfigurement, protracted impairment of health or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.”

Unlike Intro 238, a bill passed by the council last week that applies a strict liability standard to cases where motorists strike pedestrians or cyclists who have the right of way, Intro 371 would apply only when a driver ”knows or has cause to know that physical injury has occurred.” This burden of proof gives rise to the “I didn’t see her” defense, often employed by hit-and-run drivers who avoid prosecution, even in cases where the victim dies.

Current state law gives drivers who have been drinking an incentive to flee the scene, as the criminal penalty for hit-and-run can be less severe than for causing injury while driving drunk. Albany has repeatedly failed to pass legislation that would toughen criminal penalties for leaving the scene.

4 Comments

For Cooper’s Law to Work, NYPD Must Change Its Approach to Traffic Crashes

For Cooper’s Law to be effective, ticketing reckless drivers will have to become the rule for NYPD, rather than the exception. Graphic by Carly Clark. Citation data via Transportation Alternatives.

One of the most substantive traffic safety bills passed by the City Council Thursday was Intro 171 — “Cooper’s Law” — which allows the Taxi and Limousine Commission to suspend or revoke hack licenses of cab drivers who cause critical injury or death as a result of breaking traffic laws. The effectiveness of the law, however, depends on NYPD, which often does not ticket drivers involved in serious crashes.

The driver who killed Cooper Stock, the law’s namesake, was cited for failure to yield. But the cab drivers who fatally struck Kelly Gordon and Timothy Keith, for example, were reportedly not summonsed for those crashes. Nor was the cabbie who severed the leg of Sian Green. Even with Cooper’s Law in effect, all of those cab drivers would theoretically remain in good standing with the TLC.

It is too early to know whether NYPD is ticketing more drivers who injure and kill since the advent of Vision Zero, but another item on yesterday’s agenda might be instructive. The council passed a resolution asking Albany to elevate violations of the state’s vulnerable user law to misdemeanor status, which would let cops ticket drivers based on probable cause. NYPD has said it can’t cite drivers for mere traffic violations unless an officer personally witnesses the incident.

Hayley and Diego’s Law — also named after children killed by a driver who avoided criminal charges — was meant to give police a middle ground between a traffic violation and a crime. Because the department only issues careless driving citations if the crash is investigated by the Collision Investigation Squad, NYPD has for years failed to enforce the law as intended. As a result, fewer than 1 percent of New York City drivers who injure and kill pedestrians and cyclists are cited for careless driving.

Another potential hindrance is that NYPD investigates a fraction of serious traffic crashes. Though Ray Kelly purportedly retired the “likely to die” rule, only CIS personnel are trained to do more than check off boxes on the state-issued collision report form. In 2011 NYPD investigated just 304 of 3,192 fatal or serious collisions, according to the office of former comptroller John Liu. Even with reported additions to CIS, the unit has nowhere close to the staff it needs to properly investigate all serious crashes.

If NYPD limits enforcement of Cooper’s Law to CIS-investigated collisions, or does not change its approach to traffic crashes in a meaningful way, dangerous cab drivers will remain on the job.

57 Comments

City Council Passes Several Bills to Reduce Reckless Driving

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and other reps before today's meeting. Photo: ##https://twitter.com/willalatriste/status/472067061028777984##@willalatriste##

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and other reps before today’s meeting. Photo: @willalatriste

The City Council today passed a slate of bills and resolutions aimed at improving street safety.

The 11 bills — outlined in detail here — include Intro 238, which would make it a misdemeanor for a driver to “make contact” with a pedestrian or cyclist who has the right of way, punishable by up to $500 in fines and 30 days in jail; and Intro 171, known as “Cooper’s Law,” which would suspend or revoke TLC licenses of cab drivers who are summonsed or convicted, respectively, of traffic violations stemming from crashes that result in critical injury or death.

Council Member Mark Weprin, of Queens, cast the lone vote against Intro 171. Weprin said the bill comes too close to creating a strict liability standard — which, according to attorney and traffic law expert Steve Vaccaro, is exactly what New York State needs to reduce deaths and injuries. Weprin said he fears the law would punish some unfairly — that a driver’s career shouldn’t end because of one incident, and that a cabbie who rolls through a stop sign and causes a crash should not necessarily be subject to the same penalties as one who crashes while speeding. (The cab driver who killed Cooper Stock failed to yield and had an otherwise clean record.) “This is the livelihood of these drivers,” said Weprin. Council Members Vincent Gentile and Jumaane Williams abstained from voting on the bill.

Other bills would combine points issued by the state DMV and the TLC against hack licenses and set new TLC license suspension and revocation standards; require the TLC to review and report on cab driver crashes and subsequent disciplinary actions; codify the number of Slow Zones DOT implements each year; codify DOT work zone safety standards; require DOT to study the safety of arterial streets, study safety issues pertaining to left turns by motorists, and inspect and/or repair broken traffic signals within 24 hours; and prohibit “stunt behavior” by motorcyclists.

The bill to require the TLC to institute a one-year pilot program for “black box” technology to record and report taxi driver behavior was not on today’s agenda. TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi told the transportation committee in April that the agency has issued RFIs for the program, but she made no mention of the pilot in budget testimony before the council earlier this month.

One bill in the transportation committee hopper not taken up today would mandate side guards for trucks to help prevent people from being swept beneath them. DOT asked that the council hold off on legislating truck guards in lieu of a pending study already underway within the department.

The council approved resolutions asking Albany to grant the city control over speed and red light cameras, increase the penalty for driving on a sidewalk to $250 and three license points, make it a misdemeanor to violate the state’s vulnerable user law, increase the penalty for reckless driving that results in death or serious injury, and pass extant bills to increase penalties for leaving the scene of a crash.

Read more…

1 Comment

TLC Won’t Renew Hack License of Cab Driver Who Killed Cooper Stock

The cab driver who killed 9-year-old Cooper Stock won’t be prosecuted by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, but he won’t have a hack license much longer.

Koffi Komlani has not driven a cab since he struck Cooper and his father in an Upper West Side crosswalk in January, according to Allan Fromberg, spokesperson for the Taxi and Limousine Commission. Being a new driver, Komlani has a one-year probationary license, and the TLC will not renew it when it expires on July 5, Fromberg said.

“Obviously, while we are seeking to address issues of getting drivers that we believe are risky off the road more easily through legislative means via Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan, in the meantime, at least, we can take this action,” Fromberg told Capital New York.

The TLC says it is hamstrung by rules that make it difficult to take dangerous cab drivers off the streets. Komlani stopped driving voluntarily. The cabbies who killed 5-year-old Timothy Keith and severed the leg of tourist Sian Green, for example, also retained their hack licenses.

Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero Action Plan includes a number of taxi safety initiatives, including “black box” tech to monitor cab driver behavior. However, TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi did not mention that program when she outlined the TLC’s FY 15 budget for the City Council. Joshi has said the TLC and NYPD will form an enforcement squad that will focus exclusively on TLC-licensed vehicles.

After the news broke that Komlani would not be charged criminally, Council Member Helen Rosenthal again called for the passage of “Cooper’s Law,” her bill to suspend or revoke the hack licenses of cab drivers who are summonsed or convicted, respectively, of traffic violations stemming from crashes that result in critical injury or death. 

“Current laws are clearly inadequate, and this news affirms the need for Cooper’s Law,” said Rosenthal in a press release. “The City legislates the TLC, and it’s our responsibility to ensure that those laws are sound.”

1 Comment

No Mention of Cab Safety Tech as TLC Commish Outlines Vision Zero Budget

Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero Action Plan contains a number of initiatives to improve cab driver safety, including “black box” technology to monitor cabbie behavior. TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi told the City Council in early May that the agency has issued RFIs for a telematics pilot program, but she didn’t mention the program during testimony at Thursday’s council budget hearing.

Meera Joshi

TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi

She did explain the TLC’s current disciplinary process. Responding to a question from council member and transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez, Joshi said TLC inspectors do field enforcement and issue summonses based on observed cab driver activity. A second group within TLC prosecutes offenses in an administrative court, Joshi said. The court falls under the auspices of the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, a city agency that is independent of the TLC.

Rodriguez, himself a former livery driver, told Joshi that the council wants to see the TLC emphasize safety and ramp up enforcement against reckless cab drivers, while making sure drivers are treated fairly.

Rodriguez asked that the TLC hold a Vision Zero town hall for cabbies. “I think it’s an excellent idea,” Joshi said.

Joshi testified after representatives from the MTA. Here are more highlights:

  • The FY 15 TLC budget includes $1.1 million in new funding for Vision Zero, Joshi said. Funds will be allocated for what Joshi called a “safety squad” — presumably the joint TLC/NYPD enforcement effort she mentioned at a council hearing earlier this month — PSAs for passengers, and educational materials for drivers.
  • Joshi said removing unlicensed cabs is “the most effective way to keep our streets safe.” She told the council again that the TLC now has unlimited capacity to tow and impound such vehicles.
  • The TLC won’t be issuing any more boro cab permits, Joshi said, until the agency has “a good understanding about how the program has worked so far.” There are currently 5,000 cabs that pick up street hails outside the Manhattan core, and 1,000 more permits were issued for cabs that are not yet on the street, Joshi said. Mayor de Blasio, whose campaign was partially funded by yellow cab owners, criticized the Bloomberg initiative as a candidate. Dana Rubinstein of Capital New York has a good analysis of where the program stands as of Thursday.

Read more…

10 Comments

DOT Breaks Down Street Safety Spending for City Council

At a City Council budget hearing today, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg outlined in detail how DOT plans to allocate funds for street safety over the next year.

DOT will spend $23 million to acquire the 120 additional speed cameras that were authorized by the state legislature this session, Trottenberg said, and will begin the procurement process when Governor Cuomo signs the bill into law. In her opening statement Trottenberg thanked the council for passing a home rule message in support of legislation to lower the default city speed limit to 25 miles per hour, which she said would be “invaluable” to DOT’s street safety program.

On the subject of speed cameras, Trottenberg said placements will be data-driven. “We’re looking at creative ways to enhance the value of cameras,” she said, possibly including dummy signs that indicate an area “may be monitored.”

For FY 15, Trottenberg said, DOT has allocated $13 million to redesign streets and intersections; $2 million for speed humps, including those in Slow Zones; $3 million for Vision Zero educational materials; $8 million for wayfinding signs and the City Bench program; and $19 million for public plazas. To put these numbers in perspective, DOT’s total “controllable expenses” are budgeted at $493 million in FY 2015 [PDF, page 46]. The speed cameras, speed humps, and Vision Zero educational materials seem to account for the $28.8 million in DOT Vision Zero funds earmarked in Mayor de Blasio’s executive budget.

The city will build the West Street and Flushing Avenue segments of the Brooklyn Greenway next year, Trottenberg said, and will complete a streetscape project on 185th Street in Washington Heights.

Other news from the hearing:

  • Trottenberg said the city is negotiating with Alta as the company attempts to improve bike-share operations and attract investors. “I’m hopeful that we’re going to have some good news to announce,” she said. As they have at prior hearings, several council members, including Steve Levin, Brad Lander, and Jimmy Van Bramer, said that they would like to see city funds devoted to bike-share.
  • Responding to a question from Council Member Julissa Ferreras, Trottenberg said DOT will try to work with existing non-profits to help maintain public plazas in areas where there are no business improvement districts.

Read more…

7 Comments

Council Members Rally With StreetsPAC (and Bicycles) on City Hall Steps

Council Members Helen Rosenthal, Ben Kallos, and Carlos Menchaca raise their bicycles outside outside of City Hall this morning. Photo: Stephen Miller

Council Members Helen Rosenthal, Ben Kallos, and Carlos Menchaca raise their bicycles outside City Hall this morning. (Kallos rode Citi Bike to the event.) Photo: Stephen Miller

This morning, five City Council members joined StreetsPAC and dozens of bike commuters on the steps of City Hall to celebrate Bike to Work Week and push for Vision Zero traffic safety policies before today’s transportation budget hearing.

One group rode from Brooklyn Borough Hall and another from Union Square, meeting up just before 9 a.m. for a rare City Hall photo op involving bikes, which required coordination with police and City Council staff. Council members Brad Lander, Ben Kallos, Carlos Menchaca, Antonio Reynoso, and Helen Rosenthal were on hand.

“It was a short ride from Borough Hall to City Hall, but it has been a long ride to move the city forward on issues of safe streets and a more livable city, and we have a long way to go,” Lander said. “Every week, somebody is killed on our streets, and that means every week, we’ve got to be doing more to make everybody safer.”

After concluding his remarks, Lander spotted two members of Mayor de Blasio’s staff, deputy press secretary Wiley Norvell and policy analyst Ben Furnas, walking into City Hall. Lander called out to them and introduced them to the group. “The mayor is the author of the Vision Zero plan, but he may have had a little help,” he said to cheers from the advocates.

The event also offered an opportunity for council members to talk up various policy initiatives.

Read more…