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Manhattan DA Subpoenas Twitter to Solve Vexing @BicycleLobby Case

The Twitterverse had a good laugh on July 22, when the Daily News and the Associated Press reported, in all seriousness, that the @BicycleLobby had claimed responsibility for planting white flags on top of the Brooklyn Bridge. Both outlets reversed course after it was pointed out that @BicycleLobby is a self-identified parody account. But it looks like some people in NYC law enforcement thought they still had a promising lead.

On July 23, the Manhattan DA’s office issued a subpoena to Twitter requesting contact information and IP logs for the @BicycleLobby account and the offending Tweet. @BicycleLobby posted the subpoena online today.

The subpoena includes no details about why the DA’s office is seeking this information, and doesn’t mention the “white flag” incident except to identify the URL of the Tweet.

Here again is the Tweet we’re talking about:

In the past, NYPD has asked the DA’s office to issue subpoenas in cases involving social media accounts, even though the agency has subpoena power itself. The DA’s office declined to comment about this subpoena, and NYPD’s public information desk has not returned Streetsblog’s inquiry.

No word yet on whether police and prosecutors are investigating @BicycleLobby’s threats against the editor of the New Yorker:

Read more…

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A Year Later, Cyclist Nearly Hit by NYPD Gives Up on CCRB Complaint

St. Nicholas Avenue at 145th Street, where a cyclist says she was nearly struck, and then harassed, by two NYPD officers in a marked patrol car. Image: Google Maps

St. Nicholas Avenue at 145th Street, where a cyclist says she was nearly struck, and was harassed, by two NYPD officers in a marked patrol car. Image: Google Maps

A resident of Upper Manhattan who said she was almost hit, and was then harassed, by NYPD officers as she rode her bike has given up on her complaint to the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which made no progress on the case for close to a year after the incident.

En route to Central Park, Joan (not her real name) was headed south on St. Nicholas Avenue, through the 30th Precinct, at 6:30 a.m. on July 31, 2013. As she crossed 145th Street, she told Streetsblog last year, “a cop car double-parked on the right made a U-turn in front of me — apparently without looking or he would’ve seen my bright orange jersey in his mirror.”

“Thankfully I just barely missed a collision,” Joan said. “After passing I heard the cop yelling so I stopped and turned around. The cop in the passenger seat called me a ‘Jackass’ three times, gave me the finger, and the driver took off.”

She saw the car number — 2516 — but did not see if the marked cruiser was assigned to the 30th Precinct.

Joan filed a complaint with the Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent agency that, according to its web site, is “empowered to receive, investigate, mediate, hear, make findings, and recommend action on complaints against New York City police officers alleging the use of excessive or unnecessary force, abuse of authority, discourtesy, or the use of offensive language.” She sat for an in-person interview in August, which the CCRB audio taped. When she hadn’t heard anything by early November, she emailed the assigned CCRB investigator.

The investigator responded by email the next day. She told Joan she had some follow-up questions — which according to Joan turned out to be questions she addressed during her interview. Still, she answered them again, this time in writing.

“Why did you believe that both of the officers inside of the police vehicle were uniformed?” the investigator asked. (Joan replied that she saw both of them from the chest up.) “Were there any witnesses that you can identify and/or provide their names and contact information, of this incident?” (There weren’t.)

In addition, emails show the investigator informed Joan that her complaint about almost being hit by the officers’ patrol car was outside the CCRB’s jurisdiction, and would be taken up by a different agency, which would be in touch.

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DOT Announces New Arterial Slow Zones Across the Boroughs

On Friday, DOT announced the second round of Arterial Slow Zones, which will expand the program by 14 streets before the end of the year.

State Senator Adriano Espaillat and City Council reps Ydanis Rodriguez and Helen Rosenthal inaugurated the Broadway Arterial Slow Zone today. DOT announced on Friday that 14 additional arterials will get the slow zone treatment before the year is out. Photo: ##https://twitter.com/EspaillatNY/status/496363520024670208##@EspaillatNY##

State Senator Adriano Espaillat and City Council reps Ydanis Rodriguez and Helen Rosenthal inaugurated the Broadway Arterial Slow Zone today. DOT announced on Friday that 14 additional arterials will get the slow zone treatment before the year is out. Photo: @EspaillatNY

The first of those streets to get the slow zone treatment is Jerome Avenue in the Bronx, where as of today the speed limit is 5 miles per hour lower along a five-mile segment, from E. 161st Street to Bainbridge Avenue, according to a DOT press release.

Arterials comprise 15 percent of total NYC street mileage, but account for some 60 percent of pedestrian fatalities. With high-visibility signage, changes in signal timing, and — ostensibly — increased law enforcement, the Arterial Slow Zone program brings a focus to streets that are especially dangerous.

“In total, dangerous speeding will be reduced on more than 65 miles of major corridors that have seen 83 fatalities,” the DOT press release says.

The citywide default 25 mph speed limit is expected to be implemented by October.

Here are the other phase two streets, with the expected slow zone completion month and their respective number of pedestrian fatalities from 2008 to 2012:

  • Manhattan: Seventh Avenue from Central Park South to 11th Street, August, four fatalities
  • Brooklyn: Coney Island Avenue from Park Circle to the Boardwalk, September, six fatalities
  • Queens: Roosevelt Avenue from Queens Boulevard to 154th Street, September, five fatalities
  • Staten Island: Victory Boulevard from Bay Street to Wild Avenue, September, five fatalities
  • Brooklyn: Utica Avenue from Malcom X Boulevard to Flatbush Avenue, October, 12 fatalities
  • Brooklyn: Flatbush Avenue/Flatbush Avenue Extension from Concord Street to Hendrickson Place, October, 11 fatalities

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Eyes on the Street: Slower Speed Limits Coming to Broadway, Southern Blvd

nypd_speed_notice

A Streetsblog reader sent in this NYPD flyer posted in the lobby of his apartment building on the Upper West Side, and another reports getting the same notice via email yesterday.

The citywide 25 mph speed limit enacted by Albany this session is expected to go into effect in October. In the meantime, the de Blasio administration is moving ahead with its “Arterial Slow Zone” program, which combines 25 mph limits, safer traffic signal timing, and increased speed enforcement.

Broadway above Midtown and just about all of Southern Boulevard are next in line for the Slow Zone treatment, and it’s good to see NYPD marking the occasion with this straightforward street safety message.

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Local Speeding Tickets (Barely) Outnumber Sidewalk Biking Summonses

We’ve got a new installment in Streetsblog’s hotly-anticipated Sidewalk Biking Ticket Index, which compares the number of sidewalk biking summonses issued by NYPD to the number of speeding tickets issued by local precincts. In a reversal from 2012, NYPD last year issued more tickets for speeding on local streets than criminal charges for riding a bicycle on the sidewalk — but just barely. The ratio is still far out of proportion to the damage caused by each offense.

Still one of NYPD's top criminal priorities. Photo: Seth Werkheiser/Flickr

Last year, NYPD issued 18,700 summonses for biking on the sidewalk and about 24,200 tickets for speeding on local streets, but only speeding was a cause of death. Photo: Seth Werkheiser/Flickr

NYPD issued 18,700 sidewalk riding summonses in 2013, according to the Criminal Court of the City of New York Annual Report [PDF 1, 2]. Sidewalk riding is the city’s fourth most frequently charged criminal summons — a category of infraction below a misdemeanor. (Violating the city’s open container law is far and away the most common summons.)

Meanwhile, precinct officers gave out 24,259 speeding tickets last year. (The NYPD highway patrol issued another 56,000 tickets, but it mainly covers highways, not local streets.) That’s an increase of more than 25 percent from 2012.

While speeding enforcement moved in the right direction in 2013, leadfooted motorists should be getting many more tickets. Speeding is consistently among the top causes of traffic deaths in the city, while no one has been killed by a cyclist in New York since 2009. 

Sidewalk riding summonses appear to be especially common in denser neighborhoods like the Upper East Side, where it’s a nuisance to pedestrians. Since on most avenues cyclists have to choose between risking a fine and risking their life on wide, dangerous streets, enforcement seems to be a less effective fix than engineering safe bikeways. In farther out neighborhoods like Brownsville, sidewalk riding tickets are reportedly used to harass young men of color.

Within the criminal courts, there are still far more charges for sidewalk riding than for dangerous car-related infractions like operating a motor vehicle in violation of safety rules (10,503), reckless driving (9,564), and unlicensed operation of a vehicle (3,904). Traffic violations like speeding and failure to yield are a separate type of infraction and get handled by traffic courts.

Although law enforcement still needs to step up its game against dangerous driving, the increase in speeding enforcement shows the numbers last year began to move in the right direction. The introduction this year of speed cameras and the Vision Zero agenda should accelerate the trend.

This post has been updated with additional statistics from the Criminal Court of the City of New York.

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TA Vision Zero Report: NYPD Traffic Enforcement Up, But Wildly Uneven

NYPD precincts that had the largest year-to-year increase in speeding enforcement are shaded green, with those that had the biggest decreases in red. Image: Transportation Alternatives

NYPD precincts that had the largest year-to-year increase in speeding enforcement are shaded green, with those that had the biggest decreases in red. Graphic: Transportation Alternatives

NYPD increased enforcement of dangerous traffic violations during the first six months of the city’s Vision Zero initiative, but enforcement varied drastically from precinct to precinct, with some issuing fewer summonses than last year.

In “Report Card: Six Months of Vision Zero Traffic Enforcement” [PDF], Transportation Alternatives analyzed NYPD summons data from January through June. TA found that, department-wide, speeding summonses increased 32 percent compared to the first six months of 2013, and tickets for failure to yield to pedestrians increased 153 percent.

Yet there is little consistency across precinct lines. For example, speeding enforcement almost doubled in Harlem’s 26th Precinct, but officers in the adjacent 30th Precinct, in Washington Heights, issued half as many speeding tickets as in 2013.

Along deadly Queens Boulevard, the 110th Precinct cited 860 drivers for failure to yield, while the neighboring 108th Precinct issued just 237 failure to yield summonses. TA writes:

The inconsistency is stark enough to undermine positive enforcement efforts…

In order to more effectively deter drivers from dangerous behavior, the NYPD must coordinate enforcement citywide so the likelihood of punishment for reckless driving is consistent no matter where a driver is in the city.

To achieve this, TA recommends NYPD create an executive officer for each borough command, who would “have sole responsibility for coordinating traffic operations”; educate officers on the life-saving impact of enforcement by hearing from traffic violence victims; and emphasize to officers the most dangerous traffic violations, while tracking those summonses at TrafficStat meetings.

One of the report’s great contributions is the presentation of precinct-by-precinct summons data, making it easy for people to see how traffic enforcement is changing in their neighborhood, and allowing them to compare enforcement where they live to other areas. This is the kind of thing NYPD should be posting online. Instead, the department only puts up the most recent month of summons data in PDF files, and no summons or crash data is posted on its precinct pages

More reports will follow: TA plans to release an analysis of the first 12 months of Vision Zero enforcement early next year.

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NYPD: 1,263 Pedestrians and Cyclists Injured, 11 Killed in Traffic in May

Image: NYPD

Image: NYPD

Twenty-five people died in New York City traffic in May, and 4,621 were injured, according to the monthly NYPD crash data report [PDF].

As of the end of May, 54 pedestrians and cyclists were reported killed by city motorists this year, and 5,669 injured, compared to 64 deaths and 6,169 injuries for the same period in 2013.

Citywide, at least 10 pedestrians and two cyclists were fatally struck by drivers: three pedestrians in Manhattan; four pedestrians in Brooklyn; and three pedestrians and two cyclists in Queens. Among the victims were Rosa Anidjar, Felipe Palacios, Anthony Githere, Elliot Mintzer, William Faison, Galina Truglio, Charity Hicks, an unnamed female pedestrian in Manhattan, an unnamed male cyclist in Queens, two unidentified pedestrians in Brooklyn, and one unidentified pedestrian in Queens.

The NYPD report indicates there were nine pedestrian fatalities in May, but data compiled by Streetsblog from media sources and our own reporting show 10 pedestrian deaths.

Across the city, 882 pedestrians and 381 cyclists were reported hurt in collisions with motor vehicles. Per NYPD policy, few of these crashes were investigated by trained officers.

Of 12 fatal crashes reported by Streetsblog and other outlets, no motorists were known to have been charged for causing a death. Historically, nearly half of motorists who kill a New York City pedestrian or cyclist do not receive so much as a citation for careless driving.

Eleven motorists and three passengers died in the city in May; 1,557 and 1,801 were injured, respectively.

There were 18,172 motor vehicle crashes in the city in May, including 3,318 that resulted in injury or death.

Download May NYPD summons data here. NYPD posts geocoded crash data here. Crash and summons data from prior months is available in multiple formats here.

After the jump: contributing factors for crashes resulting in injury and death.

Read more…

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New York’s Top Court Exhibits Depraved Indifference to Pedestrians’ Lives

Court of Appeals Judges Jenny Rivera, Sheila Abdus-Salaam, Robert S. Smith, Susan P. Reid, and Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman ruled that Jose Maldonado showed concern for others’ safety as he sped through Greenpoint in a stolen van, driving against traffic and striking pedestrian Violetta Krzyzak with enough force to catapult her body 55 yards through the air.

Court of Appeals Judges Jenny Rivera, Sheila Abdus-Salaam, Robert S. Smith, Susan P. Reid, and Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman ruled that Jose Maldonado showed concern for others’ safety as he sped through Greenpoint in a stolen van, driving against traffic and striking pedestrian Violetta Krzyzak with enough force to catapult her body 55 yards through the air. Prosecutors warn that the decision will affect future cases against drivers who kill.

In a decision that may hinder future prosecutions of killer drivers, New York’s highest court rejected the murder conviction of a car thief who fatally struck a Brooklyn pedestrian during a high-speed NYPD chase — ruling that the defendant showed concern for others’ safety by swerving around vehicles and people as he attempted to elude police.

The ruling drew a rebuke from Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, who is nationally known for seeking serious penalties for motorists who kill.

On the afternoon of April 27, 2009, Jose Maldonado drove a stolen minivan through the streets of Greenpoint. With police in pursuit, in apparent violation of NYPD protocol, Maldonado ran red lights and sped against oncoming traffic while weaving between lanes. When he narrowly missed a pedestrian who leapt from his path, Maldonado kept going. He hit 37-year-old Violetta Krzyzak at Manhattan Avenue and India Street. According to the Court of Appeals, Krzyzak “landed over 165 feet, or almost one block, away from the point of collision.” She died at the scene.

Maldonado did not slow down after striking Krzyzak. He crashed into parked vehicles five blocks away, court documents say, and was tackled by witnesses as he tried to flee on foot.

Maldonado was convicted at trial of murder because he acted with “depraved indifference” to human life, but the Court of Appeals this month reduced the top charge against him to second degree manslaughter [PDF]. “[W]e conclude that the evidence was legally insufficient to support defendant’s conviction for depraved indifference murder,” wrote Judge Jenny Rivera for the majority, “because the circumstances of this high-speed vehicular police chase do not fit within the narrow category of cases wherein the facts evince a defendant’s utter disregard for human life.”

Whereas Maldonado’s murder conviction carried a sentence of 15 years to life, second degree manslaughter is a class C felony, with sentences ranging from one to 15 years in prison. Maldonado’s re-sentencing date was not yet scheduled at this writing.

“The Court of Appeals’ decision in Maldonado is distressing to anyone who recognizes that a wildly reckless driver, bent on fleeing the police, can be absolutely depraved toward innocent people that are in his way,” said Rice in a written statement. “It’s time for the legislature to address the issue and make it clear that the outrageously dangerous driving represented in Maldonado is not simply reckless, it is depraved. And when someone dies as a result, it should be nothing short of murder.”

Rice and her chief vehicular crimes prosecutor Maureen McCormick have for years warned that poorly-written state statutes are leading to case law that favors killer motorists. But weak laws aren’t the only cause for concern. Though the Maldonado ruling was not unanimous, five of the seven most powerful judges in New York State exhibited a troubling readiness to make excuses for a driver who they acknowledge “did not brake” after slamming a speeding van into an innocent bystander.

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4 Reforms Michael Ameri Must Make to NYPD Crash Investigations

The Daily News reported Wednesday that Deputy Inspector Michael Ameri, who made street safety a priority as commanding officer of Brooklyn’s 78th Precinct, was promoted to head up the NYPD Highway Patrol — putting him in charge of the Collision Investigation Squad.

Deputy Inspector Michael Ameri

NYPD Deputy Inspector Michael Ameri

As Streetsblog has reported in detail, NYPD crash investigation protocols are ripe for major reform. Compared to the number of serious crashes, the Collision Investigation Squad handles a relative handful of cases per year. CIS has a history of bungling investigations, which denies justice to victims. While CIS crash reports often do contain valuable information, NYPD won’t release them publicly. Even victims’ families have trouble obtaining crash reports from the department.

Given Ameri’s background, advocates are hopeful he will affect change citywide. ”Park Slope’s loss and the 78th Precinct’s loss is the city-at-large’s gain,” Eric McClure of the Park Slope Street Safety Partnership told the Daily News. “He’s the right guy for the job to help make the streets a lot safer.” Right of Way also released a statement lauding Ameri’s promotion and outlining its recommendations for CIS.

There’s a lot Ameri can do at the Highway Patrol to help achieve Mayor de Blasio’s goals under Vision Zero. Below are four much-needed crash investigation reforms.

Make crash reports accessible. The results of NYPD crash investigations are kept hidden, even from victims’ loved ones. Wresting critical information from the department through freedom of information requests is prohibitively time-consuming. This is a burden to victims’ families, and more broadly, compromises efforts to make streets safer. “The Collision Investigation Squad’s meticulous reconstructions of driver actions leading to traffic crashes are a treasure trove of information that can improve traffic safety,” said Charles Komanoff, Right Of Way organizer and longtime street safety advocate, in today’s statement. “Yet none of it ever reaches the public, elected officials, advocates or health professionals.”

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20 Speed Cams Issued Almost as Many Tickets in June as NYPD Has All Year

Traffic enforcement cameras are far outpacing NYPD in ticketing drivers who speed, run red lights, and encroach on bus lanes — pointing to the need for more automated enforcement to make streets safer.

A report from the city’s Independent Budget Office finds that FY 14 revenue from camera-generated tickets in those three categories was $41 million, compared to $14 million from summonses issued by NYPD, based on preliminary data. “The proportion of revenue generated by cameras rose from 38 percent in 1999 to 75 percent in 2014,” the report says.

While tabloid coverage focused on the revenue angle, the takeaway should be that we can now see how much NYC needs automated enforcement to reduce dangerous driving.

According to the Post, speed cameras issued 48,517 tickets in June, the first month when 20 cameras were operational. In one month those 20 cameras nearly eclipsed the 54,854 speeding tickets issued by NYPD through the first six months of the year.

From mid-January to mid-May, when just five speed cams were working, they issued more than 41,000 tickets, according to the city’s open data portal. Through the end of June, NYPD issued a combined 83,066 summonses for speeding, red light-running (26,749), and driving in a bus lane (1,463).

Though NYPD has stepped up enforcement somewhat this year, these numbers really give a sense of how rampant law-breaking is on city streets — particularly when you consider Albany restrictions that limit speed camera operation to school zones during school hours, and only allow tickets when a driver exceeds the speed limit by 11 miles per hour or more. That means in one month 20 cameras covering just a fraction of the city for part of the day caught nearly 50,000 motorists traveling well in excess of the posted speed.

As speed cameras become more prevalent, it might make sense for cops to focus on other dangerous violations, like failure to yield, which don’t involve stopping drivers traveling at high speeds.

NYC is a long way from complete speed cam coverage, of course, and even Albany’s recent authorization of 140 cameras won’t cover most of the city’s 6,000 miles of streets. But it’s clear that a handful of cameras are already doing a lot more enforcement than NYPD. Those 140 speed cameras are going to make a difference, even if we need a lot more to get to zero traffic deaths.