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NYPD’s Superb New Double-Parking Flyer

Here’s a message we’re not used to seeing from NYPD: Double-parking is dangerous.

Reader Brendan Gray reports spotting this flyer in the window of a Dunkin’ Donuts on Eighth Avenue in Midtown a few days ago. NYPD tweeted it out yesterday afternoon.

It’s just a flyer, and yeah, you could probably spot a few double-parked squad cars on your lunch break today. But this is also a huge step up from, say, the “safety tips for pedestrian” flyer that 1 Police Plaza was distributing a few months ago. Things are changing at NYPD.

We’ll know NYPD has really turned the corner when police take on the scourge of double-parking by going to community boards and making the case for Park Smart metering.

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NYPD’s Jaywalking Enforcement Boondoggle

street_justice2

Although the de Blasio administration’s Vision Zero plan to eliminate traffic fatalities does not specifically call for pedestrian traffic enforcement, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton has made clear that individual precinct commanders have the discretion to do so if they determine it to be warranted.

Leaving aside the many good reasons that pedestrian ticketing should be considered NYPD’s lowest traffic enforcement priority, it now appears that many NYPD officers (and some precinct commanders) do not even understand the traffic laws that apply to New York City pedestrians. The NYPD’s jaywalking enforcement boondoggle points to the need for comprehensive in-service training for NYPD officers on pedestrian, cyclist, and motor vehicle traffic laws.

After three Upper West Side pedestrians were killed by motor vehicles within a short period of time and within two blocks of Broadway and 96th Street, the commander of the 24th Precinct apparently decided that pedestrian traffic enforcement was needed. (Only one of the three pedestrians killed, Samantha Lee, was alleged to have violated traffic laws).

Building on this disconnect between the problem and the proposed solution, officers of the 24th Precinct proceeded to cite pedestrians for violation of New York State Vehicle & Traffic Law Section 1152, “Crossing at other than crosswalks.” This law does not apply in New York City — NYC DOT has superseded it (see page 16 of this pdf, 34 RCNY Section 4-02(e)) under New York City’s delegated authority to legislate with respect to the right of way of vehicles and pedestrians.

Making matters worse, the officers issued summonses returnable to New York City Criminal Court — even though a violation of traffic law was alleged. What did the Criminal Court do with the summonses it was asked to adjudicate for violation of a non-applicable, non-criminal traffic violation?  It dismissed them — of course:

Read more…

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This Is What NYPD’s “Pedestrian Education” Looks Like

Walk against the light or cross midblock in Bay Ridge, and the 68th Precinct might hand you a flyer modeled after an official warning notice.

68th Precinct.

Seen in the 68th Precinct. Image via Facebook

Members of a Bay Ridge neighborhood Facebook group report officers on Fifth Avenue at 76th and 86th Streets handing out the flyers: ”Pedestrian failed to exercise due care when crossing a roadway creating a safety hazard,” the warning says. “You are hearby [sic] summoned to appear at: The nearest intersection, in the crosswalk, crossing with the signal. Failure to do so may result in serious injury or fatality.”

Crossing with the signal may also result in serious injury, however. More pedestrians are struck and hurt while crossing in the crosswalk with the signal than while crossing midblock or against the signal, according to a study of Bellevue trauma patients by NYU Langone Medical Center.

The flyer says it contains pedestrian safety information on its reverse side, but Streetsblog has not been able to track down these tips. The precinct, its community council, and NYPD’s public information office have not returned requests for more information.

The 68th Precinct issued about one ticket per day last year for failure to yield to pedestrians [PDF], but picked up its pace in January by issuing 58 tickets for the violation that month, the latest for which data is available. The precinct has also increased its speeding enforcement, issuing 47 tickets in January [PDF] compared to just six in January, 2013. (In its first 15 days of operation, the city’s limited speed camera program nabbed 900 speeders.)

The warning includes details on the 68th Precinct community council, which will host its next meeting on March 18 at 7:00 p.m. at the precinct house, 333 65th Street in Brooklyn. Call (718) 439-4211 for more information.

The Bay Ridge precinct began handing out these flyers days after Greenpoint’s 24th Precinct issued jaywalking tickets on McGuinness Boulevard, where 32-year-old Nicole Detweiler was killed by a truck driver while crossing the street last December.

Meanwhile, police in Queens are doing some serious traffic enforcement: Cristina Furlong of Make Queens Safer spotted NYPD vehicles with roof-mounted cameras from the 115th Precinct and Queens North patrol bureau, pulling over speeding drivers on Northern Boulevard and 34th Avenue near IS 145 in Jackson Heights this afternoon.

In 2012, 11-year-old IS 145 student Miguel Torres was crossing Northern Boulevard and 80th Street, in the crosswalk and with the light, when he was struck and killed by the driver of a dump truck. At traffic safety forums last year and this year, parents of students at the school asked for more enforcement against dangerous driving.

“It’s good to see,” Furlong told Streetsblog this afternoon.

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Streets of NYC a Little Safer Today Thanks to Judge, NYPD, and Cy Vance

There’s one less reckless driver on the streets of New York today thanks to NYPD, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, and Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Jill Konviser.

Andy Tang: "I was exceeding the speed limit although I did not hit 100 miles per hour."

Adam Tang: “I was exceeding the speed limit although I did not hit 100 miles per hour.”

After Adam Tang posted a video of himself speeding around Manhattan, he was tracked down by NYPD. Tang’s car was taken away, and Vance charged him with reckless driving and second degree reckless endangerment, according to court records.

Under New York State law, “A person is guilty of reckless endangerment in the second degree when he recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of serious physical injury to another person.” In lay terms, reckless endangerment requires proof that a driver was aware of a risk of seriously injuring someone else, says attorney Steve Vaccaro. Speeding was the leading cause of NYC traffic fatalities in 2012.

Second degree reckless endangerment is a class A misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail. According to the Daily News, Tang’s attorney Greg Gomez rejected a plea deal for 60 days in jail and 15 days of community service.

Tang pled not guilty in court today and asked for his license and passport to be returned. But Judge Konviser agreed with ADA Mary Weisgerber that Tang should not be driving.

“He videotaped himself circumnavigating Manhattan at a high rate of speed. He admits doing this,” Weisgerber said.

“He certainly should not have his license back.”

Konviser agreed, noting his “conduct, if true” was “extremely dangerous.”

“I don’t think he should have his passport or his license,” she said.

Gomez argued that charges would probably have been reduced or dismissed “if not for the ‘sensational and exciting video’ that ‘people loved and watched hundreds of thousands of times’” — a video otherwise known as “the evidence.”

“I was exceeding the speed limit although I did not hit 100 miles per hour,” Tang reportedly told police after he was arrested last September. Since a pedestrian hit by a driver traveling at 40 miles per hour has a 15 percent chance of surviving, Tang wouldn’t have to get anywhere close to 100 to pose a deadly risk.

“A jury will find what he did was not reckless,” said Gomez. While it’s certainly possible that a jury will side with his client, Tang’s behavior endangered lives, and NYPD and Vance deserve credit for keeping him off the streets for as long as they can. Huzzah.

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Mixed Messages From NYPD at Manhattan Vision Zero Forum

From left, State Senator Brad Hoylman introduces Sergeant Amber Cafaro, Manhattan borough director of the mayor’s Community Affairs Unit Kassandra Perez, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Tom DeVito of Transportation Alternatives and Christine Berthet of CHEKPEDS. Photo: Stephen Miller

From left, State Senator Brad Hoylman introduces Sergeant Amber Cafaro, Manhattan borough director of the mayor’s Community Affairs Unit Kassandra Perez, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Tom DeVito of Transportation Alternatives and Christine Berthet of CHEKPEDS. Photo: Stephen Miller

At the first of what is sure to be many forums on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero agenda, nearly 100 residents, advocates, city officials and elected representatives gathered in Manhattan last night to talk about what implementing the Vision Zero Action Plan will look like, including immediate actions from the city and longer-term efforts at the state level.

While most of the speakers last night were on the same page, it became clear very quickly that NYPD, at least as represented by Sergeant Amber Cafaro of NYPD’s Manhattan South patrol borough, was giving mixed messages about its street safety priorities.

The forum, convened by State Senator Brad Hoylman, included a panel featuring Cafaro, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Manhattan borough director of the mayor’s Community Affairs Unit Kassandra Perez, Tom DeVito of Transportation Alternatives, and Christine Berthet, co-founder of the Clinton Hell’s Kitchen Coalition for Pedestrian Safety. The event also featured remarks by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Council Members Corey Johnson and Helen Rosenthal. There were no representatives from the Taxi and Limousine Commission or District Attorney Cy Vance’s office at last night’s forum.

Trottenberg revealed a few of DOT’s street design priorities in Manhattan this year, including Ninth Avenue at 41st and 43rd Streets, Lafayette Street, part of Hudson Street and Houston Street at Sixth Avenue, where Jessica Dworkin was killed by a turning truck driver. In about a month, she said, DOT will host the first of its borough-wide street safety meetings, where it will ask local communities about traffic safety hotspots before preparing an action plan for each borough.

Perez said the mayor’s office will play a big role in coordinating borough-level input on Vision Zero implementation, acting as a go-between between city agencies, borough presidents, community boards, and neighborhood groups.

Trottenberg also had some observations about the important role drivers play on our streets. “New York state is one where driver’s ed has not really kept pace with the way our roadways are used now,” she said. ”When you get behind the wheel of a car and are in control of three tons of metal, you have an awesome responsibility. More of a responsibility than someone walking down the road.”

This perspective was not echoed by NYPD’s Cafaro, who began her remarks last night by listing the number of pedestrian and cyclist injuries last year in Manhattan South, followed by do’s-and-don’ts for pedestrians and cyclists. “Just be mindful when you’re out there — don’t use your phone, headphones, texting,” she said. Cafaro, whose dark predictions about bike-share crashes last year failed to materialize, did not list similar advice for drivers.

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NYPD Tickets for Failure to Yield Up 66 Percent in January

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It could be a fluke, and there’s a lot of room to improve (NYPD issued 9,000 tickets for tinted windows this January), but failure to yield enforcement moved in the right direction last month. Streetsblog will continue to monitor these summonses each month.

NYPD got a lot of press last month for ticketing pedestrians, but officers were also summonsing more motorists for deadly driving behaviors.

NYPD issued 1,993 citations for failure to yield to a pedestrian in January. That’s a 66 percent increase from the 1,198 failure to yield tickets issued in January 2013, and a 60 percent jump from last year’s monthly average of 1,240.

January’s speeding summons total was also up 20 percent from last year, but since most speeding tickets are issued on highways it’s impossible to know for sure how much of that increase happened on neighborhood streets. Failure to yield stops, by definition, occur where pedestrians are present.

Tallying the number of tickets is a blunt way to assess NYPD’s traffic enforcement performance. The department should be releasing the summons data in a mappable format, so the public can tell where enforcement is happening. And there should be a metric of motorist compliance, in addition to the summons data, so people can tell if overall driver behavior is getting better or worse.

It’s possible last month could be a fluke — police wrote 1,916 failure to yield tickets last November, by far the highest total of any single month in 2013. Or with the launch of Vision Zero, the January uptick could be the first substantial sign that NYPD is making pedestrian safety a higher enforcement priority.

We’ll get a clearer picture over the next few months.

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NYPD: 1,191 Pedestrians and Cyclists Injured, 13 Killed in Traffic in January

Image: NYPD

Image: NYPD

Twenty-one people died in New York City traffic in January, and 3,899 were injured, according to the latest NYPD crash data report [PDF].

As of the end of January, 13 pedestrians and cyclists were reported killed by city motorists this year, and 1,191 injured, compared to 20 deaths and 1,297 injuries for the same period in 2013.

Citywide, at least 12 pedestrians and one cyclist were fatally struck by drivers. Among the victims were Xiaoci Hu, Mosa Khatun, Alexander Shear, Cooper Stock, Nydja Herring, Angela Hurtado, Pedro Santiago, Samantha Lee, James Benedict, and unnamed male pedestrians in the Bronx and Queens. At least one child and four seniors were killed by motorists in January: Cooper Stock, 9; Xiaoci Hu, 75; Alexander Shear, 73; Angela Hurtado, 68; and James Benedict, 67.

Across the city, 1,075 pedestrians and 116 cyclists were reported hurt in collisions with motor vehicles. Per NYPD policy, few of these crashes were investigated by trained officers.

Of 11 fatal crashes reported by Streetsblog and other outlets, one motorist was known to have been charged for causing a death. Michael Pogorzelski was charged with manslaughter and DWI for the crash that killed Staten Island pedestrian James Benedict. 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.

Seven motorists and one passenger died in the city in January; 1,295 and 1,413 were injured, respectively.

There were 16,597 motor vehicle crashes in the city last month, including 2,938 that resulted in injury or death.

Download January NYPD summons data here. Crashes are mapped 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.

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Will Other NYC DAs Join Cy Vance in Getting Behind Vision Zero?

All five New York City district attorneys were invited to Monday’s City Council Vision Zero hearing, according to the office of transportation committee chair Ydanis Rodriguez. Yet Manhattan DA Cy Vance was the only one who participated.

Due to time constraints, Vance Chief Assistant DA Karen Friedman Agnifilo was not able to read all of her remarks [PDF], which included a number of substantive recommendations for city and state lawmakers, as well as NYPD. We’ve summarized those recommendations below, but first: There has been a lot of talk about how Vision Zero’s success hinges in no small part on Mayor de Blasio’s ability to sway Albany. While this is as true as it is troubling, the role of city DAs should not be overlooked.

Not only does Vision Zero depend on prosecutors to hold reckless motorists accountable, district attorneys can be powerful messengers, and their support could be key to the city’s efforts to lower the speed limit, expand automated enforcement, and implement other initiatives that require action by the state legislature. If you’re a New York City voter who cares about street safety, it wouldn’t hurt to let your DA know you are taking note of his involvement, or lack thereof, in Vision Zero.

Here are Vance’s recommendations, beginning with those that fall under the purview of the mayor, the City Council, and NYPD:

  • Broaden NYPD investigations to include crashes that result in “serious physical injury.” While NYPD announced a year ago that the department would no longer only investigate crashes where the victim was killed or “likely to die,” the current “critical injury” standard still limits investigations to “a patient either receiving CPR, in respiratory arrest, or requiring and receiving life sustaining ventilator/circulatory support,” as defined under FDNY guidelines. Serious physical injury, Agnifilo said, is 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.” If NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad “had the capacity to respond to all cases that would potentially result in either serious physical injury or death,” she said, DAs “would be called to more crash scenes, allowing prosecutors to make appropriate charging decisions.”
  • Include DAs in TrafficStat. Advocates expect NYPD’s traffic analysis program, based on CompStat, to play a role in Vision Zero. While DOT participates in weekly TrafficStat meetings, according to Agnifilo, city DAs have not previously been included. Agnifilo said that bridging this communication gap would help prosecutors build cases. “For instance,” said Agnifilo, “unlike the NYPD Highway Patrol, most precincts in Manhattan do not regularly calibrate their preliminary breath testing instruments. As a result, we cannot seek to introduce the readings from these instruments at trial.” This is what happened when NYPD botched the investigation into the death of Brooklyn pedestrian Clara Heyworth, and her killer was convicted only for unlicensed driving and driving without an insurance card. “Implementing procedures to make sure that these instruments are calibrated on a regular basis in each precinct would strengthen our criminal prosecutions,” Agnifilo said.
  • Include DAs on the Vision Zero task force. According to Agnifilo, no district attorneys were asked to help draft the Vision Zero Action Plan. “We are the only law enforcement agency that is missing from the discussion,” she said. Agnifilo also invited members of the Vision Zero task force to attend quarterly meetings that are held by DOT, NYPD, and city prosecutors.

And here is what Vance’s office says prosecutors need from Albany:

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NYPD’s New Transportation Chief Talks Vision Zero at Council Hearing

Family members of those killed in NYC traffic told their stories to the City Council transportation and public safety committees today. Photo: Stephen Miller

People who’ve lost loved ones to traffic violence told their stories to the City Council today. Photo: Stephen Miller

A marathon City Council hearing elicited some new details about Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero agenda and brought out the raw emotion of New Yorkers mourning loved ones killed on city streets.

The top item on the agenda at the joint transportation and public safety committee hearing was police enforcement of traffic laws. Newly-minted NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan said the department would focus on speeding and failure to yield, as well as improper turns, disobeying signage, and using a handheld device while driving.

NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan said precincts need to devote more resources to traffic safety to achieve the goals of Vision Zero.

Chan trumpeted a recent increase in staffing at the Highway Division, soon increasing to 270 officers from the previous 170. But under questioning from Council Member Corey Johnson, Chan revealed some of the limitations of that unit. “They’re dedicated to patrol the highways: FDR Drive, Henry Hudson Parkway and roadways of that nature,” Chan said. “In terms of enforcement on the street, it’s going to be on the precinct level.”

With precinct-level attention traditionally focused on violent and property crime, many council members were skeptical that the department would devote sufficient resources to traffic safety. Chan said there are currently 56 speed guns distributed between 32 of the department’s 77 precincts, and the department has another 200 speed guns on order — most of them using laser technology, which is more effective on city streets than traditional radar. Additional officers at each precinct will receive the four-day training to operate speed guns, Chan said.

Council Member James Vacca said a reduction in manpower has made it more difficult for the department to do traffic enforcement. “Since 2001, the Highway Unit was cut by 50 percent,” he said. “Local precincts were also coping with a 7,000[-person] citywide reduction in manpower.”

For Vision Zero to be successful, Council Member Brad Lander said, it has to be about more than just providing additional manpower, which may or may not materialize. “This is a big change in NYPD culture and structure,” he said. “Recruits don’t sign up for the academy, in their minds, to write speeding tickets.”

“My goal is to change the mindset of the individual officers who are on daily patrol in the precincts. They are the ones who are going to make a difference on this,” Chan said. “I cannot rely on a speciality unit to do this to achieve this goal.”

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First Look at Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero Report and Street Safety Agenda

Mayor Bill de Blasio at today’s announcement, with DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg on the left and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton on the right. Photo: NYC Mayor’s Office

Mayor Bill de Blasio and several of his agency commissioners released the administration’s Vision Zero report at a school on West End Avenue this afternoon. Streetsblog’s Stephen Miller will have more from the mayor’s event later today. In the meantime, here’s a quick rundown of the major takeaways from the report [PDF], which outlines both an ambitious multi-agency approach to reducing traffic violence that City Hall can pursue on its own, and a legislative agenda that asks Albany to let the city control its speed limits and traffic enforcement methods.

Like the January press conference launching the Vision Zero initiative, today’s announcement is first and foremost a sign that de Blasio is putting a high priority on reducing traffic deaths and injuries. The report, produced by a task force that de Blasio convened last month, rededicates NYC DOT to designing safer streets and brings NYPD on board in a big way, committing to increase traffic enforcement at the precinct level with more officers, modern technology, and better training. It also outlines several steps the Taxi and Limousine Commission can take to reduce dangerous behavior by for-hire drivers, and highlights how the city can operate its massive vehicle fleets with safety firmly in mind.

The report has a multi-pronged Albany agenda, including home rule over the allocation of automated enforcement cameras, which de Blasio campaigned on. The state legislature puts up a fight every time NYC asks for greater control over speed cameras and red light cameras, but the appeal from City Hall has never had quite this high a profile. It appears that the mayor’s street safety agenda in the state capitol is not going to get drowned out by his other Albany priorities.

Image: NYC Mayor's Office

Dangerous driving contributed to 70 percent of pedestrian fatalities in NYC from 2008 to 2012. Image: NYC Mayor’s Office

While these recommendations are more specific and wide-ranging than what de Blasio’s team produced during the mayoral campaign, the administration is leaving room to refine and build on the ideas in the report, which it calls “just a beginning.” A permanent Vision Zero task force, “comprised of the key agencies and partners needed to implement and extend this plan,” will report to the Mayor’s Office of Operations.

In an introductory letter to the report, de Blasio affirms that “the fundamental message of Vision Zero is that death and injury on city streets is not acceptable, and that we will no longer regard serious crashes as inevitable.” He asks New Yorkers “to talk to your neighbors, speak up at community boards and block associations, and help foster a broader understanding that it is within our power to prevent tragedies on our streets.”

Here are some of the more notable recommendations and factoids from the report:

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