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Ydanis Rodriguez Bill Would Let NYC’s Press Corps Park for Free

City Council Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez thinks the city’s press corps needs a special break: He’s proposing legislation that would exempt drivers with press plates from paying at meters or obeying time limits.

“The news business should have the same privileges as every other business,” Rodriguez said in a release before today’s City Hall press conference, wrongly implying that every other business in New York gets a free parking pass.

Rodriguez, who said today that he hoped the bill would gain the support of Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and expressed confidence that it would garner a veto-proof majority, was joined this morning by fellow council members Laurie Cumbo, Daniel Dromm, and Corey Johnson.

I asked Rodriguez if he would give up his parking placard, like State Senator Tony Avella does each year. “I believe that having placard parking is important,” Rodriguez said, saying it came in handy when he drove to the scene of the East Harlem building explosion last year. “I believe that having a parking placard, as other people have — teachers have it, police officers have it, council members have it — people from the media should also have it.”

The legislation would not actually give parking placards to the media, but would exempt them from meters and time limits. (Currently, press plates give special parking privileges in areas marked for NYP plates, typically near courthouses and other government buildings.) As part of its crackdown on parking abuse, the Bloomberg administration eliminated this perk for the city’s press in 2009. Governor Cuomo also cut down on placards around the same time.

The New York Press Photographers Association has been leading the charge to restore this privilege. Association board member Robert Roth said the de Blasio administration has not set up a meeting to discuss a change in policy, despite multiple requests — which is why the association turned to the City Council.

Read more…

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Rangel: Let’s Allow Bus Drivers to Kill People With the Right of Way

Congressman Charlie Rangel condemned the Right of Way Law earlier this week, joining the Transport Workers Union to argue that the law should allow MTA bus drivers to kill people who have the right of way.

Photo: Politic365

Speaking to bus drivers and TWU officials Monday at the Mother Clara Hale Depot in Harlem, Rangel said it was “stupid” to charge bus drivers with a misdemeanor for injuring and killing people with the right of way, according to Daily News reporter Pete Donohue, a Right of Way Law critic who has devoted a lot of ink to the TWU campaign to exempt drivers from the law.

Echoing the TWU, Rangel said that hitting people who are walking or biking with the right of way is just part of the job of driving a bus.

“Common sense would indicate that when (lawmakers) were thinking about this, the last thing in the world they were thinking about is a bus driver doing their duty would be arrested,” Rangel said. “Right now, we should be calling the mayor and telling him, ‘Don’t embarrass yourself.’ Anybody can make a mistake and this is just one big damn mistake, that’s all, because isn’t a joke [sic].”

After years of drivers hitting people with virtually no accountability, the Right of Way Law gave NYPD and prosecutors a tool to impose at least some consequences against motorists for harming people who were following traffic laws. To Rangel, applying this law consistently “doesn’t make any damn sense at all.”

Speaking of making no damn sense at all, the TWU unveiled more propaganda blaming victims for getting hit by bus drivers:

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The Times Fails to Comprehend the Nature of the MTA Funding Gap

kentucky_ohio

Kentucky and rural Ohio are not going to save the New York City transit system.

New York politicos couldn’t have asked for a better deflection of their own responsibility to keep our transit system running than this piece served up yesterday by Times opinion writer Eleanor Randolph:

New Yorkers struggle daily on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s subways, trains and buses. They now collect horror stories about long delays and missed engagements. The M.T.A., the nation’s largest transportation network, is also struggling, in the agency’s case with a five year capital plan that is more than $15 billion short. The state needs to contribute more. The city needs to contribute more. And both Mr. de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo need to come up with a better way to fund the system that serves the most populous 5,000 square mile area in the region.

Still, the big money will have to come from Congress.

Hear that, John Boehner? The New York City subways need you!

You can only reach the conclusion that an act of Congress will provide “the big money” to close the $15 billion shortfall in the MTA’s upcoming five-year capital program if you fundamentally fail to understand the nature of the problem.

The version of the MTA capital budget with $32 billion in spending and a $15 billion hole already assumes that the feds will contribute $6 billion in grants and loans. Merely holding on to that $6 billion is a shaky proposition right now.

For transit systems in cities like New York, the scope of the fight in the GOP-controlled Congress is not over securing more funds — it’s to preserve the funds that transit already receives. That’s the best realistic outcome of yesterday’s “stand up for transportation” rallies.

The John Boehner/Mitch McConnell Congress is not going to swoop in and save the New York City transit system. Raising revenue and controlling costs really just come down to the people who actually run the MTA: Governor Cuomo and the state legislature.

Cuomo is the one person who can make the Move New York toll reform plan politically viable and the one politician who can take meaningful action to root out construction waste like this. Asking Congress to do it instead won’t get New York anywhere.

Cuomo at a subway photo-op with MTA Chair Tom Prendergast. Photo: Marc A. Hermann/MTA New York City Transit via Flickr CC license 2.0

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Eyes on the Street: WABC News SUV *PWNS* This Sidewalk Extension

Stay classy, channel 7. Photo: Stephen Miller

Stay classy, channel 7. Photo: Stephen Miller

New York City’s placard class — the elite few who park wherever they want, without consequence — obviously includes police and other public servants. But don’t forget the press.

This afternoon, two press SUVs, including one from WABC-TV, were parked on the sidewalk at the corner of Centre and Leonard in Lower Manhattan. The area, filled with courthouses and government offices, is rife with placard abuse from public employees and the press. The WABC SUV had press plates and, of course, there was no parking ticket on its windshield.

The same location in 2011, before the sidewalk extension was added and the parking lot in the background became part of Collect Pond Park. (Note the WABC van parked in the background.) Photo: Google Maps

The same location in 2011, before the sidewalk extension was added and the parking lot in the background became part of Collect Pond Park. (Note the WABC van parked in the background.) Photo: Google Maps

The corner where WABC parked its SUV used to be a marked crosswalk, with a slice left unpainted to squeeze in another (dubiously legal) parking spot. The corner was next to a surface parking lot.

In 2012, adjacent Collect Pond Park was completely reconstructed and expanded to replace the parking lot with green space. The project included new sidewalks and curb extensions, but even concrete appears to be no match for the “professional courtesy” that extends to all members of the placard class.

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Daily News Inadvertently Reveals the Extent of NYC’s Speeding Epidemic

Don't be distracted by the clever rhyme: NYC speed cameras are working. Image: Daily News

In other words, speeding in NYC is rampant, but there’s finally some enforcement thanks to cameras. Image: Daily News

If you’re a Daily News reader, today is your lucky day. The paper that is not afraid to oppose safer streets for walking, biking, and driving has a major exclusive, and it is this: New York City has a small number of speed cameras, and they are catching more speeding drivers than NYPD.

It’s actually a good story, if you read through the tabloid-speak. In 2014, 57 cameras ticketed almost four times as many speeding drivers as the entire police department during the same time period, despite Albany-imposed restrictions that limit camera use to school zones during school hours.

This all points to the fact that cameras are doing an efficient job penalizing thousands of drivers who would otherwise get away with speeding, the leading cause of New York City traffic deaths.

“If the drivers of New York slow down and obey the speed limit and the city collected no revenue, I would consider the speed-camera program a victory,” Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told the paper, again.

The Daily News could have cited data showing that crashes and incidents of speeding declined in areas where speed cameras are located. It could have called for DOT to immediately deploy its remaining 83 speed cameras, or shamed Albany lawmakers for arbitrary restrictions that keep the cameras turned off at night, when severe crashes tend to occur.

Instead, reporter Reuven Blau ran with an outrage quote from City Council Member Mark Treyger, whose big Vision Zero idea is ticketing cyclists for texting. And the paper played up revenue figures as “wallet-walloping.”

“Your pain is the city’s gain,” goes the scare-graphic. Which, in fairness to the Daily News, rhymes better than “cameras are preventing speeding drivers from inflicting actual pain.”

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The Daily News Makes the Case for Legal Vehicular Killings (Again)

daily_news_hedline

Actual Daily News editorial headline.

Should there be misdemeanor charges for careless drivers who injure or kill New Yorkers legally crossing the street? For the second time in a month, the Daily News editorial board says “No.”

A brief recap: Last year, the city enacted the Right of Way Law, making it an unclassified misdemeanor to drive into a pedestrian or bicyclist who has the right of way. The law carries a criminal fine of up $250 and a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail. In practice, nearly all unclassified misdemeanors get pled down to traffic violations.

The driver who killed Allie Liao as she crossed the street with the signal did not .

No charges were filed against the driver who killed Allie Liao as she crossed the street with the signal. To prevent that from happening again, City Hall passed the Right of Way Law. The Daily News thinks that was the wrong call.

Before the law took effect, NYPD would not file charges in such cases unless the victim was dead or likely to die, or an officer personally witnessed a crash. For all intents and purposes, there were no consequences for drivers who struck someone in a crosswalk but only maimed, dismembered, or otherwise injured the victim instead of ending a life. Even in fatal failure-to-yield crashes, charges were not always applied.

What has the Daily News so worked up is that, as a result of the Right of Way Law, police can now respond to failure-to-yield collisions like so:

The NYPD last week arrested Alexander Smotritsky of Brooklyn after he fatally bowled over 61-year-old Xiali Yue on a right turn, as she attempted to cross with the light.

The injustice, according to the Daily News, is that Smotritsky was charged with a misdemeanor after his negligence caused the death of another person. The rest of the piece argues, in so many words, that police should have just let Smotritsky go about his business even though he killed Yue.

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Another Day, Another Daily News Potshot at Vision Zero

Get it? The Daily News editorial board doesn’t.

Get it? The Daily News editorial board doesn’t.

Today’s Daily News swipe at Vision Zero is the tabloid’s lamest yet.

An editorial published this morning clocked in at all of four sentences. Citing a study that counted the number of pedestrians listening to headphones and using cell phones while crossing at four Manhattan intersections, the Daily News editorial board concluded:

If Mayor de Blasio wants to slap cuffs on bus drivers, fine — so long as cops also charge phone-walkers who survive with attempted suicide.

There’s a lot of willful ignorance packed into that sentence. First, it’s not against the law to use an electronic device while walking. And the report, from the Journal of Community Health, presents no new evidence that pedestrians who use electronic devices cause vehicle crashes.

This editorial is supposed to be a sarcastic jab at the Right of Way Law, which the Daily News thinks should not apply to MTA bus drivers. The new law is in good company: Whenever the city implements a new street safety policy — protected bike lanes, the 25 miles per hour speed limit — you can count on the Daily News to undermine it.

According to NYPD, this morning a driver hit a 61-year-old woman while turning right from 21st Avenue onto Cropsey Avenue in Bath Beach. The victim was declared “likely to die,” but police said she was alive as of this afternoon. The NYPD public information office had no details on who had the right of way, but in most NYC crashes where a turning driver harms a pedestrian, the victim was following the law.

Equating injury and death caused by careless driving with the invented problem of “distracted walking” overlooks crashes that killed people, including Seth Kahn and Marisol Martinez, who did nothing wrong. While drivers keep hurting people, Daily News editorial writers are tossing out dumb one-liners.

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MTA Tests Bike Racks on Bus Across Verrazano

An anonymously-sourced New York Post story yesterday might leave readers with the impression that new bike racks on the front of Staten Island buses will lead to late trips and a liability nightmare for the MTA. The MTA, however, says it’s still studying the racks — a tried-and-true amenity in every other big American city — on a route crossing the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, which currently has no bike path.

Bus racks on the front of a bus in downtown Vancouver, BC. Photo: Stephen Rees/Flickr

Bus racks on the front of a bus in downtown Vancouver, BC. Photo: Stephen Rees/Flickr

Here’s the Post story, in full:

City buses on Staten Island will soon sport bike racks as part of a New York City Transit program that bus drivers are already slamming as a surefire way to slow down commuters.

Drivers on the S53 bus line, which runs between Port Richmond and Bay Ridge in Brooklyn, will be required under the pilot plan to wait for passengers to load their wheels.

“The consensus right now — no one’s crazy about it,” said a transit source who works at Staten Island’s Castleton depot. “If the bike falls off, it’s on us. If it gets damaged, it’s on us.”

Bike racks on buses are common in less congested cities.

New York is the only major city in the country without bike racks on its buses, according to the Alliance for Biking and Walking, with cities as large and congested as Washington, Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco outfitting their entire bus fleets with bike racks — all without major liability or on-time performance problems.

So will Staten Island residents get to make multi-modal trips to Brooklyn? Not in the immediate future, according to the MTA. “It was a test, not a pilot program,” said MTA spokesperson Amanda Kwan. The test occurred on March 3, she said, and consisted of “one run, on the S53 route with a non-revenue bus. The rack equipment itself was also being tested.”

The MTA would not reveal further information about the test. “It is simply too early to have or release any more details,” Kwan said.

Read more…

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The Post Imagines a Nightmare City Where All Speeders Get Caught

Actual New York Post headline

Actual New York Post headline

You have to feel sorry for the three — three! — New York Post reporters stuck with attacking Mayor de Blasio for NYPD enforcement of the speed limit. It’s a story package so fatuous it could only have come from the Post editorial braintrust.

What else could explain the manufactured fury over last November’s uptick in summonses, when each precinct ticketed an average of six speeding drivers a day, up from three. Or the sob story of an ambulette fleet owner who freely acknowledges that his employees ignore the speed limit to such an extent that the fines are hurting his bottom line.

The most ill-conceived react quotes come from bridge painter Dino Ioannou, who the Post says was cited for driving 29 miles per hour on a Grand Central Parkway service road. Ioannou has two children, the Post says, and for good measure includes a quote confirming same.

“They’ve been pulling everybody over since the day [the law] went into effect,” he said. “It’s more than an inconvenience. I have two kids. That money could have went toward diapers.”

Post editors and reporters should know that those who led the fight to get the NYC speed limit lowered to 25 mph were people who lost their own children to reckless drivers. Speeding is the leading cause of New York City traffic deaths. Using kids to excuse someone from being penalized for speeding is more than insensitive, it also disregards the reason speed enforcement is important in the first place.

Of course, Mayor de Blasio should not have pledged to “go easy” on speeding drivers. But hammering the mayor for making streets safer only makes the Post look silly.

Imagine how horrible New York City would be if police handed out tickets to everyone driving 29 miles per hour. A city where road rage has no place and children and seniors walk the streets without constant risk of death. This is the nightmare scenario keeping the editors of the New York Post awake at night.

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Parents of Seth Kahn: Ineffective MTA Protocols Contributed to Son’s Death

After Wednesday’s MTA board meeting transit chief Tom Prendergast said the agency may revise bus routes to reduce the number of turns bus drivers have to make, in order to minimize conflicts between buses and pedestrians, according to the Daily News. Prendergast said another possibility would be to move crosswalks away from intersections where buses make turns, which would necessitate streetscape changes by DOT.

Seth Kahn

Seth Kahn

Whether or not these ideas pan out, it’s good that the MTA is seriously engaging in the Vision Zero discussion. Bus drivers killed eight people in crosswalks last year, and there’s no evidence that admonishing people to stay out of the way of buses will reduce crashes.

The MTA didn’t really come to the table until several bus drivers were charged under the Right of Way Law for maiming and killing pedestrians. But some City Council members want to rescind the protection to pedestrians and cyclists the law provides. Council Member Daneek Miller’s bill to exempt MTA bus drivers from the Right of Way Law has picked up 14 co-sponsors.

Miller and TWU Local 100 say the MTA’s internal protocols adequately ensure bus driver safety. That doesn’t jibe with the story of Seth Kahn, killed in 2009 by a speeding bus driver who was just back on the job after a suspension for texting behind the wheel.

Driving a bus in New York City is a tough and stressful job, and most drivers do it well. That doesn’t mean crashes are an inevitable cost of doing business, or that bus drivers can’t be reckless or negligent. The Daily News and the union have taken to using the phrase “criminalizing bus drivers,” but in fact the law does not single out bus drivers and only criminalizes negligence that leads to serious injury and death. Even Daily News reporter Pete Donohue, whose column has become a platform for TWU opposition to the law, slammed the MTA for failing to keep Seth Kahn’s killer out of the driver’s seat.

Debbie and Harold Kahn shared with Streetsblog their account of what happened to their son and the driver who took his life.

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