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311 Is a Joke: NYPD Ignores Bike Lane-Blocking Big Rigs in Red Hook


In the space of a few hours this afternoon, one cyclist’s experience, chronicled in real time on Twitter, summed up NYPD’s indifference to keeping bike lanes clear of motor vehicles.

At 8:00 this morning, Anna Zivarts encountered a flatbed tractor-trailer parked in the two-way Imlay/Summit Street bike lane in Red Hook. When that truck and a second rig were still blocking the lane four hours later, Zivarts tweeted photos.

Prompted by a response from DOT on Twitter, at 2:15 p.m. Zivarts filed a complaint on the 311 web site. (There is no “vehicle blocking bike lane” option on the 311 site, so DOT advised her to select “double parked blocking traffic.”) An hour later, Zivarts received an emailed response that read: “The Police Department responded to the complaint and determined that police action was not necessary.”

When she checked the street minutes later, however, the trucks were still parked in the bike lane. ”Why bother?” tweeted Zivarts.

Though this isn’t one of NYC’s most hectic streets, in the video, taken by Zivarts, you can see the truck is forcing cyclists into an oncoming lane around a corner, where visibility is poor.

Apparently that’s not something the police care to prevent.

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Will DA Ken Thompson Investigate Killing of 14-Year-Old Nicholas Soto?

Following the vehicular killing of 14-year-old Nicholas Soto in Red Hook Monday morning, anonymous police sources were quick to blame the victim, though the crash happened near a school bus and sent Soto through the air, witnesses said. According to press accounts, NYPD won’t say if the driver who struck Soto was speeding through an area of Red Hook where drivers routinely endanger lives. Meanwhile, the local precinct community council is scheduled to meet tonight.

Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson. Image: ##http://www.ny1.com/content/politics/inside_city_hall/190291/ny1-online--brooklyn-da-candidate-thompson-responds-to-attacks##NY1##

Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson. Image: NY1

Soto was crossing at the corner of Lorraine Street and Hicks Street at around 7 a.m. when the unnamed driver, apparently westbound on Lorraine, slammed into him with a BMW sedan.

Photos from the scene show extensive damage to the right side of the car. The front fender was dented, the hood separated from the headlight bezel, and the windshield nearly punched through. Witnesses say Soto was hit with such force that he was propelled away from the street and over a nearby fence.

From the Post:

“He came running through here, too busy, trying to catch the [school] bus,” said Edward Austin, 54, who witnessed the tragic accident.

Austin said the boy was looking at the bus when [he] ran into the intersection and failed to see the car coming from the opposite direction.

“The car came down, he was moving too damn fast,” he continued, referring to the driver. “The poor kid was bleeding through his eyes.”

“We’re losing our kids out here because [drivers] think this is a damn highway,” Alfredo Otero, a local, told the Post. “This is not the first,” said another resident. “I seen three or four people get hit out here.”

Soto’s family and other residents of Red Hook Houses East, where the victim lived, told DNAinfo the corner of Lorraine and Hicks is “notoriously dangerous.”

Eddie Soto, Nicholas’ father, said his son’s death reflected the community’s need for safer streets.

“It’s not only about my son,” Soto said. “It’s about everyone else.”

“The driver of the BMW remained on scene and and was issued a summons for having his windows tinted illegally,” the Post reported. “Police would not say if the driver was speeding.”

It’s unusual for a New York City district attorney to charge a sober motorist who remains at the scene for killing, but it does happen. In January, Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson charged a driver with manslaughter for the death of a second driver in a crash that apparently did not involve alcohol. Last year Thompson’s predecessor Charles Hynes filed assault and homicide charges against the driver who killed 9-year-old pedestrian Lucian Merryweather and injured his younger brother, though the top charge was later downgraded to homicide. (In New York State, criminally negligent homicide is a class E felony, the least severe felony category.)

Unlike states where specific charges are prescribed for vehicular crimes, New York traffic law is highly subjective, and convictions normally depend on a prosecutor’s ability to convince a jury of a motorists’s state of mind. The probability of a serious charge after a fatal crash seems to increase when the driver’s actions are especially brazen. It must also be noted that some DAs are more aggressive than others when it comes to prosecuting vehicular crimes.

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NYPD Fails to Charge Driver Who Killed a Child in Red Hook This Morning

Witnesses say a driver hit 14-year-old Nicholas Soto with enough force to throw him away from the street and over a nearby fence. NYPD filed no charges. Image: Google Maps

Witnesses say a driver hit 14-year-old Nicholas Soto with enough force to throw him away from the street and over a nearby fence. NYPD filed no charges. Image: Google Maps

A motorist killed a teenager in Red Hook this morning.

Nicholas Soto, 14, was crossing Lorraine Street at Hicks Street at around 7:00 when the driver of a BMW sedan slammed into him.

From WNBC:

Witnesses said the force of the impact flung the boy up in the air and over a fence.

Millie Mendez said the sound of the boy being hit was so loud she thought two cars had collided. When she realized it was a boy, not a car, that had been hit, she said she couldn’t believe it.

“He was bleeding everywhere,” Mendez said.

Mendez and others told WNBC speeding is a problem in the area. “The cars come like they’re on a thruway,” Mendez said. ”They need a light, speed bump, they need something on this corner because this is dangerous right here,” said resident Edward Ulsalston.

Photos from the scene show the BMW with front end damage and a cracked windshield, signs that the victim was thrown onto the hood. Though photos and witness accounts point to driver speed as a factor, police told WNBC that “No criminality is suspected.”

Daily News reporter Rocco Parascandola, meanwhile, cited an unnamed police source who blamed the victim.

A 14-year-old racing to catch a school bus was struck and killed by a car in Brooklyn Monday morning, police said.

Nicholas Soto was rushing across Hicks St. at Lorraine St. just before 7 a.m. when he was struck by a 2004 BMW heading west on Lorraine.

Nicholas, who lived nearby, died a short time later at Methodist Hospital.

The driver remained at the scene and will not likely be charged.

A police source said the teen’s vision may have been partially obstructed by his hoodie.

“It appears to be a tragic accident,” the source said.

Read more…

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One-Way Gap in Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway Set to Be Closed This Fall

The Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway is planned to run along the inside edge of a Port Authority lot in Red Hook. Negotiations between DOT and the Port Authority have delayed this short section until the fall. Image: DOT

Construction continues on the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway along Van Brunt Street, with a two-way buffered bike lane extending the greenway south through Red Hook striped recently, but there’s a conspicuous gap in the route that won’t be filled until at least this fall.

Missing link: This two-way bike path on Conover Street is supposed to continue through the fenced-off lot in the background. Photo: Stephen Miller

Reader Anna Zivarts flagged the problem with this short video and set of photos showing how southbound cyclists on Imlay Street find that the two-way bike lane suddenly ends at Verona Street, giving them the option to backtrack, divert to a cobblestone street, ride on a narrow sidewalk, or ride against traffic for two blocks before rejoining the new bike lane on Conover Street.

Why the gap? As shown in this DOT presentation from February [PDF], the missing link is supposed to be bridged by a bike path that jumps off the street and runs along the edge of a Port Authority truck storage yard, but it appears negotiations between the Port Authority and DOT didn’t wrap up before the on-street section was striped.

“The permanent greenway route along the Basin is expected to be completed in the fall,” DOT spokesperson Nicholas Mosquera said in an e-mail. In the meantime, he said, DOT will be installing temporary bike route indicators on the sidewalk. This stretch of sidewalk, while not heavily used by pedestrians, isn’t especially wide, and on a recent visit was blocked by companies that were unloading trucks.

“We continue to work with the Port Authority and other agencies to implement the portion along Atlantic Basin,” Mosquera said. Streetsblog has inquired with the Port Authority, but is still awaiting a response.

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No Charges Filed as Six Are Killed by NYC Drivers in Seven Days

A Brooklyn woman who was struck by a truck driver in Red Hook Wednesday was the latest victim among six city pedestrian and cyclist fatalities in the last week.

Lillian Cruz, hit by the driver of a tractor-trailer in Red Hook Wednesday, was at least the fifth pedestrian killed by a city motorist since Ray Kelly announced changes to the NYPD crash investigation squad. Image: News12 via Gothamist

At approximately 6:40 a.m. yesterday, Lillian Cruz, 60, was crossing Hamilton Avenue at Court Street when the signal changed and the driver of a tractor-trailer, westbound on Hamilton and stopped at the light, accelerated and ran her over, according to NYPD.

Cruz, of Bushwick, died at the scene. The driver was summonsed for failure to exercise due care.

Cruz was at least the second pedestrian killed by a semi truck driver in the last two weeks, following the February 28 death of 6-year-old Amar Diarrassouba. Tractor-trailer drivers have killed at least three other pedestrians on city streets since last August, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. The victims include Ignacio Cubano, Ken Baker, and Jessica Dworkin.

Many of the trucks involved in these fatal collisions are too long to be operated on surface streets without a permit. Despite recent deaths, the presence of trucks in areas that should normally be off-limits has not been a focus of NYPD or the media.

The type of collision that killed Cruz is supposed to be prevented by crossover mirrors, which allow drivers of large trucks to see directly in front of them. It is not known whether the truck was equipped with the mirrors. Trucks registered outside New York are exempt from the mirror requirement.

Monday evening at around 8 p.m., 75-year-old Roberto Baez was struck by the driver of a Nissan in the Bronx. Baez was crossing Soundview Avenue mid-block near Taylor Avenue when he was killed, a police spokesperson said. No summonses were issued.

Monday morning, 16-year-old Tenzin Drudak was among several people hit by a curb-jumping motorist near LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City. Drudak was killed and four others were injured. NYPD told the media the driver was speeding and reaching for a carton of milk when the crash occurred. Nevertheless, no charges were filed.

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CB 6 Committee Votes for PARK Smart Zone, Brooklyn Greenway Extension

Image: NYC DOT

Last night, the transportation committee of Brooklyn Community Board 6 voted unanimously in favor of a new PARK Smart zone for Atlantic Avenue, Smith Street, and Court Street, and for a Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway segment connecting Van Brunt Street to Valentino Pier in Red Hook.

The new PARK Smart zone, which Stephen covered earlier this week, works differently than PARK Smart in Greenwich Village and Park Slope, where on-street parking rates rise when demand is highest. NYC DOT’s proposal for Cobble Hill and Boerum Hill is to have rates rise progressively after the first half hour. The goal is to reduce traffic by discouraging long-term parking and all-day meter feeding in curbside spaces that should be turning over frequently. Brooklyn CB 2′s transportation committee voted for the plan on Tuesday.

DOT also presented plans for a Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway segment that would loop out to Valentino Pier from Van Brunt Street. We have a request in with DOT for last night’s presentation (Update: Here it is), but in the meantime, below is a map of this part of the greenway from DOT’s implementation plan [PDF]. It looks like the segment that the CB 6 committee voted for last night includes capital projects 12, 13, and 14 (not 14a), or parts thereof:

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After the Service Cuts: Riders Cram on to Overburdened, Unreliable B61

Bus riders waited at least 15 minutes for this crowded B61 during the morning rush today. A practically empty B61 was bunched up right behind it. Photo: Ben Fried

Toward the end of a press conference at the corner of Fourth Avenue and 9th Street this morning, Council Member Brad Lander remarked that not a single B61 bus came by during the 15-minute event. This was only fitting, since Lander was unveiling a new report from his office that found most rush hour B61 buses don’t arrive within the guidelines established by the MTA.

During rush hours, the B61 is supposed to arrive every eight to ten minutes, but the service is anything but reliable, according to the report, “Next Bus Please.” Fully 57 percent of buses are either spaced at least three minutes farther apart than they’re supposed to be, or bunched at least three minutes tighter together. For straphangers this translates into long waits, crowded buses, and the frustration of watching an empty B61 pull up right as you’re boarding that jam-packed bus.

“It gets really packed every morning,” said Vian Hernandez, a senior at South Brooklyn Community High School in Red Hook, who transfers from the train to the B61 to get to school. “Sometimes it comes really late.”

The current B61 route is the byproduct of the 2010 MTA service cuts (themselves a byproduct of Albany budget raids, the mounting cost of MTA debt service, and the collapse of the real estate market). The line was extended east from Red Hook to Park Slope and Windsor Terrace, absorbing passengers who used to take the now-defunct B75 and B77. The nearby B37 and B71, which served parallel routes, were also eliminated, and the Smith-9th Street subway stop has been closed for maintenance since June, further increasing reliance on the B61.

A year and a half after the cuts took effect, the study from Lander, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, and City Council Member Sara Gonzalez documents the strain on the riders who depend on this line, which is now the only bus or subway route that directly serves Red Hook.

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DOT to Red Hook: No Streetcar For You

DOT considers this the optimal route for a Red Hook streetcar, but recommended against the whole project. Image: NYC DOT

Proposed Red Hook streetcars aren’t worth the cost, according to the city DOT. In a presentation to community groups last Thursday [PDF], DOT revealed the results of its streetcar feasibility study and recommended against the construction of a line that would run from the Smith/9th subway station into Red Hook and up the waterfront to Borough Hall. The creation of a streetcar or light rail line along the northern Brooklyn or western Queens waterfront was a Bloomberg campaign promise in 2009.

The most fundamental critique in the study is that the streetcar would cost too much for too little. Building the 6.8 mile line is estimated to cost $176 million, with another $6.2-7.2 million in annual operating costs. According to DOT’s analysis, that investment would only create 1,822 new daily transit riders.

DOT also found that the streetcar wouldn’t offer quicker travel times or more reliable service than existing buses.

The low increase in ridership comes not only because of the lack of mobility benefits, but also because in Red Hook, where 81.5 percent of households don’t own a car, many residents are already transit-dependent.

We have a call in with DOT to learn more about the premises that underlie this study. More information should also be available in the full report, which is due out today.

The logistics of running a streetcar line through the neighborhood seem to have been greatly complicated by the department’s fear of removing parking spaces.

Read more…

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Can Streetcars Work for Red Hook? City Begins Study to Find Out

The New York City Department of Transportation announced today that the agency has started a five-month study to determine whether streetcars should return to Brooklyn on a route linking Red Hook to the downtown area.

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Would a new streetcar line for Red Hook use vintage-style cars or go for a more modern style?

The city first committed to the study this spring, using funds secured by Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez back in 2005. Today’s announcement gives the study a timeline and signals the selection of a consultant, engineering firm URS, who’ll conduct it.

Streetcars are making comebacks in several American cities, with new lines getting boosts from the Obama DOT’s emphasis on livability. In New York, it’s still very early in the process — the beginning of the beginning. There are lots of unknowns, like where the line would run, how it would interact with existing B61 bus service, who would operate it, what sort of economic development initiatives would be paired with it, and, of course, where the money would come from to finance it.

When the study is over early next year, we should have a clearer picture when it comes to some of those questions. From DOT’s press release:

This initial analysis is the first step in determining if this mode, once a staple of New York City’s streets, is a viable option to connect the residents and businesses of the rapidly growing Red Hook neighborhood with Brooklyn’s broader transportation system and support economic development…

The analysis will take into account factors including potential costs, operations, routing, vehicle technology, construction issues and economic development effects. It will also examine comparable North American streetcar systems to determine what lessons can be learned from the experience of other urban areas.

Over the next five months, the city will also be holding a series of meetings with elected officials and community groups about the potential streetcar route, so stay tuned.

Streetsblog will be offline tomorrow for Rosh Hashanah and back publishing on Monday. Shanah Tovah everyone!

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B77 Riders Protest Service Cuts. Is Velmanette Montgomery Listening?

b77stranded.jpgWithout a rescue plan from Albany, say goodbye to night-time service on the B77. Photo: Clarence Eckerson.

It's a long walk from the Red Hook West houses to the nearest subway stop at Smith-9th Street, and even longer to train connections at Fourth Avenue. Without night-time B77 service, a lot of commuters from the largest public housing project in Brooklyn will have to make that trek -- including a dash beneath the BQE -- on a regular basis. With MTA rescue talks currently at a standstill in Albany, about 100 Red Hook residents marched yesterday in protest of the austerity measures that will soon take effect. Clarence Eckerson documented the rally, organized by the Red Hook East and West Tenants Association.

The B77 serves Velmanette Montgomery's Senate district. Last week, after we ran a post questioning why Montgomery had basically taken the same position as the Fare Hike Four, her office emailed us to clarify. We were directed to a statement on the senator's website, which is best summed up by the following tagline: "Before we cut the service, let's cut the fat."

Given that the MTA has in fact streamlined itself under Lee Sander, and that its crushing debt load will get even worse without a solid, long-term funding plan -- not to mention the service cuts and fare hikes about to hit Montgomery's constituents -- shouldn't the senator be doing all in her power to push for a viable rescue of the MTA? We have a call in to Montgomery's office to find out what she proposes to do next.