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Posts from the "Upper West Side" Category

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At Upper West Side Vigil, Families Mourn 9-Year-Old Lost to Traffic Violence

Hours after Mayor de Blasio unveiled his administration’s approach to sharply reducing traffic deaths yesterday, hundreds of New Yorkers gathered at an Upper West Side intersection to mourn 9-year-old Cooper Stock, who was killed last Friday by a turning taxi driver while crossing West End Avenue with his father.

Koffi Komlani, the driver who killed Stock, has received only a summons for failure to yield to a pedestrian, and has not faced criminal charges or disciplinary action from TLC. The case remains under investigation by NYPD and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.

“The fact that people can drive into people and kill them and get away with a traffic violation, which I understand is commonplace, is utterly appalling,” said Barron Lerner, Stock’s uncle, who was joined by the victim’s mother, Dana Lerner, at the vigil. ”I can’t imagine to live in a society that would tolerate that,” he said.

Julie Dermer, who lives in the same building as the Stock family and whose son was friends with Cooper, reminded the crowd that Upper West Siders have been advocating for safer streets for years, including a 2008 report with recommendations for 97th Street, where Cooper was killed. “The response has been, ‘We’ll study it,’” she said. “I’m not an urban planner, but this doesn’t seem like rocket science.”

Last year, Community Board 7 requested an honorary street renaming to memorialize 4-year-old Ariel Russo, who was killed by an unlicensed teen driver, but the same community board has dragged its feet for months and even years on safety fixes for major streets like Amsterdam Avenue. ”This community does not need more streets named after children who were killed by cars,” said Julie Kowitz Margolies, who also lives in the same building as the Stock family. ”What we need is safer streets that will keep our children safe and alive.”

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Assembly Member Dan O’Donnell Intros Bill to Set NYC Speed Limit at 20 MPH

Assembly Member Dan O’Donnell has introduced a bill to lower the speed limit in New York City to 20 miles per hour.

O’Donnell represents the Upper West Side, where two pedestrians have been killed by motorists in 2014. He attended the vigil held last night for Cooper Stock and Alexander Shear.

O’Donnell’s office released a statement this afternoon:

Last week, two tragedies in my district emphasized for me the overwhelming need to change traffic laws and prevent traffic fatalities in New York City. Already this year, in just over two weeks, there have been seven pedestrian deaths due to traffic accidents, including the death of a child. That horrific fact is why today I introduced A8478, which changes the New York City administrative code to set the city’s official speed limit at 20 miles per hour except where the City Council determines a different speed limit is appropriate. Studies have shown that pedestrians hit at speeds of 20 and lower have a dramatically higher chance of surviving an accident than those hit at speeds of 30 and above. I hope my bill will change the devastating rate of traffic deaths in the city, and contribute to Mayor de Blasio’s “Vision Zero” plan to prevent unsafe driving and end traffic fatalities.

As of now the bill doesn’t have cosponsors or a companion bill in the Senate, according to the Assembly web site.

O’Donnell’s bill is currently stronger than the similar bills introduced in the City Council last year, and as state legislation it would supersede equivalent city legislation. We’ll have more on the speed limit bill in future posts.

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9-Year-Old Boy, Mother, and Senior Killed in Weekend of Motorist Violence

Three pedestrians were fatally struck by motorists over the weekend, bringing to seven the number of people killed while walking in New York City in the first two weeks of 2014.

Twenty pedestrians were killed by city motorists in January 2013, according to NYPD data, and 12 pedestrians and one cyclist died in January 2012.

Cooper Stock. Photo via DNAinfo

Cooper Stock. Photo via DNAinfo

Nine-year-old Cooper Stock was in a crosswalk with his father at West End Avenue and 97th Street  at around 9 p.m. Friday when both were hit by cab driver Koffi Komlani, according to reports. A motorist in a car behind Komlani spoke with the Daily News:

“He had to be distracted because there’s no way he could not see them, if I did,” [Ramon] Gonzalez, 46, said of the 53-year-old cabbie.

“The father grabbed his son. They were both on the hood of the car for a second. The father fell off the passenger side. The son went underneath the driver’s-side tire, first the front one, then the rear.”

Komlani, of West Harriman, didn’t brake until after he’d run over the boy with both wheels, according to Gonzalez, the assistant director of an educational nonprofit who lives in Chelsea.

Richard Stock suffered a leg injury. Cooper died at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital.

Cooper Stock was at least the twelfth child age 14 and under killed by a New York City motorist in the last 12 months, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. Year after year, traffic crashes remain the leading cause of injury-related death for children in NYC.

From DNAinfo:

The family released a statement about Cooper late Saturday, saying he loved the Yankees, rock and roll, and the Knicks. “Cooper was the life of the party even when there wasn’t a party,” the statement said. “He was light, he was reflective, he was beauty in motion, he was charismatic. He has been described as an old soul, and wise beyond his years.”

Komlani was ticketed for failure to yield on Friday. ”As of now, there are no disciplinary actions available to the TLC,” said Allan Fromberg, spokesperson for the Taxi and Limousine Commission, in an email. ”We’re awaiting the outcome of the NYPD investigation to make a determination of what options are available.”

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Post Unwittingly Makes Case for Northbound Protected Bike Lane on UWS

Today, New Yorkers got a blast from the past in the pages of the New York Post. Less than a week ago, Community Board 7 voted unanimously to ask DOT to study complete streets measures including a protected bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue. For today’s paper, the Post sent two reporters to the Columbus Avenue protected bike lane to get some quotes from die-hard bike lane opponents and catch wrong-way cyclists on camera.

To get anti-bike quotes, the Post goes back to the well. Ian Alterman, the president of the 20th precinct community council who has opposed not only bike lanes but also business requests for bike racks, and the Zingone Brothers grocery store, which has previously had its grievances aired on WCBSWNYC – and (surprise!) the Post — both make appearances. Can you smell the controversy?

The NY Post's street safety coverage priorities. Photo: NY Post

If there was a protected northbound bike route on the Upper West Side, the Columbus Avenue bike lane wouldn’t draw so much wrong-way riding. Photo: NY Post

The Post conveniently ignored all the benefits the Columbus Avenue redesign has brought to the Upper West Side: Shorter crossing distances for pedestrians, new concrete islands that get drivers to take turns carefully, safer biking conditions, tweaks to improve loading zones for businesses, narrower lanes and less speeding, and — most important — a 41 percent reduction in pedestrian injuries.

The paper tried to link the bike lane — which creates a safe place to ride in the street — to sidewalk riding and wrong-way cycling. Never mind that sidewalk riding is down: Only 2.3 percent of riders on Columbus currently use the sidewalk, a drop from before the lane was installed, according to DOT.

There’s no evidence that wrong-way riding is any more or less frequent than it used to be either, but if northbound cycling is prevalent on the southbound Columbus Avenue bike lane, there’s a good reason: There is no northbound protected bike lane on the Upper West Side. The Post actually makes a good case for a companion protected lane on Amsterdam, which would give cyclists a safer route heading uptown and draw wrong-way bike traffic off Columbus.

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CB 7 Votes 35-0 for DOT to Study Amsterdam Avenue Protected Bike Lane

CB 7 members, including longtime transportation committee co-chairs Andrew  Albert and Dan Zweig, left, vote for a resolution asking DOT to study a complete street redesign on Amsterdam Avenue. Photo: Steve Vaccaro/Twitter

CB 7 members vote for a resolution asking DOT to study a complete street redesign on Amsterdam Avenue. Photo: Steve Vaccaro/Twitter

Before an audience of more than 100 people last night, Manhattan Community Board 7 voted 35-0, with five abstentions, for a resolution asking DOT to perform a complete streets study of Amsterdam Avenue, including safer pedestrian crossings and a protected bike lane. The unanimous vote came after a long session of procedural wrangling over the resolution’s language, but sets the stage for the agency to move forward with redesigning the street.

Despite the vote, last night’s meeting was also a reminder that key members of board, especially transportation committee co-chairs Andrew Albert and Dan Zweig, are set on obstructing proven street safety measures to the extent they can.

The meeting kicked off with a request from CB 7 chair Elizabeth Caputo about disclosure. Although conflict of interest rules are intended for situations where board members may stand to gain financially from the board’s actions, Caputo asked members to disclose any affiliations they may have with groups advocating for resolutions to be passed. (She did not require board members to disclose other relevant information, like whether they park on Amsterdam Avenue regularly.)

The request came after bike lane opponents at last month’s meeting, led by board member Lillian Moore, began asking members of Transportation Alternatives who are on CB 7 to recuse themselves from voting. Last night, Ken Coughlin, who is a transportation committee member and also serves on TA’s board, set the record straight.

“We have our conflict of interest rules to prevent the prospect of somebody putting their own private gain over the community interest,” he said. “It’s no secret that I’m a [TA] board member. It was on my community board application. [Council Member] Gale Brewer was well aware of it; in fact, it may be the reason she appointed me. We’re all appointed to this community board because we’re civically engaged, and I imagine Gale saw this as evidence of my civic engagement.”

“I did,” Brewer shouted from the back, to applause from the audience.

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Tonight on the Upper West Side: Critical Vote on Amsterdam Avenue

Amsterdam Avenue is one of the most dangerous streets on the Upper West Side. Tonight Community Board 7 can take a stand and save lives by asking the city to study a safety overhaul.

After months of meetings, tonight Manhattan Community Board 7 is expected to vote on a resolution asking DOT for a complete streets study of Amsterdam Avenue. Getting to tonight’s vote involved months of marathon meetings and debate, and supporters of safer streets can’t let up now.

The resolution being considered tonight asks DOT to study changes to Amsterdam Avenue, including the conversion of a motor vehicle travel lane to a protected bike lane and pedestrian islands.

Last month, after hours of public testimony — three-quarters in favor of the resolution — the board delayed taking a vote until tonight. While there will not be testimony at tonight’s meeting, organizers say it’s important for supporters to show up and be counted before board members take a vote. The meeting starts at 6:30 at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center, 1000 Tenth Avenue.

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After a Packed Meeting, CB 7 Punts on Amsterdam Ave Complete Street Study

Few people have ever accused Manhattan Community Board 7 of expiditiously resolving to do something about dangerous streets. After devoting two hours last night to discussing a resolution asking DOT for a complete street study of Amsterdam Avenue (which the board’s transportation committee passed last month), CB 7′s reputation for inaction and delay remained intact: The board voted 28-11 to put off the issue until its next meeting on December 3.

Amsterdam Avenue at 97th Street: Four lanes of dangerous traffic, but CB 7 hasn't decided whether to do anything about it. Photo: Google Maps

Amsterdam is the only four-lane, one-way avenue in the neighborhood, and has a higher number of traffic injuries and fatalities than other avenues carrying northbound traffic on the Upper West Side, according to Transportation Alternatives. (In the neighborhood, Broadway is divided by pedestrian malls and tracked as separate northbound and southbound streets in official crash statistics.)

Discussion started off with a failed one-two punch from transportation committee member Lillian Moore and committee co-chair Dan Zweig. Moore claimed that board members who both support the resolution and are Transportation Alternatives members have a conflict of interest, while Zweig doubted (yet again) the data showing improvements to traffic flow on Columbus Avenue since its redesign.

“It’s no more relevant whether or not someone is a member of TA as to whether they’re a member of AARP, AAA, or the Sierra Club,” TA’s Tom DeVito said today. Parliamentarian Shelly Fine backed him up last night, saying that board members should disclose affiliations but can vote on resolutions so long as they or family members do not have a financial stake in the outcome.

Resolution co-sponsors quickly dispensed with Zweig’s attack, pointing out that the traffic flow data comes from DOT and is included in presentations Zweig, as committee co-chair, has already received from the agency.

At the start of the meeting, nearly 200 people were in the room. Of the 48 people who spoke last night before public testimony was cut off due to time constraints, exactly three-quarters were in favor of the study. DeVito also gave the board a petition with 1,800 signatures and a letter of support signed by 204 business owners and managers.

Council member and borough president-elect Gale Brewer spoke early in the meeting. While she didn’t explicitly call on the board to pass the Amsterdam Avenue resolution, she said she liked the existing lane on Columbus Avenue. “My district office is right on the Columbus Avenue bike lane,” she said. “I think it’s doing a great job.” Brewer added that she looks forward to Citi Bike expanding to the Upper West Side along the protected bike lanes.

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CBS 2: Don’t Touch the Highway Running Through the Upper West Side

Yesterday’s CBS 2 attempt to trash potential street improvements for Amsterdam Avenue gets it wrong before the story even starts.

As she introduces reporter Lou Young, anchor Dana Tyler says a plan for a new bike lane on Amsterdam “has gotten the green light.” Reality: The Community Board 7 transportation committee last week passed a resolution to ask DOT to consider a protected bike lane and pedestrian islands, removing one of four car lanes, and retiming signals. As of now, there is no plan, and the full board won’t vote on whether to ask DOT to come back with one until November.

Tyler’s routine sloppiness pales in comparison to the alternate universe conjured by Young.

From behind the wheel, Young describes Amsterdam Avenue as a wide open “highway,” beloved by commuters in a hurry to get out of town. “Can this highway handle bike routes?” he asks. “Well, that’s the question.” As for whether a residential neighborhood like the Upper West Side should have a highway like Amsterdam running smack through the middle of it — well, apparently that’s just not the question for Mobile 2.

Young starts his segment with an obviously staged conflict in the Columbus Avenue bike lane between a wrong-way delivery cyclist and store owner Nicholas Zingone, who while standing next to a delivery van in front of his store says that, thanks to the bike lane, no one can park in front of his store. Viewers may recognize Zingone’s as the same grocery that complained about the Columbus Avenue bike lane when CBS 2 did this segment the first time, nearly three years ago. That florist griping about the loss of parking? His vans are notorious for blocking the bike lane in front of the store, and for years he’s been taking out his frustrations on the bike lane — not the placard abusers and poorly priced meters that are the root cause of curb dysfunction in the neighborhood.

It’s the same cast of characters who kvetched about change on Columbus back in 2011. So, did CBS 2 dig into whether the redesign has actually affected business? Nope. The only solid data on retail performance indicates that Columbus Avenue is doing fine with the bike lane, but hard numbers like commercial vacancy rates don’t fit the he-said/she-said template.

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CB 7 Committee Asks DOT, 7-0, for Amsterdam Avenue Complete Street Study


After a three-and-a-half-hour meeting that itself followed a nearly three-hour deliberation last month, the Manhattan Community Board 7 transportation committee voted 7-0, with three abstentions, for a resolution asking DOT to study safety improvements for Amsterdam Avenue. The resolution asks DOT to consider a protected bike lane, pedestrian islands, removing one of the avenue’s four car lanes, and retiming signals. It now moves to the full board for a vote on November 6.

There are many more injuries and fatalities on Amsterdam Avenue than on other northbound avenues on the Upper West Side, according to CrashStat.org. Last December, Transportation Alternatives clocked 81 percent of Amsterdam Avenue drivers exceeding the 30 mph speed limit, with one in five drivers on a weekday afternoon traveling 40 mph or faster.

“I’ve got a major concern about speeding,” said Peter Arndtsen, district manager of the Columbus Amsterdam Business Improvement District. “Something has to be done.” Arndtsen said that while the BID does not oppose or support a bike lane on Amsterdam, it would like a bus lane considered. During public testimony last night, TA showed a video of business owners on both avenues who support the protected bike lanes. Over 200 area businesses and community groups have signed on to TA’s campaign. The Columbus Avenue BID also urged the board to support a protected bike lane on Amsterdam.

This is the latest chapter in a long campaign for protected bike lanes on the Upper West Side. Community Board 7 has hosted many hours-long meetings on the issue over the years — first for Columbus Avenue, which was considered as two separate phases, and now for Amsterdam.

Last night’s three abstentions came from committee member Lillian Moore and longtime co-chairs Dan Zweig and Andrew Albert, who all spoke against a protected bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue before the vote. All three insisted they don’t oppose bike lanes, they would just prefer studies for bike lanes on other avenues.

During committee discussion of the resolution, Zweig said he didn’t trust the data showing the reduction in traffic injuries following the installation of protected bike lanes. “We had statistics from DOT that had a great deal of problems,” he said, referring to his insistence earlier this year that DOT eliminate one year of data because it showed there were a high number of crashes on Columbus Avenue before the bike lane was installed. DOT refused to cherrypick the data according to Zweig’s wishes.

Zweig then began ranting about personal experiences with cyclists riding on the sidewalk, the wrong way, and against red lights. He also said the City Council needs to pass a law requiring cyclists to use protected bike lanes where they have been installed. “Let’s get the enforcement,” Zweig said. “Let’s pass that and get that moving before we even think of asking DOT to study anything else.”

“I acquired the reputation of being anti-bike lane. You may have seen it in all the bike lobby press,” said Zweig, who opposed lanes on both Amsterdam and Columbus. He then repeated his statement from last month that protected bike lanes are “the only ones worth doing.” Just not on streets where community members are asking for them, apparently.

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Manhattan CB 7 Committee Keeps Dithering on Amsterdam Avenue Safety

Despite starting off with a somber reminder of the damage created by dangerous driving, Manhattan Community Board 7′s transportation committee ended its meeting last night gridlocked over whether to support meaningful street safety improvements.

CB 7 committee members seem to agree that Amsterdam Avenue, shown at 97th Street, is too dangerous, but can't make up their minds about a proposal to calm traffic. Image: Google Maps

One of the committee’s first actions was to ask DOT to add an honorary street sign at the corner of 97th Street and Amsterdam Avenue in memory of Ariel Russo, age 4, who was killed by an unlicensed teen driver fleeing police in June. But when it came time to discuss fixing one of the most dangerous streets in the neighborhood, Amsterdam Avenue, the leaders of the committee didn’t show much urgency.

Amsterdam is the only four-lane one-way avenue in the neighborhood, and has a higher number of crashes than other northbound avenues on the Upper West Side, according to crash statistics compiled by Transportation Alternatives. Nearly 200 local businesses and community groups have signed on to TA’s campaign for a protected bike lane and pedestrian refuges on the street.

Last night, more than 20 members of the public spoke before the committee, with a majority in favor of a protected bike lane. The committee then began its own discussion, with members digressing into topics ranging from bicycle registration to street trees. The tenor of discussion, which TA’s Tom DeVito characterized as more positive than a previous committee meeting in the spring, was reminiscent of the board’s multi-year deliberation on a similar proposal for Columbus Avenue.

In what may be a sign of progress, committee co-chair Dan Zweig said protected bike lanes “are really the only ones worth doing,” but he suggested one for Central Park West, not Amsterdam. Later in the meeting, CB 7 chair Mark Diller also said his “first preference” for a protected bike lane was CPW.

For years, the Community Board 7 transportation committee has been run by Zweig and Andrew Albert, who have developed a reputation for stalling street redesigns. That much seemingly hasn’t changed.

As the meeting came to a close after three hours, Albert sought to sidestep the question of physical traffic-calming improvements entirely. “If you really want to make Amsterdam Avenue safer,” he said, “All you have to do is change the timing of the lights.”

Democratic City Council nominee Helen Rosenthal and Manhattan Borough President-elect Gale Brewer, who currently represents the district in the City Council, were both in attendance last night. As the presumptive council member and borough president starting next year, they would be responsible for most of the appointments to CB 7, with Brewer having the ability to dismiss current members. The committee is scheduled to meet again on October 8.

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