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Posts from the People Category


If Cuomo’s MTA Raids Are No Big Deal, Why Won’t He Promise to Stop?

Andrew Cuomo has a credibility problem.

He wants the city of New York to pitch in more for the MTA capital program, but Bill de Blasio doesn’t trust him with the city’s money. Why should he, when Cuomo has a well-documented habit of diverting dedicated MTA funds to cover other state obligations.

De Blasio has been asking the governor to guarantee that the raids will stop as a condition for a greater city contribution to the capital program. As a ground rule for negotiation, it’s hard to argue with. If someone asked you for a few billion dollars, wouldn’t you want some assurances that it would be spent on the stuff you agreed to pay for — and not stuff like this?

Cuomo’s response yesterday was to mock the very notion that he’d raided the MTA. The annual $20 million diversion that the governor set up for every year from 2014 to 2031? Calling attention to that is “a joke,” Cuomo says.

Okay, then it still seems there’s an easy way to fix this impasse. All the governor has to do is promise not to divert MTA funds again. Just sign a piece of paper that says the state agrees not to siphon off any dedicated transit funds again.

If $20 million is so insignificant, what’s so hard about that?


DiNapoli: Most New York DWI Offenders Ditching Ignition Interlocks

Ignition interlock use in NYC, including data from August 15 through December 2010. Image via state comptroller’s office

Ignition interlock use in NYC. State courts began ordering installation of the devices in August, 2010. Image via state comptroller’s office

Ignition interlock devices, intended to prevent cars from starting if alcohol is detected in a driver’s breath, can be an effective tool to curb drunk driving. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s DMV rule reforms include an interlock requirement for drivers who are issued restricted licenses after multiple DWI convictions. In 2009 the state legislature passed Leandra’s Law, which among other things mandates six months of interlock use for drivers convicted of DWI.

But an audit released Thursday by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli found that the majority of people who are supposed to be using ignition interlocks aren’t installing them. DiNapoli says the compliance rate is 5 percent in New York City and just 26 percent statewide.

DiNapoli’s office says 2,166 drivers in NYC were ordered to use interlocks from 2010 to 2014, and of those, only 111 devices were installed. “[T]here was little evidence that NYC Probation routinely followed-up with offenders to determine if they owned vehicles in which devices should be installed, or did not drive motor vehicles during the periods of their restrictions,” according to DiNapoli’s press release.

City probation officers are supposed to check DMV records for license sanctions and vehicle ownership information, to determine which vehicles should have interlocks, according to DiNapoli’s office. Out of a sample of 100 offenders, including 60 repeat offenders, the audit found that in 70 cases no initial DMV check was performed, and 32 offenders were not checked for compliance throughout their entire probation term. Of 22 “high risk” offenders who should have been subject to monthly compliance checks, auditors found evidence of monthly checks in just one case.

The audit also found that NYC drivers circumvent the interlock restriction by driving vehicles owned by other people. “Auditors further found NYC Probation doesn’t always notify the courts or district attorneys when DWI offenders under its supervision are trying to drive while impaired or drunk,” DiNapoli’s office said.

Read more…


Francisco Moya’s 111th Street Proposals Are Going Nowhere

Assembly Member Francisco Moya was in no rush to let his constituents know about the town hall meeting he ran at St. Leo’s Parish on Monday evening about the proposed redesign of 111th Street in Corona. No wonder: The event was an elaborate ploy to stop a street safety project that neighborhood advocates have worked long and hard to bring to fruition.

Assembly Member Francisco Moya. Photo: NY Assembly

Assembly Member Francisco Moya. Photo: NY Assembly

Recognizing that 111th Street’s highway-like design creates a barrier between the neighborhood and Flushing Meadows Corona Park, last year the Queens Museum, Immigrant Movement International, Make the Road New York, and Transportation Alternatives got the ball rolling on a safer 111th Street. The campaign garnered the support of Council Member Julissa Ferreras, who allocated $2.7 million in discretionary capital funds for the redesign of 111th Street. This year DOT proposed narrowing crossing distances for pedestrians while adding a two-way protected bike lane and curbside car parking.

Moya has led the opposition to the plan, consistently citing his desire to maintain all the car lanes on 111th Street to accommodate traffic to large events at Citi Field and the U.S. Open. Monday was no different in that regard. “We know that whenever there’s a Mets game, U.S. Open, or any one of these, we know we hit a lot of traffic,” Moya said. “No parking, side streets become an issue, people park in the driveways; we hear a lot of the complaints.”

While Ferraras held two public workshops this summer where local residents weighed in on what they want from 111th Street, Moya’s event was more of a one-man show.

The Assembly member presented “alternatives” that include a bike path in some form. What they don’t include are feasible steps to make 111th Street less of a highway and more of a neighborhood street where people can safely walk and bike. (Ironically, while Moya complained about the parking crunch on game days, none of his plans would add any — only DOT’s would.)

“None of Moya’s proposals address the fact that there are too many lanes on 111th Street, which encourages speeding and causes crashes,” said Jaime Moncayo, Queens organizer for Transportation Alternatives.

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TA, Manhattan Pols Urge DOT to Commit to Fully Redesigning Fifth and Sixth


Bike already account for one in ten vehicles on Fifth and Sixth, a share that will only increase with protected lanes. Graphic: TA [PDF]

Last month DOT announced its intent to add a protected bike lane along 19 blocks of Sixth Avenue. A coalition of advocates, business groups, community board representatives, and elected officials think the city can do better. At a press conference next to the Flatiron Building this morning, they called on DOT to redesign the entire length of Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue in Manhattan.

Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White, right, speaks as Council Member Dan Garodnick, left, and Assembly Member Deborah Glick, center, look on. Photo: Stephen Miller

Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White, right, with Council Member Dan Garodnick, left, and Assembly Member Deborah Glick, center. Photo: Stephen Miller

In a report released today, Transportation Alternatives makes the case for protected lanes on both avenues [PDF]. Protection is needed for the large number of people who already bike on these streets, with cyclists comprising up to one in six vehicles on Fifth Avenue south of 23rd Street, according to TA. Protected bike lanes and pedestrian islands are proven to improve safety for everyone who uses the street. The share of women biking is also higher on avenues where protected lanes have been installed, TA said.

“We’re here today to commend the Department of Transportation and Mayor de Blasio for committing to a complete street redesign on Sixth Avenue between 14th and 33rd streets, but we’re also here today to encourage them to do much more,” said TA Executive Director Paul Steely White. “It’s just irresponsible to have so many cyclists on a main thoroughfare with no protection whatsoever.”

“[We] have been asking for a while that the Department of Transportation make this entire area a bicycle network, so that you don’t simply have to avoid certain avenues because you’re afraid you may be hit or injured,” said Council Member Corey Johnson.

TA conducted traffic counts between April and August, gathering a total of 32 hours of data. Cyclists comprise 10 percent of vehicle traffic on Fifth and Sixth. Bike-share accounts for 26 percent of that bike traffic — more during morning and evening rush hours.

“The numbers do not lie,” said City Council Member Dan Garodnick. “Fifth and Sixth avenues are important corridors for the city and they are important corridors for bicyclists.”

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NYPD Conspicuously Absent From City Council Vision Zero Hearing

How seriously does Police Commissioner Bill Bratton take Vision Zero? The City Council transportation committee held a hearing today to gauge the city’s progress in reducing traffic injuries and deaths, and NYPD didn’t send a single person to provide testimony or answer questions.

Hard to imagine NYPD skipping a council hearing on shootings or terrorism, but it seems traffic violence is not a priority for Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. Photo: Clarence Eckerson

Hard to imagine NYPD skipping a council hearing on shootings or terrorism, but it seems traffic violence is not a priority for Police Commissioner Bill Bratton.
Photo: Clarence Eckerson

In NYPD’s absence, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg — as she often does — had to field council member queries pertaining to police traffic enforcement. Transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez wondered if NYPD is making progress in keeping dangerous violations down, and how often police are ticketing motorists for blocking bike lanes. James Vacca wanted to know if speeding ticket counts increased after the new 25 miles per hour speed limit took effect last year. Not surprisingly, Trottenberg didn’t have responses, and deferred to NYPD.

DOT does manage the city’s traffic enforcement cameras, which are making streets safer, Trottenberg said, but they could be doing more if not for arbitrary restrictions imposed by state lawmakers.

Trottenberg said violations are down 60 percent at fixed speed camera locations. Red light camera citations have dropped 71 percent since that program started in 1994, Trottenberg said. In 2014, when less than half of the city’s speed cameras were operational, cameras ticketed almost four times as many speeding drivers as NYPD.

Yet in addition to limiting the number of cameras the city is allowed to use — 140 speed cameras and 150 red light cameras — Albany limits when and where speed cameras may operate. Albany allows cameras do be turned on during school hours only. Trottenberg said location restrictions mean that in some cases, DOT is not permitted to place a speed camera on the most dangerous street that kids actually cross to get to a school. Also thanks to Albany, drivers have to be speeding by 11 miles per hour or more to get a speed camera ticket.

Council members asked Trottenberg if expanding the speed camera program was on the de Blasio administration’s Albany agenda for next year, but she didn’t give a definitive answer.

Trottenberg also said DOT has completed 26 street safety projects since the agency released its Vision Zero borough action plans, including the ongoing revamp of Queens Boulevard and 300 leading pedestrian intervals. But since DOT puts all Vision Zero projects in the same basket — from major changes to Queens Boulevard to tweaking a single intersection — a single number doesn’t convey much information.

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If Cuomo Wants City Funding for the MTA, He’ll Need to Compromise

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s months-long attempt to squeeze money out of City Hall for the MTA appears to be reaching its end game.

Cuomo and his people at the MTA — which, despite what the governor says, is a state entity under his control — have been asking Mayor de Blasio for ever-increasing amounts of money to fill the gap in its capital program. Earlier today, Cuomo went on WNYC to bash the mayor for not handing over the dough.

The governor says the city should pony up because it relies on the MTA more than any other jurisdiction. But the city has good reason not to hand over significant sums to a state-controlled agency, no strings attached. Transit riders will be better off if de Blasio negotiates a good deal with Cuomo instead of capitulating.

First, there’s the lockbox question. Cuomo has a history of siphoning funds out of the MTA to paper over gaps on the state budget. City Hall likes to note, for example, that Cuomo has raided $270 million from the MTA since taking office in 2011. That same year, the state legislature passed a lockbox bill that would sound an alarm whenever the governor attempts to sneak his hand into the MTA’s cookie jar, but Cuomo neutered the bill. The legislature tried again two years later. Cuomo vetoed the bill and denied he’d ever raided the MTA’s budget.

Now de Blasio seems to be seeking a lockbox-type guarantee as part of the deal. “I’m not comfortable with paying — you know, paying out of the New York City budget, New York City taxpayer money, only to see it taken out of the MTA and into the state budget. So, you know, there’s real discussions that have to be held about how to reform that situation,” de Blasio told Brian Lehrer on Friday. “We’ve got to see those issues resolved upfront.”

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Rodriguez Champions Toll Reform in Broad Vision for NYC Transportation

Reforming New York’s broken road pricing and parking policies top an extensive list of transportation priorities from City Council Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez, which he unveiled this morning in a speech at New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation.

City Council Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez outlines his transportation vision this morning. Photo: Stephen Miller

City Council Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez outlines his transportation vision this morning. Photo: Stephen Miller

The most pressing item on Rodriguez’s agenda is the Move New York toll reform proposal, which would put a price on the four East River bridges and a cordon at 60th Street while reducing tolls on outlying crossings. “There is no longer a question of should we pass this plan, but when,” he said. “I will commit myself, over the coming weeks and months, to ensure that my council colleagues get behind this transformative plan.”

If City Hall coalesces behind the road pricing plan as a way to fill the gap in the MTA’s capital budget, it still must gain the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has a famously rocky relationship with Mayor Bill de Blasio. So far, the mayor has indicated that he is open to the idea of toll reform, but has not made it one of his priorities in Albany.

With a champion in Rodriguez, it’s conceivable to see a path forward for Move New York through the City Council. Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito reportedly has a more genial relationship with the governor than de Blasio does.

Rodriguez is seeking to leave his own mark on Move New York, proposing that a portion of toll revenue be set aside in what he’s calling a “Community Transit Fund.” Through a to-be-determined mechanism — Rodriguez has previously suggested community boards or participatory budgeting — neighborhoods would be able to steer funds to local transportation priorities.

Rodriguez laid out ambitious goals for traffic reduction in a plan that goes beyond road pricing. He’d like to cut the number of households in the city that own cars from 1.4 million in 2010 to 1 million in 2030. That would drop New York’s car ownership rate from 45 percent to 30 percent when the city’s projected population increase is taken into account.

By 2030, Rodriguez wants NYC to reach 12 percent bicycle mode share and 2,000 total miles of bike lanes, including 400 miles of protected bikeways. (De Blasio had initially aimed for 6 percent by 2020, then his administration scaled-back its targets.) Rodriguez also called for a car-free Earth Day next year.

Reducing the number of cars in the city will be tough as long as New York requires the construction of parking in new development. The de Blasio administration has proposed eliminating parking mandates for affordable housing near transit, a measure Rodriguez said should also apply to market-rate units. Rodriguez said he’s looking to hold a hearing soon on off-street parking reform.

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Francisco Moya’s Hush-Hush 111th Street Meeting Now Open to the Public

Assembly Member Francisco Moya, who opposes a road diet and protected bike lane on 111th Street in Corona, has decided to let the public know about a town hall meeting he is hosting about the project on Monday — after Streetsblog asked about the lack of public notice.

Assembly Member Francisco P. Moya

Assembly Member Francisco P. Moya

111th Street, which runs on the western edge of Flushing Meadows Corona Park, has too many lanes for the amount of car traffic it handles, DOT says. Trimming the extra-wide boulevard to one motor vehicle lane in each direction would open up room for larger pedestrian refuges, a two-way protected bike lane, and additional parking. Moya and prominent members of Community Board 4 oppose the project, fearing that fewer car lanes will lead to unbearable traffic congestion.

Until yesterday, it appeared that Moya was trying to keep his town hall meeting hush-hush. The event was announced at a recent community board meeting, said CB 4 District Manager Christian Cassagnol, but nothing had been posted on Moya’s social media accounts or website.

A resident of 111th Street emailed news of the meeting to Jorge Fanjul, chief of staff to Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, said Lillian Zepeda, a spokesperson for Ferreras-Copeland. “We were not personally alerted,” Zepeda said. “DOT was not invited either.”

Ferreras-Copeland is a major backer of redesigning 111th Street. Her office allocated $2.7 million to the project, and she has worked with local residents to plant daffodils on the 111th Street median, organize Vision Zero workshops, and secure traffic calming measures from DOT.

Word of the meeting spread from Ferreras-Copeland’s office to Make the Road New York, which has been working with the Queens Museum and Transportation Alternatives to improve the safety of 111th Street. On Tuesday, TA Queens organizer Jaime Moncayo forwarded the notice to Streetsblog. That afternoon, I asked Moya’s office about the meeting.

Yesterday, after Streetsblog sent inquiries, notices about the meeting went up on Moya’s Facebook and Twitter pages, and Moya spokesperson Elyse Nagiel sent an email response.

Read more…


Mayor de Blasio Busy Pandering to Motorists Hours After Kids Hit by Driver

Update: De Blasio spokesperson Wiley Norvell sent the following statement: “It’s painful and heartbreaking. Preventing crashes like this is precisely why Mayor de Blasio launched Vision Zero immediately after taking office. A full investigation is underway and the driver has been suspended, pending its outcome.”

You didn’t see Mayor Bill de Blasio talking about the four kids who were hit by a speeding cab driver on a Bronx sidewalk yesterday.

De Blasio could have visited the victims in the hospital. He could have held a press conference at the site of the crash. He could have directed DOT to analyze street conditions at the site and make improvements to help ensure such a crash doesn’t happen again. He could have pledged TLC reforms to get dangerous cab drivers off the streets regardless of whether NYPD or district attorneys file charges after a crash. He could have at least raised public awareness by issuing a statement acknowledging what happened and recommitting his administration to Vision Zero.

He did none of those things. But de Blasio kept his appointment for a nighttime presser on Staten Island, where for the second time in four months he had his picture taken while shoveling asphalt.

When a gas leak caused an explosion and building collapse in Harlem in 2014, the mayor acted swiftly, visiting the scene and issuing a detailed briefing later in the day. Apparently de Blasio didn’t find it necessary to respond when four children were mowed down on a sidewalk.

We have asked the mayor’s office for comment on yesterday’s crash. We’ll have more details on the crash later today.


Richard Brown: Misdemeanor Plea for Accused Unlicensed Hit-and-Run Killer

In a deal with District Attorney Richard Brown, a driver charged with felony hit-and-run and driving without a license after fatally striking a Queens pedestrian has pled guilty to violating the city’s Right of Way Law.


Queens DA Richard Brown

Last February Valentine Gonzalez hit an unidentified woman with a box truck while turning left at Woodside Avenue and 76th Street, NYPD told Gothamist and WPIX. “Gonzalez fled, but was stopped by police a few blocks away,” Gothamist reported.

The victim died at the scene.

According to court records the top charge against Gonzalez was leaving the scene of an accident resulting in injury, a class D felony with potential sentences ranging from probation to seven years in jail. He was also charged with violating the Right of Way Law — an unclassified misdemeanor — operating a motor vehicle while unlicensed, and operating an unregistered vehicle.

On Monday Gonzalez pled guilty to the Right of Way Law charge, court records say. The law carries a fine of up $250 and a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail. Court records indicate Gonzalez was in jail for four months after his arrest, then made bail.

Richard Brown routinely pleads down cases against drivers who kill people, rather than taking defendants to trial, to the extent that he files charges in the first place. Last week he allowed a repeat drunk driver who was charged with 10 felonies for killing a man to plead guilty to two low-level felony counts.

Gonzalez is scheduled to be sentenced in November.