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Families for Safe Streets and DOT Cut the Ribbon on Myrtle-Wyckoff Plaza

DOT's new pedestrian plaza at the Myrtle-Wyckoff transit hub will save lives. Photo: David Meyer

The new pedestrian plaza at the Myrtle-Wyckoff transit hub will save lives. Photos: David Meyer

Members of Families for Safe Streets and DOT officials celebrated the completion of a new pedestrian plaza at the Myrtle-Wyckoff transit hub. The plaza, on the block of Wyckoff Avenue between Myrtle and Gates, is the centerpiece of a major safety project that will reduce conflicts between drivers and pedestrians at an intersection where three people were killed by motorists since 2009.

The installation of the plaza marks the culmination of a multi-year effort to fix the six-way Myrtle-Wyckoff intersection, which is the access point for two subway lines and six bus routes. Before the plaza, pedestrians, who outnumber motorists 3 to 1 during peak hours, were squeezed onto the margins. Now people can walk freely between the subway and the bus.

Members of Families for Safe Street and DOT staff cut the ribbon on the new plaza. Photo: David Meyer

Judy Kottick, third from left, cuts the ribbon on the new plaza.

The plaza also greatly simplifies complex turning movements that had jeopardized people’s lives. After an MTA bus driver killed 23-year-old Ella Bandes in 2013, DOT made some adjustments to eliminate some turning movements, but the changes were not enough to prevent another turning MTA bus driver from killing Edgar Torres the following year.

About 200 people attended a January 2014 vigil in memory of Bandes. Soon after, her parents, Judy Kottick and Ken Bandes, joined other people who had lost loved ones to traffic crashes to form Families for Safe Streets.

“Myrtle-Wyckoff has gone from being the fifth deadliest intersection in New York City to being the launching site of Families for Safe Streets, creating a pedestrian plaza that protects citizens and encourages a sense of community, and honors the people who had to lose their lives in order for this to happen,” said Kottick at today’s ceremony. “In their honor, Myrtle-Wyckoff can now be a beacon for street safety.”

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Cuomo’s DMV: No Rhyme or Reason Guiding Penalties for Deadly Motorists

New Yorkers call for DMV reforms at a January 2015 vigil for Allison Liao, who was killed by a reckless driver in Queens. Photo: Anna Zivarts/Flickr

New Yorkers call for DMV reforms at a January 2015 vigil for Allison Liao, who was killed by a reckless driver in Queens. Photo: Anna Zivarts/Flickr

When a motorist with a New York drivers license is involved in a fatal crash, the Department of Motor Vehicles may hold a hearing to determine whether that person should maintain his or her driving privileges. In practice, these DMV hearings have been wildly inconsistent and often result in zero consequences for deadly motorists. Over the last few years, advocates have called for standardized practices from DMV to suspend or revoke the licenses of drivers whose recklessness behind the wheel leads to serious injury or death.

But a review of recent hearings after fatal crashes reveals no apparent rhyme or reason to the penalties for deadly driving meted out by DMV.

Currently there are 39 cases on the DMV site involving drivers who were identified by NYPD or the media as having fatally struck a New York City pedestrian or cyclist, of which 34 have been resolved. (This probably undercounts the number of such cases, but NYPD shields the names of drivers who kill people unless charges are filed, so in many instances there’s no way for the public to link a driver to a specific crash. The DMV also doesn’t publish victims’ names, making a comprehensive account very difficult.)

There are two basic categories of DMV license penalties — revocations and suspensions. Drivers with revoked licenses can reapply after a time period set by the DMV, which then determines whether or not to restore driving privileges. A revocation is more severe than a suspension, which allows a driver to get his or her license back after a certain period of time simply by paying a fee.

Of the 34 cases that have been decided, the DMV revoked the licenses of 11 drivers, suspended 13, and took no action against 10. Of the 13 suspended drivers, five received 90-day suspensions, three received 365-day suspensions, and one each received suspensions of 75, 120, and 180 days, while two drivers were suspended for an undisclosed time period pending a hearing.

Rather than a consistent system, DMV judges appear to apply random penalties.

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Vanterpool: Trump Can’t Take Away Our Ability to Make Transit Better

In less than two months, Donald Trump will be sworn in as president, and he’ll be working with a GOP majority in Congress that is highly antagonistic to transit funding, climate sustainability efforts, and other policies that benefit walkable urban places. It’s a scary scenario for transit riders.

Tri-State Transportation Campaign Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool

Tri-State Transportation Campaign Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool. Photo: David McKay Wilson/Binghamton University

But if you want better transit, now is not the time to get discouraged. At a Riders Alliance panel in Soho last night, Tri-State Transportation Campaign Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool delivered a message to transit advocates — all politics is local, and city residents still have the power to win important transit victories:

Where I see a positivity is in us, and it’s in the energy in this room, and the energy in cities that we see across this country. The outlook is glum, and it’s grim. But we need to focus and remember that a lot of the wins and a lot of success has happened at the local level and at the state level. And not just in transportation — think about, you know, paid sick leave. Those were local fights, when the federal government wasn’t making these changes. There’s a lot of innovation that has happened in the cities. We cannot let that die. We need to wrap that up. We need to empower local and state advocacy, and make sure that our state government and our state elected officials, and our local government and our local elected officials, are representing what we want.

Keep going for those easy wins, because that is how we inform our elected officials…You know, all politics is local. Even at the federal level. They want to look to their district for examples. They want to look to their states and their counties for examples. Let’s give them the right examples to run with, to heed, to model. So they’re looking to us. Let’s show them. Let’s give them the message that we want them to deliver.

Vanterpool said advocates also need to refine their messages in a way that effectively communicates to rural and suburban communities the value of investment in transit.

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The 111th Street Safety Project Has Changed, But Queens CB 4 Has Not

DOT's updated 111th Street plan (top) maintains two-way southbound traffic flow and omit the new crosswalks included in the original plan (below). Images: DOT

DOT’s updated 111th Street plan (top) maintains two southbound traffic lanes and omits marked crosswalks included in the original plan (bottom). Images: DOT

If DOT is going to implement a safer design of 111th Street in Corona, it won’t be thanks to the local community board. Despite a watered-down safety plan intended to appease opponents of DOT’s original proposal, the CB 4 transportation committee declined to vote on the plan, citing “remaining questions” about traffic on the corridor.

The city’s first plan for 111th Street, which local residents, community organizations, and Council Member Julissa Ferreras had pushed for, would have reduced the number of motor vehicle lanes, narrowed crossing distances for pedestrians, added marked crosswalks, and put a two-way protected bike lane along Flushing Meadows Corona Park. That version was opposed by Assembly Member Francisco Moya, who said 111th Street carried too much traffic during large sports events at Citi Field and the U.S Open to eliminate moving lanes.

DOT studies and video evidence suggested Moya didn’t have a leg to stand on, but in an announcement last month, the city revealed a weaker version of the redesign, saying it had won over Moya while retaining support from the original coalition. The new design retains a two-way protected bike lane and wider medians, but only eliminates one moving lane in each direction, maintaining two southbound lanes instead of one. It also does not include some marked crosswalks that were in the original plan.

Last night, DOT reps came equipped with piles of research about the traffic conditions on 111th Street, including time-lapse photos from two locations on the corridor and traffic studies of more than 30 large events in the area. Residents were also surveyed about how they get to the park and their concerns about park access.

The traffic studies concluded that there just isn’t much congestion on 111th Street, and the survey revealed that Corona residents are much more worried about speeding on 111th Street than about traffic back-ups.

But CB 4 members refused to believe the evidence.

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City Hall Puts NYPD’s TrafficStat Crash-Mapping Tool Online

The NYPD is making its "TrafficStat" tool available to the public. Image: NYPD

The NYPD is making its TrafficStat crash-mapping tool available to the public, but data on where police issue traffic summonses is still not available. Image: NYPD

Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner James O’Neill announced today that the city will make “TrafficStat,” NYPD’s tool for mapping and analyzing traffic collision data, available online to the public. It’s an improvement over the city’s existing crash-mapping tool but lacks one very important type of information — data about where police are enforcing traffic laws.

The TrafficStat site enables users to track crashes by location, going a few steps further than the city’s existing Vision Zero View tool. Collisions can be broken down by type, contributing factor, day of the week, hour of the day, precinct, and patrol borough. The data was previously available on NYC’s open data portal, but the TrafficStat site puts it in an easy-to-view format.

The site will also be updated more frequently than Vision Zero View — once a week on Tuesdays, as opposed to once a month.

Since the late 1990s, NYPD has used TrafficStat to guide traffic enforcement efforts. City officials said today that they want the public to see the role that TrafficStat plays in the mayor’s Vision Zero initiative.

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Streetsblog USA
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Trump’s Pick for U.S. DOT Is GOP Insider Elaine Chao

Donald Trump has chosen Elaine Chao to serve as transportation secretary in his administration, according to Politico. Chao was secretary of labor under George W. Bush and is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. An official announcement is expected shortly.

Chao has a long resume in federal government under Republican presidents. She served as deputy secretary of transportation under George H. W. Bush, rising through the agency from a post in maritime administration.

Chao’s family owns an international shipping empire, and her father is singlehandedly responsible for making McConnell one of the richest men in the Senate, according to the Nation.

While Chao has more experience in government and a less extreme ideological background than other Cabinet picks, she has been on the Trump team for a while, serving on the campaign’s Asian Pacific American Advisory Council, according to Politico.

Chao is no environmentalist, having resigned from the board of Bloomberg Philanthropies as a result of its “Beyond Coal” campaign. Her involvement with the foundation reportedly became an issue in McConnell’s reelection campaign in Kentucky. She’ll now be operating for a White House that denies the science of climate change. Federal efforts to coordinate transportation and land use policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions may not survive in the Trump DOT, but that would have been the case no matter who landed the transportation secretary job.

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What Will It Take to Bring Bike-Share to Every Borough?

City Council members want bike-share to expand into their neighborhoods in a five-borough network. Officials at DOT and bike-share operator Motivate share that vision, but they said at a hearing today that it won’t come cheap.

Citi Bike's planned expansions won't make it to the poorest parts of Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Upper Manhattan. Image: Citi Bike

Citi Bike’s planned expansions won’t make it to most of Queens, Brooklyn, or the Bronx. Image: Citi Bike

After a rough start, Citi Bike’s recent success has prompted a growing number of elected officials to call for expanding the bike-share network to more neighborhoods and to lower-income New Yorkers.

The current phase of expansion is set to wrap up next year, extending the service area to Harlem, Astoria, and Crown Heights. Beyond 2017, the growth of the system is uncertain.

But transportation committee chair Ydanis Rodriguez wants bike-share stations in every community board in the city by 2020. “It is imperative that we turn Citi Bike into a public good, a resource for our lowest-income communities, an opportunity for growth and human capital development,” he said.

That’s no small task: The capital cost of adding one bike to the system is $6,000 (including the dock and other hardware), and Motivate says installing stations in every community board in the city would require 70,000 to 80,000 bikes. So blanketing the city with bike-share would cost more than $400 million.

So far, Citi Bike has launched and expanded using sponsorship revenue, member fees, and other private sources — not public funds. That will probably have to change to bring bike-share beyond the 2017 expansion zone. Both DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and Motivate CEO Jay Walder said today that public funding would likely be necessary to make citywide bike-share a reality.

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Streetsblog USA
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4 Ways Trump’s Transportation Plan Is Ripe for Corruption

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As long as Trump doesn’t release his tax returns, divest from his assets, and put his wealth in a true blind trust, the public can have no confidence that federal infrastructure spending will be based on merit and not Trump’s personal financial interests. Photo: Kamoteus/Flickr

Donald Trump’s opaque personal finances and business entanglements around the globe raise the possibility of unprecedented corruption for a United States president. And transportation is one area where the risk of Trump using the powers of the presidency to enrich his family and reward cronies is especially high.

As a candidate, Trump outlined a $1 trillion infrastructure plan, consisting mainly of tax incentives and subsidized loans for private companies to build things like roads and water systems. Paul Krugman and Ron Klain have noted that this would confer huge subsidies to companies that don’t need them, for projects that would get built anyway. In other words, government handouts for contractors and financiers.

In the transportation realm, Trump’s plan would mean building lots of privately-financed toll roads, an arrangement rife with examples of costly blunders, bankruptcies, and conflicts of interest. Letting the Trump White House oversee a huge program of privatized toll road construction would open the door to corruption on a massive scale.

While the vast sums we spend on infrastructure have always been vulnerable to various forms of corruption, the potential for Trump to game the system goes far beyond typical “highway to nowhere” graft. Here’s a closer look at why.

1. Trump has not released his tax returns, and his assets are not in a true blind trust

Alone among modern presidents, Trump has not released his tax returns. The public has no way to tell exactly what Trump’s financial interests are and how far they extend. And because Trump and his children have not divested from the family’s assets and put their wealth under the control of a disinterested third party, or blind trust, they can continue to profit from decisions made by the vast federal government apparatus that Donald Trump will soon steer.

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Streetsblog USA
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Steve Bannon Would Love to Team Up With Chuck Schumer on Infrastructure

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Imagine all the Trump signs marking projects that get tax breaks from the infrastructure plan Steve Bannon is pushing for.

We mentioned it briefly last week, but Trump advisor Steve Bannon’s comments to the Hollywood Reporter about infrastructure are worth a closer look. It helps explain why Democrats like Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi are making a grave mistake when they line up to help Trump implement this plan.

Bannon is the propagandist who entered the Trump campaign team after turning Breitbart into the world’s leading “news” source for white supremacists. In the Hollywood Reporter article, he refers to cities as “the metrosexual bubble” and lashes out at his enemies list, which includes “globalists,” liberals, elites, centrists, and Megyn Kelly.

Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan is the central piece of what Bannon calls his “economic nationalist” (read: white nationalist) agenda:

Like [Andrew] Jackson’s populism, we’re going to build an entirely new political movement. It’s everything related to jobs. The conservatives are going to go crazy. I’m the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. With negative interest rates throughout the world, it’s the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything. Ship yards, iron works, get them all jacked up. We’re just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution — conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement.

Policywise, Bannon seems to have no idea what he’s talking about. The references to “ship yards” and “iron works” don’t make much sense. We’re talking about a plan to build roads, water systems, and electrical grids.

There’s a good reason a propagandist wouldn’t want to talk about the actual infrastructure policy that Trump’s team has floated. The construction industry is at nearly full employment right now, and Trump’s plan won’t have much if any stimulative effect.

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Streetsblog USA
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AZ Rep Ruben Gallego to Dems: Don’t Enable Trump’s Infrastructure Surge

Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi may be ready to bend over backward to work with Donald Trump on “infrastructure,” but you can count Arizona Representative Ruben Gallego out.

Arizona Congressman Ruben Gallego says Democrats must resist Trump's corrupt infrastructure plan. Photo: Wikipedia

Arizona Congressman Ruben Gallego says Democrats must resist Trump’s infrastructure plan and the potential for corruption that it entails. Photo: Wikipedia

Trump has proposed spending $1 trillion on infrastructure. It’s barely even an outline at this point, but the preliminary plan is based on tax incentives and privatization schemes that could lead to a lot of new toll roads and would subsidize a lot of infrastructure that would get built anyway. Even industry reps like state DOTs and toll road groups have questioned the soundness of the proposal.

Trump’s opaque personal finances also open the door to massive corruption and cronyism via infrastructure spending.

And we haven’t even got to the fact that Trump is filling his White House with an assortment of white supremacists, authoritarians, and Islamophobes. Nevertheless, top Democrats like Pelosi and Schumer have already pledged to work with Trump on his infrastructure plan.

One person who must be thrilled with these leading Democrats is Trump’s chief advisor, Steve Bannon, the notorious white nationalist who ran Breitbart before joining the Trump campaign this summer. Bannon recently said the infrastructure plan would be “as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan Revolution” for “an economic nationalist movement.”

Thankfully, not every Democrat in Congress is ready to start enabling Trump by working with him under the broad heading of “infrastructure.”

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