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Two People Were Killed in This Crash and the Bronx DA Hasn’t Filed Charges

Warning: Graphic video

Video posted online shows a speeding green cab driver fatally strike Kadeem Brown on the Grand Concourse. The driver also killed 5-year-old Tierre Clark and injured two others. No charges were filed by NYPD or Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson.

Bronx DA Robert Johnson

Bronx DA Robert Johnson

The crash happened at the Grand Concourse and E. 170th Street on March 20. The video, posted on Facebook by a man who identified himself as the owner of a bodega on the northeast corner of the intersection, shows the green cab driver strike Brown at high speed on a Concourse service road.

Brown, 25, died at the scene. In addition to Brown, the cab driver struck Clark and two adults who were standing on the sidewalk, reportedly waiting for a bus. Clark died at a hospital. A 55-year-old man and a 39-year-old woman, who according to some reports was Tierre’s mother, were hospitalized.

The driver was identified only as a 44-year-old man. His name was withheld by NYPD and the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

The TLC told Streetsblog the driver’s TLC license was suspended, pending the outcome of the crash investigation. If NYPD and Johnson decline to file charges it’s likely the driver will have his TLC license restored.

Streetsblog has asked Johnson’s office for an update on this case.

Johnson did not file charges against the woman who drove onto a sidewalk outside a Bronx school last October, hitting 10 people and killing 8-year-old Rylee Ramos.

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Cy Vance: Senior’s Crosswalk Death Remains Unsolved After Seven Months

No charges were filed by NYPD or Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance against the driver who fatally struck 82-year-old Sui Leung in a Manhattan crosswalk last fall. Though Council Member Margaret Chin said the NYPD crash report indicated Leung was walking with the right of way, Vance’s office says the investigation has yet to conclude seven months after the crash.

Cy Vance indicted 190 drivers for vehicular crimes in five years. Will he try for 191? Photo: Manhattan DA

commercial van driver hit Leung as she crossed at the intersection Kenmare and Elizabeth Streets on the afternoon of September 25, 2014. NYPD didn’t release the driver’s identity. The van belonged to Party Rental Ltd. of Teterboro, New Jersey.

Shortly after the crash, NYPD told Streetsblog the driver had a green light. A visit to the intersection revealed there is no exclusive turn phase at Kenmare and Elizabeth, so Leung would have had a walk signal when the driver had a green, and would therefore have had the right of way.

“She had the right of way,” local City Council Member Margaret Chin told Streetsblog last October. Along with council reps Rosie Mendez and Ydanis Rodriguez, Chin sent a letter to NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan urging police to charge the driver under the Right of Way Law, which took effect last August. According to details provided in the police report, Chin said, Leung “unquestionably did nothing wrong.”

Streetsblog contacted Chin’s office last December to check up on the case, and at that time no action had been taken against the driver.

“It looks like no charges were ever filed,” Chin spokesperson Sam Spokony told Streetsblog last week, “and that’s obviously something we’re really unhappy with, as Council Member Chin has communicated to both the Manhattan DA’s office and NYPD.”

“At this stage, the investigation remains open, so we cannot make further comment,” said Vance spokesperson Joan Vollero. Vance’s office usually does not comment on vehicular cases, even when cases are disposed or no charges are filed in the first place.

The investigation into the death of 9-year-old Cooper Stock was officially “open” for months after Vance’s office told family members no charges would be filed against the cab driver who killed him.

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Citi Bike Installs New Software, Laying the Foundation for Better Service

Citi Bike boss Jay Walder says last weekend's software upgrade lays the groundwork for more improvements at the bike-share system. Photo: Stephen Miller

Citi Bike boss Jay Walder said a software upgrade will lead to major improvements for bike-share riders. Photo: Stephen Miller

It’s the beginning of the end for Citi Bike’s software troubles.

After operating for nearly two years with software that drove bike-share users nuts, Motivate, the company that runs Citi Bike, says it has replaced its back-end with a better platform that will lay the foundation for major improvements in reliability and convenience.

Citi Bike shut down abruptly over the weekend to switch out the system’s software, Motivate chief Jay Walder said this morning. In place of the problematic back-end supplied by PBSC Urban Systems, Citi Bike now runs on software from 8D Technologies, the firm that developed the successful plumbing behind bike-share systems in other cities. The weekend work wrapped ahead of schedule on Saturday evening.

The most immediate improvement will be stations that stay online consistently. Walder said that at any given time over the past winter, 20 of the system’s 332 stations shut down after failing to hold a charge and burning through their solar-powered batteries. Today, all 332 stations are operating, Walder said, except for the six that have been removed for road construction or utility work.

The Citi Bike app has also been updated and will display the availability of bikes and docks more accurately, with information updated every 10 seconds. “We now have, for the very first time, accurate, real-time information,” Walder said. “You now can rely on the information that is in the app.”

Additional customer-facing software, including the displays at kiosks themselves, will be upgraded before the busy summer season, with most work taking place overnight, Walder said. The new software will enable other changes, including:

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Donald Shoup, an Appreciation

Donald Shoup at the 2011 launch of SFpark, which put his ideas about curbside parking management into practices at a large scale. Photo: Bryan Goebel

On Tuesday, the news came that after 41 years of teaching at UCLA, Donald Shoup, distinguished professor of urban planning, will retire. For all of us who have had our paths in life profoundly influenced by his research, writing, and teaching on parking and transportation, it’s a good time to reflect. I never got to take a class from professor Shoup, but he has had more influence on my life and career than any of the professors whose classes I did attend.

Back in the spring of 1992, I was a student at Stanford in Washington, DC, studying international development. I was beginning to realize that before I tried to go to someone else’s country and tell them how to improve their lives, I needed to learn a real practical skill and see if I could accomplish something at home, in a culture I actually understood. That same spring, an article appeared in the Washington Post — “Subsidies Support a Drive-to-Work Habit” — about the ways in which the federal tax code subsidizes parking while withholding tax benefits if people walk or bike or take transit. It piqued my interest.

Siegman

Patrick Siegman, a principal at Nelson/Nygaard, is known as “the first Shoupista” for his work implementing Shoup’s ideas.

I knew that a large and remarkably ugly parking structure had recently been built outside my dad’s office on the Stanford campus, and I knew that I could get a permit to park in it for about $6 per month. I wondered how much it cost, and who really paid for it.

When I got back to Stanford in the fall, I went to see my future boss, Julia Fremon, the manager of Stanford’s Office of Transportation Programs.  I asked her how much it cost to build and operate a parking space on campus, and who paid for them. She said, “I’ve been wanting to know that too.” Then she gave me a list of people to interview, and offered me a spot on the University’s Committee on Parking and Transportation. Encouraged by this, I went to Green Library, descended into the stacks, and discovered the writing of professor Shoup.

All that year, I devoured articles and monographs authored or co-authored by Donald Shoup. I still have my original dog-eared copies of all those articles on my office bookshelf, and I still reference them today, when I’m out in the world trying to persuade city planners and council members to think differently about transportation. There were all those great articles, some newly published: “Employer-Paid Parking: the Problem and Proposed Solutions,” by Shoup and Willson; “Parking Subsidies and Travel Choices: Assessing the Evidence,” by Willson and Shoup; and most importantly, “Cashing Out Employer-Paid Parking,” the big Federal Transit Administration report by Shoup.

Professor Shoup managed to make the apparently dry topic of parking economics and regulation not only worth studying, but compelling, fascinating, and at times, hilarious. I vividly remember sitting down in the stacks, reading his research papers on parking and laughing aloud at the insanity of it all.

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DOT Hires Sustainable Transpo Maven Michael Replogle to Guide Policy

Big hiring news from DOT today: Michael Replogle, who founded the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy and went on to tackle transportation issues at the Environmental Defense Fund, has been hired as deputy commissioner for policy at the agency.

DOT's incoming policy guru, Michael Replogle. Photo via Transforming Access

DOT’s incoming policy director, Michael Replogle. Photo via Transforming Access

“NYC DOT is very excited to have Michael Replogle return to New York to bring his three decades of expertise to New York’s streets in leading our Policy group,” Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said in a statement. “There are many challenges and ambitious goals ahead of us, and having Michael on the team will help shape our strategy and further define our mission moving forward.”

The position Replogle will fill has commanded broad influence over the direction of street design and the implementation of major agency programs. Previous DOT policy director Jon Orcutt held the job for seven years, during which he led the agency’s strategic planning process, the deployment of Citi Bike, and the development of Vision Zero initiatives, before departing the agency last June.

“This was simply too amazing an opportunity to miss, and I am honored to work with Commissioner Trottenberg to enact Mayor de Blasio’s vision for safe, equitable, and sustainable transportation,” Replogle said in an statement ITDP sent out this morning.

Advocates have high expectations for Replogle at DOT.

Before he became executive director of Transportation Alternatives, Paul Steely White’s first job out of graduate school was at ITDP. “Michael is just one of the giants in the field. There’s very few people in the world who have his experience, depth, and breadth on transportation and land use policy,” White said. “What he and Polly can do together, the sky’s the limit. It’s very good news for Vision Zero, for New York taking control of more of its destiny when it comes to transit.”

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NYC Replaces a Parking Crater With Parking-Free Housing and Retail

One of Manhattan’s few remaining parking craters is going to be filled in with housing and retail — all without any car storage, despite the city government’s belief that the site called for up to 500 parking spots. Call it “Parking Sanity.”

The project, called Essex Crossing, is on the Lower East Side. It replaces surface lots formerly known as the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, or SPURA, which were cleared decades ago and formed a parking crater engulfing multiple city blocks. The development will add 1,000 apartments (including 500 subsidized units), park space, a grocery store, a public market, and other retail.

Earlier this year, the developers decided to drop parking from the project entirely, even though the city pushed for up to 500 parking spaces — above and beyond the parking maximums that would normally be allowed under the zoning code.

The city, which initiated the project before selecting the developer, saw off-street parking as an elixir to help the project go down smoothly with the neighborhood. But it was not economical to build that much parking, and the developer eventually chose to eliminate parking entirely because site limitations would have placed the garage in a problematic location.

Streetsblog and Streetfilms recently sat down with Council Member Margaret Chin, who represents the area. Chin has advocated for the city to replace parking garages with affordable housing in her district, and she thinks things will be just fine without parking in the new development. As she says, people have plenty of other options for getting around.

Construction on the first phase of the development is set to begin this summer.

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Albany Bill Would Bar Police From Cuffing Bus Drivers Who Hit People

State lawmakers have introduced legislation that would prohibit police from detaining, but not charging, bus drivers who hit pedestrians and cyclists.

State Senators Adriano Espaillat, at mic, and Martin Malave Dilan, at left, at a Families for Safe Streets rally in Albany in 2014. Dilan and Espaillat have introduced a bill to prohibit police from arresting bus drivers suspected of committing misdemeanors in crashes involving pedestrians and cyclists. Photo: Brad Aaron

State Senators Adriano Espaillat, at mic, and Martin Malave Dilan, at left, at a Families for Safe Streets rally in Albany in 2014. Dilan and Espaillat have introduced a bill to prohibit police from handcuffing and detaining bus drivers suspected of committing misdemeanors in crashes involving pedestrians and cyclists. Photo: Brad Aaron

The bill appears intended to spare bus drivers from being handcuffed and taken into custody for violating the Right of Way Law without exempting them from the law altogether, as a City Council bill would do. The council bill, which currently has 25 sponsors, was introduced after the Transport Workers Union complained that bus drivers were being charged for injuring and killing people who were following traffic rules.

The proposed state legislation is sponsored by Walter T. Mosley and William Colton in the Assembly and Martin Dilan and Adriano Espaillat in the Senate. It would direct police officers to issue a desk appearance ticket when police have “reasonable cause to believe” a bus driver has committed a “traffic infraction or misdemeanor” in a crash involving a pedestrian or cyclist. As long as the bus driver has a valid license, remains at the scene, and cooperates with police, the bill says officers “shall not detain or otherwise prevent” the driver from leaving the scene after police complete an “immediate investigation.”

While the state bill wouldn’t gut the Right of Way Law like the council bill would, there are several problems with it.

It would take away officers’ discretion in determining whether a bus driver should be detained after a serious crash. It doesn’t provide exceptions for officers to make arrests for suspected misdemeanors that are more serious than a Right of Way Law violation, such as reckless endangerment. And like the proposed City Council exemption, the state bill would create a separate standard under the law for bus drivers.

As we’ve said before, the Right of Way Law was adopted to address the very real problem of motorists, bus drivers included, not being held accountable for injuring and killing people. One reason a city law was necessary is that, according to NYPD’s interpretation, state code made it difficult for police to charge a driver who harmed someone unless an officer personally witnessed a crash. This led to thousands of crashes every year, many of them resulting in life-altering injuries, that were not investigated by NYPD.

A goal of the Right of Way Law is to change driver behavior, leading to fewer deaths and injuries on NYC streets. But for it to work the way it should, the law has to be applied consistently. Carving out exemptions for a specific class of driver could set a dangerous precedent.

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Participatory Budgeting: Your Chance to Vote for Livable Streets

A record 24 City Council members have launched participatory budgeting efforts this year, giving local residents a say in how to spend a share of the council’s discretionary capital funds. Starting last fall, volunteers and staff spent months refining proposals and suggestions. Council members are now releasing sample ballots so the public can learn more about the projects before voting for their favorites in the coming weeks.

Of the City Council’s 51 districts, 24 (in black) have participatory budgeting ballots. Map: NYC Council

For a sample of what can be found on PB ballots, here are the livable streets projects up for a vote in two council districts in Western Queens.

We start in District 22, represented by Costa Constantinides, covering Astoria, Steinway, and the northwest corner of Jackson Heights. Voting will be open from April 13 to 19 and residents can vote for up to five of the 18 projects on the ballot [PDF]. There are two livable streets projects under consideration:

  • Newtown Plaza: This project would provide $400,000 to redesign Newtown Avenue between 32nd and 33rd streets to include a pedestrian plaza. A proposal from DOT to install a plaza at this location was rejected by Community Board 1 almost three years ago.
  • 21st Street and Astoria Boulevard: This project would provide $500,000 to fund the installation of curb extensions at this complex, multi-leg intersection. The Department of City Planning recommended neckdowns and pedestrian islands for this location, but they were not included in DOT’s safety plan for 21st Street.

Work on selecting which proposals would make it to the ballot began last October. “Our budget delegates have worked through the city budget process from a grassroots level and have been empowered to make decisions that will better our community,” Constantinides said in a press release. “For the first time, anyone in the district can directly make decisions about how taxpayer money is spent.”

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$100 Million in BRT Funding at Stake in Albany Budget Negotiations

There’s $100 million for Bus Rapid Transit in the Assembly’s budget proposal, and advocates are working to ensure the funds emerge intact from closed-door negotiations with Governor Cuomo and the State Senate.

Photo: NYC DOT/Flickr

Will Governor Cuomo and the State Senate agree to include $100 million for BRT in the state budget? Photo: NYC DOT/Flickr

The New York League of Conservation Voters, which has joined with Staten Island business interests to advocate for North Shore BRT, is asking supporters to contact lawmakers. The funding stream is also supported by TWU Local 100, which took out a full page ad in City & State backing BRT funding [PDF].

The North Shore plan, which was not included in the MTA capital program, is one of many projects that could benefit from dedicated BRT funds. In a press release, the Assembly said BRT funds would go toward “projects in Staten Island, the Bronx and Brooklyn” — though the budget bill itself doesn’t specify what those projects are.

The funding could also support BRT elsewhere in the state. Albany’s first BusPlus route has proven popular, and the region has a plan for 40 miles of BRT. Suffolk County has been planning BRT routes, and Westchester County has proposed BRT on Central Avenue, which is linked to the bus network planned as part of the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement.

How much BRT could be purchased with $100 million? A typical Select Bus Service project with painted bus lanes, bus bulbs, and off-board fare collection costs about $2-3 million per mile. More intensive street redesign and reconstruction can cost more: The 14-mile Woodhaven Boulevard route, for example, is anticipated to cost $200 million, or about $14 million per mile.

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Construction Has Begun on the Pulaski Bridge Bikeway

People who walk and bike the Pulaski Bridge may have more space by summer's end.

People who walk and bike the Pulaski Bridge may have more space by summer’s end. Image: NYC DOT

DOT has started work on the much-anticipated Pulaski Bridge bikeway, which will more than double the space for people walking and biking on the bridge.

The Pulaski Bridge spans Newtown Creek, linking Greenpoint and Long Island City. Right now people who cross the bridge on foot and by bike are crammed into one eight-foot lane next to six lanes for motor vehicle traffic. DOT will convert one southbound auto lane to a two-way bike lane, to be separated from pedestrian and car traffic by concrete barriers.

Assembly Member Joe Lentol, a longtime proponent of allocating more space on the bridge to pedestrians and cyclists, released a statement yesterday afternoon:

I am happy to announce that construction has begun on the Pulaski Bridge dedicated bike lane. I have been advocating for this bike lane for nearly five years and I am thrilled that the project is underway. I am hopeful the project will be completed by the end of the summer, finally allowing pedestrians and cyclists to safely travel over the bridge.

Lentol posted a DOT construction announcement on his Facebook page.

DOT began planning the bikeway under former commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. The original construction timetable called for it to be completed in 2014, but red tape pushed it back a year.

The redesign is also expected to help calm traffic on deadly McGuinness Boulevard by slowing drivers as they enter Brooklyn from the bridge.