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Posts from the Adriano Espaillat Category

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13 State and City Elected Officials Sign On to Move NY Toll Reform

The trickle of elected officials endorsing toll reform is starting to become more of a steady stream, and a look at who belongs to the coalition suggests that the politics of the Move NY plan are indeed different than the politics of congestion pricing.

More than a dozen state and city elected officials announced today that they support the Move NY toll reform plan, which establishes consistent tolls to drive into the Manhattan core while lowering tolls on outlying bridges. The signatories include some lawmakers who either sat on the sidelines during the 2008 congestion pricing debate or replaced representatives who actively opposed that proposal. Five of them represent areas of Brooklyn or Queens.

Is he listening? Photo: MTA/Flickr

Is he listening? Photo: MTA/Flickr

In a letter sent yesterday to Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders in Albany, the 13 electeds back a “full-line review” of the A and C trains and enactment of the Move NY toll reform plan to pay for needed fixes [PDF].

The letter is signed by state senators Adriano Espaillat, Brad Hoylman, and Daniel Squadron; assembly members Richard Gottfried, Walter T. Mosley, Linda Rosenthal, and Jo Anne Simon; council members Margaret Chin, Laurie Cumbo, Corey Johnson, Mark Levine, and Donovan Richards; and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

One name that especially stands out is Mosley, who represents the Brooklyn district formerly spoken for by Hakeem Jeffries, a congestion pricing opponent. Also of note: Simon and Squadron replaced Joan Millman and Martin Connor, who only came out as congestion pricing “supporters” after the proposal was defeated in Albany.

The letter urges the MTA to expand full-line reviews so each subway line is reviewed every five years. But without funding, the officials point out, those reports won’t do any good for riders:

[W]hile reviews have led to major service improvements, some of the strongest recommendations from each review are often not feasible to implement because the MTA lacks critical resources…

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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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Manhattan Community Board 10 Votes for Morningside Safety Plan

morningside

The redesign of Morningside Avenue will reduce chaotic driving patterns and add pedestrian islands and painted sidewalk extensions. Image: NYC DOT

Last night, Manhattan Community Board 10 approved the NYC DOT plan to add pedestrian islands and trim traffic lanes on 10 blocks of Morningside Avenue [PDF]. A concerted effort from neighborhood street safety advocates and local elected officials, including City Council Member Mark Levine and State Senator Adriano Espaillat, helped overcome recalcitrance at CB 10, which dragged its feet for nearly a year before yesterday’s vote.

Currently, Morningside has two moving lanes in each direction, and with all that open asphalt, speeding is a major hazard. In response to a request from the North Star Neighborhood Association, DOT proposed a road diet between 116th Street and 126th Street last September. The plan follows a template that has proven effective at reducing speeding and preventing injuries, converting the four traffic lanes to two through lanes plus turning pockets and pedestrian islands at intersections.

While Community Board 9 supported the plan, CB 10 repeatedly put off a vote and nearly killed the project. Then came a breakthrough at the last CB 10 transportation committee meeting, when board chair Henrietta Lyle acknowledged, “The community wants this. We may not want this, but we are going to support the community.”

Levine and Espaillat, whose support has been crucial, released a joint statement today hailing the impending implementation of the project:

“We are thrilled these lifesaving changes are now on track to move forward. With summer approaching and the school year almost finished, we need these safety measures in place as quickly as possible. There have been over 100 reported accidents in the past year alone and there will be more unless we act. DOT conducted an open, transparent process that gave our community ample opportunity to weigh in — and we’ve been able to achieve a broad community consensus that is the right approach.”

DOT told Streetsblog after the May transportation committee meeting that construction should begin next month.

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As CB 10 Dithers, Espaillat and Levine Urge DOT to Act on Morningside Ave.

While Manhattan Community Board 10 refuses to endorse pedestrian safety improvements for Morningside Avenue in Harlem, two lawmakers are urging DOT to move forward.

Adriano Espaillat and Mark Levine

Adriano Espaillat and Mark Levine

After sending a similar letter in January, State Senator Adriano Espaillat and City Council Member Mark Levine wrote DOT again this week [PDF] to praise the agency’s plan for a Morningside Avenue road diet, and to ask Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg to “take immediate steps toward implementation.”

As we approach summer recess, we are increasingly concerned about the potential for children to be put in harm’s way. This community should not have to wait any longer for these common sense improvements, which have received overwhelming public support including from North Star Neighborhood Association, Friends of Morningside Park, Community Board 9 and over 1,000 local residents.

We thank you again for the substantial number of opportunities for public comment that have been held on this proposal, and the design changes that have been made as a result of broad community consensus. We are confident that DOT has adequately answered each of [the] concerns raised in the community over the course of the last year.

Developed last year at the behest of local residents, the proposal aims to reduce speeding on Morningside by converting it from four to two through lanes, with a center median and concrete pedestrian islands, from 116th to 126th Street. It was endorsed by Community Board 9 in November, but CB 10 members who oppose reducing the number of car lanes have waylaid the project. Meanwhile, DOT is developing an alternate plan in response to CB 10’s objections.

The CB 10 transportation committee, where the road diet plan has languished since last September, will meet tonight. With Espaillat and Levine again weighing in, a strong showing from residents who want to see a safer Morningside Avenue could help propel the road diet proposal out of committee once and for all. Tonight’s meeting starts at 6:30 in the third floor conference room at 215 W. 125th Street.

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Uptown Electeds Ask Cuomo to Dedicate State Funds to Safer Streets

State Senator Adriano Espaillat, Assembly Member Gabriela Rosa, and Council Members Mark Levine and Ydanis Rodriguez are calling for state funds to

State Senator Adriano Espaillat, Assembly Member Gabriela Rosa, and Council Members Mark Levine and Ydanis Rodriguez are calling for the state to create a dedicated fund for bicycle and pedestrian projects.

A group of uptown elected officials, including City Council Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez, sent a letter today to Governor Andrew Cuomo asking him to include dedicated funds for bicycle and pedestrian projects in his executive budget [PDF]. The request echoes a call from street safety advocates and comes as the de Blasio administration must marshal resources to implement its Vision Zero agenda, set to be released in days.

Although the governor has already delivered his budget to the legislature, changes can still be made as the State Senate and Assembly produce their own legislation over the next couple months.

The letter is signed by Rodriguez, fellow Council Member Mark Levine, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, and Assembly Member Gabriela Rosa. The letter comes on the same day transportation advocates from across the state traveled to Albany to speak with legislators about bike-pedestrian issues.

“With disproportionally high rates of childhood asthma and pedestrian fatalities compared to the citywide average, Upper Manhattan residents are eager for a renewed focus on reducing traffic accidents and deaths, yet feel left behind,” the letter reads. “More affluent neighborhoods through New York City have already benefitted from these changes more substantively.”

By establishing a dedicated bike-pedestrian fund in the state budget and targeting those funds for neighborhoods that have yet to receive major improvements, the lawmakers say, the governor could have a real impact on street safety. “We can no longer spend only pennies on the dollar,” the letter says, “while 27% of the fatalities resulting from car crashes are either pedestrians or bicyclists.”

In recent weeks, Cuomo has made a pair of announcements about bike-pedestrian funds even as the actual money available for these projects has fallen.

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Three New Yorkers, Including Two Seniors, Killed by Drivers in the Past Week

Three people were killed by motorists in NYC since last Friday, including two hit-and-run victims. Two of the victims were also senior citizens.

Antonio Ramirez was struck by a hit-and-run driver in Washington Heights. The killer is still at large.

At around 4:40 a.m. Friday, a motorist in a dark-colored car fatally struck Antonio Ramirez, 40, at Audubon Avenue and 176th Street in Washington Heights, then fled the scene, according to reports. Along with neighborhood advocates, City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, and Assembly Member Gabriela Rosa blasted DOT after the crash for rejecting a Slow Zone for the area.

From the Post:

Friday’s fatality created a haunting scene for several schools near the crash, including Kipp Star Elementary on 177th Street.

Many young children and parents at the school had to walk past Ramirez’s body, which was wrapped in a white sheet. Some teachers left the building and tried to distract the students so they wouldn’t see it.

Frustrated mom Ayiesha Washington, 27, who has a son in kindergarten, said, “I’ve lived in this neighborhood for three years, and this is the millionth accident.”

Rodriguez and Espaillat, who rarely make an issue of street safety, said this section of Washington Heights is plagued by speeding drivers coming off the George Washington Bridge and the Cross Bronx Expressway.

“This tragic hit-and-run, less than a block from a school building, truly hits home for the people of Washington Heights, particularly when so many have raised the issue of high speeds in the area to the Department of Transportation,” said Rodriguez, in a press release. “It is so easy for deaths such as these to be avoided.”

Since the program began in 2011, DOT routinely gets many more Slow Zone applications annually than it approves. The press release from Upper Manhattan electeds incorrectly claims DOT rejected 15 of 70 applications this year, when the agency actually approved 15 of 74 applications.

Rodriguez, Espaillat, and Rosa made only a passing reference to the lack of traffic law enforcement in Washington Heights in their press release, and did not mention NYPD directly. The 33rd Precinct, where the crash occurred, had issued 273 speeding tickets this year as of August, and cited 154 drivers for speeding in all of 2012.

Ramirez worked at a restaurant and was a former building super. He was married with two kids, a 14-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old son.

“This biggest part of it is the dance you have with your dad,” Leslie Ramirez told WNBC. “And that man took that dance away from me. He took away that one special person I had in my life.”

The Daily News reported that, according to police, the killer was driving an Infiniti, and Ramirez was “walking against the light.” As of earlier this week, at least one outlet was reporting the driver ran a red light, but that version of the story is no longer online. An NYPD spokesperson said today that the public information office did not have details on how the crash occurred. The motorist who killed Antonio Ramirez remains at large.

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Adriano Espaillat Was for Cut-Through Traffic Before He Was Against It

Adriano Espaillat

I nearly spit out my coffee when I saw that Adriano Espaillat had signed on in support of the Inwood slow zone application.

See, while he endorsed Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan, the state senator from Upper Manhattan adamantly opposes placing tolls on Harlem River bridges, preferring that Inwood remain a bypass for toll-shopping motorists bound for the Bronx and Westchester.

Public remarks indicate that Espaillat is well aware of the added burden on the neighborhood, but he believes it’s worth it to keep motorists’ expenses down. He also claims that most local residents, the vast majority of whom don’t own cars, feel the same way.

So now that he’s helped make sure there will be plenty of rat-running traffic through his constituents’ streets for years to come, Espaillat is concerned about those drivers putting lives at risk as they whip past the schools, parks and playgrounds of northwest Inwood.

I can hear the horns as I type. Thanks for the assist, senator.

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In Effort to Pander to Drivers, 48 Senators Vote to Up Oil Company Profits

Adriano Espaillat voted for a gas tax holiday -- which won't even help lower costs at the pump -- on the dime of the 70 percent of his constituents who don't own a car. Photo: Chu for Daily News

The New York State Senate voted for a “gas tax holiday” yesterday, moving to eliminate the three state taxes on fuel for the busy Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day weekends this year. The estimated loss of revenue would be $60 million.

The 48 state senators who voted for the gas tax holiday wanted to ensure that drivers didn’t have to pay for the environmental and social costs of their actions — a misguided enough goal — but their desperate attempt to pander wouldn’t even have been a success on those grounds.

As economists from across the political spectrum have stated, a summertime gas tax holiday wouldn’t reduce the price at the pump. Oil companies would charge the same rate and pocket the difference. The libertarian Cato Institute, no friend of taxes, called gas tax holidays a “holiday from reality” in 2008. If we really must pander to motorists, surely we can all agree that New Yorkers deserve better panderers.

Those state senators, however, are savvy politicos. They can’t deliver the goods, but they know their audience. That’s where the gas tax vote is especially revealing.

Even if a gas tax holiday worked as promised, reducing the price at the pump instead of increasing Exxon’s profit margins, it’s a sure thing where the money comes from: the state’s transportation budget. If the gas tax holiday costs $60 million, that’s $60 million in new revenues needed for the MTA and state DOT, or $60 million more in cuts to things like education. While only drivers would even theoretically benefit, everyone else would pay the price.

Voting for a gas tax holiday means you’re worried about appeasing drivers in your district and not too concerned with sending everybody else the bill. That’s probably good politics if you’re Patrick Gallivan, the Western New York senator whose district has a 96 percent car ownership rate according to Streetsblog’s analysis of Census data. More outrageous is the fact that many New York City senators seem to agree.

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Support for Congestion Pricing, Not Harlem River Tolls, at SD 31 Debate

The four Democrats running to replace Eric Schneiderman in the State Senate - - met last night to debate transportation policy. They were joined by Green Ann Roos, not pictured.

The four Democrats running to replace Eric Schneiderman in the State Senate - Miosotis Muñoz, Mark Levine, Anna Lewis, and Adriano Espaillat - met last night to debate transportation policy. They were joined by Green Ann Roos, not pictured.

Five candidates vying to become Upper Manhattan’s next state senator met in the 168th Street Armory last night to make their case to the car-free voters of Riverdale, Inwood, Washington Heights, West Harlem, and the Upper West Side. At a debate sponsored by Transportation Alternatives and WE ACT for Environmental Justice, important differences emerged over how best to solve the MTA’s budget crisis and make streets safe for pedestrians and cyclists.

Democrats Adriano Espaillat, Miosotis Muñoz, Mark Levine, and Anna Lewis were joined last night by Green Party candidate Ann Roos. Whoever wins, the victor’s first term will be dominated by the ongoing budget crisis afflicting the state of New York, which affects transit quite directly. State legislators made the MTA’s funding crisis even worse last December by stealing more than $100 million in dedicated transit taxes to plug gaps in the general fund. The debate began with a revealing discussion of how each candidate would secure adequate funding for transit given the current fiscal climate.

Assembly Member Espaillat, considered the front-runner due to an advantage in name recognition, strong fund-raising and prominent endorsements, began with a warning: “It would be irresponsible of me to say there’s not a deficit that’s going to hit across the board,” he said. Without new revenue, the legislature will be forced to make impossible choices between priorities like education, health care, and transportation.

Though he didn’t make a specific revenue proposal during the debate, afterwards Espaillat told me that “congestion pricing is certainly something that we must bring back to the table.” He argued against cobbling together a piecemeal funding scheme for transit, saying that “the main engine of economic development in our community” needs a “solid revenue stream.” Even so, he maintained his opposition to any tolls over the Harlem River bridges, which carry torrents of toll-shopping drivers through the district.

Mark Levine, considered to be a close second to Espaillat, also argued that congestion pricing would be the best solution. “I also support, short of that, a plan to toll the East River bridges,” he explained. Harlem River bridge tolls were conspicuously absent, however, a stance that he earlier explained to Streetsblog by characterizing those bridges as essentially local streets.

The other two Democrats, Muñoz and Lewis, each suggested reinstating the commuter tax to raise revenue.

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In Race to Succeed Schneiderman, Support for Transit, Skepticism on Tolls

31_array.jpgSenate District 31 contenders Miosotis Muñoz, Mark Levine, Anna Lewis, and Adriano Espaillat
One would be hard pressed to find a more broadly drawn constituency in the city than that of state Senate District 31, which spans from the Upper West Side to Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood before hopping the Harlem River into Riverdale. But in spite of vast differences in culture and income, most district residents have at least two things in common: they don't own a car, and they rely heavily on trains and buses to conduct their day-to-day lives.

Eric Schneiderman has represented District 31 since 1998. Though he has distinguished himself as a progressive who lauded PlaNYC and publicly blamed Albany for abandoning transit riders, Senator Schneiderman has basically been a no-show when it comes to the current MTA budget crisis. Now that Schneiderman's bid for state attorney general has opened up the seat, transit-dependent voters in the district's Democratic primary will have to choose from a field of candidates with varying views on providing the MTA with adequate, long-term funding -- though none are calling for road pricing to shift part of the burden to drivers entering their neighborhoods.

Among District 31 aspirants, Adriano Espaillat is probably the most widely known. That is, the Assembly member is known to be inconsistent when it comes to supporting stable revenue streams for the city's transit system. Espaillat was a vocal supporter of congestion pricing. But a year later he came out strongly against tolling the "free" bridges of Upper Manhattan, and never mind that some 80 percent of households in his Assembly district do not own a car. Espaillat also lambasted the MTA for its plan to cut student MetroCards, insisting that Albany had done its part to shore up transit finances. (Full disclosure: Espaillat, like Schneiderman, represents part of Inwood, where I live. In addition to covering Espaillat's maneuvering for Streetsblog, I posted the occasional related rant on my now-defunct neighborhood blog. Espaillat once accused me of making false statements about his record, but did not respond when pressed for specifics.)

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