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Posts from the "Alan Gerson" Category

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Gerson Bill Mandating Review of Transpo Projects Is Now Law

gerson_1.jpgIn one of his final acts as a City Council member, Alan Gerson won passage for a bill that may slow down major street projects.

New York City's 2009 legislative session didn't end without a parting gift from outgoing Lower Manhattan rep Alan Gerson. A new law that passed City Council unanimously before the end of the term mandates that any significant changes to the streetscape be subject to comment by both the local council representative and the community board. Though the comments are not binding, the law seems primed to slow down the process of re-designing streets at a time when projects to enhance bus service and improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists are top priorities in New York City, and hundreds of New Yorkers are still dying every year on city streets. Mayor Bloomberg signed the bill into law on December 28.

The law tacks on up to 65 days of back-and-forth between the city, council members and community boards on major street projects, after which DOT is not obligated to make any changes. Ian Dutton, the vice chair of Manhattan Community Board 2's Traffic and Transportation Committee and a resident of Gerson's district, noted the seeming superfluity of the law: "When we really needed it was over the last 50 years when they were pushing highway projects on us that we didn't want. Now we have a DOT that is really responsive to the neighborhoods for the first time." Dutton did add that "it may help going forward if there's an administration that wants to rip up all these bike lanes and pedestrian plazas."

The law is a variation on an idea that Gerson had floated for over a year. An earlier version of the legislation would have required local input into almost any new transportation project, big or small. 

The bill that passed City Council is somewhat more limited. It covers "major realignments of the roadway," particularly the addition or removal of a lane of traffic or parking on more than four blocks or "1,000 consecutive feet of street." That would certainly apply to one of Gerson's chief targets, the Grand Street bike lane, and probably the Chatham Square reconfiguration as well. Any true bus rapid transit project would fall under the scope of the law.

Even on projects where the law applies, however, it might have little effect.

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NYLCV Endorses Safe Streets Foe Alan Gerson for Re-Election

The New York League of Conservation Voters came out with their slate of primary endorsements today. Streetsblog readers may be surprised to see that District 1 incumbent Alan Gerson is one of four City Council candidates in Manhattan to win the environmental group's endorsement.

Since last fall, Gerson has agitated against pedestrian and bike improvements, going so far as to introduce a bill that would subject street safety projects to City Council oversight. During the current campaign, he's done nothing to distinguish himself from the rest of the District 1 field when it comes to green transportation policy. He recently told the crowd at a candidates forum that he now opposes congestion pricing, after voting for it last year. So, what's up with the endorsement from one of the city's most prominent environmental advocacy organizations?

NYLCV spokesman Dan Hendrick said the decision came down to Gerson's voting record. "He had 100 percent on our scorecard, which is very meaningful to us," he said. "In terms of actually being there when the votes were needed, he was there." The NYLCV graded City Council candidates based on 13 bills, giving extra weight to the congestion pricing vote along with four bills intended to make buildings more energy efficient. (Of the five weighted bills, pricing was the only one to pass the council.) If bills didn't reach a vote, candidates received credit for co-sponsoring them.

Remarkably, Council Member Melissa Mark Viverito, running for re-election in District 8, did not receive an endorsement from NYLCV, despite making a much more vocal stand in favor of congestion pricing than Gerson and scoring a perfect 100 on the scorecard. Hendrick explained that Viverito did not return the NYLCV candidate questionnaire, a prerequisite for gaining the group's endorsement, prior to the organization's July board meeting, where members decide whom to endorse. The board will consider Viverito for its next round of endorsements, he said. That round will be released after the September 15 primary, however, which will effectively decide who wins the seat. Viverito faces five primary challengers.

So we have a perverse result, where Gerson gets rewarded despite railing against projects that make green transportation safer, and Viverito receives no meaningful credit for getting out in front on congestion pricing, a transformative sustainability policy. Gerson's vote for congestion pricing was a no-brainer for his Lower Manhattan district. If congestion pricing is ever going to clear the stumbling block in Albany, New York City will need to elect more people who are willing to speak forcefully in favor of it like Viverito.

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Gerson on Grand Street Safety: Never Mind the Facts

City Council member Alan Gerson didn't have much new to say at his sidewalk protest of the Grand Street bike lane. But a handful of reporters and a few cyclists pressed him to defend the idea that projects designed to improve street safety should be subject to greater City Council review.

Gerson's assertion of "dangerous conditions" on Grand Street basically amounted to this: The row of parked cars on the south side used to protect only pedestrians; now it protects pedestrians and cyclists, so there's a perception among some of the older residents that they're at greater risk because cyclists are riding next to the curb.

But do the data back up the perception? In a word, No. According to DOT's study of Grand Street, injuries are down 28.8 percent since the protected lane was installed nine months ago. Which only makes sense, because the parking-protected bike path has narrowed the traffic lane, sending cues for drivers to slow down and making a safer environment for pedestrians and cyclists.

Gerson was not swayed by statistical evidence. "Sometimes anecdotal testimony reflects the reality," he said. For bike lane opponents, however, reality intruded rather inconveniently this afternoon.

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Lunch Break Fun: Gerson Leads Protest of “Dangerous” Grand St. Bike Lane

grand_street1.jpgNon-motorized New Yorkers negotiate the hair-raising Grand Street sidewalk and bike lane. Photo: Ben Fried.

Anyone heading over to Chinatown for lunch? If not, and you work in Manhattan, you might want to change your plans. This rally, promoted by Council Member Alan Gerson, promises to be a can't-miss event:

Rally to Protest Dangerous Conditions with the Grand Street Bike Lane

WHEN: Friday, August 21, 2009 at 12:30pm

WHERE: Corner of Grand St and Mott St

WHAT: Rally to protest dangerous conditions caused by the Grand Street bike lane and to demand that the NYC Department of Transportation conduct more community outreach before deciding where to place bike lanes.

WHO: NYC Council Member Alan J. Gerson, local business owners and residents

That would be the same "dangerous" bike lane that has calmed traffic by narrowing the right-of-way for motorists. Oh, and it gives cyclists a nice, protected east-bound link in Lower Manhattan's bike network.

Alan Gerson wants "more community outreach." That's one way to put it. Given that the bike lane was vetted by Community Board 2, which approved the project in a nearly unanimous vote last year, isn't this more like a demand to give small, vocal groups veto power over street safety projects? I think it's pretty much official at this point: The District 1 City Council contest is a race to the bottom when it comes to livable streets.

To reiterate, the place to be at 12:30 today is the corner of Grand and Mott. After the jump, more pictures of the hazardous Grand Street bike lane.

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Council Candidate’s Congestion Solution: Rush Hour Bike Bans

The Lo-Down, a blog covering the Lower East Side and environs, just wrapped up a slate of interviews with all the candidates running for the 1st District seat in the City Council: Margaret Chin, Pete Gleason, Arthur Gregory, PJ Kim, and the incumbent Alan Gerson. Along with John Liu, Gerson has been one of the council's most vocal critics of recent safety improvements for pedestrians and cyclists. But after reading up on the views of his competitors, it's doubtful that dumping Gerson in the September 15 primary -- provided he makes it on the ballot -- would put a more progressive voice in City Hall.

grand3.jpg1st District Council candidates say safety measures like the Grand Street lane are out of step with their community. Photo: Ian Dutton
The 1st District covers most of Manhattan below Houston Street and parts of Greenwich Village. Perhaps nowhere else in the city is better suited for walking and biking. Or at least that would be the case if not for the punishing traffic that overruns its streets every day.

When it comes to giving their potential constituents some relief from the auto armada, the 1st District challengers have plenty of deserving targets to train their fire on. But forget the placard abuse, the free ride for car commuters who pour over the East River bridges, and the city's nonsensical truck toll system. Here's what challenger Arthur Gregory said when asked what he views as the district's most pressing transportation issue:

You can drive through Central Park at certain times. And certain times you can't. Have the bike paths the same way. When there's congestion because of cabs, people are going to work, they're doing business, or deliveries in the morning then you say, listen, you can't really use the bike paths now.

Okay, so Arthur doesn't get biking as transportation, or the fact that bikes take up much less space than cars. His views on cycling would have come across as backwards even during the dark ages of the Midtown bike ban, 22 years ago. (If only he'd thought this bike thing through as much as his well-reasoned position on delivery truck schedules -- read the whole interview, he says some good stuff.)

The thing is, the other candidates don't compare all that favorably. In fact, they practically trip over themselves to condemn one of the most important cycling safety measures in their district, the protected bike path on Grand Street.

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City Council Bill Aims to Quiet Motorcycle Noise

The City Council is considering a bill to keep excessively loud motorcycles from stopping, standing or parking on city streets.

hellsangels.jpgRelax guys, you can keep your jackets. Photo: SliceofNYC/Flickr

Intro 416-A would require motorcycles in New York to be equipped with EPA-stamped exhaust systems -- a federal mandate since 1983, but one that is rarely enforced. Though replacing or altering EPA-approved mufflers is against the law, installations of louder after-market equipment are common.

NoiseOFF, a Queens-based org dedicated to combating noise pollution, writes:

Modified motorcycles can reach noise levels in excess of 100db(a); a level that easily triggers an involuntary stress response commonly known as "flight or flight." This results in the secretion of adrenaline, with ensuing spikes in cardio-respiratory rates, muscle tension, and elevated blood pressure. For affected residents, the never-ending cycle of noise constitutes a serious health issue.

"It is already illegal to ride with loud pipes in NYC," says NoiseOFF founder Richard Tur. "Intro 416-A is designed to allow better enforcement of the law."

A similar local ordinance was adopted in Denver. The New York iteration is sponsored by Council Member Alan Gerson. It would allow for graduated fines for repeat offenders, as well as confiscation of illegally-equipped motorcycles.

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Tonight: Share Your Thoughts on Safer Streets at Gerson “Town Hall”

gerson_1.jpgAlan Gerson.

Itching to tell DOT what you think of recent changes to Lower Manhattan streets? You can tonight at 6:30, when the second installment in Alan Gerson's "Traffic Town Hall" series gets underway at Old St. Pat's Gym (near 275 Mulberry Street).

Fellow Council Member John Liu, running for citywide office in the crowded comptroller race, is also scheduled to put in an appearance, and Manhattan DOT Commissioner Margaret Forgione will be on hand to soak it all up.

Publicity materials for the event frame it as a chance to "present your views and ideas" to DOT. At the first Gerson town hall, this translated into griping about pedestrian refuges, bike lanes, and other safety measures. Tonight's agenda invites more of the same: The critical issue of "traffic islands" gets top billing on the docket.

Sidewalks where children's lives are at risk from reckless drivers, even when parents and teachers are right there next to them? That seems not to have made the cut.

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Safer Streets Under Fire at Gerson “Town Hall”

grand_street_median.jpgIt's safer to cross Grand Street. The arrogance!

Lower Manhattan City Council rep Alan Gerson held a "transportation town hall" Monday night, following up on his pledge last year to closely monitor creeping safety enhancements to New York streets. Fellow City Council member John Liu, a candidate for comptroller, also made an appearance at the forum.

Based on a report in the Lo-Down, a new blog covering the Lower East Side, the session successfully gathered up ideas from ill-informed cranks:

The Grand Street bike lanes and center islands installed last year were ridiculed by several residents of Co-op Village. Harold Jacob accused DOT Commissioner Margaret Forgione of lying when she told him the center median was installed because pedestrians had been killed by cars on Grand Street. Jacob said he believed the changes had, in fact, made the street more dangerous. Because there is less room to maneuver, Jacob claimed fire trucks and ambulances can't safely pass through. "You've actually put lives in danger," he told DOT officials.

Another resident contended the islands, opposed by Community Board 3,  were "arrogantly conceived and arrogantly carried out." More than one speaker blamed Mayor Bloomberg, accusing him of "destroying Grand Street." Some people demanded that the medians be removed -- others wanted the bike lanes eliminated.

A quick CrashStat check reveals that, contrary to Mr. Jacob's gut assertion, several people have been killed by autos while walking on Grand Street in recent years. Co-op Village, like many other housing developments in the area, is home to a big senior population. Those pedestrian refuges make Grand Street safer to cross and less intimidating to older New Yorkers. Rolling back critical safety improvements that improve seniors' quality of life -- is that really the kind of "community input" that Gerson wants to align himself with?

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Gerson Looks to Rein In Runaway Safety Improvements

gerson_1.jpgNot long ago, Alan Gerson spoke in favor of giving pedestrians more space at Petrosino Square.
Alan Gerson's office has more on what we suspected was a bill intended to give the Lower Manhattan City Council member and his colleagues more power over DOT implementation of new bike infrastructure. Judging by this comment from Gerson communications director Paul Nagle, the new law would not be limited to bike lanes, but would mandate a "review" of basically any outrageous new project designed to improve conditions for transit users and pedestrians.

[T]here will not be a DOT "bike lane" bill introduced by Gerson [on Tuesday]. Gerson is working on a bill with lawyers to create a better process of review for both Council and Community input into street reconfigurations, which can, but don't necessarily, include bike lanes. In our district alone this bill would refer to the "bus bumps" on Lower Broadway, the "stripes" on Rutgers Street, the Grand Street traffic islands and the Chatham Square reconfiguration. This last fiasco has the community up in arms, as DOT came to the CB3 hearing last week and basically announced no major changes to the plan could be made no matter what the community said at the hearing.

So after decades of cars-first transportation planning, which has been particularly unkind to Gerson's constituents, now that DOT is acting in the interests of cyclists, pedestrians, and transit patrons -- i.e. the overwhelming majority of street users -- it's clearly time for City Council and community board oversight.

We put in a call to Transportation Alternatives to get their take on Gerson's initiative. Here's what Wiley Norvell had to say:

Street designs by their very nature will never achieve consensus. It doesn't matter whether we're talking about truck routes, whether we're talking about bike lanes, whether we're talking about parking.

Safety is not the job of community boards; it's not the job of council members. It is the job of the Department of Transportation.

More on Gerson's bid for streets reform reform as it develops. In the interim, think it's time to rain fire yet?

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Alan Gerson Wants Greater “Review” of DOT Bike Safety Plans

gerson_bike.gif
In 2006, Alan Gerson helmeted-up and rallied for a protected bike lane on Houston St.

On a day when you'd hope City Council members would be focused on the Bikes in Buildings bill, Manhattan City Councilman Alan Gerson is planning to introduce a new piece of legislation aimed at giving someone -- presumably City Council -- greater opportunity to "review" DOT bike infrastructure plans before they are implemented.

Details are sketchy at this point. All we've got is the sub-title of his proposed law so it's probably unfair to jump to conclusions, but let's go ahead and do just that. I think we can pretty well assume that Gerson is looking to set up a process that gives City Council members greater control over DOT's bike network build-out, particularly, critical bike safety projects like the ones that have been popping up in his district recently.

By Council Member Gerson:
..Title
A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to review of bicycle lanes.
Transportation Committee

We'll be putting in a call to Gerson's office. If you live in Lower Manhattan, you can too.