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Posts from the Andrew Cuomo Category

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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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Do Not Collaborate With Hatred

Trump photo via Gage Skidmore/Flickr. Schumer photo via

Andrew Cuomo and Chuck Schumer must resist the urge to collaborate with Donald Trump on infrastructure. Trump photo via Gage Skidmore/Flickr; Schumer photo via NASA/Bill Ingalls/Wikimedia Commons

Last week, on the day after the election, I watched as Chuck Schumer and Andrew Cuomo, Democrats who represent my state, said they could find common ground with Donald Trump, with Cuomo specifically mentioning “infrastructure” as a potential area of collaboration. We responded with a post explaining why this was a strategic mistake in terms of transportation policy.

Today I’m writing about far more urgent and important reasons to oppose Trump and his agenda.

Trump began his campaign by calling Mexican immigrants “rapists,” and from there he only ratcheted up the racism, sexism, and xenophobia. His vision of America — where religious minorities are persecuted, immigrants live in fear, and racial profiling by police is actively promoted at the highest levels of government — threatens the physical safety of hundreds of millions of people and is diametrically opposed to the core values of a democratic, pluralistic society where everyone is entitled to equal rights under the constitution.

Since he was elected, Trump has bullied the press for reporting on the massive demonstrations against his rise to power. He has named the overt white supremacist Steve Bannon, the CEO of his campaign, to a senior position in the inner circle of his White House. There is zero daylight between the Trump campaign, premised on hatred, and the nascent Trump administration.

We must prevent the bigoted, undemocratic nature of Trump’s faction from becoming further embedded in our government, laws, and institutions. We must neutralize Trump and his ilk to the greatest extent possible until they are removed from power via the democratic process.

I can sympathize with people who, in the disorienting hours after Trump was elected, felt the reflex to get something constructive done. But if that was your impulse, I urge you with all the conviction in my being to reject it immediately.

There is no moral basis for collaboration on Trump’s infrastructure agenda — because enabling any aspect of the Trump policy platform will grease the skids for enacting the entire Trump worldview. No piece of infrastructure is worth that risk.

Schumer, Cuomo, and to a lesser extent Mayor de Blasio will be tempted. Cuomo and Schumer are especially enamored with big-ticket infrastructure projects like overhauling Penn Station, revamping La Guardia airport, and building a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River, which New York cannot afford without federal funding. They may soon face a stark choice between accepting that money and protecting hundreds of thousands of people from Trump’s deportation force.

Trump has pledged to revoke federal funding from America’s 300-plus “sanctuary cities,” which shield undocumented immigrants from the threat of deportation. New York is a sanctuary city, and stands to lose billions of dollars annually for infrastructure and other essential municipal functions. If that is the price, so be it. New York can draw on internal resources. Streets and railroads can be rebuilt. But once we lose our humanity, it is gone for good.

The Democratic Party now finds itself in the minority in both the House and Senate. There are few levers of legislative power available to them, other than whatever Republican resistance to Trump remains in Congress, and the filibuster, for however long that lasts. But the opposition to Trump retains significant power in other forms.

Trump will assume office as the most widely disliked president-elect in modern history. He will have lost the popular vote by a margin that’s expected to number in the millions, once all the ballots are counted. Our elected leaders should draw courage from these facts. They must resist the Trump agenda at every step, in the strongest possible terms, and they must do their utmost to communicate to Americans that Trump’s vision for the future of the country is repulsive and at odds with the essence of our republic.

Andrew Cuomo and Chuck Schumer are now two of the most senior Democrats in the nation, and they represent a state where resisting Trump will augment, not diminish, their political strength. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say they are major figures in the free world’s first line of defense against Trumpism. They must not fold.

Over the weekend, Cuomo came out with another statement about the Trump presidency, less conciliatory than his first. Writing in the Daily News the same day, however, he still did not stake out a sufficiently strong position.

The headline to Cuomo’s piece in the Daily News read: “If Trump governs unjustly, we’ll fight at every turn.” But Trump has already said and done too many hateful things to treat this as a conditional fight. We have to resist immediately.

The weakest passage in Cuomo’s op-ed says:

The night he became commander-in-chief, Donald Trump said he wanted to be President of all Americans. Despite the divisiveness of the campaign, he has an opportunity to live up to that promise by acting first on issues where there is common ground with his opponents. He said he wants to govern on behalf of forgotten Americans, and any time he does that, he can count on both Democrats and Republicans to help him achieve success.

Trump also said that he wants to rebuild America’s infrastructure. In that effort, he will find New York a willing partner as the Tappan Zee Bridge, a new La Guardia Airport, a new cross-Hudson Tunnel, and a revitalized Penn Station continue to rise.

Now is not the time to extend a hand to Trump and talk about potential partnerships. Cuomo and Schumer must refrain from making any overtures unless and until Trump conclusively renounces, with complete and utter finality, the racist, anti-democratic platform that he campaigned on. Trump recently told 60 Minutes that the people around the country committing acts of violence in his name should “stop it.” That is not enough. He must prove, in word and deed, that he is not a threat to the rights and freedoms we hold dear.

Meeting that threshold is not possible as long as Trump surrounds himself with the same coterie of white supremacists, authoritarians, and sycophants who staffed his campaign operation and served as his media surrogates. After everything Trump has said, it may well be impossible, full stop.

It is imperative to mobilize all the influence at our disposal to resist and defy Trumpism. This is a theme we will hone and develop in the weeks and months ahead, but for today, this is my advice…

Call your governor, call your senators, call your U.S. representative, and tell them: Do not collaborate with hatred. Do not yield an inch to bigotry. Tell them: Bend to Trump’s will, and we will come at you furiously to stiffen your spine. Stay resolute, and we will have your back. We are going to fix this.

Streetsblog USA
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Democrats Who Embrace the Trump Infrastructure Plan Are Suckers

As painful as it is to deal with the reality of a Donald Trump presidency, if you think highways and sprawl are a terrible mistake, the time to mobilize is now.

Senator Chuck Schumer reportedly sees infrastructure as an area of collaboration with the Trump administration. Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

One of the first things on Trump’s agenda, after dismantling Obama’s social and environmental legacy to the greatest extent possible, is a huge round of infrastructure spending.

During his victory speech, Trump said, “We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none.” And he has proposed $1 trillion in infrastructure spending, a truly staggering amount, equal to 20 years of typical federal spending on surface transportation.

The vague concept of “infrastructure” is an area that leading Democrats seem to consider fertile ground for collaboration with Trump. The day following the election, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she was hoping to “work together to quickly pass a robust infrastructure jobs bill.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer reportedly views infrastructure as a potential area of policy alignment with Trump. Both New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio have said they can envision teaming up with Trump on infrastructure.

The New York Democrats have their eyes on building the trans-Hudson Gateway rail tunnel. But the vast majority of Trump’s plan would, in all likelihood, entail a road-building bonanza benefiting the construction and finance industries to the long-term detriment of the nation.

There is a school of thought which holds that Trump, born in Queens, will have an innate understanding of why transit matters. His transition site has a few glancing references to transit and rail.

But to expect enlightened transportation policy from the Trump administration is to ignore everything we know about the sources of his political power — rural areas and the suburbs — as well as the explicit policy ideas coming from his advisors and the Republican Party’s hostility to any transportation infrastructure that doesn’t move cars and trucks.

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In Albany, Tuesday’s Election Probably Maintained the Status Quo

Republicans won an outright majority in the state senate yesterday, which means Senate Majority John Flanagan (far right) will keep his place at the decision making table with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Governor Andrew Cuomo (left and center, respectively). Photo: Flickr/NY Governor's Office

Republican Senate Majority John Flanagan (far right) will remain one of Albany’s three men in a room, along with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Governor Andrew Cuomo. Photo: Flickr/NY Governor’s Office

A few races are still too close to call, but it looks as though Republicans will maintain control of the State Senate next year, likely preserving an alliance with the growing Independent Democratic Conference.

The outcome means that Albany will by and large remain a challenging but not impossible political landscape for advocates seeking to make streets safer and improve transit.

In 2014, the Republican-IDC coalition passed bills to lower the default NYC speed limit to 25 mph and expand the city’s speed camera program from 20 locations near schools to 140. But since then, Albany’s political leadership has failed to advance significant street safety legislation. Making progress in 2017 will probably hinge on individual members of the IDC whose positions on speed cameras have shifted from one session to the next.

The Move New York toll reform package, meanwhile, which has been gradually accumulating political endorsements, lost five supporters in the Assembly, mostly to retirement. Governor Andrew Cuomo has said he would consider supporting Move NY legislation if he felt it was politically viable. While that position was always a dodge for Cuomo, who could single-handedly give Move NY serious momentum, it suggests that lining up a large number of sponsors in the legislature could sway him.

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Will the MTA Deliver Bus Service That People Want to Use?

“You have to have a mass transit system that people want to use,” Governor Cuomo asserted at a transportation-themed press event today. At least he got that much right.

USB ports aren’t going to turn around NYC’s troubled bus system.

Cuomo’s transit announcements tend to glorify grand edifices like a new Penn Station train hall, boondoggles like a roundabout AirTrain link to LaGuardia by way of Flushing, or bells and whistles like charging ports and Wi-Fi on buses. The nuts and bolts of transit service “that people want to use” don’t get much attention from the man in charge of the MTA.

The neglect of core service is most apparent in the deterioration of New York City’s bus system. Since 2002, bus ridership in New York has fallen 16 percent, even as population and jobs have rapidly grown. At an average weekday speed of 7.4 mph, the MTA operates the slowest bus service in America. Riders can’t rely on buses to come at regular intervals instead of clumped in bunches with long gaps between arrivals.

In a recent report [PDF], TransitCenter prescribes a comprehensive approach to turn around NYC bus service, recommending changes to streets, signals, bus routes, fare payment, and dispatching that will make buses run faster and more reliably.

A coalition of advocates has urged NYC DOT (which controls the streets and signals) and the MTA (which controls the rest) to embrace those recommendations. At a City Council hearing tomorrow, both agencies are expected to testify about how they plan to tackle the problem of poor bus service.

So far, the response from DOT has been promising, TransitCenter reports, but the MTA has not acknowledged the scale of what needs to be done.

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Is Cuomo Ready to Rid Downtown Syracuse of I-81?

Governor Cuomo seems eager to teardown Syracuse's crumbling I-81. Photo: Onondaga Citizens League

Governor Cuomo seems ready to tear down Syracuse’s crumbling I-81. Photo: Onondaga Citizens League

Speaking in Syracuse yesterday, Governor Andrew Cuomo appeared to indicate support for the removal of 3.75 miles of Interstate 81, the aging elevated highway that cuts through the heart of downtown.

“That could be a transformative project that really jump-starts the entire region,” Cuomo said, according to the Post-Standard. “I-81 did a lot of damage — a classic planning blunder. Let’s build a road and bisect an entire community. That’s an idea, yeah, let me write it down.”

With the elevated portion of I-81 fast approaching the end of its useful life and in need of near-constant repairs, state officials have narrowed its future to two options: tear it down and replace it with a surface-level boulevard, or rebuild it — which would most likely require widening the highway. A third option, an underground tunnel, is viewed as costly and infeasible.

The state DOT is in the midst of cost and environmental analyses of the remaining options, and is expected to issue a draft environmental impact statement by the end of the year. Cuomo did not explicitly say he supported a surface-level boulevard, but with the tunnel all but ruled out, if he wants to get rid of the highway it’s the only option left.

Cuomo also indicated a readiness to get things moving. “We procrastinate,” he said. “We wait for everyone to agree. You know when that day is going to come? Never. Never. If you wait for the perfect, you’re never going to get there. You will do nothing. And that’s just what we’ve done on I-81. We’ve done nothing. Find the best solution with the most agreement and move forward.”

Cuomo has been on somewhat of a highway removal kick of late. Earlier this year, the state budget included $97 million to transform the Bronx’s Moses-era Sheridan Expressway into a surface boulevard. And in April, the governor has lent his support to the proposed teardown of Buffalo’s Kensington Expressway.

The governor’s office has not responded to a Streetsblog inquiry asking whether his comments mean the state will go forward with the I-81 teardown.

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Stuck With Slow Bus Service? Cuomo Is Completely Oblivious to Your Pain

You can tell Governor Cuomo doesn’t get on a New York City bus unless it’s for a photo-op about on-board USB ports.

The latest evidence came yesterday, after a coalition of transit advocates released a major report on the deterioration of bus service in New York City. With bus speeds declining, ridership has dropped 16 percent since 2002. In their “Turnaround” report [PDF], TransitCenter and other advocates outline proven techniques to improve bus service, pointedly noting that it will take concerted political leadership to reverse the decline of the city’s bus system.

Cuomo is the politician whose leadership is needed most. But Politico’s Dana Rubinstein reports that the governor blew off a question about improving bus service yesterday afternoon. “If people in Manhattan are choosing to jump on the subway because the subway is faster, because there’s traffic that a bus has to deal with,” he said, “that’s not an imprudent choice, right?”

In one sentence, the governor betrayed his ignorance of NYC’s bus system in several ways. Here are three of them.

Buses and trains don’t do the same things

The subway system is largely a radial network, with lines converging in Manhattan below 60th Street and extending out from there. It works well for an astounding number of trips, but New Yorkers still have to get places that the subway doesn’t reach efficiently. For these trips, there is no parallel subway service that people can just “jump on” instead of taking the bus.

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That’s More Like It: Cuomo and MTA Commit to High-Capacity Subway Cars

Governor Cuomo and the MTA announced today that up to 750 of over one thousand new subway cars will have "open gangway" designs. Image: MTA/NY Governor's Office

Governor Cuomo announced today that the MTA will purchase up to 750 subway cars with open gangways. Image: MTA/NY Governor’s Office

After spending the first half of the year touting frills like Wi-Fi and charging ports on buses, Governor Cuomo finally delivered some news this morning that will make a real difference to transit riders. The MTA plans to buy hundreds of open gangway subway cars, which can carry more passengers and help relieve crowding on maxed-out lines.

Later this week, the MTA will release its request for proposals for the construction of 1,025 new subway cars, up to 750 of which will have the open gangway design, as well as an RFP for the redesign and construction of the first three stations of 31 across the city slated for upgrades.

Open gangways are accordion-like passageways between cars, which create a nearly seamless space inside the train and yield as much as 10 percent additional capacity. The train design unveiled this morning also calls for 58-inch-wide doors, which the MTA said will speed boarding 32 percent compared to the current 50-inch design.

Both design changes should improve reliability by reducing crowding-related delays, which the MTA says account for a substantial share of all subway delays.

Previously, the MTA had said that it would only try out 10 open gangway cars in its next train purchase. A purchase of 750 cars is a vast improvement and should make a noticeable difference on crowded lines, though the MTA has yet to announce where the new cars will be deployed. It also bodes well for future purchases as the MTA refreshes its 6,400-car subway fleet.

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When Cuomo Talks About Transit, He Doesn’t Talk About What Riders Want

In four MTA-related speeches this year, Governor Andrew Cuomo said much more about Wi-Fi and cell phones than fast, reliable transit.

In four MTA-related speeches this year, Governor Andrew Cuomo said much more about Wi-Fi and cell phones than fast, reliable transit.

There’s a huge disconnect between the way Governor Andrew Cuomo talks about transit improvements and the service upgrades that transit riders actually want to see.

You're phone will have plenty of time to get to full battery on NYC's slowest buses in the nation. Photo: YouTube/NY Governor's Office

Your phone will have plenty of time to charge on NYC’s slower-than-walking buses. Photo: YouTube/NY Governor’s Office

Cuomo began the year hyping his “transformative” agenda for the MTA. But to hear the governor tell it, the future of transit in New York City is all about bells and whistles like USB charging stations and underground Wi-Fi. In four major MTA-related speeches or announcements so far this year, Cuomo mentioned “technology,” Wi-Fi, and mobile devices more than twice as much as basics like reliability, speed, and frequent service.

But it’s the basics that matter most to transit riders, according to a major report released by TransitCenter earlier this week [PDF]. In a survey of 3,000 transit riders across the nation, charging outlets and Wi-Fi ranked dead last on their priorities for service improvements.

What improvements do transit riders want? Shorter trip times, more frequent service, and affordable fares ranked at the top:

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Watch Andrew Cuomo’s Bizarre, Rambling Take on the State of NYC Transit

From behind a lectern with a placard that said “Modernizing the MTA,” Governor Andrew Cuomo argued today that the MTA is old and outdated, so he deserves credit for even the most basic upgrades. He sounded like someone ranting to himself on a street corner, not a governor with a sound plan to improve the transit system he runs.

The occasion was a press conference announcing a new ticketing app for Metro-North and LIRR commuters. Cue to the eight-minute mark in the video to watch Cuomo ramble about how, unlike his predecessors, current MTA chief Tom Prendergast must operate the MTA while building a “new system.”

“Not rebuild the existing system, not fix the existing,” said Cuomo. “He has to build anew.”

“Why?” he continued. “Because the MTA system as we now have it was built in a different time and in a different place, and it cannot handle the volume and the scale that we are talking about today in New York. You can’t do it with Band-Aids and you can’t stretch it any more than we’ve stretched it. The system is just too small to manage this population.”

Cuomo pointed out that the population of New York City and the region has grown quite a bit since the first subway opened in 1904. (Not mentioned: The subways grew for a few more decades, and the city’s population wasn’t all that much smaller than it is today by the time the major expansions concluded.)

“You can’t make a system that was designed and constructed for that scale work for the current-day scale,” Cuomo said. “And government’s tried in fits and starts to use bailing wire and duct tape and bubble gum and all sorts of ways to make it work. It’s not going to work. You have to build a new system.”

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