Skip to content

Posts from the Bill de Blasio Category

20 Comments

De Blasio’s Budget Has No Funding Increase for Street Safety Projects

Mayor de Blasio released his executive budget yesterday, and it does not include the increases for street safety projects that the City Council recommended earlier this month, says Transportation Alternatives. Without more funding for street redesigns, TA says, the administration won’t be able to improve safety at the pace needed to attain the mayor’s stated goal of eliminating traffic deaths by 2024.

On street safety, de Blasio hasn’t put his money where his mouth is.

De Blasio’s revised executive budget includes a small 1.3 percent increase for DOT’s Traffic Operations division, which executes the low-cost “operational” street safety projects that can be completed much faster than years-long capital projects. It’s not a meaningful change.

At a March budget hearing in the City Council, Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White said DOT would need to double the number of low-cost redesigns projects it completes each year in order to meet its Vision Zero goals.

At the same hearing, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said it would take “many billions of dollars” to redesign the priority corridors and intersections identified in the city’s pedestrian safety plans, while insisting, “We very much feel we have the resources we need.”

But at the current pace of improvement, NYC won’t get to zero traffic deaths until the 2050s.

The City Council recommended an additional $52.4 million in FY 2017 for 98 “operational” projects in its response to the mayor’s budget, a roughly 25 percent increase. The council also proposed $250 million in annual capital funding for street redesigns.

The budget City Hall released yesterday follows none of those recommendations.

Read more…

1 Comment

City Council Proposes Vision Zero Funding Increase — Will de Blasio Agree?

The City Council is proposing a significant increase in funding for street safety projects. Now it’s up to Mayor de Blasio to decide whether to devote more resources to get the city closer to his Vision Zero goal of eliminating traffic deaths by 2024.

Mayor de Blasio meeting with the family of Noshat Nahian, who was killed by a truck driver on Northern Boulevard, at the announcement of his Vision Zero initiative in 2014. Photo: NYC Mayor’s Office

The council’s budget proposal calls for an additional $52.4 million in FY 2017 to complete 98 “operational” projects — low-cost improvements that can be built quickly with paint, plastic posts, and light construction work. That would be a nearly 25 percent increase from the 80 operational projects DOT completed in 2015.

The council also wants to allocate $250 million annually to more time- and resource-intensive Vision Zero capital projects. This would represent a big increase and match the funding level called for in Transportation Alternatives’ Vision Zero Investment Report. (Current annual spending on these projects is a little fuzzy, but the de Blasio administration set aside a total of $240 million for street safety capital projects over 10 years, then added $115 million for the next four years in its 2017 budget proposal.)

The de Blasio administration has reduced traffic deaths each of the past two years. With fatalities rising the first two months of this year compared to 2015, however, the city is not on track to maintain that progress. Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told the council earlier this month that her agency has the resources it needs, but it’s plain that DOT’s Vision Zero budget would benefit from a significant boost if the city is going to attain its street safety goals.

Transportation Alternatives staff and volunteers had a sit-down with council members a few weeks ago to discuss what it would take for the budget to align with the city’s Vision Zero goals. Yesterday the council released its response to the mayor’s preliminary FY 17 budget [PDF, page 42], and the council proposal is “almost entirely in line” with what TA is seeking, according to TA policy and research manager Julia Kite.

“Frankly, we’ve found that we’re not on track to get to Vision Zero, even remotely close to 2024, unless the Department of Transportation is given the resources to greatly expand the number of projects it’s doing,” said Kite. “I think our message was strong and it came across well.”

Read more…

5 Comments

De Blasio DOT Budget Fails to Meet de Blasio Vision Zero Timetable [Updated]

Update below

Mayor de Blasio’s proposed DOT budget again falls well short of what’s needed to implement life-saving street redesigns within the time frame prescribed by Vision Zero.

The mayor’s preliminary FY 2017 budget allocates $115 million for Vision Zero capital projects, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told City Council members at a hearing yesterday. That figure includes $59 million for 37 Safe Routes to Schools projects, $30 million for street improvements in Long Island City, and $26 million for other projects, including improvements to Tillary Street in Brooklyn, Baruch Plaza and Allen Street in Manhattan, and Mott Avenue in Queens, Trottenberg said.

To reduce injuries and fatalities on the streets where motorists are doing the most harm, the city will have to invest substantially more than the mayor has in mind. In a statement, Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul White noted that the $115 million in capital spending proposed for FY 17 would be allocated over four years, and that redesigning the city’s widest, most dangerous streets would require that amount many times over:

In fact, New York City needs $250 million dollars annually — $1 billion over four years — to fix all of its most dangerous arterial streets within a decent period of time.

DOT can also redesign streets with “operational” projects that use low-cost materials like paint and flexible posts to calm traffic — a process that consumes considerably less time than capital projects, which often take years to build out. Last year’s final budget included funding for 50 operational projects, a rate that TA says should double:

We recommend the city fund 98 operational projects to fix intersections and corridors the DOT highlighted in its Pedestrian Safety Action Plans. In order to increase staffing and budget for resurfacing, road marking, signaling, and outreach, the DOT will need an increase in the operating budget, not stagnation or a potential decrease.

Read more…

1 Comment

Years After Death of Ariel Russo, NYPD Chases Still Injuring and Killing People

Last week Franklin Reyes was sentenced to three to nine years in prison for the death of 4-year-old Ariel Russo.

NYPD pursuits have killed at least one person since the 2013 death of Ariel Russo, and injured an unknown number of other people.

NYPD pursuits have killed at least one person since the 2013 death of Ariel Russo, and injured an unknown number of bystanders and police.

Police pulled Reyes over on W. 89th Street, between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues, on June 4, 2013, after he drove his family’s pick-up truck across several lanes to make a turn. As officers walked toward the truck, Reyes, who was 17 and did not have a drivers license, hit the gas.

Police chased Reyes for eight blocks until he crashed onto the sidewalk at Amsterdam and W. 97th Street, where Ariel and her grandmother, Katia Gutierrez, were walking to Ariel’s school. Reyes hit them both, killing Ariel and injuring Gutierrez.

NYPD vehicle pursuits that result in death typically lead to serious charges for the people being chased. According to court records, Reyes pled guilty to manslaughter, assault, and two counts of fleeing police — all felonies. Gothamist reports that he was sentenced Friday.

“Ariel died a violent death because of your reckless behavior and you have not apologized,” said Sofia Russo, Ariel’s mother, in court. “You have shown no remorse.”

Nor has NYPD stopped engaging in car chases. NYPD policy says “a vehicle pursuit be terminated whenever the risks to uniformed members of the service and the public outweigh the danger to the community.” As in the case of Ariel Russo, and Karen Schmeer, and Violetta Kryzak, and Mary Celine Graham, many times a pursuit doesn’t end until the suspect crashes. In the wake of Ariel’s death, NYPD chases are still injuring and killing people.

NYPD hides police crash data from the public, so we don’t know exactly how much injury, loss of life, and property damage is caused every year due in part to the department’s open-ended pursuit policy. Stories about police pursuits that lead to injuries still surface regularly in the press. In March 2015 an unlicensed driver attempting to evade police killed Dave Jones on a sidewalk in Crown Heights.

Read more…

58 Comments

BQX Streetcar Doesn’t Make Any More Sense Now Than It Did Yesterday

Mayor de Blasio

Mayor de Blasio, with Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen on the left, speaking in Red Hook today.

Today Mayor de Blasio rolled out the full court press for his Brooklyn-Queens Streetcar proposal, known as BQX. A story in the Times compared the street-running BQX to Jersey’s Hudson-Bergen Light Rail, which runs mostly on exclusive rail rights-of-way. The City Hall press shop sent out waves of endorsements from various elected officials, advocates, business executives, developers, and civic honchos. The morning culminated with a press conference in Red Hook where the mayor made his case for the project.

The big takeaway is that City Hall has lined up a lot of people to endorse BQX. Specifics about the project itself remain in short supply. We don’t know a whole lot more about the streetcar than we did before, and I remain skeptical that the project will be successful. It still seems likely to be a highly-subsidized, low ridership route for the reasons Streetsblog and others listed earlier this month.

The alignment doesn’t create good connections to the subway, a free transfer to MTA services seems unlikely, the right-of-way will probably have significant stretches where cars will slow down and occasionally block trains, there are higher priorities throughout the city and better ways to serve people along the waterfront, and the financing mechanism depends on the streetcar spurring development in areas that are already booming.

We learned a few new things today but nothing that provided satisfactory answers to the major outstanding questions:

Read more…

69 Comments

4 Reasons a $2.5 Billion Brooklyn-Queens Streetcar Doesn’t Add Up

underserved_neighborhoods

Other neighborhoods besides the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront have much higher concentrations of people living beyond convenient walking distance to the subway. Map: NYC DOT

Later today, Mayor de Blasio is going to deliver his State of the City speech, and one centerpiece is expected to be a new streetcar running from Sunset Park to Astoria along the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront. It’s an idea that’s surfaced repeatedly in one form or another as developers have transformed sections of the waterfront into new residential neighborhoods. As alluring as it may be to picture modern rail on the streets of Brooklyn and Queens, there are good reasons it’s gone nowhere.

The argument for the streetcar goes something like this… The waterfront is booming with residential development in western Queens and northern Brooklyn, and job centers are growing at the Navy Yard and Sunset Park. A lot of this growth isn’t very close to trains, and Red Hook has always been isolated from the subway network. So connect everything with a streetcar line and voila, transit access problem solved.

The vision of a sleek streetcar connecting people and jobs, with the East River glinting in the background, has a seductive appeal. The renderings will look fantastic in the marketing materials for new luxury condos. (Major backers of the plan include developers Two Trees and the Durst Organization.) Plus the city says the project will basically pay for itself through increased property tax revenue.

Too good to be true? I think so. Based on what we know so far, there’s no way this proposal will deliver on the hype. What we’re going to end up with is a highly-subsidized transit route with modest ridership at best. Here are four aspects of the project that don’t add up.

Subway connections. A lot of the new development coming to northern Brooklyn and western Queens is a schlep from the subway. There are transit solutions to the subway access problem (here’s one), but the streetcar route isn’t a good one.

Read more…

5 Comments

On Queens Boulevard, de Blasio Lays Out 2016 Street Safety Agenda

This morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio toured the recently-redesigned Queens Boulevard with DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

This morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio toured the recently-redesigned Queens Boulevard with DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. Photo: David Meyer

Mayor Bill de Blasio outlined his 2016 street safety agenda to the City Hall press corps this morning, after DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg led a short walk by a redesigned section of Queens Boulevard. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton was a no-show for the second year running.

Noting that traffic deaths declined to a historic low in 2015, the mayor listed $115 million in capital projects to improve street safety on the docket for this year and said the city would push for legislation in Albany to lift restrictions on automated speed enforcement.

Last year, 231 people were killed in New York City traffic, according to preliminary figures in the city’s Vision Zero Year Two Report, which was also released today [PDF]. That’s down from 257 in 2014 and an improvement on the previous low of 249 fatalities in 2011. A citywide tally of severe traffic injuries in 2014 is just now available and also shows a significant improvement, declining about 12 percent from the previous year.

The most significant citywide change over the past two years has been the deployment of 140 speed cameras in combination with the lower default speed limit of 25 mph. State law, however, still limits the number of speed cameras NYC can deploy and restricts their use to areas near schools, during school activities. This means camera enforcement doesn’t happen at night, when speeding tends to be most prevalent.

It’s not clear exactly what the city will ask for in Albany, but de Blasio indicated that increasing the hours that speed cameras can operate is a high priority. The mayor said he hopes state electeds will put aside other political disagreements for the sake of safer streets.

Read more…

87 Comments

De Blasio Gives DOT Permission to Put Safety Above Community Board Whims

Mayor de Blasio says “community boards don’t get to decide” which streets will be made safer. Will DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg follow through?

Mayor de Blasio says “community boards don’t get to decide” when streets will be made safer. Will DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg follow through?

When DOT allows community boards to veto street safety projects, streets aren’t as safe for walking and biking as they could be.

This year, for instance, when facing opposition or anticipating blowback from community boards, DOT watered down a road diet and other safety measures planned for Riverside Drive; proposed disjointed bike lanes for Kingston and Brooklyn avenues; abandoned a project that would have converted a dangerous slip lane in Harlem into a public plaza; and stalled a road diet for 111th Street in Corona, despite support from Council Member Julissa Ferreras.

This is bad policy that can have catastrophic real-world consequences. This week an MTA bus driver killed a pedestrian while making a turn that would have been eliminated had DOT not bowed to community board demands to scrap the plan.

Bill de Blasio has recently been taking a firmer tone about the limits of community board influence on housing policy, and last week Streetsblog suggested the same approach should apply to street design.

Maybe the mayor read that post, because in a Wall Street Journal feature on Vision Zero published Monday, de Blasio explicitly gave Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg the latitude to implement safety improvements that don’t get a “yes” vote from community boards:

Read more…

5 Comments

Mayor’s Stand on Community Boards and Housing Should Apply to Streets Too

With community boards across the city voting against City Hall’s affordable housing initiative, Mayor de Blasio is taking a stand.

The role of community boards, de Blasio points out, is to offer opinions on city policy, not to dictate what the city does. Here’s the mayor as quoted by DNAinfo:

“They don’t have a perfect vantage point on their communities. No one has a perfect vantage point on the whole of a community, but they bring a lot of valuable insight,” de Blasio said.

“Community Boards are appointed to give input. They give input,” the mayor continued. “The folks that are elected by all the people, the council members and the mayor, have to make the final decision.”

The mayor was unfazed when asked about the rejections Monday, saying “there’s often a divergence between the community boards and the council and the mayor” that is “healthy” and “part of democracy.”

The mayor’s position, as well as his enlistment of allies like 32BJ and AARP, is a good sign for politically difficult reforms like the reduction of parking minimums for subsidized housing near transit.

Why stop at housing and zoning policy though? De Blasio’s message about the role of community boards also applies to streets and transportation, but his DOT has been extraordinarily timid when faced with a few stubborn community board members. The agency allows community boards near complete control over street design projects that are integral to the mayor’s Vision Zero initiative.

Case in point: Riverside Drive, where DOT preemptively excluded bike lanes from its road diet plan, then further watered down the project in the face of opposition from Manhattan Community Board 9. Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg has deferred to community board objections even when City Council members want a street to be redesigned.

If de Blasio can assert his authority on housing, his DOT can do the same when it comes to protecting people from traffic violence.

50 Comments

On Day of Remembrance, Mayor Pledges to Take Vision Zero “a Lot Farther”

Hundreds of people walked from City Hall to the United Nations yesterday to remember victims of traffic violence and call for action to prevent more loss of life on the streets. Addressing the crowd before the march, Mayor de Blasio said his administration’s effort to eliminate traffic deaths “has just started” and pledged to “take it a lot farther.”

At the insistence of the de Blasio administration and NYC street safety advocates, Albany enacted legislation in 2014 to lower the default speed limit to 25 mph and increase the number of speed enforcement cameras on NYC streets, and traffic deaths in the city are on pace for a historic low this year. Even with that improvement, however, it’s all but certain that more than 200 people will be killed in New York traffic before 2015 is over. The persistent message yesterday from victims’ families, advocates, and elected officials was that more must be done.

Noting that traffic violence had claimed more than a dozen lives in the last few weeks, Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White said the city must implement proven safety measures like pedestrian islands, protected bike lanes, and speed cameras more expeditiously. “We are not yet to the point where these common sense improvements are done routinely,” he said.

The de Blasio administration has made incremental progress on street redesign but will have to dramatically accelerate the pace of change to achieve the rapid reduction in traffic deaths that Vision Zero calls for. DOT’s high-impact street transformations, like the redesign of 1.3 miles of Queens Boulevard, don’t cover enough ground each year in a city with 6,000 miles of streets. The department’s political timidity and the lack of budgetary resources for quick, effective safety improvements have been a drag on progress.

Yesterday the mayor’s message was on target. De Blasio said plainly that “redesigning streets saves lives” and speeding enforcement changes behavior. “There are a lot of things that have been accepted as the status quo that we should not accept,” he said. “We have to jolt that reality, we have to change that to the core.”

Read more…