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Posts from the Bill de Blasio Category


TA Calls on de Blasio to Act After Driver Kills Cyclist, 78, on Northern Blvd

NYPD filed no charges and issued no summonses after a driver struck and killed Michael Schenkman, 78, while he biked on Northern Boulevard in Bayside.

Michael Schenkman was the 16th cyclist killed by a New York City motorist this year. Photo via Facebook

Michael Schenkman was the 16th cyclist killed by a New York City motorist this year. Photo via Facebook

New York City motorists have now killed 16 cyclists this year, compared to 14 cyclist fatalities in all of 2015, according to city crash data. After yesterday’s crash, Transportation Alternatives called on Mayor de Blasio to pick up the pace of Vision Zero safety improvements.

Schenkman was eastbound on Northern Boulevard near 223rd Street at around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday when a motorist traveling in the same direction hit him with a Chevrolet sedan. Schenkman, who lived in Flushing, sustained head and body trauma and died from his injuries at North Shore Manhasset Hospital, police said.

The NYPD public information office said Schenkman “collided in the left lane” with the car. A photo published by the Daily News shows the car with a dented hood and a large hole in the windshield — the type of damage that would occur in a high-speed collision. Information released by NYPD did not mention driver speed.

As is customary when police don’t ticket or charge a motorist who kills a person, NYPD withheld the driver’s name, identifying him only as a 25-year-old man. The department said the investigation was ongoing as of this afternoon.

Schenkman was a driver for former public advocate Betsy Gotbaum, the Daily News reported, as well as a long-time cyclist and member of Transportation Alternatives. “Every morning he got on his bike and rode 15 or 20 miles,” Peter Schenkman, the victim’s son, told the News.

“Michael, who was passionate about bicycling, was a beloved Transportation Alternatives member who joined us on many of our bike tours and supported our work to make New York City streets safer for all road users,” said TA Executive Director Paul White in a statement released today. “We are dedicating our upcoming NYC Century Bike Tour on September 10th to his memory.”

In addition, TA has scheduled a “Ride for Mayoral Action” on September 15. In his statement, White noted that a large share of cyclist fatalities this year happened on streets that the city knows are dangerous:

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Six City Council Members Endorse de Blasio Trash Hauling Reforms


Density of existing private trash hauling routes, at left, and a proposed zoned system. Image: DSNY

A group of City Council members has endorsed Mayor de Blasio’s plan to reform the way commercial waste is collected.

Antonio Reynoso, chair of the council’s sanitation and solid waste management committee, issued a statement praising the mayor’s proposal to cut the number of miles traveled by private carting fleets. Also signing on to the plan are council members Brad Lander, Donovan Richards, Steve Levin, Margaret Chin, and Carlos Menchaca.

Currently, the private haulers who handle all commercial waste in the city contract with individual businesses. The system leads to a lot of overlapping truck routes, polluting the air and making streets less safe. The de Blasio administration wants to reduce inefficiency by having carters bid to handle all the commercial waste within defined geographic zones.

A report issued by DSNY and the Business Integrity Commission estimated that a zone-based system could reduce truck traffic by up to 15 million miles a year. The effect would be greatest in areas near waste transfer stations in the South Bronx, northern Brooklyn, and eastern Queens, the report found.

“I want to thank the Administration, particularly the Department of Sanitation, for taking on this complicated issue,” said Reynoso. “Since I’ve been overseeing the private carting industry as Chair of the Council’s Committee on Sanitation, I’ve referred to it as the ‘wild, wild west’ because it is inefficient and unregulated. A collection zone system will give us the opportunity to promote sustainability, improve worker safety, get dangerous trucks off the streets, and in general improve what is now a very problematic industry.”

Private trash haulers kill more pedestrians per mile driven than any other type of vehicle in NYC, according to “Killed by Automobile,” a landmark 1999 analysis of crash data produced by Charles Komanoff [PDF]. Drivers of private trash trucks killed at least six people in NYC between 2010 and 2015, according to crash information compiled by Streetsblog.

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De Blasio, Vacca, Trottenberg Rebuff Opponents of East Tremont Safety Plan

A leader of the Throggs Neck Merchants Association tried to thwart DOT’s safety plan for East Tremont Avenue at a town hall in the Bronx last night and was firmly rebuffed by Mayor de Blasio, Council Member Jimmy Vacca, and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. After the exchange, Raisa Jimenez, whose son Giovianni Nin was killed by a hit-and-run driver on East Tremont earlier this year, made an emotional plea to prevent the further loss of life.

East Tremont Avenue between Williamsbridge Road and Bruckner Boulevard is an exceptionally dangerous 1.1-mile stretch where hundreds of people were injured between 2009 and 2013, according to DOT. Angel Figueroa, 74, was struck and killed at the intersection of Puritan Avenue in 2013.

The DOT plan would convert the two-way street from four lanes to two, with a center turn lane and pedestrian islands [PDF]. Community Board 10 voted against the project when DOT first proposed it last year, and the agency set it aside. On June 11, Nin, 26, was struck and killed on East Tremont, and Vacca prodded DOT to proceed with the redesign.

Last night John Cerini of the Throggs Neck Merchants Association attacked de Blasio and Vacca for moving ahead with the project. You can watch the entire exchange — about nine minutes — in the video above.

“We voted for you. You represent us,” Cerini told de Blasio. “We’re not in England, we’re not a monarchy. We’re not asking you to be our king and make decisions for us… Our community board voted against this.” He asked opponents of the project to identify themselves, and nearly 50 hands went up.

“I think you’re misreading the Constitution a little here,” said de Blasio. “We are elected with the point of saying to people what we intend to do, and I certainly talked about Vision Zero and what it would mean for this city to protect people, because we were losing hundreds of people per year.”

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Bratton Resigns. Will James O’Neill Do Better on Street Safety?


Mayor de Blasio announces the transition at NYPD from Bill Bratton (left) to James O’Neill (right).

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton announced today that he will leave NYPD next month, after a little more than two and a half years as police chief under Mayor de Blasio. He will be succeeded by James O’Neill, a career officer who currently serves as chief of department, the senior uniformed position within NYPD.

On traffic safety, Bratton will leave the department substantially unchanged since he took over from Ray Kelly, although NYPD has made some improvements on the margins.

Enforcement of the most dangerous traffic violations — speeding and failure to yield — has increased in some precincts since 2014. But in many precincts, summonsing for violations like driving with tinted windows continues to outpace the enforcement of violations that actually put people’s lives in jeopardy.

An enduring image of Bratton’s tenure came early on, when officers on the Upper West Side bloodied 84-year-old Kang Wong, an immigrant who did not speak English, after he unwittingly walked away from a jaywalking stop. Instead of directing officers to simply cease issuing jaywalking tickets, Bratton issued a memo calling for “discretion” when stopping elderly or disabled pedestrians for walking against the signal.

The reaction crystallized Bratton’s failure to seriously grapple with how his police department can most effectively deter crashes that kill hundreds of New Yorkers each year and seriously injure thousands more. He seldom personally engaged with the de Blasio administration’s Vision Zero initiative and often skipped out on major traffic safety policy announcements.

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De Blasio Sounds Prepared to Let the L Train Crisis Go to Waste

The impending L Train shutdown should be a blessing in disguise — the impact of losing service west of Bedford Avenue for 18 months is so great, there’s no good option that doesn’t involve carving out lots of street space for buses, biking, and safer walking. Major redesigns of 14th Street, the Williamsburg Bridge, and the streets connecting to the bridge are called for.

It’s up to City Hall to claim that space from cars. Fortunately, that happens to align with the mayor’s two main transportation priorities: better bus service and safer streets for biking and walking. With hundreds of thousands of people in need of L Train substitutes, Mayor de Blasio would have the wind at his back if he decided to set new precedents for street design that prioritizes transit, biking, and walking.

But this week de Blasio has resorted to finger pointing at the MTA instead of laying the groundwork for a major rearrangement of how streets function.

The mayor was at it again this morning on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show. Asked about the city’s role in addressing the shutdown, de Blasio deflected responsibility:

Of course we will very energetically be dealing with the MTA, both privately and publicly, on these issues to get fairness for everyone who takes the L train. Yes, I am concerned. The MTA — I like to remind all New Yorkers — is run by the State of New York, not the City. And therefore, we see the MTA do things sometimes that are not pleasing to us as New Yorkers. So, this decision — although I’m sure it has a practical, underlying rationale — announcing it without a plan to deal with the impact is troubling to me. It’s a long time. And we’re certainly going to push hard to see — does it really have to be so long? Is there any other way to go about this?

The primary responsibility for mitigation, for providing alternatives — falls on the State and the MTA — and obviously buses along the route would be the most obvious. But it’s a tough situation. It’s a very crowded line. It’s an area where it’s hard to get buses around compared to some others. So we’re going to look at different things we can do. One good news piece of the equation — our new Citywide Ferry Service starts next year. And that’s going to actually — because it happened to hit some of those areas to begin with where the L train serves — that’s going to be a helpful piece of the equation. So that was happening anyway. We might adjust schedules — one thing or another — in light of the L train dynamic.

Ferries that connect piers on each side of the East River are no substitute for a train that goes from Bedford Avenue to Eighth Avenue. The projected ridership of de Blasio’s entire expanded East River ferry system is below 15,000 passengers per day, an order of magnitude less than the 230,000 people who travel under the East River on the L train daily.

But when Lehrer raised the prospect of making 14th Street car-free, de Blasio again deflected:

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Crash Data Show NYC Is Losing Ground on Vision Zero


Citywide traffic deaths rose slightly in the first six months of 2016. Map: Vision Zero View

After a four-month hiatus, City Hall is again updating its Vision Zero View map with new crash data, and through the first six months of 2016, traffic deaths rose slightly compared the same period last year. Through the end of June, 111 people lost their lives to traffic violence, up from 107 in the first half of 2015.

Drivers killed 58 pedestrians and 12 cyclists from January through June this year, compared to 63 pedestrians and five cyclists in the first six months of 2015.

The month of June was especially deadly, with 29 fatalities, wiping out what had looked like progress in the first five months of the year.

Traffic injuries, which are less prone to random variation, are also up from last year for pedestrians and cyclists, though Vision Zero View does not track injury severity. Motorists injured 7,110 people walking and biking through June, compared to 6,518 pedestrian and cyclist injuries during the same period in 2015 — an increase of 9 percent.

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Mayor de Blasio Needs to Step Up to Keep L Train Passengers Moving

This morning the MTA announced that starting in 2019, it will close the L train between Eighth Avenue and Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg for 18 months to repair damage caused by Superstorm Sandy — surprising no one who’s been paying attention.

For several months now, it’s been obvious that the MTA and the de Blasio administration will have to work together on a plan to keep hundreds of thousands of L train passengers moving during these repairs. The MTA will have to adjust subway service and run more buses, and the city will have to allocate space on the streets for high-capacity busways and safe bicycling.

But in a statement to the Times, Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris framed the shutdown as a problem of the MTA’s own making:

We are deeply concerned that it would announce an 18-month shutdown of this critical service without a clear plan or a commitment of resources for mitigating the impact of this closure on hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. Well before this shutdown occurs, New Yorkers deserve clarity from the M.T.A. on how it intends to minimize inconvenience and keep people moving throughout the duration of the construction.

And when Mayor de Blasio addressed the L train shutdown this morning, he didn’t stray from that message:

So, we’re looking at that very seriously. First of all, I’ll remind everyone the MTA is run by the State of New York. The amount of time that they have projected — the 18 months — is a very big concern for me and for the City government. We’re going to have some very serious conversations about the MTA, about whether it has to take that long and how it’s going to be handled. I want to make sure there’s a lot of redundancy in place. By the time it happens, one — small but important factors — we’ll have the citywide ferry service in place, so that’ll be helpful, but we’re going to need a lot more than that, obviously. So I want to press the MTA to show us that 300,000 riders really will have good and consistent alternatives. And we’re certainly going to look at what we have to do in terms of the bridge as part of that. We’ll have an answer on that after those discussions with the MTA.

Noticeably absent from de Blasio’s statement is a specific mention of buses and bikes as “redundancy” measures. Ferries can help, but setting aside street space to move large numbers of bus passengers and bike riders will do more to make up for the loss of L train service.

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DOT Overrides CB 10, Advances E. Tremont Safety Project After Cyclist Death

DOT will implement a road diet on the stretch of East Tremont Avenue where a motorist killed cyclist Giovanni Nin in June. Last year DOT had dropped the project in response to a hostile reception from Bronx Community Board 10.

How do Mayor de Blasio and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg determine when a street safety project should move forward regardless of the local community board vote?

In early 2015, DOT proposed a number of improvements for East Tremont between Williamsbridge Road and Bruckner Boulevard [PDF]. The plan would reduce through traffic lanes and add a center turn lane, pedestrian islands, and other traffic-calming measures. No bike lanes were included in the project.

Hundreds of people were injured in crashes on this segment of East Tremont between 2009 and 2013, according to DOT. Twenty-one of the injuries were severe or fatal. Fifty-nine of the victims were pedestrians and 10 were cyclists. In 2013, three drivers struck and killed Angel Figueroa, 74, as he tried to cross East Tremont at Puritan Avenue.

CB 10 voted against the plan after the Throggs Neck Merchants Association rallied people to oppose it, according to the Bronx Times. “DOT stated that it would be happy to abide with the CB 10 decision,” the paper reported.

A year after DOT abandoned the East Tremont project, a hit-and-run driver killed Nin, 26, while he was riding his bike about a block away from where Figueroa was hit.

At a memorial event for Nin last month, City Council Member James Vacca blamed CB 10 for derailing the East Tremont improvements. Then on July 11 he wrote to DOT Bronx Borough Commissioner Constance Moran [PDF], telling the agency to follow through on the project:

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TA: City Hall’s Spending Decisions Are Limiting Life-Saving Street Designs

Transportation Alternatives says the de Blasio administration’s failure to fully fund Vision Zero street improvements is limiting the number of split-phase traffic signals DOT can install to prevent collisions at dangerous intersections.

Mayor Bill de Blasio

Mayor Bill de Blasio

In June, 30-year-old cyclist Olga Cook was killed by an allegedly drunk driver who made a right turn across the Hudson River Greenway at Chambers Street, one of several spots where motor vehicle traffic is allowed to encroach on one of the busiest bike routes in the United States. Crashes at these conflict points are common, often resulting in injury and death for cyclists who use the greenway.

In a statement released today, TA Executive Director Paul White says Cook’s death could have been prevented with split-phase signals at Chambers and West streets, to prevent turning drivers and greenway cyclists traveling straight ahead from entering the intersection at the same time.

The same principle applies to designing safe intersections for pedestrians. Nearly a third of pedestrian and cyclist deaths in NYC are caused by turning drivers who fail to yield, according to TA.

“Shared-phase traffic lights do not work,” said White, “just as shared lanes for drivers and people on bikes do not work.”

Data from street redesigns with protected bike lanes — where some intersections features split-phase signals and others do not — indicates that total crashes resulting in injury decline twice as much at intersections with split phases.

After Cook’s death, DOT told the Tribeca Tribune the agency is “studying the area for safety enhancement, including a right turn lane and signal phasing upgrades.”

White points out there are hundreds of intersections across the city that need safety upgrades, but those fixes won’t happen on the timetable prescribed by Vision Zero because Mayor de Blasio denied the City Council’s request to boost the DOT budget for street improvements. The most recent city budget also cut funding for DOT Traffic Operations staff by 2 percent, according to TA.

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Albany Failed to Act on Safe Streets, So de Blasio’s Gotta Do It on His Own

With the Albany session over and legislative leaders failing to advance a bill to add 60 speed cameras in NYC, 2016 is going to be the first full calendar year since 2012 in which the city does not expand its automated speed enforcement program.

Mayor de Blasio and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg can’t let a disappointing session in Albany spoil progress on street safety.

Advocates put together an impressive coalition for speed cameras, and they’ll be back fighting for a better enforcement program next session. If it wasn’t clear already, though, it is now: New York City has to implement street safety policy as if no help is coming from Albany. If the governor and legislative leaders come through in the future, so much the better. But their political calculus is too obscure and unpredictable to depend on.

The rollout of NYC’s complement of 140 speed cameras coincided with a 22 percent decline in traffic deaths from 2013 to 2015. Without new speed cameras this year, DOT’s street safety programs will have to shoulder more of the load to keep the positive trend going.

Despite a new city budget that grew by $3.6 billion dollars, however, DOT’s street safety programs are not in line for much of a boost. The de Blasio administration failed to budget for the 25 percent increase in funding for low-cost, fast-build street redesigns that the City Council requested in the spring.

It’s not like City Hall is scrounging around for loose change. The administration has set aside $325 million over the next few years for ferries (ferries projected to get fewer riders than the city’s 40th-busiest bus route). And if you think the $2.5 billion BQX streetcar is really going to “pay for itself,” I have a bridge over Newtown Creek to sell you. A budget boost for safe streets was just not a priority.

That leaves one resource the de Blasio administration can draw from to accelerate change on the streets: willpower. DOT may not have more money to spend, but the agency can do more with the money at its disposal if it has a firmer mandate from de Blasio to redesign dangerous streets.

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