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Posts from the Bill de Blasio Category


Advocates, Mayor de Blasio Fend Off TWU Attack on Traffic Safety Laws

If you walk or bike in New York City, you can thank Families for Safe Streets, Transportation Alternatives, and Mayor Bill de Blasio for stopping a Transport Workers Union attempt to weaken traffic safety laws.

A bill from State Senator Martin Dilan and Assembly Member Walter T. Mosley would have prohibited police from detaining bus and taxi drivers who harm pedestrians and cyclists who have the right of way. It would have also stopped police statewide from arresting bus and taxi drivers suspected of other crimes, including assault and reckless endangerment, and according to Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance would have made it more difficult for law enforcement to bring drunk driving cases.

The bill was intended to keep bus drivers from being handcuffed after injuring or killing someone in violation of the city’s Right of Way Law, which took effect last August. MTA bus drivers killed eight people in crosswalks last year. To this point MTA bus drivers haven’t fatally struck anyone in 2015.

TA staff and members of Families for Safe Streets, who have lost loved ones to traffic violence, traveled to Albany to convince legislators to oppose the bill. Mayor de Blasio and Mothers Against Drunk Driving filed memos of opposition.

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De Blasio Gets More Cars Out of Central Park and Prospect Park

Mayor de Blasio

Mayor de Blasio with Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan, and Park Slope Parents founder Susan Fox at this morning’s announcement. Image via NYC Mayor’s Office

Starting in a few weeks, people will be able to enjoy the Central Park loop north of 72nd Street and the west side of Prospect Park year-round without having to worry about motor vehicle traffic, Mayor de Blasio and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg announced this morning. The changes will significantly reduce motor vehicle traffic in both parks while stopping short of making either completely car-free.

“Today we’re taking a big step toward returning our parks to the people,” de Blasio said at a presser in Prospect Park this morning. “We’re creating safe zones for kids to play in, for bikers, for joggers, for everyone.”

For the last few summers, the city has kept cars out of the Central Park loop above 72nd Street. On June 29 that car-free zone will become permanent. The Prospect Park West Drive will go car-free July 6.

The road on the east side of Prospect Park — which is also the less affluent side of the park — will remain a traffic shortcut during the weekday morning rush, as will 72nd Street and the southwest segment of the Central Park loop. The Center Drive, linking Sixth Avenue to 72nd Street, will stay open to traffic from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every weekday.

De Blasio framed the changes as the next step in the progression toward completely car-free parks. “A lot of people looked forward to this day and look forward to us taking further steps in the future,” he said.

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Council Calls on de Blasio to Double “Great Streets” Redesign Funds


Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez says Mayor de Blasio should increase the city’s budget for major street safety redesigns.

The City Council wants Mayor de Blasio to double funding for DOT capital projects to overhaul the city’s most dangerous streets and save more lives, faster.

At a council budget hearing last week, transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez called for additional funds in the executive budget for the “Great Streets” program. As of now the mayor’s budget proposes $250 million for safety improvements on streets selected for the initiative: Queens Boulevard, the Grand Concourse, and Atlantic Avenue and Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn. Motorists killed 34 pedestrians, and seriously injured 215, on those four streets from 2009 to 2013.

In April, the City Council’s preliminary budget called for a much larger “Great Streets” allocation of $500 million. Rodriguez and the council reiterated that demand in a statement published by the Daily News today. “With $250 million additional dollars we can more than double the amount of redesigned roadways,” said Rodriguez. “Though the executive budget was a good start, the more money we put in, the more results we will attain.”

De Blasio has shown some flexibility in budgeting for streets. Last month, the mayor announced an accelerated DOT repaving schedule at a conference on Staten Island, but did not mention Vision Zero.

We asked the mayor’s office about the council Great Streets ask. De Blasio spokesperson Wiley Norvell sent us this statement:

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De Blasio on Right of Way Law: Safety Comes First, Not Placating Unions

Looks like the Right of Way Law isn’t going anywhere.

Testifying in the state legislature earlier this year, Mayor de Blasio was compelled to defend the new city law that makes it a misdemeanor for drivers to injure a pedestrian or cyclist who has the right-of-way. The law had come under attack from the Transport Workers Union, which wants to exempt MTA bus drivers, and the TWU contributes to a lot of Albany campaigns.

Back in New York City, a City Council bill to give the TWU what it wants currently has 25 sponsors, one shy of a majority. With the TWU about to run ads attacking de Blasio, and Council Member Rory Lancman reportedly set to introduce a bill that would add other exemptions, the Right of Way Law is still under threat. But as long as City Hall stands firm, the law should be safe from tampering.

At a press conference on Staten Island today, a reporter asked the mayor about the new TWU ads. De Blasio didn’t equivocate in his response:

They’re absolutely misleading and I think they really should think twice before they continue to spread this misinformation. We made very, very clear that public employees are going to be treated like any other citizens.

There are more rigorous laws. Why? Because people were dying. You know, seniors were dying. Children were dying or being grievously injured. Job one of all of us in public service is to protect people’s safety, not to placate unions.

So, the bottom line here is — we said, if the officer on the scene comes to the determination that it was an unavoidable accident — as with any civilian — there is no arrest. If the officer on the scene determines that it was an avoidable accident, and it would merit arrest for a civilian, there would be an arrest — even for a public employee.

Very obvious example — and I believe a number of the tragic instances we’ve had in the last year fit this example: The pedestrian had the right of way. You know, there was a walk sign. The pedestrian was crossing [with] the walk sign. That should not be a situation where a pedestrian is killed.

So, if the officer on the scene comes to the determination that that is… worthy of arrest, they will engage in the arrest. They will do it respectfully. They will do it in an honorable manner as humanly possible. But it is the obligation of the NYPD to treat everyone equally and they will.


If DOT Can Accelerate Street Repaving, It Can Accelerate Safety Projects

Mayor Bill de Blasio made a visit yesterday to one of the city’s more car-dependent areas, on Staten Island’s south shore, to tout an additional $242 million in his budget for street repaving. The additional money will bring the city’s repaving plan to a total 1,200 lane-miles through June 2016, a 20 percent boost over previous projections.

That street might be smoother, but will it be any safer? Photo: NYC Mayor's Office/Flickr

That street might be smoother, but will it be any safer? Photo: NYC Mayor’s Office/Flickr

Well-maintained streets are good news for bus riders, cyclists, and pedestrians in addition to motorists — but will the city take this opportunity to accelerate its street redesign schedule too? Advocates are urging the city to break down the silos between its resurfacing and safety teams to quickly roll out basic improvements for walking and biking.

The mayor didn’t touch on Vision Zero during his remarks yesterday, but the press release announcing the new funds did briefly mention street safety. “As DOT crews mill and repave more streets,” City Hall said, “it provides opportunities to enhance safety on roadways by improving roadway markings including crosswalks, furthering the Vision Zero initiative for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.”

“More repaving supports Vision Zero because it gets us closer to a state of good repair for pavement markings, in addition to smoother roads,” said DOT spokesperson Bonny Tsang. “Crosswalks and bike lane markings added to new asphalt last longer than [on] older asphalt.”

Advocates say DOT can take it a few steps farther by better coordinating the agency’s repaving and safety programs. “All resurfacing work should be seen as an opportunity to provide short-term safety improvements such as bike lanes, lane reductions, visibility improvements, and more room for pedestrians,” said Transportation Alternatives Deputy Director Caroline Samponaro. “By integrating the repaving and the Safety Improvement Project schedule, we can dramatically increase short term safety improvements on many more streets.”

“Resurfacing and street safety improvement projects serve two different functions,” Tsang said. DOT does make minor adjustments after repaving, she said, for example, narrowing car lanes to add a buffer on part of the Sixth Avenue bike lane. Repaving is also often scheduled before a street safety project is implemented, such as on West End Avenue, Tsang said.

With City Hall committing more funds to resurfacing, advocates want to see a concurrent increase for street redesigns. As budget negotiations between the mayor and the City Council wrap up, TA is looking for de Blasio to expand the Vision Zero Great Streets program, which will redesign and rebuild four major arterial streets. The preliminary City Council budget proposal recommended doubling the funds for Vision Zero Great Streets. TA is also asking DOT to commit to implementing more than 50 street safety projects each year.


De Blasio NYCHA Proposal: More Space for People, Less Subsidized Parking

Mayor de Blasio’s plan to stabilize the finances of the New York City Housing Authority includes higher, but still subsidized, parking fees and a promise to develop a mix of market-rate and affordable housing on under-utilized property, including parking lots.

A conceptual plan for East River Houses would replace parking with new housing and retail. Image: NYCHA [PDF]

A concept for East River Houses would replace parking with new housing and retail. Image: NYCHA [PDF]

The mayor announced that the city will be developing new housing on NYCHA property. De Blasio took pains to distinguish the levels of subsidized housing in his proposal from an un-implemented Bloomberg administration proposal to develop housing on NYCHA property in Manhattan.

The new development plan would build 10,000 units in buildings where all residences would have below-market rents, plus about 7,000 residences in buildings that would be a 50-50 mix of market-rate and below-market units.

It’s an open question, however, exactly which NYCHA properties will be the site of new development. De Blasio said the city will begin announcing development sites in September. The New York Times reported that the first sites would be at Van Dyke and Ingersoll houses in Brooklyn and Mill Brook Houses in the Bronx.

The authority says the developments would “transform underutilized NYCHA-owned property,” including parking lots and other street-facing parcels like trash or storage areas, over the next 10 years. Parking lots are particularly promising, since they cover more than 467 acres of NYCHA property, according to a parking reform study prepared for the Institute for Public Architecture last year.

The Bloomberg administration’s development plan would have replaced any parking removed to make way for new housing. The de Blasio administration has not yet replied to a question asking if that will be the case with its plan.

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De Blasio Deputy Anthony Shorris Ducks Questions on MTA Funding

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s One New York plan, focused on the intersection of income inequality and the environment, doesn’t hesitate to make big recommendations to the MTA, like a new subway line. To pay for those plans, de Blasio will need Governor Cuomo and the state legislature to take action, but the mayor isn’t putting forward his own ideas about how to fund the MTA.

First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris. Photo: Wikipedia

While the Move NY toll reform plan aligns with the mayor’s environmental and equity goals, de Blasio has avoided taking a position on it. Today, his top deputy wouldn’t elaborate on City Hall’s position except to note that the mayor is “leading the fight” to pass a federal transportation bill.

After his morning keynote at the annual Regional Plan Association assembly at the Waldorf-Astoria, First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris continued the administration’s waltz around the Move NY Fair Plan during a press scrum.

“Look, I think one thing we’ve said from the beginning is the full funding of the MTA capital program is essential to the city, to this mayor’s agenda, and to the whole One New York plan, and even more broadly, to the whole region,” Shorris said. “Everybody’s going to have to figure out how to come together and do that. That’s the city, the state, the MTA itself.”

Then Shorris shifted to Congress.

“It’s also very important that the transportation bill in Washington be passed. There’s actually a critical federal component,” Shorris said.

I asked if that meant the city wouldn’t talk about its transit funding preferences until a new transportation bill passes Congress. “No, it means that we all, though, have to fight to get that transportation bill funded,” Shorris replied, “and the mayor’s leading that fight right now.”

When it comes to funding the MTA, however, federal policy is the wrong place to focus. With power in Washington split between the Obama White House and the GOP Congress, federal transit funding isn’t about to change much. The arena where the mayor has allies and can actually make a difference is Albany.

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De Blasio: Everyone in This City Has to Yield to Pedestrians

At the press event today announcing the de Blasio administration update to NYC’s citywide sustainability plan (now called “OneNYC” — more on that soon!), the mayor fielded a question about bus design and whether bus drivers can be expected to spot and avoid striking pedestrians in crosswalks. The unspoken subtext was the Transport Workers Union campaign to carve out an exemption for MTA bus drivers in the city’s Right of Way Law, which makes it a misdemeanor for drivers to injure people walking or biking with the right of way.

Here’s the meat of de Blasio’s response — you can see it at about the 1:26 mark in this video:

As you know, we’re training a lot of people who work for the city of New York in how to be safer and better drivers. MTA we do not control. But I think there’s an opportunity to work with the MTA to figure out what will help these drivers to do their work more safely. I think that the whole picture should be looked at — the routes that they cover, the schedules they’re on, the kind of training they need. If the equipment creates a problem, obviously — what’s more important than safety? What’s more important than saving people’s lives and avoiding horribly injured people? This is what we come here first to do in government.

So if it turns out that the design of the buses creates a safety problem — can we fix that with different mirrors or other adjustments? That’s a valid question. But in the here and now, our message to everyone in this city, whether they work for the city, or they work for the MTA, or a private individual, is you have to drive safely. You have to yield to pedestrians. You have to respect that there’s new laws now that clearly penalize those who do not yield to pedestrians. We’re here to save lives and everybody has to be a part of that.


Will de Blasio and Mark-Viverito Back Effort to Fully Fund Vision Zero?


City Hall will have to double its commitment to street redesigns that prioritize safety in order to dramatically reduce traffic deaths on NYC’s most dangerous streets in our lifetimes, advocates say. That level of spending could be accomplished with a relatively small shift in resources in the city’s total capital budget.

Transportation Alternatives has drafted a letter to Mayor de Blasio asking the administration to dedicate additional resources to redesigning the city’s most dangerous streets. On Monday, more than 100 volunteers for TA and Families For Safe Streets visited council members seeking their support, and so far 19 have signed on.

Advocates want the city to both double its planned investment in Vision Zero capital projects — permanent street redesigns cast in concrete — and scale up its “operational” projects — redesigns made with paint and other low-cost materials that can quickly bring down the death toll on city streets. They also emphasize the need for solid timetables for implementation, to ensure the city stays on track to meet its goals.

On the capital side, that would mean spending $2.4 billion every 10 years to overhaul the most dangerous streets. TA says that level of investment could comprehensively redesign the city’s arterial streets within 50 years.

While that would represent a large increase, it would not be a large share of the city’s total capital budget, which amounted to about $80 billion over the 10-year period from 2003 to 2012. A faster street reconstruction timetable could also save the city money in the long run by reducing lifecycle maintenance costs.

Mayor de Blasio’s “Great Streets” initiative committed $250 million over several years for redesigns of four arterials, including Queens Boulevard and the Grand Concourse, and the preliminary City Council budget recommends doubling that amount. That would be progress, but it’s no substitute for a detailed, long-term funding and implementation strategy.

Outside of the Great Streets program, for instance, DOT is planning just 50 Vision Zero projects a year citywide, some no bigger than a single intersection. That’s not nearly enough to meet the need for street safety upgrades.

“Neighborhoods across the five boroughs are really clamoring for safety improvements on local streets, so there’s an unprecedented demand for what we know are proven fixes,” says TA Deputy Director Caroline Samponaro. “That presents a challenge for the city, but it’s ultimately an opportunity for us to invest in what the next generation of New York City streets should look like.”

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Alleged Unlicensed Driver Kills Brooklyn Pedestrian While Fleeing Police

An unlicensed driver fleeing police crashed into another vehicle and killed 21-year-old Dave Jones on a Brooklyn sidewalk Monday, raising questions about whether the officers adhered to NYPD policy on vehicular pursuits.

Police pulled over 18-year-old Raymond Ramos near Schenectady Avenue and Sterling Place in Crown Heights after midnight Monday, according to DNAinfo.

As the officers approached, Ramos drove away. With police in pursuit, Ramos made it seven blocks before his car collided with another vehicle at the intersection of Nostrand Avenue and St. Johns Place, police said.

Both cars barreled up onto the sidewalk fatally plowing into a pedestrian who was walking north, a preliminary investigation by the NYPD showed.

Ramos hit Jones, who died of head injuries at Kings County Hospital. Three people in the other vehicle were injured, DNAinfo reported.

The Post also reported that, according to police, the crash occurred after Ramos “led cops on a brief chase.”

Ramos was charged with manslaughter, reckless endangerment, homicide, fleeing police, reckless driving, unlicensed driving, speeding, and other traffic infractions, according to court records. His next court appearance is set for Friday.

DNAinfo reported that, according to anonymous police sources, officers who pulled Ramos over “smelled marijuana coming from his vehicle,” but no charges were issued for impaired driving or drug possession.

There’s a lot we don’t know about what happened Monday. The crash happened about a mile from the location of the traffic stop. Judging from a Daily News photo that shows both vehicles overturned on the sidewalk, Ramos was driving at high speed at the time of impact. After Ramos fled the traffic stop, did officers chase him at speed through a Brooklyn neighborhood? Were they in pursuit when Ramos hit the second car? At the very least, an investigation is warranted to determine whether the pursuit conformed to protocol.

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