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Posts from the "Bill de Blasio" Category

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Next Week: DOT to Preview Ped Safety Improvements for 96th and Broadway


The public will hear from DOT next week at a Community Board 7 meeting on proposed improvements at Broadway and 96th Street, after three pedestrians were fatally struck by drivers at or near the intersection this month.

“Safety is our top priority and we are actively identifying and evaluating a range of options for the area,” said DOT spokesperson Scott Gastel in an email. ”As we mentioned last week, we are developing a proposal with pedestrian safety enhancements for the intersection of West 96th Street and Broadway, and will present it to Community Board 7 as soon as possible.”

The last major change to this stretch of Broadway came when DOT hacked away nine feet of sidewalk as part of a project that added a new subway entrance in the middle of the street. Clarence Eckerson and Streetsblog Publisher Mark Gorton interviewed pedestrians about crowded conditions on Broadway for Streetfilms when that plan was revealed in 2006, when Iris Weinshall was DOT commissioner.

There were 73 pedestrian and cyclist injuries at Broadway and 96th between 1995 and 2009, according to Transportation Alternatives’ CrashStat. NYPD data mapped by NYC Crashmapper showed 72 crashes there from August of 2011 through October 2013, an average of 2.67 crashes per month. Eight pedestrians and four vehicle occupants were injured at the intersection during that period.

The area got the attention of Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton when a spate of crashes resulted in the deaths of pedestrians Alexander Shear, Samantha Lee, and Cooper Stock. Shear was struck by an MTA bus driver at Broadway and 96th; Lee was hit by an ambulance driver on 96th between Broadway and West End Avenue; and 9-year-old Stock and his father were run over by a cab driver at West End Avenue and 97th Street.

Residents and electeds last week demanded safer streets at a vigil for Stock and Shear. Unfortunately, the city’s response to this point has been to focus on the behavior of those who are being injured and killed. At a CompStat meeting this morning, Bratton again praised the 24th precinct for “taking action” and doing an “excellent job” by ticketing pedestrians at Broadway and 96th. De Blasio made similar comments after the precinct summonsed 18 pedestrians and five motorists last weekend, when a senior ended up bloodied and criminally charged after he was stopped by police for crossing against the signal.

“It will take time to fix that very dangerous intersection,” Bratton said, according to the NYPD Twitter feed.

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84-Year-Old Jaywalker Could Get Jail While Deadly Drivers Get Off Scot-Free

Kang Wong, the 84-year-old pedestrian left bloodied during last weekend’s NYPD jaywalking crackdown, was arrested and charged by police. If convicted, Wong could get a jail term for an incident that stemmed from crossing the street without a walk signal. At the same time, the drivers who killed three pedestrians in the 24th precinct in the last two weeks face no criminal charges.

Kang Wong could get a year in jail for a jaywalking stop that resulted in his arrest. With nine pedestrians and a cyclist killed in 2014, no motorists were charged by NYPD or city DAs for taking a life. Photo: New York Post

Kang Wong could get a year in jail for a jaywalking stop that resulted in his arrest. With nine pedestrians and a cyclist killed in 2014, no motorists were charged by NYPD or city DAs with homicide or assault. Photo: Post

Wong was one of 18 pedestrians ticketed by the precinct over the weekend, according to WCBS. Five motorists were also summonsed for unknown violations. To put that in perspective, the 24th precinct ticketed 58 drivers for speeding in 2013. So precinct officers issued a third as many summonses to pedestrians in one weekend as they did to speeding motorists in all of 2013.

Mayor de Blasio said ticketing pedestrians is not part of his Vision Zero strategy, but he endorsed the 24th precinct’s approach. Said de Blasio on Monday: “There is no larger policy in terms of jaywalking and ticketing and jaywalking. That’s not part of our plan. But it is something a local precinct commander can act on, if they perceive there to be a real danger.”

“The [24th] precinct commander is doing exactly what we want our precinct commanders to do,” de Blasio told WCBS.

Kang Wong was charged with obstruction of government administration, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct, according to reports. The first two charges are class A misdemeanors — more severe than a first-time DWI charge. Obstruction of government administration carries a sentence of up to a year in jail. While Wong is looking at jail time, the Times reported Sunday that unnamed prosecutors blamed vehicular crimes statutes and the courts for their failure to charge drivers who killed three pedestrians and a cyclist last weekend.

In each case, detectives from the Police Department’s collision investigation squad examined the scenes. Commissioner William J. Bratton said last week he would expand investigations of serious crashes, an effort that began last year. But such cases remain difficult to bring, prosecutors say, and have grown more so in recent years as the state Court of Appeals has limited the ability to make serious charges stick against drivers.

Of the 10 crashes that have killed pedestrians and cyclists in 2014, no drivers were charged with homicide or assault. It is true that judges and juries tend to side with those who commit vehicular crimes, but prosecutors who are complaining to the press about the difficulty of securing convictions against motorists should also be making their case to Albany legislators, who have the power to change laws.

To seriously reduce traffic injuries and deaths, the mayor’s office, NYPD, and city district attorneys must be in sync. With 10 people dead, no motorists held accountable, and a pedestrian jailed, what New Yorkers have seen so far in 2014 is closer to chaos.

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Watch Bill de Blasio’s “Vision Zero” Announcement

In 2013, NYC recorded a record-low 333 homicides, yet at least 286 people lost their lives to traffic violence. At a press conference yesterday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said it’s “shocking to see how much those two numbers correspond.”

In announcing his first steps to implement Vision Zero, the goal of eliminating traffic deaths, he said, “The first obligation of government is to protect the health and safety of our people, and this is an area we simply have to do better. We think there is an epidemic here, there has been an epidemic of traffic fatalties and it can’t go on. And the time to start change is now.”

The mayor made the announcement near the site where 8-year-old Noshat Nahian was killed by an unlicensed truck driver in a crosswalk last month while walking to school. The site is not far from where three other Queens youth have tragically had their lives taken from them. The mayor met with the families of many people who’ve lost loved ones to traffic violence.

Here we’ve assembled some highlights of the event, which also included NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton and incoming NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

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De Blasio Rolls Out a Multi-Agency Approach to Reducing Traffic Violence

Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks with the family of Noshat Nahian, an 8-year-old killed while walking to school last month. Photo: NYC Mayor's Office

Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks with the family of Noshat Nahian, an 8-year-old killed while walking to school last month. Photo: NYC Mayor’s Office

Calling traffic fatalities an “epidemic” that deserves immediate attention from the city, Mayor Bill de Blasio launched his administration’s “Vision Zero” agenda this afternoon, setting out to eliminate traffic deaths within a decade. The most important news to come out of today’s announcement is that his administration will enlist multiple agencies to tackle the multifaceted problem of traffic violence. A working group led by the city’s police, transportation, health, and taxi commissioners is tasked with coming up with an action plan by February 15.

De Blasio also announced more immediate steps. School-zone speed cameras, which have been issuing warnings since they were installed in September, will begin issuing tickets tomorrow, the mayor said, and the police will begin prioritizing enforcement of the most dangerous infractions: Speeding and failure to yield to pedestrians. In addition, NYPD will be increasing the size of its highway division — which investigates crashes and performs much of the department’s traffic enforcement — to 270 officers, an increase of 50 percent; already, the unit has increased its staff size by 10 percent, up from 170 officers.

De Blasio made the announcement this afternoon at PS 152 in Woodside, where 8-year-old Noshat Nahian was walking last month when, crossing Northern Boulevard with his sister, he was struck and killed by an unlicensed tractor-trailer truck driver. Flanked by Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, incoming Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, elected officials, and families of traffic violence victims, de Blasio began his remarks by saying this issue is important to him as a parent. ”Every one of us thinks: ‘What if that was my child?’” he said. “That is, in fact, how we have to make public policy and how we have to implement public policy.”

“There is an epidemic of traffic fatalities and it can’t go on,” de Blasio said, noting that traffic fatalities are the leading cause of injury-related death for NYC children and that the city’s plunging homicide rate — 333 murders last year — is closing in on the number of traffic fatalities, which last year’s preliminary data puts at 286 people.

“The families joining us today have turned their grief into action,” de Blasio continued. “We are standing with them and we’re starting immediately to make changes to protect our children, and to protect all New Yorkers.”

In tone and substance, today’s announcement marked a notable departure from the days when NYC DOT was the sole city agency taking traffic violence seriously. The interagency task force will convene over the next month before releasing a report with “concrete plans” to carry out de Blasio’s Vision Zero campaign promises, namely: Dedicating more NYPD resources to traffic enforcement, improving design and enforcement along 50 dangerous corridors and intersections annually, expanding the number of 20 mph zones, and formulating a legislative agenda that includes securing home rule over traffic enforcement cameras.

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De Blasio Traffic Safety Announcement Coming Up in Queens Today

This afternoon, Mayor de Blasio is expected to be joined by Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg at a press conference about traffic safety. The event is at PS 152, near the site where 8-year-old Noshat Nahian was killed by an unlicensed tractor-trailer driver last month.

 

We’ll see what the details are, but it’s encouraging to see the multi-agency participation in this announcement. You could count on one hand the number of times Ray Kelly showed up at a public event about traffic safety.

Streetsblog’s Stephen Miller and Streetfilms’ Clarence Eckerson will be filing reports from the event, as will most of the City Hall press corps.

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Bratton: NYPD Will Devote “Intensive Focus” to Traffic Violence

At a press conference this afternoon for the ceremonial swearing in of Bill Bratton as police commissioner, Mayor Bill de Blasio took the microphone to express his administration’s commitment to its Vision Zero goal of eliminating traffic fatalities within ten years. Bratton followed up with more remarks about how the department will prioritize street safety, saying NYPD will have an “intensive focus on traffic issues.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton talk about their commitment to traffic safety. Photo: NYC Mayor's Office

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton discussed their commitment to traffic safety this afternoon. Photo: NYC Mayor’s Office

The difference between Ray Kelly’s message of complacency couldn’t have been more stark.

Today’s remarks come a day after incoming Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg stopped on her way to de Blasio’s inauguration to speak with parents who lost children to traffic violence.

De Blasio said this afternoon that Trottenberg and Bratton will become “fast friends” as the administration pursues Vision Zero, its goal of eliminating traffic deaths within ten years.

Midway through the event this afternoon, de Blasio, unprompted by any reporter, jumped in to discuss traffic safety. Here are de Blasio’s comments, in full:

I just wanted to add one point. I really appreciate the fact that the commissioner is focused on some of the challenges we face when it comes to pedestrian fatalities and traffic fatalities. He’s a big believer in the vision in the direction that we’re going to take this city in, the Vision Zero concept. Gave a really fantastic speech just days before we made the final selection, I think it was at NYU, on that very topic.

And I had the honor of naming our new transportation commissioner, Polly Trottenberg, a few days ago, and I can tell you that Commissioner Trottenberg and Commissioner Bratton are going to become fast friends as they focus on –

“She already lassoed me to the ground last night,” Bratton interjected, to a smile from de Blasio, who continued:

See? She’s a forceful leader. And so there’s going to be a real focus on taking on that challenge. It’s not crime, necessarily. Some end up being considered criminal incidents, but others are not. But it is a huge public safety problem and an area where we’re going to focus a lot of energy.

Bratton then took the podium:

Mr. Mayor, just looking at the reports this morning, that we’ve had at the beginning of the year two homicides and we’ve also had two traffic fatalities. Last year, I think the figures were pretty close. I haven’t seen the end-of-year figures of the number of people whose lives are lost in traffic-related incidents. A life lost is a life lost. A family grieves. So that intensive focus on traffic issues is going to be one of the areas the mayor’s asked us to prioritize.

At the November traffic safety forum de Blasio referenced, Bratton told the audience, “More can be done in this critical area. The time for this issue has come.”

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We Know Where NYC’s Next Mayor Will Live, But How Will He Get to Work?

Earlier today Bill de Blasio settled one of the big questions of the transition period, announcing that he’s going to move into the mayoral residence at Gracie Mansion. Next question: How’s he going to get to work?

Photo: NPR

Michael Bloomberg, who lives in his Upper East Side townhouse while using Gracie for special events, made a habit of riding the Lexington Avenue express down to City Hall for 12 years, though he gets a 22-block chauffeured escort to the train. De Blasio is a self-described motorist whose morning routine, until now, has involved driving his son Dante from home in Park Slope to high school in Downtown Brooklyn. Taking transit to work would be an adjustment.

Gracie Mansion is not very transit-accessible. It’s all the way by the East River — four and a half long blocks plus two short blocks from the Lexington Avenue express stop at 86th Street. But an invigorating walk to the train would give de Blasio a better feel for pedestrian conditions in the city than most local electeds — who tend to either get driven everywhere or drive themselves around with the guarantee of free parking at the end of every trip, thanks to placards. A mayor who makes walking part of his commute could start each workday with some on-the-ground observation of what it will take to eliminate pedestrian deaths.

When de Blasio has a morning meeting at the governor’s office on 41st and Third, a better option might be the M15 Select Bus Service, which runs downtown on Second Avenue. And taking the M15 home, even if it’s just once a week, would send an even more powerful message than riding the train.

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Bill Bratton Will Be the Police Chief Tasked With Implementing Vision Zero

Photo: Transportation Alternatives

Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has selected Bill Bratton to serve as New York City’s next police commissioner. Bratton occupied the same post from 1994 to 1996 under the Giuliani administration and is credited with pioneering data-driven policing techniques. After Bratton left, one of the innovations his deputies introduced was TrafficStat, a system that tracked crash data, held precinct commanders accountable for street safety performance, and brought different agencies together to address problems.

De Blasio pledged during his campaign to adopt a “Vision Zero” strategy for street safety — setting out to eliminate traffic deaths in New York City. In 12 years of Ray Kelly’s leadership, NYPD street safety policy stagnated and regressed. Bratton will have to make some major changes to realize the Vision Zero goal.

TrafficStat meetings, once open to the public, have become closed-door sessions. Despite advances in information technology, NYPD has fought against making basic information available about where crashes are happening and what causes them. As firearm violence has declined, traffic deaths now outnumber murders by guns, but relatively few resources are devoted to enforcement on surface streets and crash investigations. When police do look into fatal or injurious crashes, the investigations are cursory and shielded from public view. Simply put, Ray Kelly’s NYPD did not take traffic violence seriously.

In remarks at today’s press conference announcing his appointment, Bratton acknowledged that traffic violence poses as grave a risk to New Yorkers as other types of crime. “This year, the number of people who will die on our streets will almost equal the number of people murdered,” he said. “This will require an expanding commitment. The mayor has committed to that going forward.”

At a forum organized by Transportation Alternatives last month, Bratton said “more can be done” in the “critical area” of traffic enforcement. While he said jaywalking enforcement was a useful tactic when he ran LAPD, he also said that “one of the great things about this city is that it is so much a walking city.”

Advocates are optimistic that Bratton will make the prevention of traffic deaths and injuries a higher priority than his predecessor. TA Executive Director Paul Steely White sent this statement:

To achieve his Vision Zero goal, Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio is smart to appoint Bill Bratton to lead the NYPD. Traffic deaths and serious injuries are epidemic in New York City, and the police department has a significant role to play in eliminating them. More New Yorkers are killed in traffic than murdered by guns. At a recent panel discussion presented by T.A. and NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy & Management, Bill Bratton demonstrated that he understands the urgent need to use data-driven traffic enforcement across the city to target reckless and deadly drivers and save lives.

For years now, NYC has been a national leader in re-engineering streets for greater safety, while Ray Kelly’s NYPD has lagged behind. Soon, it’s going to be Bill Bratton’s police department.

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De Blasio Selects Anthony Shorris as His Top Deputy

Earlier today Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio named Anthony Shorris to the post of first deputy mayor. An experienced public official whose resume in city government extends back to the Koch administration, Shorris will be tasked with the day-to-day running of the city. His selection is seen as reassuring the city’s business establishment without alienating de Blasio’s progressive base.

As the Tri-State Transportation Campaign noted, Shorris has some transportation-related bullet points on his CV. In 2007, he was appointed to head the Port Authority, where he carried out Governor Eliot Spitzer’s agenda. In that capacity, he served on the Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission, which crafted and approved the congestion pricing proposal that Albany legislators eventually rejected (contrary to the popular belief that it was all Michael Bloomberg’s idea). He was also a booster of expanding Stewart Airport in the Hudson Valley.

It wasn’t long before Spitzer was shamed out of office and David Paterson replaced Shorris with his own pick. In his relatively brief tenure, transit advocates say Shorris was an accessible agency chief — something that can’t be said for everyone who’s occupied the post.

While Shorris will certainly hold some sway over transportation and planning decisions, the full extent isn’t clear yet. Dana Rubinstein at Capital New York reports that “the police commissioner and education chancellor will take their orders directly from the mayor, but the majority of other commissioners and deputy mayors will report to Shorris.” Under Bloomberg, the posts with more direct influence on agencies like NYC DOT and the planning department were the deputy mayor for operations and the deputy mayor for economic development.

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From Promise to Progress in De Blasio’s NYC: Safer Streets and Better Transit

Last month, local activists and the families of New Yorkers killed by dangerous drivers delivered 4,127 letters to then-candidate de Blasio, declaring, “I bike, I walk & I vote.” (Photo: Dmitry Gudkov.)

Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio ran on a platform with ambitious goals to reduce traffic deaths, improve bus service, and increase bicycling. As New York City’s first mayoral transition in 12 years gets underway, Streetsblog is asking advocates and experts how Mayor-elect de Blasio should follow through and implement a progressive transportation policy agenda. First up: Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives.

Now that he’s won the mayoral election, Bill de Blasio is positioned to change New York City’s streets – for good. His challenge will be to take the safety improvements we’ve seen in a handful of neighborhoods and expand them across the five boroughs, bringing his vision of equity to the streets we all share.

How can he do it? Well, he’s already provided the answers – in his campaign pledges to improve quality of life and reduce traffic fatalities by bringing safe streets to all of New York’s 400 neighborhoods.

Four years from now, millions of New Yorkers, from Co-Op City to the neighborhoods along Queens Boulevard and Richmond Terrace, should have safe and livable streets. We should expect that in 2017, when people talk about a typical New York City residential neighborhood, they’ll be thinking of one with 20 mph zones, Play Streets, and bustling, people-oriented commercial corridors that boost local economic activity more than any EDC-funded parking lot ever did.

Those safety improvements throughout the city will mean thousands of injuries prevented, and hundreds of lives saved. We’ll see fewer TV news reports about parents grieving for lost children, because the number of pedestrian fatalities will have fallen dramatically during the de Blasio administration.

These goals fit perfectly into Bill de Blasio’s vision of ending the disparities between what he has referred to as New York’s “two cities.” Now, residents just have to hold the Mayor-elect to the promises he’s made.

When he outlined his transportation policy, candidate de Blasio promised to “prioritize long-neglected parts of the outer boroughs, alleviate dangerous conditions that make streets unsafe, and work toward a more efficient and flexible network that delivers real choice for New Yorkers.”

Let’s begin with those “dangerous conditions,” because safety should be the principle that governs every move Bill de Blasio makes when it comes to transportation.

The Mayor-elect’s most remarkable campaign pledge on transportation was his commitment to “Vision Zero.” The goal is to get New York to the point where the city has no fatalities or serious injuries caused by car crashes by the year 2024. Specific proposals include more Neighborhood Slow Zones, along with a crackdown on reckless driving, speeding and failure to yield to pedestrians.

To make Vision Zero a reality, de Blasio must appoint a police commissioner who will get serious about enforcing the city’s traffic laws. The next leader of the NYPD needs to recognize the changing public safety landscape in New York City. Crime and terrorism need to be prevented, but so does unlawful driving and disregard for life and limb on our roads. After all, more people are killed in traffic than murdered by guns in New York City.

Analysts know what causes collisions and where and when they happen most frequently. Just as the NYPD uses CompStat to target its resources to combat crime, the next police commissioner must use data-driven traffic enforcement consistently across the precincts to target the most deadly violations.

There’s another significant commissioner appointment that Mayor-elect de Blasio will be making in the coming weeks: the decision about who should lead the city’s Department of Transportation. The right commissioner can build on Mayor Bloomberg’s transportation legacy, but the wrong person could stall the rollout of better streets to New Yorkers who need them most. DOT needs a skilled manager with a commitment to using transportation policy to realize the Mayor-elect’s economic and social goals.

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