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Posts from the Bill de Blasio Category

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Tonight: Tell Mayor de Blasio to Step Up for Vision Zero

With New York City losing ground in the effort to eliminate traffic deaths, officials will join street safety advocates and victims of traffic violence tonight for Transportation Alternatives’ mass bike ride on Fifth Avenue.

The event is intended to prod Mayor de Blasio to “fund and fast-track” priority pedestrian improvements and protected bike lanes, and to urge to the mayor to direct NYPD to improve traffic enforcement and stop blaming victims of traffic crashes.

Elected officials expected to attend include Broooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and City Council members Jimmy Van Bramer and Helen Rosenthal.

Participants will gather at 6 p.m. at Fifth and E. 59th Street, and will ride to Washington Square Park. If you don’t ride, you can still represent at the beginning or end of the route. Wear something yellow if you can.

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De Blasio Doesn’t Need to Defend His Bike Policies, He Needs to Take Action

DOT will add 18 more miles of protected lanes to this map in 2016, but there's a lot of work left to do to create a cohesive citywide network of safe bike routes. Map: Jon Orcutt

DOT will add 18 more miles of protected lanes to this map in 2016, but there’s a lot of work left to do to create a cohesive citywide network of safe bike routes. Map: Jon Orcutt

Two days before a mass demonstration and bike ride to demand more action from the de Blasio administration to prevent cyclist deaths, the mayor and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg made a media play that seems designed to deflect pressure, announcing that the city is on track to build a record 18 miles of protected bike lanes this year.

With bicyclist deaths on the rise, the mayor should be redoubling his efforts to redesign streets for safer cycling in order to achieve his goal of zero traffic fatalities by 2024. Instead he’s getting defensive.

It’s true that DOT’s progress in 2016 stacks up well compared to previous years, and the current batch of projects includes important new protected bike lane segments on streets like Queens BoulevardAmsterdam Avenue, and Chrystie Street.

The fact remains, however, that recent additions to the bike network have not been sufficient to prevent a troubling increase in cyclist deaths this year. For two years running, de Blasio has refused to increase the budget for street redesigns and accelerate the implementation of projects that are proven to save lives. If the mayor chose to make street redesigns a higher priority, DOT could improve safety on many more streets each year.

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De Blasio Promises “More Visible Impact” on Reducing Traffic Deaths

Appearing with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer for his weekly “Ask the Mayor” segment this morning, Mayor de Blasio said the city’s Vision Zero effort is “still in its infancy” and that “there’s a lot more to do.” The remarks come at a time when the city’s two-year run of reducing traffic deaths seems increasingly unlikely to continue in 2016.

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Mayor Bill de Blasio

While the mayor said “traffic designs” are an important component of Vision Zero, he did not say that he intends to accelerate investment in safer street configurations.

A caller had asked de Blasio why the city’s Vision Zero policies do not target pedestrian behavior. “People have to take personal responsibilities,” the caller argued, suggesting that the city pursue pedestrian education or jaywalking enforcement.

While de Blasio said he himself had encountered “folks with the headphones on who walk into the crosswalk,” he attributed the source of danger to motorist behavior:

The core of the problem is not the pedestrian or the bicyclist, it’s the person who’s driving a vehicle and is speeding, or going through an intersection without yielding to pedestrians. That’s what Vision Zero is first addressing, but we have given tickets to bicyclists who endanger others, we have given tickets to pedestrians who put themselves in harm’s way and could create an accident that could affect many others. We’ll do that in some measure, but from a resource perspective and just in general, that’s not where our first energies are going to go.

The mayor went on to pledge that Vision Zero “is something we’re going to continue to deepen.”

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A Closer Look at How the L Train Shutdown Will Disrupt Transit Trips

This diagram shows the alternate routes commuters would have to take to travel between L Train stops. Image: BRT Planning International

Without L train service in Manhattan, trips that used to be a one-seat ride between these origins (y-axis) and destinations (x-axis) will involve multiple transfers and/or long walks. Image: BRT Planning International

The 18-month shutdown of the L train between North Brooklyn and Eighth Avenue may be three years away, but officials still have to move quickly to help hundreds of thousands of L passengers get where they need to go. So far, city officials and the MTA have yet to provide much in the way of specifics.

To get a better sense of how transit service should adapt for the L shutdown, Annie Weinstock and Walter Hook of BRT Planning International analyzed how the loss of the L train west of Bedford Avenue would affect trip times if no measures are taken. Trips between Brooklyn and Manhattan that are currently a one-seat ride will become far more convoluted and inconvenient, as you can see in the top matrix.

Translated into time lost, the effect is most severe for L train riders who cannot conveniently connect to other subway lines at Myrtle/Wyckoff or Broadway Junction. You can see in the matrix below (which includes travel times between a sample of L train stations and other stations) that people by the Brooklyn stops west of Myrtle/Wyckoff are most affected.

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De Blasio: Eastern Parkway Pedestrian Islands Posed Parade Safety Hazard

Mayor de Blasio speaking at yesterday's press conference. Photo: Flickr/NYC Mayor's Office

Mayor de Blasio said the city didn’t realize pedestrian islands on Eastern Parkway would interfere with an annual parade, so he had them torn up. Photo: NYC Mayor’s Office/Flickr

Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference yesterday that pedestrian islands on Eastern Parkway were removed because unnamed elected officials wanted to make room for West Indian Day Parade floats, which would have otherwise posed a risk to the public. The mayor indicated the median islands would not have been installed had the city realized they would interfere with the parade, which is held once a year.

The concrete islands at Eastern Parkway and Kingston and Brooklyn avenues were installed last December as part of a Safe Routes to School project 10 years in the making. The segment of Eastern Parkway where the islands were is a Vision Zero priority corridor with five priority intersections, including Kingston Avenue, where seven people were severely injured in traffic crashes from 2009 to 2013. Four pedestrians were killed on that section of the parkway during that time period.

Last Sunday the Post reported the islands would be removed at the request of parade organizers. On Tuesday the city ripped them up.

Yesterday the mayor’s office told Streetsblog removing the islands was “an NYPD directive.” NYPD referred us to DOT.

Ultimately, though, it was the mayor who authorized removing pedestrian infrastructure from one of Brooklyn’s most dangerous streets with no public process. At Wednesday’s presser on new J’Ouvert security measures, de Blasio said he was prompted by requests from elected officials, whom he did not name.

Here are de Blasio’s remarks, from a press conference transcript:

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De Blasio’s Office Ducks Responsibility for Erasing Eastern Pkwy Ped Islands

Pedestrian islands on Eastern Parkway barely lasted nine months before DOT ripped them up, and no one in the de Blasio administration will say why. Photo: David Meyer

Pedestrian islands on Eastern Parkway barely lasted nine months before DOT ripped them up, and no one in the de Blasio administration will say why. Photo: David Meyer

DOT removed pedestrian islands on Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights yesterday, undoing years of street safety advocacy work on the part of local residents and community board members with no public process, and no one in the de Blasio administration is taking responsibility.

Earlier this week, the Post reported that organizers of the West Indian Day Parade requested that concrete medians at Kingston and Brooklyn avenues be destroyed so floats and trucks “can navigate the roadway” for the event, which is held once a year. It’s not clear how the islands, which were installed in 2015, would impact the parade, since identical street treatments have been in place for years elsewhere along the route.

We asked City Hall if the order to remove the islands originated with the mayor’s office. “This was an NYPD directive, not City Hall’s,” de Blasio spokesperson Austin Finan told us via email.

NYPD referred us to DOT. When we called DOT for comment, the person who answered the phone said all agency press reps were away from their desks. DOT got back to us, but only to ask which NYPD staffer referred us to DOT.

Brooklyn Community Board 8, which endorsed the project that included the islands, was not notified that they would be removed, according to Rob Witherwax, a longtime street safety advocate who serves on the board’s transportation committee. Witherwax said he learned about the changes on Streetsblog.

DOT rarely undertakes street safety projects without the approval of the local community board, but the agency does not always consult boards before removing bike and pedestrian infrastructure.

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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

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?

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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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