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Posts from the "Brad Lander" Category

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Advocates Urge Lander to Upgrade NYPD Crash Data Bill

A bill that would have pushed Ray Kelly’s police department one step closer to opening up crash data has been reintroduced by Council Member Brad Lander. But with new leadership, NYPD is dropping hints that it will release better public data soon. Advocates say Lander’s bill could use some upgrades to help the public get more out of NYPD’s crash data.

Mandating a crash map is good, but getting better traffic safety data from NYPD is better. Image: NYC Crashmapper

A few months after the City Council required the NYPD to create an online crime map last year, Lander introduced a bill to add crash data to the mix. At a hearing on the bill last October, NYPD pushed back. Assistant Commissioner of Intergovernmental Affairs Susan Petito said a crash map would confuse the public because DMV reports require that crashes are mapped to the nearest intersection and not their exact location. She also rebuffed a suggestion that NYPD work with the DMV to fix the problem by changing the forms.

Since then, there’s been an election and several changes at NYPD. Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan told Streetsblog last month that the department is working on adding crash data and other “information [that] might not have been previously available to the public” to the city’s Vision Zero website. He also said he’s looking to work with the DMV on improving its crash report forms, but wouldn’t go into specifics.

Also last month, Lander reintroduced his crash data bill. But so far the bill hasn’t been revised to reflect current needs. It would require NYPD to take data it currently releases in a convoluted format and put it on a map, which street safety advocates have already figured out how to do. They’re asking Lander to upgrade the bill with a more substantial open data mandate.

Noel Hidalgo, executive director of BetaNYC (a local Code for America affiliate), called Lander’s bill “a good start” but said the legislation would be a missed opportunity if it passes in its current form. “Ideally, in the big picture, we wouldn’t be legislating for the creation of a map,” he said. “We would be strengthening the legislation around Council Member Lappin’s original CrashStat bill.”

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Council Members Say DOT Needs Funds for Vision Zero, Bike-Share Expansion

City Council members today expressed strong support for Vision Zero, bike-share expansion, and other safe streets initiatives, but it’s not clear how they will be funded.

At a transportation committee budget hearing, council members heard from the Taxi and Limousine Commission, the MTA, and DOT. Among other issues, reps from each agency were asked how they planned to help reduce traffic injuries and deaths.

“Vision Zero is already underway at DOT,” said Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. Among other projects, work on the Brooklyn Greenway and new public plazas in Bushwick and Washington Heights are on the agenda for FY 2015.

In response to questions about the Vision Zero time frame from chair Ydanis Rodriguez and committee member Jimmy Van Bramer, Trottenberg said DOT is planning a series of borough town hall meetings, followed by more localized forums, to gather citizen input. Still, she said, “Our goal is 50 projects per year,” in keeping with Mayor de Blasio’s pledge for citywide pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure improvements.

Van Bramer, of Queens, and Brooklyn rep Brad Lander asked Trottenberg about bike-share expansion. Lander said he would like to see a “full build-out” of the system, with city funds if needed. While DOT is “very keen” to develop a long-term expansion plan, Trottenberg said, “We’re not there yet.” On a couple of occasions Trottenberg referred to issues caused by the Bixi bankruptcy as one obstacle to overcome. “We’re going to get there as quickly as we can,” she said.

When Van Bramer asked if DOT could more quickly respond to requests for stop signs and speed bumps, which he said can take years to address, Trottenberg said the agency doesn’t have the funds to process all requests at once.

Council members Margaret Chin and Debi Rose complained about through traffic on Canal Street, with Rose citing the Sam Schwartz fair toll plan as a potential solution. Chin also asked if DOT could deploy “pedestrian managers” as an antidote to NYPD TEA agents, who tend to prioritize vehicle throughput over pedestrian safety.

In addition to supporting bike-share, Lander said the city should come up with funds for DOT to devote to Vision Zero initiatives in general. Steve Levin, of Brooklyn, asked if more money is needed for Slow Zones. More resources are always helpful, Trottenberg said.

While it was generally agreed that it will take additional funds to carry out Vision Zero, no specific figures were discussed.

We’ll have more on the hearing tomorrow.

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At City Council Hearing, Impassioned Appeals for Lower Speed Limits

City Council reps and members of the public spoke unanimously today in support of a bill to lower speed limits to a life-saving 20 miles per hour in neighborhoods citywide. But if the council adopts the measure, it will do so over the objection of DOT, which said the proposal would create conflicts with state law.

The family of Samuel Cohen Eckstein testified at today's hearing. Photo: @bradlander

During an emotional two-hour hearing, council members on the transportation committee heard from advocates, neighborhood groups, and individual citizens, virtually all of whom implored lawmakers to see the bill passed.

Proposed by Council Member David Greenfield, Intro 535 would require DOT to set speed limits no higher than 20 miles per hour, down from the current citywide 30 mph limit, “on all streets fewer than sixty feet wide in areas zoned for residential purposes.”

Kate Slevin, assistant commissioner for intergovernmental affairs, and Ryan Russo, assistant commissioner for traffic management, testified on behalf of DOT. Slevin said 20 mph speeds in tandem with other traffic-calming measures is not only “a common sense approach to saving lives,” it’s a required combination under state law. State traffic code allows New York City to set speeds from 15 to 24 miles per hour, Slevin said, only if other physical traffic-calming treatments are also implemented, or the street in question is within a quarter-mile of a school.

“Unfortunately, not every residential street is appropriate for speed bumps, roadway narrowing, or other traffic calming treatments,” said Slevin. “As such, DOT would be unable to comply with Intro 535 as currently drafted.” Slevin and Russo did not specify how DOT or state law define “other traffic calming treatments” — whether they include paint, for instance, or other low-cost improvements.

Slevin said that, instead of passing the Greenfield bill, the council might consider lobbying the state for permission to lower the speed limit citywide.

Committee Chair James Vacca told Slevin and Russo he is frustrated by the gradual pace of the Slow Zone rollout — the timetable for currently approved zones now stretches to 2016 — the limited number of approved zones, and the backlog of requested speed bumps. He pledged to push the next mayor to accelerate the implementation of Slow Zones, but in the meantime, Vacca asked if DOT could lower speeds on certain streets to 25 miles per hour. Slevin replied that DOT could do that, but said the department prefers a more holistic approach. Slevin said DOT meets frequently with other agencies, including the Department of Education, the Department of Health, and especially NYPD, to address traffic safety — a process Vacca said should be formalized.

Council Member Brad Lander requested that DOT provide information on what could be done to lower speeds under current law, including an analysis of streets that are now eligible for 20 miles per hour speeds.

Vacca and Lander acknowledged that NYPD, which did not send anyone to the hearing, does not prioritize traffic enforcement. Lander complained that offenses including speeding, red-light running, and failure to yield are rampant. Of NYPD’s enforcement stats, Lander said, “Anyone who took street safety seriously and believed in data would be appalled.”

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Samuel Cohen Eckstein, 12, Killed by Van Driver on Prospect Park West

Samuel Cohen Eckstein, a 12 year-old boy about to celebrate his bar mitzvah, was killed yesterday at the intersection of Third Street and Prospect Park West in Park Slope. NYPD says the crash investigation is ongoing and as of now there are no arrests or summonses for the driver who ran him over. Although police would not release information about the driver, NYPD said that “preliminary results” show that Cohen Eckstein “ran into the street.”

The Daily News reports that Cohen Eckstein was bouncing a ball off a monument at the entrance to Prospect Park, across the street from his home, at about 5:15 p.m. yesterday when the ball rolled into the street and he chased after it. NYPD says that Cohen Eckstein suffered trauma to his torso and was taken to Methodist Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Cohen Eckstein was hit by the driver of a white 2006 Chevrolet van belonging to New Wave Design of Sunnyside, Queens. Photos and reports from the scene indicate the driver was moved to the back seat of an NYPD cruiser after the crash, but he was later released. NYPD would not release the identity of the driver of the van; Streetsblog’s calls to New Wave Design have not been picked up and lead to a full voicemail box.

Park Slope Stoop reports that Cohen Eckstein was planning to celebrate his bar mitzvah next month.

Cohen Eckstein’s parents, Gary Eckstein and Amy Cohen, spoke at community meetings in support of traffic calming and the protected bike lane on Prospect Park West. “I like to pick up my kids from Hebrew school on my tandem,” Eckstein said at a 2011 community board meeting about PPW. “Before it wasn’t safe, but now I can do it.”

“The city feels much safer than when we started,” Cohen said in a 2008 Los Angeles Times article about bicycling in New York.

Eckstein was also interviewed for a 2008 New York Times article about malfunctioning pedestrian signals. “My kids have been noticing them around Park Slope,” he said, noting that some pedestrian signals do not work properly during the walk phase. “Although confusing, it is probably not as dangerous as it could be.”

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State DOT Commits to Improve Deadly Intersection and Study Ocean Parkway

Drivers at the deadly intersection of Ocean Parkway and Church Avenue. After a long delay, the state DOT has committed to safety improvements and promises to study 38 intersections along the rest of Ocean Parkway. Photo: Doug Kerr/FlickrEE

After delaying action on a NYC DOT pedestrian safety plan that local residents voted to fund, the state DOT says that it’s not only “in general agreement” with the plan, but supports specific changes to be implemented as soon as this fall. In addition to upgrades at the intersection of Church Avenue and Ocean Parkway, state DOT also says it’s examining the safety of 38 intersections along Ocean Parkway, but details about that study remain murky.

State DOT’s decision to support pedestrian safety improvements comes after months of what Council Member Brad Lander has characterized as obstructionism. The state delayed the project even after 73-year-old Ngozi Agbim was killed by a turning truck driver in the very crosswalk slated for changes.

In a press release issued yesterday afternoon, state DOT announced that it had agreed to:

  • A new pedestrian island on the north side of the intersection, including new pedestrian signals, high-visibility crosswalk markings, and protective barriers;
  • Narrower traffic lanes to provide space for the pedestrian island;
  • New traffic signals with flashing yellow arrows, indicating that drivers turning right should yield to pedestrians;
  • Signage on the southbound Prospect Expressway alerting drivers to the stop light at Church Avenue; and
  • Speed limit signs on Ocean Parkway reminding drivers of the citywide speed limit of 30 mph.

The flashing yellow arrows are a new addition to the plan; Lander’s office says they were added by state DOT, but still require sign-off from NYC DOT’s signals division. It’s unclear whether yellow signals would be installed for all right turns at the intersection, or just for drivers turning right from Church Avenue to the Prospect Expressway — the turn a truck driver was making when he ran over and killed Agbim in June.

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After Delay, State DOT Says Plan for Deadly Kensington Intersection Due Soon

NYC DOT has already installed a pedestrian island on the south side (bottom) of the intersection of Church Avenue and Ocean Parkway. Installing a pedestrian island on the north side of the intersection, where an elderly woman was killed in June, is stalled until the state DOT signs off. Photo: Bing Maps

This morning, Council Member Brad Lander delivered a stack of petitions to Governor Cuomo’s Midtown office demanding approval from the state DOT for a pedestrian safety fix that his constituents developed with NYC DOT. It may happen: State DOT says that it will complete a final design with the city by the end of next month.

In April of last year, Lander’s constituents voted in the district’s participatory budgeting process to spend $200,000 in discretionary funds on pedestrian safety improvements [PDF] at the intersection of Ocean Parkway and Church Avenue, a dangerous crossing in Kensington where nine lanes of traffic move north-south and five lanes move east-west.

NYC DOT developed a plan to add a median pedestrian island and other improvements to the north side of the intersection, where Ocean Parkway becomes the Prospect Expressway. Because it includes a state-owned expressway, state DOT permission is required before the city can implement the project.

Even with local elected officials and the city supporting a specific fix, Lander says the state stalled on approving it, rejecting it twice before June 2013. “What they seem to have been saying is, ‘We don’t want to make the north side safer because we prefer that people cross on the south side of the intersection,’” Lander said, noting that a sign at the existing north-side crosswalk discourages pedestrians from crossing there. “That’s not a very good way of keeping people safe.”

Lander added that a few years ago, NYC DOT installed a pedestrian island on the south side of the intersection, where state DOT approval is not required.

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Eyes on the Street: Bike Contraflow Over the Gowanus

Union Street looking west at Nevins. The contraflow bike lane is separated from eastbound car traffic by a dashed double-yellow line. Photo: Keith Williams

Reader Keith Williams, who blogs at The Weekly Nabe, recently got a few shots of the brand new contraflow bike lane in progress on Union Street. This project will add a sorely needed westbound bike connection across the Gowanus Canal — part of a route that jogs from Degraw, down to Union, then back up to Sackett [PDF].

The contraflow lane on Union is notable for a few reasons.

One, it came out of Council Member Brad Lander’s 2012 participatory budgeting process. In the end it wasn’t paid for with Lander’s discretionary funds (other projects got more votes), but because Lander put out the call for ideas, it got NYC DOT’s attention. So, chalk one up for community-based planning.

Two, I believe this is a first for NYC — a contraflow bike lane separated from opposing traffic with a dashed double-yellow stripe. Other contraflow lanes, like the one on Union Square North, have more separation from traffic, but there’s not always enough room for that. Bike lanes like the new one on Union work in other cities and promise to make the city’s bike design toolkit more flexible.

Adding more contraflow lanes could help fill in some missing links in the bike network. A few years ago, for instance, Brooklyn Community Board 2 member Mike Epstein proposed a short contraflow segment to help bridge gaps in the bike network at the confluence of Flatbush, Third Avenue, and Lafayette Avenue.

You can catch more photos of the Union Street project at the Weekly Nabe.

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Lander Intros Bill to Push NYC Bus Service to the Next Level

Yesterday, Council Member Brad Lander introduced a bill that would require DOT, in consultation with the MTA and the public, to create a citywide master plan for developing Bus Rapid Transit.

The busway that wasn't: The abandoned plan for a 34th Street transitway would have created NYC's first separated bus lanes. Image: NYC DOT

The bill, if enacted, would require the agency to submit a plan to the City Council, borough presidents, and community boards within two years. At a minimum, the plan must:

  • Identify areas of the city in need of better access to transit
  • Designate “priority corridors” within and between boroughs that can have BRT within 10 years
  • Identify strategies for connecting BRT to existing and planned transit services, including ferries
  • Estimate capital and operating costs for each BRT route

The plan does not have to be updated on a regular basis, but Lander is open to future modifications.

Although City Council members and mayoral candidates alike profess enthusiasm for BRT, upgrading the city’s bus network faces major hurdles. So far, the Select Bus Service program has attracted new riders and shaved trip times, but without any physically-separated or center-running busways, the routes don’t qualify as “true BRT” as defined by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.

SBS has rolled out at a pace of about one route per year. While two routes in the Bronx have been implemented with strong local backing, crosstown routes in Manhattan were either watered down (on 34th Street) or cancelled (on 125th Street) after facing pushback from businesses and local politicians. Meanwhile, flashing lights on SBS buses — which help riders tell them apart from local buses – remain dark due to Albany inaction.

While the MTA signaled its commitment to continuing the rollout of enhanced bus routes by releasing an updated “phase two” SBS map this week, it’s an open question whether the next administration’s DOT will be committed to the heavy lifting required to reallocate road space for dedicated busways.

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Lander: NYS DOT Rejected Improvements to Deadly Brooklyn Intersection

Eugene Agbimson, brother-in-law of Ngozi Agbim, called for changes to the intersection where she was killed and to laws regulating truck travel in NYC. Photo: Office of City Council Member Brad Lander

Safety measures proposed for a crash-prone Brooklyn intersection where a senior was killed by a truck driver this week were rejected by New York State DOT, according to City Council Member Brad Lander.

Joined by local residents, traffic safety advocates and family of Ngozi Agbim, Lander held a rally this morning at Ocean Parkway and Church Avenue, at the terminus of the Prospect Expressway, in Kensington. With nine lanes of north-south traffic and five lanes east-west, there were 36 pedestrian and cyclist injuries and four fatalities at the intersection between 1995 and 2008, according to Transportation Alternatives’ CrashStat.

Tri-State Transportation Campaign ranks Ocean Parkway as one of the most dangerous streets in Brooklyn, citing six pedestrian fatalities between 2009 and 2011.

Lander included a line item for improvements to the intersection among his FY 2013 participatory budget proposals, securing $200,000. But he says the State DOT rejected a proposal from NYC DOT for a pedestrian refuge between northbound and southbound traffic. Instead, according to Lander, NYS DOT wants to eliminate the crosswalk altogether.

“Without the crosswalk, residents would have to walk a block out of their way and wait for three crossing signals instead of one,” said Lander, via press release. “Cars would speed by even faster. And many pedestrians would certainly still cross there anyway, far more exposed to speed, danger, and future tragedies.”

On Monday at approximately 9:40 a.m., Agbim, 73, was crossing nine lanes of traffic east to west when she was struck by a semi truck driver who was attempting a right turn from Church Avenue onto Prospect Expressway, according to reports.

Agbim died at the scene. The truck driver, Eric Turnbach of Sugarloaf, Pennsylvania, was cited for failure to exercise due care, the Daily News said.

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Ngozi Agbim, 73, Killed by Truck Driver at Crash-Prone Brooklyn Intersection

According to reports, Ngozi Agbim was walking toward this truck when the driver ran her over. The trucker was cited for failure to exercise due care. Photo: Daily News

A senior was struck and killed by a truck driver at a crash-prone intersection in Brooklyn Monday.

At approximately 9:40 a.m., Ngozi Agbim, 73, was attempting to cross the nine lanes of traffic where Church Avenue crosses Ocean Parkway, at the terminus of the Prospect Expressway, as the truck driver was making a right turn. Witnesses told the Daily News the victim pounded on the truck before she fell and was run over by the rear wheels.

If the Daily News account is correct, Agbim was walking east on Church Avenue and the truck driver was westbound on Church before attempting the turn onto Prospect Expressway. That would mean Agbim was walking toward the truck when the driver entered the intersection.

Agbim, who was on her way home from church, died at the scene. A retired head librarian at LaGuardia Community College, she is survived by her husband and three children, according to the Daily News.

The truck driver, Eric Turnbach of Sugarloaf, Pennsylvania, was cited for failure to exercise due care, the Daily News said. Church Avenue and Prospect Expressway are on a truck route, but trucks exceeding 55 feet in length are not allowed on surface streets without a permit. Video from the scene indicates that the trailer of Turnbach’s truck is 53 feet long.

In addition to Agbim, semi truck drivers have killed at least six pedestrians on NYC surface streets in the last 10 months.

It is not known if the truck involved in this crash was equipped with crossover mirrors, which give truck drivers a better view of pedestrians who are directly in front of them. Trucks registered outside New York are exempt from the state’s crossover mirror requirement. We have a message in with Central Pennsylvania Transportation, the Lancaster-based company that owns the truck.

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