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Posts from the Brad Lander Category

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CB 7 Backs Caton Ave Safety Fixes After Lander Urges “Yes” Vote

This plan, which drops Caton Avenue from two lanes in each direction to one, was almost derailed by a few members of Brooklyn Community Board 7 last night.

This plan, which drops Caton Avenue from two lanes in each direction to one, was almost derailed by a few members of Brooklyn Community Board 7 last night. Image: DOT [PDF]

Safety improvements for Caton Avenue in Brooklyn almost didn’t get a thumbs up from Community Board 7 last night when a few people spoke against the loss of five parking spaces. But Council Member Brad Lander stepped in and urged the board to support the redesign, leading to a vote in favor.

The plan [PDF] was developed after middle schooler Mohammad Uddin was killed by a hit-and-run driver at E. 7th Street and Caton Avenue in November 2014. On this short stretch of Caton, between Ocean Parkway and Coney Island Avenue, two bicyclists and one motor vehicle occupant were severely injured between 2009 and 2013.

A Caton Avenue road diet, going from two lanes in each direction to one, would more closely match other sections of the street nearby. The plan calls for turn lanes and three concrete pedestrian islands at intersections, along with a left-turn ban and signal changes at Ocean Parkway to give pedestrians a head start.

Although Caton Avenue west of Ocean Parkway has a bike lane, DOT is not extending it as part of this plan. Instead, the agency is proposing extra-wide parking lanes.

The project will remove five parking spaces to improve visibility at corners on neighborhood streets north of Caton Avenue. Separately, curb extensions are in the works for the intersection of Caton Avenue and E. 7th Street this summer and on Caton west of Ocean Parkway in 2017. DOT will also install a number of safety improvements near schools in the area.

After Uddin was killed, more than 150 people came out to the first public meeting with DOT about making local streets safer. Community Board 12, which covers the south side of Caton Avenue, later voted to support the road diet. The project also received the backing of the CB 7 transportation committee in a 7-1 vote last month. But last night the full board faltered at first.

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DOT Scraps Bus Lanes in Kew Gardens Hills for Flushing-Jamaica SBS

This afternoon, the City Council overwhelmingly passed a bill that requires DOT to work with the MTA on a citywide Bus Rapid Transit plan to be updated every two years. The vote came a day after DOT told bus lane opponents in eastern Queens that it will water down a Select Bus Service proposal in their neighborhood.

miller_lancman

I. Daneek Miller and Rory Lancman.

In many ways, the new bill codifies much of the city’s existing BRT planning process. It requires DOT to work with the MTA on a 10-year blueprint for the city’s BRT network updated every two years, taking into consideration the city’s land development patterns and including estimates of how much it will cost to build and operate the routes.

The bill, sponsored by Council Member Brad Lander, passed 49-1. The lone vote against it: I. Daneek Miller, who objects to plans to bring Select Bus Service to the Q44 between Flushing and Jamaica.

“He supports BRT,” said Miller spokesperson Ali Rasoulinejad. “It’s not so much with BRT as it is with the way this process is conducted… If this is the way this process is going to happen, where community voices are not going to be heard, we might not be ready for it.”

Rasoulinejad questioned whether the Q44, which serves more than 28,000 passengers daily, attracts enough people to merit investment. He also cited the potential reduction in on-street parking spaces and said Miller would like the MTA to focus on other projects, like replacing an over-capacity bus depot in his district. (Before joining the City Council, Miller served as president of Amalgamated Transportation Union Local 1056.)

Meanwhile, Miller’s neighboring council member, Rory Lancman, can claim victory in his fight against Flushing-Jamaica Select Bus Service. At a meeting of the Kew Gardens Hills Civic Association last night, DOT said it would not be adding bus lanes to Main Street in that neighborhood.

“We had a very productive community meeting last night,” said Lancman spokesperson Nadia Chait. “The council member found that in that situation the DOT and the MTA had really listened to the community.”

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Margaret Chin: Toll Reform Will Protect New Yorkers From Truck Traffic

Photo: Brad Aaron

Photo: Brad Aaron

City Council Member Margaret Chin today introduced legislation to require the city to examine the effects of New York City’s dysfunctional bridge toll system on traffic safety. The bill would also mandate regular DOT safety audits for all city truck routes.

Trucks account for 3.6 percent of vehicles on city streets but are involved in 32 percent and 12 percent of cyclist and pedestrian fatalities, respectively, according to city data cited by Chin. At a press conference outside City Hall this morning, Chin said her bill “should be welcomed by the [de Blasio] administration as a component of Vision Zero.”

Chin cited the un-tolled Manhattan Bridge as a major cause of traffic chaos on Canal Street, which cuts through her district. Drivers have killed at least four pedestrians on Canal Street since 2012, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog.

Chin’s bill would have DOT conduct studies at five-year intervals to “examine the impact of tolling policies on the city’s network of truck routes,” according to a press release. Crashes and traffic violations would be measured, with information collected on whatever street safety measures are implemented on each route. DOT’s last comprehensive truck route study dates to 2007, the press release said.

It's free

Trucker’s special: It’s free to drive over the East River, barrel across local Manhattan streets, and take a tunnel under the Hudson, but sticking to the highway and going over the Verrazano will cost a five-axle truck $80. Map: MoveNY

DOT would also be required to “develop new strategies” to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety along the city’s 1,000-plus miles of truck routes. Council Member Brad Lander pointed out that current truck route design — speed-inducing expanses of asphalt — leads to reckless driving regardless of vehicle type. Chin emphasized that the reports should lead to physical street safety improvements. 

City Council transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez joined Chin to announce the legislation, along with Lander and Jimmy Van Bramer. Representatives from Transportation Alternatives, Families For Safe Streets, Move NY, the Chinatown Partnership Local Development Corporation, and Manhattan Community Boards 1, 2, and 3 also appeared in support of the bill.

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DOT Unveils Kensington, Windsor Terrace Safety Measures After Child’s Death

Schools dot the area where parents have pleaded with DOT to help slow speeding drivers. Image: DOT

Schools dot the area where parents have pleaded with DOT to help slow speeding drivers. Image: DOT

DOT is planning a number of street improvements for Kensington and Windsor Terrace after a hit-and-run driver killed a child last year.

Last November Lynn Reynolds, 78, drove a minivan over 14-year-old Mohammad Uddin as he walked home from school on E. Seventh Street at Caton Avenue in Kensington. Reynolds reportedly exited her vehicle after the crash before driving off. Her attorney said she “didn’t see” Uddin because it was dark.

As reckless drivers endanger children near neighborhood schools, and with another school under construction at the intersection where Uddin was killed, City Council Member Brad Lander joined parents who have for over a year urged the city to implement traffic safety measures in the area. DOT announced its plan [PDF] last week at a packed community meeting attended by Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

DOT is working up a proposal for a road diet on Caton Avenue from Coney Island Avenue to Ocean Parkway, which would convert the street to one through-lane in each direction with a painted median, turning lanes, and pedestrian refuge islands “in select locations.” The plan may incorporate left turn treatments at Caton Avenue and Ocean Parkway, where pedestrians contend with speeding drivers and long crossing distances. No bike lanes included.

DOT is looking to reduce the speed limit around the new PS/IS 437 school, at Caton and E. Seventh, and PS 230 Lower to 20 miles per hour, with signage and speed bumps, pending studies to be completed this spring. New stop signs, signals, and markings would be installed on the streets around PS/IS 437, and E. Seventh and E. Eighth Streets would be made one-way. Parking regulations would be altered to establish drop-off zones for school buses and parents who drive their kids to the new school. Lander and DOT have requested a crossing guard for PS/IS 437.

The NYC School Construction Authority will add curb space on Caton Avenue between E. Seventh and E. Eighth Street, reducing crossing distances at the E. Seventh corner.

This spring, DOT will study new traffic control measures on blocks north of PS/IS 437 and PS 130, from Vanderbilt Street to Terrace Place between McDonald Avenue and 19th Street. Leading pedestrian intervals may be initiated at E. Seventh St. and Caton, Albemarle Road and Dahill Avenue, and Dahill Road at 12th Avenue, depending on the results of a study.

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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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