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Posts from the "Brad Lander" Category

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Lander and Levin to DOT: A Safer Fourth Avenue Can’t Wait

The left-turn bans opposed by CB 6 protect pedestrians from turning drivers and widen medians while reducing crossing distances. Image: NYC DOT

City Council members Brad Lander and Steve Levin are urging NYC DOT to move forward with safety improvements for Fourth Avenue in Park Slope despite a vote against the proposal by Brooklyn Community Board 6.

The Daily News reported today that in response to the CB 6 vote, DOT might take out some of the left-turn bans in its proposal. The turn bans reduce conflicts between motorists and pedestrians, and free up space for wider medians and shorter crossings. Lander and Levin endorse them. In their joint letter to Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, the council members say they “look forward to seeing any modifications you propose in the very near future” but that they disagree with the CB 6 vote against the plan and want to see it implemented this summer.

Here’s the meat of the letter:

DOT conducted extensive community outreach to gather input and share ideas for improving safety on 4th Avenue. We were pleased to have taken part in the 4th Avenue Task Force, convened by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, and the subsequent public planning process organized by DOT with the support of the Park Slope Civic Council’s Forth on Fourth Committee and the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. DOT conducted a well-attended public traffic safety workshop for community members on February 13 to gather input, utilized an innovative online input map (nyc.gov/4thAve), held an open house on April 9 to display the proposal, met with principals from 6 schools along the corridor, and made presentations to the CB2 and CB6 transportation committees during May to gather feedback.

After having participated in the planning process and having heard from numerous residents and other stakeholders in our districts and along the corridor, we support your proposal. The Corridor Safety Improvements you propose – similar to improvements implemented on 4th Avenue in Sunset Park from 15th Street to 65th Street last year – will narrow traffic from three lanes to two lanes in both directions south of Union Street, and southbound north of Union Street (leaving three northbound lanes from Union Street north toward Flatbush). This will calm traffic, allow for longer turn bays (a major improvement for drivers), and allow the medians to be significantly widened (a major improvement for pedestrians). Because left turn bans have worked further south on 4th Avenue—to reduce safety risks for pedestrians and drivers alike—your proposal will ban selected left turns along the corridor in pedestrian-heavy locations near subways and schools, and where opposing left turns have contributed to a large number of crashes.

We are aware that on June 12, 2013, Brooklyn Community Board 6 (CB6) resolved by a vote of 18 to 9, with 5 abstentions, to disapprove DOT’s proposed redesign of 4th Avenue. During our terms in elected office, there have been very few instances in which our position on an issue differs with that of a local Community Board, and doing so is not a decision we take lightly. However, given the severity of the safety risks along 4th Avenue, we respectfully but strongly disagree with CB6’s rejection of the proposal.

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Who Will Be the Second City Council Member to Sign Up for Bike-Share?

While current and former City Council transportation chairs James Vacca and John Liu reacted to bike-share with paranoia and fear, at least one council member was breaking out the credit card: Brooklyn’s Brad Lander posted this tweet after signing up for a Citi Bike subscription yesterday.

Any of Lander’s colleagues have a lower membership number than he does? If not, who’s next?

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Participatory Budgeting Offers Chance to Vote for Livable Streets Projects

Eight city council members have put a portion of their discretionary capital funds up for a vote as part of an exercise in participatory budgeting, which allows residents to decide how the money will be spent in their own neighborhoods. Votes in each district are approaching soon, and there’s an opportunity to support livable streets projects.

With participatory budgeting, residents of a City Council district have a say in how $1 million in discretionary capital funds are spent. Photo: Daniel Latorre/Flickr

The participating council members are David Greenfield, Brad Lander, Stephen Levin, and Jumaane D. Williams of Brooklyn; Dan Halloran, Eric Ulrich, and Mark Weprin of Queens; and Melissa Mark-Viverito of Manhattan. Each has put up $1 million in discretionary capital funds, with residents submitting ideas that will appear in early April on a final ballot, open to district residents age 16 and older.

In Lander’s district, stretching from Cobble Hill to Borough Park, there are five projects related to pedestrian safety and livable streets:

  • A Safe Routes to School project at Yeshiva Torah Temimah, on Ocean Parkway near 18th Avenue [PDF];
  • Extending an upcoming DOT capital project on Church Avenue by adding curb extensions at Coney Island and McDonald Avenues [PDF];
  • Constructing a larger plaza space at the triangle intersection of Church Avenue, 14th Avenue, and 35th Street;
  • Adding capital funds to an existing DOT project on Hicks Street, to gain concrete curb extensions and improve visibility at the intersection with Congress Street;
  • Creation of a new concrete pedestrian plaza adjacent to a community garden at Van Brunt Street and Hamilton Avenue.

Lander is hosting a science fair-style expo where residents can learn more about the projects on the ballot, this Thursday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Park Slope branch of the Brooklyn Public Library.

Council Member Stephen Levin’s office identified two projects that may be of interest in the district, stretching from Park Slope to Greenpoint along the East River waterfront:

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Envisioning a Safer Fourth Avenue in Park Slope

One of ten tables at last night's workshop. DOT is using input gathered at the meeting and on its website to form a plan for Fourth Avenue in Park Slope. Photo: Stephen Miller

Last night, DOT staff led a public workshop sponsored by Borough President Marty Markowitz’s Fourth Avenue Task Force on how to improve 28 blocks of Fourth Avenue in Park Slope, between 15th Street and Pacific Street. DOT expects to have a draft plan for the avenue, one of the borough’s most dangerous streets, within two months.

This project follows DOT’s pedestrian safety improvements on 50 blocks of Fourth Avenue in Sunset Park, which included wider medians and shorter crossing distances. These types of fixes may be likely for Park Slope, depending on the feedback that comes out of these meetings. DOT also has an online portal for the project, where people can suggest what type of improvements they want to see and where.

At the workshop last night, about 70 people gathered at ten tables arrayed with maps and diagrams at Holy Family and St. Thomas Aquinas Church. Their suggestions for Fourth Avenue ranged from bike lanes and median expansions to better lighting and more street trees.

DOT’s Christopher Hrones noted that traffic volumes increase as Fourth Avenue approaches Downtown Brooklyn, which will lead to some tension between needed pedestrian safety improvements and the agency’s desire to keep traffic flowing. The agency is still collecting traffic data for the project, Hrones said.

Fourth Avenue at Sackett Street. Image: Google Maps

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Council Members Call for Countdown Clocks at Bus Shelters

With BusTime set to expand citywide by the end of 2013, after launches in Staten Island, the Bronx and with pilot routes in Brooklyn and Manhattan, City Council members want to bring that technology to the streets — or more specifically, the bus stop — and are asking MTA, DOT and bus shelter operator Cemusa to help make it happen.

Council Member Brad Lander speaks at today's press conference. On the bus shelter behind him is a mock bus countdown clock. Photo: Stephen Miller

To that end, Council Member Brad Lander announced a resolution this afternoon at a bus stop outside City Hall, joined by representatives from Transportation Alternatives, the Straphangers Campaign, Riders Alliance and Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled.

With countdown clocks already available in many subway stations, Lander and advocates say bus riders deserve the same convenience, and that not everyone has access to a cell phone or the Internet before catching a bus.

“New Yorkers are an impatient people,” said John Raskin, of Riders Alliance. “We are not good at waiting. But we are much better at waiting when we know how long we have to wait.”

Lander’s office estimates that the counters cost between $4,000 and $6,000 to purchase and between $1,000 and $1,600 to maintain each year, based on figures from other cities with bus countdown clocks, including Washington, DC, Boston, Albany and Syracuse.

The MTA has argued that countdown clocks at bus stops provide marginal benefit to riders at relatively high costs, and is focused on rolling out its BusTime program citywide by the end of next year.

By that time, Lander would like a plan for bringing countdown clocks to the city’s 3,300 bus shelters. The route to achieving that goal is murky; Lander introduced the resolution to start the discussion.

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Council Members Propose Widening Brooklyn Bridge Bike-Ped Path

The council members' proposal would triple the width for pedestrians and create a separated, two-way bikeway on the bridge. Image: Office of Council Member Brad Lander

Council Members Brad Lander, Margaret Chin, and Stephen Levin — along with advocates from Transportation Alternatives — stood at the Manhattan entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge this morning and put forth a proposal to expand the bridge’s increasingly popular and exceedingly cramped bike and pedestrian path.

“It’s about time, in 2012, that we update it a little bit,” said Lander.

This announcement comes as a response to several years of rising pedestrian and bike traffic on the bridge. As the number of cyclists crossing the Brooklyn Bridge surpasses an average of 3,000 daily, and the number of tourists and walk-to-work commuters exceeds 4,000, according to NYC DOT, the potential for conflict and collisions has grown. While the daily tabloids have sensationalized the competition for space, there’s no doubt that it’s real and that something must be done about it.

The most recent efforts to address this issue have been the “pedestrian safety managers” that were hired by the city to ensure safety on the bridge. But as Levin said, “there is a limit to what can be done with management of the path.”

Currently the path ranges from eight feet to 16 feet wide, not including wider sections where the path passes the bridge buttresses. (It was also narrowed by three feet in some places due to reconstruction work that began in 2010.) The proposal unveiled today would widen the path to 34 feet, providing significantly more space for both pedestrians and cyclists.

The crux of the proposal is to expand the path so that the entire length is as wide as the sections that extend out and over the roadway in order to pass the buttresses. Extending the more generous width to the whole length of the bridge would allow for the creation of a two-way, separated bike path and a tripling of the space dedicated to pedestrians.

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Lefevre Lawsuit Could Loosen NYPD Grip on Crash Information

The lawsuit filed by the family of Mathieu Lefevre against NYPD could change police procedure in the aftermath of fatal crashes, making it easier for grieving relatives to access crucial information.

Photo by Chieu-Anh Le Van via Support Justice for Mathieu Lefevre

Lefevre was hit by the driver of a crane truck making a right turn at the intersection of Morgan Avenue and Meserole Street, in East Williamsburg, last October. The driver was identified as Leonardo Degianni only after police found the truck parked a short distance away. Degianni was ticketed for failing to signal a right turn and failure to exercise due care, but was not charged for leaving the scene. NYPD closed the case in early January, concluding that the crash was caused by “bicyclist error.”

Though the Lefevres had by then filed suit, following months of NYPD stonewalling, the department did not notify them of the results of the investigation for weeks. A court pleading filed earlier this month by family attorney Steve Vaccaro argues that, in violation of freedom of information laws, NYPD deliberately delayed producing documents that would have provided insight into what happened the night Lefevre was killed. In the most recent filing, Vaccaro says NYPD still hasn’t turned over all records related to the crash.

Given the parameters of the suit, a victory for the Lefevres could have broad implications. The most favorable would mean that in order to deny families’ freedom of information requests, NYPD would in the future be required to show that the disclosure of records would result in “actual interference” with a crash investigation. As it stands, NYPD categorically withholds such documents from victims’ family members, even in cases where the department has already announced a determination of “no criminality.”

Another potential outcome could be that the court forces NYPD to standardize its freedom of information protocol — to either release no information concerning ongoing investigations, or to provide access to information, consistent with the law, to all who request it. Under that scenario, in a case where NYPD has behaved inconsistently, a court could conclude that claims of interference with an investigation are incongruous with voluntary statements from the department — a finding of “no criminality,” for example.

The Lefevre suit was bolstered last week with the filing of an amicus brief from Transportation Alternatives and City Council Member Brad Lander. The brief, available in its entirety after the jump, explains that TA filed six crash-related freedom of information requests last August, and says NYPD has not released any documents because the department has not decided whether it will honor the requests. “NYPD appears to simply churn out boilerplate letters purporting to defer indefinitely its obligation to respond to FOIL requests — letters identical to those received by the Lefevres — until it is forced to produce records by litigation,” reads the brief.

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Sadik-Khan Announces a Bike-Share Program That’s Big Enough to Succeed

Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan announces the selection of Alta Bike Share to operate NYC's bike-share system. Standing to the left is Working Families Party director Dan Cantor. To the right are council members Gale Brewer and Brad Lander, and Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson. Photo: Noah Kazis

Addressing a plaza full of reporters at Madison Square this afternoon, Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan announced that the city is entering the next phase of its initiative to launch a public bike system stretching from the Upper West Side to Bedford Stuyvesant. The system will be run by Alta Bike Share and consist of about 600 stations with 10,000 bicycles, creating a network of comparable size and density to bike-share systems in cities like London and Paris.

Station density is perhaps the single greatest key to success in a modern bike-share system. The less searching you have to do for a station, and the closer you are to your destination when you dock your bike, the better. As Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak told Streetfilms earlier this year, the underlying principle is “go big or go home.” With this announcement, NYC DOT and Alta have clearly signaled that they are going big. Once bike-share launches, it will change the way New Yorkers get around the city, extending the range of the transit system and adding point-to-point convenience for short trips.

Sadik-Khan said the selection of the bike-share operator also marks the beginning of an extensive public outreach campaign, which will seek ideas from local residents, community boards, and civic leaders to determine where bike-share stations should go. “This is just the start,” she said. “We really want your help in planning the system.” Public workshops will be held throughout the fall, and the bike-share system is on track to launch in 2012, potentially by the summer.

Leaders from NYC’s business community and progressive political landscape hailed the bike-share program as a way to give New Yorkers more transportation options and attract a skilled workforce. Both Kathy Wylde, the CEO of the city’s biggest business lobbying group, the Partnership for NYC, and Dan Cantor, leader of the labor-affiliated Working Families Party, were on hand to back the initiative. Wylde called bike-share “an important contribution to the next generation of what will make New York attractive to talent,” and Cantor said it is “one of those things that we’re going to look back at in a few years and say, ‘What took so long?’”

Asked specifically why cycling and bike-share is progressive, Cantor said: “This is so obvious. This is good for human beings. It’s good for the planet. It reduces greenhouse gas emissions. It burns calories. It makes you a happy person when you ride a bike.”

Three City Council members who represent districts within the bike-share service area also endorsed the plan: Gale Brewer, Brad Lander, and Tish James. The precise borders of the service area have yet to be finalized, but its general contours will run from the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side to Bed Stuy and Greenpoint. The city is considering ways to expand service to other areas after the first phase of the system is up and running, said Sadik-Khan.

Council Member Tish James, trailed by Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson, tries out a bike made by the Public Bike System Company, which will supply NYC. Photo: Ben Fried

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Revealed: Council Member Tish James Tells Us Where She’s Been Biking

Council Member Tish James, left, with Recycle-a-Bike director Pasqualina Azzarello and Brooklyn's own youth bike advocate Kimberly White, who'll be be delivering a keynote at tomorrow's Safe Routes to School national conference in Minneapolis. Photo: Jonathan Perez

Streetsblog caught up with council members Tish James and Brad Lander for a few minutes at Saturday’s “Building Bridges Bike Day” in Grand Army Plaza. James and Lander represent districts with some of the highest bicycling rates in the city, and they’re getting some mileage out of the local bike infrastructure themselves: Lander arrived via bike, and James told us about one of her first ventures cycling the streets of her district.

James said she wanted to put on the event to promote Recycle-a-Bicycle’s work to provide bikes “to those who don’t have the benefit of a bike,” and to talk about street safety. The death last year of Jasmine Herron, who was killed after a driver doored her on Atlantic Avenue, has heightened the awareness of the need for safer streets in the district. “Given all of these ghost bikes,” James said, “they’re a constant reminder about safety.”

The pending release of NYPD data on the locations and causes of traffic injuries — the result of the Saving Lives Through Better Information Act — had Lander buzzing about the possibilities. “I think we’re at a moment when we have an opportunity to make substantial strides on street safety,” he said. The new crash data will provide “the ability to work with precincts… to think about how enforcement can result in fewer crashes, injuries, and deaths.”

James’s staffer Jonathan Perez told us last week that the council member recently started using a bike, so before I left I had to ask what streets she’s been riding on. One of her first bike trips took her from her home in Clinton Hill to see a concert by the East River waterfront in Williamsburg. James started on Washington Avenue and ended on Kent Avenue, taking advantage of the protected bike lane that runs along the route of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway. Kent was great. Washington, she said, has a lot of room for improvement.

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Saturday: Tish James Gets the Word Out on Bike-Ped Unity

Council Member Letitia James using a bike-powered blender in 2009. Now she's riding a real bike on Brooklyn streets and hoping for better relations between pedestrians and cyclists. Photo: Cafe Habana

Brooklyn Council Member Letitia James wants cyclists and pedestrians to get along. This Saturday, she’s hosting what she hopes will be the first annual “Building Bridges Bike Day” at Grand Army Plaza.

Council members James, Steve Levin and Brad Lander will all be on hand Saturday, along with representatives from Transportation Alternatives and Recycle-A-Bicycle, to foster conversation about walking and cycling, and to hand out safety information and bike maps.

James started cycling herself this summer. If you’re curious where she’s been riding and what she’s learned from the experience, you should be able to ask her on Saturday, said Jonathan Perez, the staffer who set up the event.

The goal of the day is “to build an alliance for bicycle and pedestrian awareness,” said Perez, and to serve as a neighborhood “celebration of the healthy lifestyle choice that bikes offer.” One message he wants to make sure gets across, based on the concerns he’s heard from constituents, is that biking in Brooklyn is calm and safe.

The location is meant to be symbolic, taking place at a confluence of streets that includes some of Brooklyn’s most prominent bikeways and walkways. In a addition to a slate of bike-ped improvements currently under construction, Grand Army Plaza is also slated to get new bike parking spaces from the Parks Department, according to Perez, making it an even more bike-accessible location.