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Posts from the Brad Lander Category

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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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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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