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Posts from the "Brian Kavanagh" Category

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Thanks to Albany and NYPD, Careless Driving Law Will Keep Gathering Dust

For the second year in a row, a bill to bring an end to NYPD’s self-imposed ban on penalizing motorists for careless driving has passed the State Senate, but apparently won’t clear the Assembly.

NYPD refuses to enforce the law named after Diego Martinez and Hayley Ng, who were killed by a careless driver in 2009. As in 2013, a bill to amend the law’s language passed the State Senate, but stalled in the Assembly transportation committee.

Sponsored by Senator Dan Squadron, the bill would amend the state “vulnerable user” law by explicitly stating that officers may ticket or arrest drivers who harm pedestrians and cyclists whether or not they directly observe an infraction, as long as there is reasonable cause to believe a violation was committed. The vulnerable user law is named after Hayley Ng and Diego Martinez, preschoolers who were killed in 2009 when a driver’s unattended and idling van rolled onto a Chinatown sidewalk. The driver was not charged by former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau or his successor Cy Vance.

Enacted in 2010, Hayley and Diego’s Law was intended as a default infraction for crashes that injure pedestrians and cyclists. But current NYPD protocol prohibits precinct officers from issuing tickets under VTL 1146, the state statute that includes Hayley and Diego’s Law as well as Elle’s Law. According to the department, the summonses don’t stand up in court unless an officer witnesses a violation, or the summons is issued by trained investigators from the Collision Investigation Squad. Under former commissioner Ray Kelly, NYPD normally applied VTL 1146 only in cases of very serious injury or death — the only types of crashes worked by CIS. Fewer than 1 percent of New York City drivers who injure and kill pedestrians and cyclists are cited for careless driving.

The Senate passed Squadron’s amendment to the law Tuesday. “This bill advances an important goal of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative,” said Squadron in a written statement. “It protects pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers by updating ‘Hayley and Diego’s Law’ to make clear that careless drivers can be charged, even if the crash a driver caused did not take place in the presence of a police officer. This important change is highlighted in Vision Zero as a way to protect vulnerable road users and crack down on careless driving.”

The Assembly companion bill, however, has sat in the transportation committee, chaired by Rochester representative David Gantt, since January. Sponsored by Brian Kavanagh, the bill has just three co-sponsors. With one day left in the session, it looks like the Assembly will fail to move the bill, as it did in 2013.

As part of his Vision Zero plan, Mayor Bill de Blasio wants Albany to elevate careless driving to a misdemeanor, which would allow officers to act based on probable cause, whether or not they witness a crash. The City Council passed a resolution in support of the change last month, but it appears no bill materialized in Albany. A query to de Blasio staff concerning Hayley and Diego’s Law was not returned.

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NYPD Charges 0.7 Percent of Drivers Who Injure and Kill With Careless Driving

Graphic by Carly Clark. Citation data obtained by Transportation Alternatives.

Three years after Albany established the offense of careless driving, NYPD continues to apply the law in only a tiny fraction of crashes that result in the death or injury of pedestrians and cyclists.

There were 152 pedestrian and cyclist fatalities in the city in 2012, according to the state Department of Motor Vehicles, and 14,327 injuries. Of those 14,479 crashes, DMV data show NYPD cited 101 motorists for careless driving. That’s a citation rate of less than 1 percent.

It’s also the most careless driving citations issued by NYPD in a single year since Hayley and Diego’s Law took effect in 2010, when police wrote 99 summonses. In 2011, the first full year NYPD had the new law as part of its traffic enforcement toolkit, it was applied just 87 times.

The careless driving statute, part of Vehicle and Traffic Law section 1146, is named after Hayley Ng and Diego Martinez, toddlers who were killed in 2009 when a van, left unattended and idling, rolled onto a sidewalk in Chinatown. The driver was not charged by NYPD, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, or his successor Cy Vance.

Careless driving was intended as a minimum penalty to hold drivers who injure and kill accountable, in lieu of a more serious criminal charge. Under the law, drivers who injure pedestrians or cyclists while failing to exercise due care are subject to mandatory drivers’ ed, and could be sentenced to fines of up to $750, jail time of up to 15 days, and a license suspension of up to six months.

Graphic by Carly Clark. Citation data obtained by Transportation Alternatives.

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What Might “Brooklyn Bridge Beach” Mean for the East Side Greenway?

Will the roll-out of splashy projects like the beach proposed for this site by the Brooklyn Bridge help advance a continuous greenway along the East River? Image: WXY architecture + urban design

This morning, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced that collectively, they had dedicated $7 million in capital funds to build what’s being called Brooklyn Bridge Beach. The aim of the new site beneath the iconic span is to attract New Yorkers to the East River waterfront and blunt the impact of storm surges.

Along with other projects on the East River, the beach could contribute to a high-quality, continuous greenway. But even as individual projects like the hypothetical beach gather momentum, planning for an East Side complement to the Hudson River Greenway remains scattered among a constellation of agencies and projects.

The beach is the first project to receive funding among the recommendations in the Blueway Plan, a vision for the waterfront between 38th Street and the Brooklyn Bridge released by Stringer and Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh in February. (The plan’s pricey highlight is a bridge deck over the FDR Drive near 14th Street that would improve access to East River Park and eliminate a pinch point in the greenway route.)

In February, Stringer said he was committing $3.5 million in capital funds to the construction of marshland along the riverfront; Quinn’s beach announcement signals the arrival of matching capital funds from the City Council, and Stringer hinted that more money could be on its way. ”This is now money that we can leverage with the state and federal government,” he said.

Despite the commitment of funds, there are still important details missing from the proposal for the 11,000 square-foot beach. Conceptual renderings were produced for the Blueway Plan by WXY architecture + urban design, but the proposal does not include a more developed design. There is no timeline for completion of the project, nor is there an estimate of how much it will cost. And it remains to be seen whether the beach project would bring significant upgrades to the East River Greenway, which currently runs underneath the FDR Drive at this location.

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Albany Lawmakers Fail to Advance Bills on Careless Driving, Select Bus Lights

Proponents of safer streets and a stronger MTA fared better than usual in Albany this year, securing speed cameras for NYC and scoring a tentative win on the transit lockbox — which now depends on Governor Cuomo’s signature to protect straphangers from budget raids by state lawmakers, including himself. However, legislators failed to pass bills that would have restored speedier bus service to NYC and helped protect New Yorkers from motorists who injure and kill.

NYPD refuses to enforce the law named after Diego Martinez and Hayley Ng, who were killed by a careless driver in 2009. A bill to close a loophole in the law passed the State Senate, but stalled in the Assembly for the second consecutive year.

A bill to bring an end to NYPD’s self-imposed ban on penalizing motorists for careless driving cleared the State Senate, but for the second year did not make it out of committee in the Assembly.

The bill would amend Hayley and Diego’s Law by explicitly stating that officers may ticket or arrest drivers who harm pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable street users whether or not they directly observe an infraction, as long as officers have reasonable cause to believe a violation was committed. Current NYPD protocol prohibits precinct officers from issuing tickets under VTL 1146, the state statute that includes Hayley and Diego’s Law as well as Elle’s Law.

Hayley and Diego’s Law went into effect in 2010. It established the offense of careless driving, and imposed penalties, including the possibility of license sanctions and jail time, upon drivers who injure or kill pedestrians and cyclists. The bill and its amendment were introduced by Senator Dan Squadron and Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh. It is named after Hayley Ng and Diego Martinez, two toddlers who were killed in 2009 by a driver whose unattended and idling van jumped a curb in Chinatown. The driver was not charged with a crime by Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau or his successor Cy Vance.

Neither house acted on this crucial piece of legislation in 2012. This year it died in the Assembly transportation committee.

Legislators in the Senate and the Assembly failed to advance a bill to bring back the lights to Select Bus Service buses. Flashing blue SBS lights were used without incident for over four years until the MTA brought SBS service to Staten Island’s Hylan Boulevard. The lights were switched off after City Council Member Vincent Ignizio and State Senator Andrew Lanza complained that motorists were confusing SBS buses with emergency vehicles.

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Careless Driving Amendment Passes Senate, Awaits Action by Assembly

A bill targeted at NYPD’s self-imposed ban on penalizing motorists for careless driving has cleared the State Senate, but awaits passage in the Assembly.

NYPD refuses to enforce the law named after Diego Martinez and Hayley Ng, who were killed by a careless driver in 2009.

The bill would amend Hayley and Diego’s Law by explicitly stating that officers may ticket or arrest drivers who harm pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable street users whether or not they directly observe an infraction, as long as officers have reasonable cause to believe a violation was committed.

Currently, NYPD protocol prohibits precinct officers from issuing tickets under VTL 1146, the state statute that includes Hayley and Diego’s Law as well as Elle’s Law.

Hayley and Diego’s Law, which went into effect in 2010, established the offense of careless driving. It imposed penalties, including the possibility of license sanctions and jail time, upon drivers who injure or kill pedestrians and cyclists.

The bill and its amendment were introduced by Senator Dan Squadron and Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh. It is named after Hayley Ng and Diego Martinez, two toddlers who were killed in 2009 by a driver whose unattended and idling van mounted a curb in Chinatown. The driver was not charged with a crime by DA Robert Morgenthau or his successor Cy Vance.

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Senate Committee Votes to Close Loophole in Careless Driving Law

Just hours after the City Council transportation committee unanimously passed a resolution asking Albany to take action, the Senate transportation committee advanced a bill, with an 18-1 vote, that would close a loophole in Hayley and Diego’s Law, with the goal of increased enforcement of the state’s careless driving law by police and district attorneys.

The driver who killed Hayley Ng, 4, and Diego Martinez, 3, walked away without charges. Photos via Daily News

The law is named after Hayley Ng, 4, and Diego Martinez, 3, who were killed when a driver left his parked van in reverse, allowing it to roll into a group of pre-schoolers on a Chinatown sidewalk in 2009. No charges were filed against the driver by Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau or his successor Cy Vance.

The law provides a middle ground between summonses for trafic violations and more serious criminal charges, such as criminally negligent homicide, which due in part to restrictive state court decisions rarely lead to convictions.

A driver charged under Hayley and Diego’s Law can receive a combination of the following penalties: a fine up to $750 or 15 days in jail, a mandated driving course, and suspension or revocation of the driver’s license or registration. For the second offense, the driver could also be charged with a misdemeanor.

Because Hayley and Diego’s Law is technically categorized as a traffic violation, like failure to yield or speeding, NYPD will not issue a summons unless an officer personally witnesses the offense or the department’s Collision Investigation Squad launches an investigation.

Many of the law’s supporters view the loophole closure as an extra step that is only necessary because NYPD is reluctant to enforce the existing law. “We are strongly of the view that Hayley and Diego’s law, as passed, can be used,” bill sponsor Daniel Squadron told Streetsblog this afternoon. At yesterday’s hearing, Council Member Dan Halloran, calling the loophole closure “long overdue,” made a similar observation.

As it’s currently enforced, the law “results in officers disregarding the testimony of eye witnesses, or even admissions of the driver, when determining the cause of a crash,” said Transportation Alternatives in a statement.

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Sneak Preview: Stringer’s “Blueway Plan” for East River Greenway

The East River Blueway plan proposes an elevated greenway to improve connections for cyclists and pedestrians around the ConEd plant at 14th Street. Image: WXY architecture + urban design

Compared to its West Side counterpart, the East River Greenway needs some help. It could serve as a continuous waterfront park and a trunk route for bicycling on the East Side, but it’s hampered by missing links, poor maintenance, and the barrier created by the FDR Drive. Today at his State of the Borough address, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is unveiling the East River Blueway Plan, laying out a vision for the park from the Brooklyn Bridge to 38th Street.

Among the plan’s recommendations: replacing a pinch point on the greenway — the section shoehorned between speeding traffic and the ConEd plant at 15th Street – with an elevated path rising above the FDR Drive.

By the ConEd plant at 15th Street, the East Side greenway is an ugly, five-foot wide path where cyclists can't pass each other comfortably. Photo: Kim Martineau

A big-ticket item like the new bridge won’t be cheap, however, and so far there is no proposal for how to fund it. Stringer has pledged $3.5 million to construct marshland included in the plan, according to the Times.

The Blueway Plan, organized in 2011 by Stringer and Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh in partnership with the Lower East Side Ecology Center and Community Boards 3 and 6, is supported by a state grant dedicated to waterfront revitalization. A draft version from summer 2012 [PDF] identified neighborhood access and waterfront continuity as two of the project’s five goals, and listed places where park access across FDR Drive could be improved.

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Bid to Lift NYPD Ban on Careless Driving Tickets Clears Senate Committee

Graphic by Carly Clark

Legislation targeted at NYPD’s self-imposed ban on citing motorists for careless driving has passed the State Senate transportation committee.

The bill, introduced by Brooklyn Democrat Dan Squadron, would amend Hayley and Diego’s Law by explicitly stating that officers may issue tickets to drivers who harm pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable street users whether or not an officer directly observes an infraction. At the February City Council hearing on NYPD traffic enforcement, NYPD officials said department protocol prohibits precinct officers from issuing tickets under VTL 1146, the state statute that includes Hayley and Diego’s Law as well as Elle’s Law, because the citations are prone to being dismissed in court.

Juan Martinez, general counsel for Transportation Alternatives, told Streetsblog in May that the prohibition against beat cops writing careless driving citations is contradicted by case law and a state attorney general opinion. Though the policy does not apply to the department’s Accident Investigation Squad, NYPD routinely issues fewer than 100 VTL 1146 citations per year.

On Tuesday, Squadron’s office informed Streetsblog that the bill’s next move would be to the floor of the Republican-controlled Senate. The companion Assembly bill, introduced by Manhattan Democrat Brian Kavanagh, is in the transportation committee. To date, Squadron and Kavanagh are still the only sponsors of this important legislation in their respective houses.

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No More Excuses: Albany Bill Tells NYPD How to Enforce Careless Driving

Graphic by Carly Clark

At the February City Council hearing on NYPD traffic enforcement, council members and the public learned that a driver who injures a pedestrian or cyclist in New York City is not normally cited under the state vulnerable user laws unless an officer witnesses the violation. NYPD officials said department protocol prohibits precinct officers from issuing tickets under VTL 1146, the state statute that includes Hayley and Diego’s Law as well as Elle’s Law, because the citations are prone to being dismissed in court.

Legislation pending in Albany would amend Hayley and Diego’s Law by making clear that officers may issue tickets for careless driving whether or not they observe an infraction. Meanwhile, thousands of pedestrians and cyclists are injured in traffic every year with barely any repercussions for motorists. Though the department’s prohibition on careless driving citations does not apply to the Accident Investigation Squad — the 19-officer unit assigned to conduct full-scale investigations in instances where someone dies or is believed likely to die — NYPD rarely employs VTL 1146 to assign responsibility to drivers who injure and kill.

In 2011, the first full year after Hayley and Diego’s Law went into effect, 161 pedestrians and cyclists were killed on New York streets. NYPD issued just 84 citations for careless driving last year, according to preliminary data obtained by Transportation Alternatives from the state Department of Motor Vehicles. That number represents a drop from 2010, when officers issued 98 citations under VTL 1146.

“It is appalling that the number of 1146′s would go down after the passage of the Hayley and Diego amendments to it,” says attorney Steve Vaccaro. “Hayley and Diego’s Law was a clear indication that the legislature wanted enforcement against drivers who injure carelessly. The flat trend in 1146 citations means NYPD doesn’t care. It is also a reflection of the fact that staffing of the officers who write the bulk of the 1146′s — the AIS detectives — is far too low.”

In March, City Council Member Steve Levin announced a number of measures intended to reform the way NYPD handles traffic crashes, one of which was a bill to require that at least five officers per precinct be trained to conduct AIS-scale investigations. That bill has since been reduced to resolution status, as has another that would have mandated that NYPD investigative protocols conform to state law.

Graphic by Carly Clark

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After Hearing, Vallone and Vacca Support Strengthening Careless Driving Law

This morning’s City Council hearing on traffic crash investigations is already having an impact. Public Safety Committee Chair Peter Vallone, Jr. and Transportation Committee Chair James Vacca announced today that they will introduce a resolution in support of Albany legislation to make it clear that the police can enforce the state’s careless driving law.

Right now, the NYPD isn’t enforcing that law, which was named after toddlers Hayley Ng and Diego Martinez, killed in a 2009 crash in which a delivery van left unattended and in gear jumped a Chinatown curb.

Under current police protocol, only the citywide Accident Investigation Squad, a special unit called when someone is killed in a traffic crash or likely to die, employs Hayley and Diego’s Law. At today’s hearing, the NYPD said that the department has instructed regular cops not to issue tickets under Hayley and Diego’s Law after judges threw out arrests where the officer didn’t witness the violation directly.

The state legislation, sponsored by State Senator Dan Squadron and Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, would make it explicit that police officers can issue tickets for careless driving without directly witnessing the violation.

“We believe that providing law enforcement with this additional tool is one of the surest ways to hold careless drivers accountable for their dangerous behavior,” said Squadron and Kavanagh in a statement given to the Council today. “This new legislation will make our original law more effective by ensuring that officers will issue a violation when careless driving warrants one.”

The Squadron/Kavanagh bill, which was only introduced last week, doesn’t yet have any co-sponsors in Albany. If the City Council passes a forceful resolution in support of the legislation, however, that could prove a good kickstart to the bill.

We’ll have more on today’s hearing later today.