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Posts from the "Christine Quinn" Category

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City Council Lets Albany and NYPD Off the Hook for Traffic Violence

City Council Speaker Chris Quinn and Transportation Committee Chair James Vacca finally responded to the deaths of Amar Diarrassouba and Raizel and Nachman Glauber today, after devoting their energy earlier in the week to keeping municipal parking underpriced.

So are they calling on Albany to pass speed camera legislation? Nope. Pressuring NYPD to get serious about crash investigations and truck enforcement? Not that either.

Quinn and Vacca, joined by five other council members, are making their stand for safer streets by sending a letter to the one agency that’s taken meaningful action to reduce traffic violence, NYC DOT. How courageous:

If you’d like to help tackle the traffic enforcement issues that the City Council won’t touch, Transportation Alternatives’ speed camera petition is a good place to start.

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What City Do Christine Quinn and James Vacca Represent?

In February, no fewer than nine people were killed by drivers while walking in NYC, according to data compiled by Streetsblog. The victims included five seniors and a 6-year-old child. Two victims were on the sidewalk when they were killed. Another was struck by an NYPD officer in a crash that police refuse to explain to the victim’s family.

A crash in Brooklyn killed a young couple and their newborn baby. The hit-and-run suspect eventually turned himself in, but because of state laws that reward drivers involved in serious crashes for leaving the scene, justice is far from assured.

According to NYPD, with 20 fatalities, January was the deadliest month for city pedestrians and cyclists in at least 13 months. Three seniors and two children were killed by motorists. In relative terms the 1,297 pedestrians and cyclists who were injured in January did not constitute a particularly high number.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has not said a word about any of these deaths or injuries. Nor has James Vacca, who chairs the council transportation committee. Quinn and Vacca did, however, issue a joint statement Wednesday, following this week’s transportation committee meeting. Here it is:

In November, the Department of Transportation proposed increases that tripled the rate paid by permit holders at municipal parking garages and fields. This is an unconscionable increase on working people, which we already stopped once this year. As we’ve already made clear when we agreed to allow DOT to raise rates by no more than 20 percent, we are not prepared to re-visit the question of increases again in the 2014 budget. DOT should withdraw this proposal in the Executive Budget and find other sources of savings rather than raising revenue on the backs of hard-working commuters.

It has been 13 months since the council held a hearing on pedestrian and cyclist safety and the failure of NYPD to properly investigate traffic crashes. Since then, some 17,000 pedestrians and cyclists have been injured by drivers, and approximately 174 have died in traffic. About 1 percent of those crashes were investigated by police.

Their unwillingness to address NYPD crash investigation reforms notwithstanding, how could Quinn and Vacca choose to focus on such a trifling non-issue in light of the horrible headlines of the past week?

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At Transit Forum, Albanese, Allon, and Carrión Support Rational Tolls

Mayoral candidates Bill Thompson, Christine Quinn, John Liu, Bill de Blasio, Adolfo Carrión, Tom Allon, and Sal Albanese gathered to talk transit at a Friday evening forum. Photo: Stephen Miller

Friday’s transit forum hosted by Transit Workers Union Local 100 and a coalition of rider advocacy groups offered an opportunity for a more more detailed discussion of transit policy than this year’s mayoral race has seen so far. While the candidates offered few specifics about how they would improve transit for the millions of New Yorkers who depend on trains and buses, clear differences emerged, especially on the question of how to increase funding for the debt-ridden MTA.

Five Democrats — former City Council City member Sal Albanese, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Comptroller John Liu, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and former comptroller Bill Thompson — were on hand, as were former Bronx borough president Adolfo Carrión, running on the Independence Party line, and Manhattan Media publisher Tom Allon, running as a Republican. Conspicuously absent was Republican Joe Lhota, whose resume includes a recent one-year stint as MTA chair.

The transit issue that the mayor can control most directly is the allocation of street space. How much real estate should be dedicated exclusively to transit, so riders don’t get bogged down in traffic? More than anyone else, the mayor has the power to decide.

Albanese had the most specific proposal, calling for 20 new Select Bus Service routes by 2018. De Blasio said he wants more Bus Rapid Transit outside of Manhattan, citing a JFK-to-Flushing route as an example. When Streetsblog asked after the forum if the Bloomberg administration has been implementing the SBS program quickly enough, de Blasio said he didn’t know enough to say if implementation was going slowly, but that the implicit answer is “yes” because his vision calls more more BRT in the outer boroughs.

Carrión, who called for a new goal of providing 30-minute commutes from the city limits to the CBD, cited the Select Bus Service route on Fordham Road as a successful transit enhancement, noting that it has won over merchants who were initially skeptical. Quinn and Thompson, meanwhile, spoke about improving bus service, but not specifically about SBS or BRT. And Liu said that Bus Rapid Transit should be part of the city’s transit mix, but didn’t get more specific than that.

On the issue of funding the MTA, the mayor has far less direct control than the governor and the state legislature but still commands a powerful bully pulpit that can set the agenda.

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Quinn Says She Still Supports Congestion Pricing

After some pressing from Capital political reporter Azi Paybarah, Christine Quinn followed up her evasive and pessimistic statements about congestion pricing this morning with a firmer but still pessimistic statement about her position:

“I supported congestion pricing. I support congestion pricing. I do not see it coming back in Albany but my support for congestion pricing has not changed.”

So, if Quinn gets elected, don’t expect her to make the first move on this.

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One Year and 280+ Deaths Later, No Council Progress on NYPD Crash Reforms

Christine Quinn remains noncommittal on whether NYPD should investigate maimings and killings on NYC streets. Photo: James Estrin/New York Times/Redux

It was a year ago today that the City Council transportation committee, led by James Vacca and Peter Vallone Jr., convened a hearing on pedestrian and cyclist safety and the failure of NYPD to properly investigate traffic crashes.

“Driving in our city is a privilege, not a right,” said Vacca, to a room packed with victims of vehicular violence and their loved ones, safe streets advocates, and media. Of dangerous drivers, Vacca said: “I want to know what the police department is doing to track down these scofflaws. We have to bring these people to their senses. We don’t accept gun violence as a way to die. We shouldn’t accept traffic deaths as a way to die either.”

Vacca and Vallone listened sympathetically to hours of testimony from those whose lives were forever altered by traffic crashes, and whose misery was often compounded by an inept and indifferent NYPD. Council members learned that the department has just 19 officers assigned to its Accident Investigation Squad, and that no one else on the force has the authority to charge a motorist with careless driving, much less a serious crime, unless the officer witnesses a violation.

“There will be laws arising out of this,” said Vallone, who grilled NYPD brass alongside Jessica Lappin, Gale Brewer, Dan Garodnick, Steve Levin, Letitia James, Brad Lander, Dan Halloran, and Vincent Ignizio.

Five months later, council members introduced the Crash Investigation Reform Act. Among its provisions was the formation of a multi-agency task force charged with reforming NYPD crash investigation protocols, which allow thousands of serious injuries to go uninvestigated every year, in violation of state law.

Since last July, the Crash Investigation Reform Act has gone nowhere. Vallone has pretty much been a no-show on matters of street safety, while Vacca spent the rest of the year targeting delivery cyclists and working to make it easier for motorists to park.

Speaker Christine Quinn, whose imprimatur is essential to moving legislation through the council, has not taken a position on NYPD crash investigation reforms.

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Chris Quinn: “I Don’t Anticipate Congestion Pricing Coming Back Around”

Dana Rubinstein reports that City Council speaker and current mayoral front-runner Christine Quinn is bearish on congestion pricing’s political prospects:

“I don’t anticipate congestion pricing coming back around,” City Council Speaker Christine Quinn told an audience at New York Law School today, when asked about its near-term future. “It didn’t do well and I don’t expect that proposal to come back around in that way.”

Is this disappointing? Sure, it would be great news for New York City if a mayoral candidate ran in support of the single most transformative traffic and transit policy out there. And Quinn, who helped shepherd congestion pricing through the City Council in 2007 and 2008, is one of two contenders with a voting record in support of it. (The other is John Liu, who voted for congestion pricing when he was a City Council member representing Flushing, then turned around and opposed bridge tolls in 2009, when he had a citywide campaign to worry about. Bill de Blasio, meanwhile, voted against congestion pricing but is on the record supporting East River bridge tolls pegged to the subway fare.)

But is this significant? Well, I don’t think it means a whole lot.

Noted congestion pricing champion Michael Bloomberg, for instance, never campaigned on congestion pricing. He floated East River bridge tolls in 2002, a month after getting elected for the first time, but stopped pressing for them after then-governor George Pataki ruled out the idea. Running for re-election in 2005, Bloomberg again didn’t make congestion pricing a campaign issue, but it turned out to be his single biggest policy initiative in 2007 and 2008. Democratic Governor Eliot Spitzer backed the idea, and if he wasn’t such a weak-willed dirtbag, who knows, he might have steamrolled congestion pricing through Albany.

So mayoral candidates aren’t going to campaign on road pricing, even if they believe in it, and in the end, the person who has the most power to make it happen is the governor. If the NYC region is going to get a rationally priced road network and a well-funded transit system, it’s up to Andrew Cuomo to get things started — from the looks of it, preferably sometime after the mayoral election.

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Quinn, Citing “Middle Class Squeeze,” Ignores High Cost of Transportation

Just hours before her final State of the City address today, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn released a report on the challenges facing middle-class New Yorkers. But her vision has a conspicuous blind spot: the transportation costs consuming more than one in ten dollars of the average NYC household budget.

Today, Christine Quinn talked about keeping New York affordable for the middle class without mentioning the cost of a MetroCard. Photo: David Shankbone

Quinn’s report talks a lot about housing policy, but if she is serious about making New York an affordable place, she can’t ignore the other half of the equation by failing to mention transit and the city’s role in ensuring that it remains affordable.

The average NYC household spends 12 percent of its income on transportation, according to the Center for Neighborhood Technology’s Housing and Transportation Affordability Index. That’s 5.5 percentage points lower than the regional average, due in large part to the city’s robust transit network.

But transit fares have gone up in four of the last five years, and the added costs hit New Yorkers who have no other options the hardest. And City Hall is still a powerful bully pulpit from which to tackle New York’s transit funding problems, even if the mayor doesn’t have direct control of the MTA.

Additionally, the mayoral candidates could land a one-two punch against household budget busters by linking housing and transportation policy. The Department of City Planning’s move to eliminate parking requirements for affordable housing developments, for instance, will help drive down the cost of some new housing. There’s an opportunity for the next mayor to extend these cost-saving measures to all apartments and houses.

Even if Quinn doesn’t have the stomach to talk parking policy in an election year, attention to bread-and-butter transit issues – like getting the buses to run on time — could go a long way with voters who put up with long commutes. So far, though, Quinn has stayed true to form and ignored the transportation concerns of transit-riding New Yorkers yet again.

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London Mayor: Get Bigshots Out of Cars, Onto Transit “Like Everybody Else”

When was the last time Chris Quinn or Bill de Blasio rode transit to work? Left photo: NYT/Redux. Right photo: NYT.

London Mayor Boris Johnson, whose entertaining quotes about Mike Bloomberg have been ricocheting around New York’s political circles today, could teach a thing or two to the candidates running for mayor here in NYC. Yesterday, “Boris from Islington” called in to a radio talk show with a recorded question for Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg about Parliament’s profligate spending on cars for political leaders. It’s a question New Yorkers can appreciate.

“Get all those government ministers out of their posh limos and on to public transport like everybody else,” Johnson said. “How can we possibly expect government to vote for increases in infrastructure spending, which we need in this city in upgrading the Tube, which we all need, when they sit in their chauffer-driven limousines payed for by the taxpayers?”

Imagine, for a second, if any of New York’s crop of mayoral contenders stood up for transit riders like this. Instead, the NYC hopefuls are driving around the city, trying to convince New Yorkers, most of whom depend on transit to get around, that they feel their pain.

Although residents outside Manhattan struggle with long commutes on pokey buses, the candidates vying for votes in Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island have yet to mention Bus Rapid Transit on the campaign trail. At the same time, streets where you can walk or bike without fear of getting run over by a speeding driver have apparently become something to campaign against.

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Shu Ying Liu, 69, Killed by Hit-and-Run Truck Driver in Hell’s Kitchen

The driver of a private dump truck accused of killing an elderly woman in Hell’s Kitchen Tuesday has been charged with leaving the scene.

Shu Ying Liu, 69, was crossing 41st Street at Ninth Avenue at around 10:00 a.m. yesterday when she was hit by Jack Montelbano, who was making a right turn from Ninth to 41st, according to reports. The Times reported that Montelbano, of Bayonne, was alerted to the collision by witnesses but continued driving. He was tracked down in New Jersey and brought back to the city by police, who questioned and arrested him.

Liu, who lived on West 54th St., was pronounced dead at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt.

If Montelbano were versed on New York traffic law, he could have saved himself a lot of trouble. Minus the presence of intoxicants, deadly reckless driving is rarely prosecuted in New York, and assuming he possesses a valid license and was sober at the time of the crash, the odds that Montelbano would have been allowed on his way after a cursory NYPD investigation are close to 100 percent.

Even now, though indications are that Liu had a walk signal, at this point Montelbano reportedly faces no charges for killing her. (The office of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance was not ready to confirm charges at this writing.) If he pleads not guilty to leaving the scene, and goes to trial, there’s a chance he’ll walk away with nothing more than a bill for attorney fees.

This fatal crash occurred in the 10th Precinct. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Deputy Inspector Elisa Cokkinos, the commanding officer, go to the next precinct community council meeting. The 10th Precinct council meetings happen at 7 p.m. on the last Wednesday of the month at the precinct, 230 West 20th St. Call 212-741-8226 for information.

The City Council district where Shu Ying Liu was killed is represented by Speaker Christine Quinn, who has yet to take a position on NYPD crash investigation reforms. To encourage Quinn to take action to improve street safety in her district and citywide, contact her at 212-564-7757 or @ChrisCQuinn.

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NYPD: Bus Driver Who Ran Woman Over Did Nothing Wrong

The bus driver who ran over and killed a woman in Canarsie last Friday broke no laws, according to NYPD.

Lorraine and Michael Ferguson. Photo via Daily News

Lorraine Ferguson was crossing at Avenue K and 105th Street at approximately 7:15 a.m. when the driver, operating a private bus carrying disabled adults, struck her while turning left. Michael Ferguson, the victim’s husband, witnessed the crash, and said the driver ran a stop sign before the collision.

Nonetheless, the Daily News reported on Friday that police have all but cleared the driver of responsibility:

He was not expected to be charged, police sources said. Contrary to Michael Ferguson’s assertion that the driver cruised through the stop sign, investigators found no immediate evidence the man had done anything wrong, the sources added.

No one disputes that the actions of the bus driver led to the death of Lorraine Ferguson. But in New York City, a lifeless body underneath a vehicle is not considered sufficient evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the motorist behind the wheel. That such a conclusion could be reached by police, and reported by the media without question, encapsulates the extreme dysfunction of our city and state traffic justice system.

As candidates for mayor and other citywide offices begin to shape their campaign platforms, no one is talking about the thousands of injuries and deaths that occur on city streets every year, or the fact that, in violation of state law, virtually none of them are investigated by Ray Kelly’s NYPD. This life and death issue continues to be ignored by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, two mayoral aspirants who are currently in a position to help make New Yorkers safer from reckless drivers like the one who killed Lorraine Ferguson.