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Posts from the "Dan Garodnick" Category

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Garodnick Endorses Complete Streets for Fifth and Sixth Avenues

The next time someone tries to tell you that complete street designs with pedestrian islands and protected bike lanes are controversial, point them to what’s happening on Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Avenues in Manhattan, where a united coalition of parents, business owners, elected officials, and community boards are begging DOT to design streets in the image of the already-remade First, Second, Eighth, and Ninth Avenues.

Think Fifth Avenue could be safer and better for bus riders, cyclists, and pedestrians? Dan Garodnick does. Photo: Canon/Flickr

Think Fifth Avenue could be safer and better for bus riders, cyclists, and pedestrians? Dan Garodnick does. Photo: Canon/Flickr

Advocates for a redesigned Fifth and Sixth Avenues are furthest along. Last week, they secured the endorsement of Council Member Dan Garodnick. ”Complete streets help to reduce the conflicts that exist every day between cars, bicyclists, and pedestrians in Midtown Manhattan,” Garodnick said in a statement. “The Department of Transportation should be looking to repeat their most successful strategies wherever they can, and Fifth and Sixth Avenues — with significant crashes annually — are ripe for review.”

The campaign has already received backing from Council Member Corey Johnson and Community Boards 2, 4, and 5. It’s also gathered the support of numerous business improvement districts and small businesses. Next month, Transportation Alternatives is hosting a “walk, bike, shop” event along Fifth and Sixth Avenues to thank local merchants for their support [PDF]. Next up: securing meetings with Council Members Margaret Chin and Rosie Mendez, who cover the area’s final southernmost blocks.

That momentum has spilled westward, where an effort led by parents and staff at PS 41 to expand the West Village slow zone has grown into a complete streets campaign for Seventh Avenue. Last Thursday, CB 2′s full board followed the lead of its transportation committee by unanimously endorsing a resolution asking DOT to study a complete streets redesign for Seventh Avenue, Seventh Avenue South, and Varick Street. In passing what could be considered a model resolution for boards wanting safer arterial streets [PDF], CB 2 asked DOT to consider pedestrian islands, narrowed car lanes, protected bike lanes, bus lanes, bus bulbs, leading pedestrian intervals, and split-phase traffic signals.

Seventh Avenue is also likely to come up at the next meeting of CB 4′s transportation committee, which covers the avenue through Chelsea, scheduled for October 15.

“There’s so much support from the community boards, from the electeds, that DOT will really have the chance to be bold,” said Transportation Alternatives organizer Tom Devito. “It’s clearly a testament to a shift in the belief in what our streets are for.”

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Garodnick Bill Would Give Transit Riders a Tax Break

A City Council bill from Dan Garodnick could save a lot of transit riders a nice chunk of change.

Hundreds of thousands of NYC commuters could save $443 a year by buying a monthly MetroCard with pre-tax dollars. Photo:##https://www.flickr.com/photos/36217981@N02/5460212022/in/photolist-9jv1NA-bDQkXm-bWoBRH-dwvtkn-9K5XbZ-7FUuE-5XKoqA-jFDLr9-5S4TWT-5SkBj3-4g2GLm-8m3q1D-dwvv2e-4Ea5iS-e32iSn-617i6v-7Hucq1-5SzRcs-bXdFu6-5SHxsX-diocNN-5S9f37-5SwWRW-4TesNy-4kEKU3-5TTjiV-9PgYp6-pxmEh-5S9f1L-82TkQ3-dbLJRp-e32iun-e32iC2-e37ZKY-e32iMc-e3811N-4T9hkr-7LLc2L-fwqqCg-9yhssj-fwEH7Y-o4GnR-dbLLxC-68EQcr-dyxMPa-e3819q-5QXy5T-5QwG7h-6nTYHQ-5QAB8N##Tim Adama/Flickr##

Hundreds of thousands of NYC commuters could save $443 a year by buying a monthly MetroCard with pre-tax dollars. Photo: Tim Adams/Flickr

Federal law lets commuters spend up to $130 in tax-free income a month on transit fares. For a New Yorker earning an average wage, buying a monthly MetroCard with pre-tax dollars adds up to $443 in annual savings, according to Riders Alliance, which issued a report backing the benefit. But it’s only available through employers who offer the program.

Garodnick’s bill would require companies with a staff of 20 or more to make the benefit available to employees. The bill would make the benefit available to 605,000 New Yorkers, and commuters who work in the city but live elsewhere can also sign up. 

Garodnick was joined by council colleagues Ydanis Rodriguez and Helen Rosenthal, along with Riders Alliance, at a Sunday presser announcing the measure.

“It’s not just a savings for employees, but for the employers themselves,” said Garodnick. “Dollars come out before they pay their payroll taxes for their employees.” The Riders Alliance report says companies that offer the program can save $103 per year per participating employee.

Riders Alliance estimates that the benefit would reduce city and state tax revenues by at least $6 million and $10 million, respectively. However, the report says, “not only would tens of millions of dollars be saved each year by New Yorkers, but it would also enter the economy in a way that directly encourages increased use of — and spending toward — public transit.”

With the lower tax burden, transit riders would collectively have $85 million to inject into the local economy, the report notes.

“Fares keep going up and this is something the city can do to help riders save money,” said John Raskin, Riders Alliance executive director.

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Vaccaro: NYPD Coerces Injured Hit-and-Run Victims to Not Pursue Charges

The City Council transportation committee met today to gather testimony on NYPD hit-and-run crash investigations, but NYPD didn’t send anyone to the hearing. The committee also took up a bill that would codify updates to DOT’s innovative Street Design Manual.

Family members of hit-and-run victim Dante Dominguez, with Council Members Rosie Mendez and Leroy Comrie. Photo: ##http://www.qchron.com/editions/queenswide/flushing-hit-and-run-inspires-council-bill/article_232113e3-a3d4-5ca0-97dd-f26b871953ca.html##Queens Chronicle##

Family members of hit-and-run victim Dante Dominguez, with City Council Members Rosie Mendez and Leroy Comrie. The driver who killed Dominguez was not caught. His brother says NYPD did not start its investigation until a week after the crash. Photo: Queens Chronicle

Intro 1055 would require NYPD to report to the council every two years on hit-and-run crashes that result in serious injury or death, including the number of crashes per precinct, and to provide “a brief description of what steps were taken to investigate each such incident.” Bill sponsor Leroy Comrie said today that hit-and-run fatalities have increased by 31 percent since 2010, with 47 deaths in 2012.

“The families want to know if NYPD has thoroughly pursued all avenues of evidence in actively finding the perpetrators that claimed their loved ones,” said Comrie. “They deserve to know the status of their investigation and what they can realistically expect to happen. And the public needs to know that these crimes are not simply swept under the rug, but actively pursued.”

Comrie also wants NYPD to collect video evidence within a five block radius of hit-and-run crashes, though this would take the form of a resolution, rather than a law, since the council believes it can not force the department to change the way it handles crash investigations.

During testimony, Juan Martinez, general counsel for Transportation Alternatives, said hit-and-run collisions are “perhaps the most callous criminal act that a driver can commit.” Of some 300 investigations by the Collision Investigation Squad in 2012, Martinez said, around 60 involved hit-and-run drivers. Of those, only 15 resulted in an arrest.

Martinez said more oversight would lead to better enforcement. “Government can’t manage what it can’t measure,” he said.

Attorney Steve Vaccaro joined Martinez in suggesting changes to the hit-and-run bill. Martinez recommended crash data be shared with the public as well as the council, and Vaccaro said reports should come once or twice a year, instead of every other year. Said Vaccaro: ”I think this data is going to show there’s a big problem here.”

Vaccaro testified that, based on his firm’s experience with clients and other crash victims who seek guidance over the phone, New York City police officers often refuse to take a report on a hit-and-run unless an injured victim agrees to be transported to a hospital by ambulance. This can be a deterrent for victims who have no health insurance, or who are not aware of coverage available to them through the Motor Vehicle Accident Indemnification Corporation, which offers compensation for crashes caused by uninsured drivers. Many times, Vaccaro said, victims are traumatized to the extent that they don’t realize they need medical care until hours after a crash.

Shockingly, in some instances Vaccaro said NYPD officers threaten not to include a perpetrator’s license plate number in a report, if it is known to police, unless an injured victim agrees to not pursue a criminal case. “Hit-and-run is a criminal offense that needs to be treated as one,” said Vaccaro. “Someone should not be forced to choose between insurance and compensation for their injuries and seeing the driver who injured them and then drove off from the scene brought to justice.”

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To Reform NYPD Crash Investigations, There’s a Lot More Work to Do

NYPD attorney Susan Petito, Deputy Chief John Cassidy, executive officer of NYPD's transportation bureau, and Inspector Paul Ciorra, commanding officer of NYPD's Highway Unit, testify at a joint hearing of the City Council's transportation and public safety committees this morning. Photo: Stephen Miller

This morning, the City Council’s transportation and public safety committees held a joint oversight hearing of NYPD’s crash investigation policies. It was the first time committee chairs James Vacca and Peter Vallone had put police brass on the spot since February 2012, when a joint oversight hearing unearthed new information about NYPD’s lackluster crash investigations. Since then, NYPD has initiated some reforms, but today’s testimony showed that the department’s internal changes only go so far. Much more progress must be made before New York has truly comprehensive crash investigations.

Today’s hearing yielded status updates on the internal changes NYPD made last spring, and the gaps that remain in the department’s crash investigation protocol.

Last year, CIS had a staff of 19. Currently, CIS has a staff of 27: One lieutenant, four sergeants, and 22 investigators. Deputy Chief John Cassidy, executive officer of NYPD’s transportation bureau, said five additional investigators will be added to CIS staff “in the near future.” There is also a new unit, the Collision Technician Group, which collects evidence and performs analysis of crash scenes. This work had previously been performed by NYPD’s Highway Patrol personnel, in addition to their other duties. The Collision Technician Group currently has a staff of one sergeant and 12 technicians.

In addition to internal training, staff attends crash investigation and reconstruction courses from Northwestern University’s Center for Public Safety. The agency has also replaced tape measures with electronic surveying tools, and uses onboard instruments to measure a vehicle’s braking and acceleration forces.

As of September 1, there have been 189 traffic fatalities in 2013, down slightly from 192 at the same point last year. Over the same period, there were 36,378 collisions involving injuries, down slightly from 37,073 the year before, continuing a long-term trend. The number of CIS investigations as of September of this year stands at 293, up from 238 during the same period last year — a 23 percent increase. Because NYPD’s policy changes only took effect in April, Cassidy said he expects the increase in CIS investigations to grow even more over the next year. In his introductory remarks, Vacca said that NYPD expects to investigate three times as many crashes as before.

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Cab Driver Who Severed Woman’s Leg: I’m the Victim

Yes, he really did. Mohammed Himon and Fernando Mateo outside Bellevue Hospital today, where Sian Green is still recovering. Photo: @TraceeCarrasco

The Taxi and Limousine Commission tells us Mohammed Himon pleaded guilty to a suspension summons and surrendered his hack license this afternoon. “His suspension has technically begun,” a spokesperson said. So while Himon won’t be behind the wheel of a cab for at least 30 days, you might see him on your television.

Himon — who drove a quarter of a block on a Midtown sidewalk with a cyclist on the hood before slamming into and severing the leg of British tourist Sian Green — held a press conference outside Bellevue Hospital this morning to apologize to Green, blame the cyclist for the crash, and call for license and insurance requirements for people who ride bikes.

Himon was joined by Fernando Mateo, former head of the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, who according to a sympathetic story in the Post had this to say: “The only crime committed here was by the bicyclist. This is not Mohammed’s fault. It is the fault of the cyclist. Who would you rather believe, a man who immigrated to this country and supports his family back home, or a thug?”

And:

“There’s a lot of pressure and demands on drivers. There are drivers that are irresponsible but that isn’t the case here.”

“This young man has a family to support,” Mateo said. “If he can find another job, great. If not, he should be allowed to drive a cab.”

“It’s not my fault, it was an accident,” Himon said. “I didn’t see [cyclist Kenneth Olivo] — only when he banged on my car. He is not good.”

Council Member Dan Garodnick, whose district will soon include the intersection where the crash occurred, issued this statement in response to Himon’s publicity stunt:

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Mini-Bus Driver Critically Injures Woman, 95, Crossing East 86th Street

NYPD investigates a crash at 86th Street and Madison Avenue where a mini-bus driver critically injured a 95-year-old woman crossing the street. Photo: Stephen Miller

Yesterday at approximately 4:15 p.m., the driver of a white Diamond model mini-bus turning right from Madison Avenue onto East 86th Street struck an unidentified 95-year-old woman crossing the street from south to north. The woman was transported to Weill Cornell Medical Center in critical condition. NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad and DOT investigators were on the scene yesterday evening; police say the investigation is currently ongoing.

It appears the woman was struck in the crosswalk — blood and pieces of clothing were visible just outside the marked crossing early yesterday evening — but NYPD would not confirm. Tomasz Cizek, who works at an optician on the corner where the van driver struck the woman, said police reopened the street to traffic after the woman was taken to the hospital before closing it again about an hour later for the investigation.

A call to the number listed on the bus connects to D & J Ambulette Service of the Bronx, which operates ambulette, Access-A-Ride, and other shuttle services. Streetsblog called and e-mailed D & J this morning; our messages have not yet been returned.

The crash occurred in the City Council district represented by Dan Garodnick. In the wake of Tuesday’s crash where a curb-jumping cab driver maimed a Midtown pedestrian, Garodnick said on Twitter that he would explore options for improved pedestrian safety on Fifth and Sixth Avenues.

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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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Why Are Electric Bikes Illegal, Anyway?

It’s getting to be a task keeping up with pending City Council bills that deal with electric-assisted bikes. Legislation proposed by Council Members Jessica Lappin and Dan Garodnick would hike fines for riding an e-bike, and two new bills would reportedly shift fines away from delivery workers to their employers and grant enforcement power to DOT and Parks Department personnel, who, if the bill passes, would have the authority to confiscate bikes. Meanwhile, Council Member Brad Lander wants to establish an e-bike task force — a possible sign that lawmakers are looking to streamline the council’s seemingly haphazard e-bike offensive.

Under New York code, this man is an outlaw. Photo: NYT

One question that tends to come up when an e-bike bill surfaces, or resurfaces, is why they’re illegal in the first place. Restaurant workers do long shifts, in all weather and terrain conditions, for very little money. Not all of them are young. Why would the City Council expend so much effort to take away a tool that makes their jobs easier?

We called up Transportation Alternatives’ Juan Martinez for the lowdown on e-bikes in New York. About 10 years ago, Martinez says, the federal government passed a law that classified certain electric bikes as bicycles, exempting them from regulations that apply to street-legal motorcycles. But Albany never updated state code to reflect the change. Since electric bikes don’t come from the factory with vehicle identification numbers — because VIN plates aren’t required by federal regulations — they can’t be registered with the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

Most e-bikes used by restaurant workers weigh about the same as conventional bikes and have a top speed of around 20 mph. Yet in the eyes of the law, they are unlicensed motorcycles driven by unlicensed operators.

Martinez says the Assembly routinely passes out a bill that would bring state code in line with federal law, but the Senate has yet to pass a companion bill — not because there is opposition, but mainly because, well, it’s Albany.

And why doesn’t the City Council simply adopt a home rule message urging state lawmakers to finally make e-bikes legal to ride, like conventional bicycles? “That’s a rhetorical question,” says Martinez.

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Ray Kelly Ignores Council Member Inquiry Into Death of Rubin Baum

NYPD is being characteristically closed-mouthed concerning the crash that killed Upper East Side pedestrian Rubin Baum, as Commissioner Ray Kelly has ignored a request from a City Council member to be apprised of the department’s investigation.

Rubin and Denise Baum. Photo via Daily News

Baum and his wife Denise were struck at Park Avenue and E. 59th Street on Saturday, September 22, as the couple attempted to hail a cab. According to reports, the driver of a Mazda sedan ran a red light and struck a minivan. The Mazda spun into the Baums, killing Mr. Baum and injuring Mrs. Baum.

Baum, a decorated Korean War medic, was 80 years old.

A few hours after Baum was killed, NYPD announced to the media that “no criminality was suspected.” On September 28, City Council Member Dan Garodnick, who represents the district where the crash occurred, sent Kelly a letter requesting that NYPD “conduct a full investigation” into the crash.

“I ask for you to share the results of your investigation,” Garodnick wrote. “Further, please advise if NYPD has referred this case to the Accident Investigation Squad for additional investigation and/or to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office regarding possible criminal charges.”

Kelly has yet to respond to Garodnick. ”We look forward to hearing back from the NYPD on the results of their investigation,” Garodnick told Streetsblog in an emailed statement.

At a public event on October 5, long-time street safety advocate Charles Komanoff asked Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance if his office has issued subpoenas for “black box” data from the vehicles involved in the crash. Vance said he didn’t know, and said that obtaining such evidence is “complicated.”

As a candidate in 2009, Vance said that as district attorney he would consider vehicle black box data “critical” to crash investigations, and that he would issue subpoenas to acquire it.

Vance’s office does not comment on vehicular crimes. An email from Streetsblog to NYPD regarding the crash, the investigation and Garodnick’s letter has not been returned.

Earlier this month, the City Council passed a package of bills to regulate delivery cyclists. Legislation intended to compel NYPD to comply with state law in its handling of traffic crashes, which kill hundreds of New Yorkers a year, remains in limbo.

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Garodnick Wants NYPD Investigation Into Death of Pedestrian Rubin Baum

Rubin and Denise Baum

City Council Member Dan Garodnick is asking NYPD for a “full investigation” into the weekend crash that killed Upper East Side pedestrian Rubin Baum.

The news went out on Garodnick’s Twitter feed earlier today.

Baum and his wife Denise were struck at Park Avenue and E. 59th Street on Saturday, September 22, as the couple attempted to hail a cab. According to reports, the driver of a Mazda sedan ran a red light and struck a minivan. The Mazda spun into the Baums, killing Mr. Baum and injuring Mrs. Baum.

Baum was an 80-year-old decorated Korean War vet. His father was killed at the hands of a Manhattan motorist in 1977.

“If cars are obeying traffic laws, accidents like the one that led to Rubin Baum’s tragic death would be avoided,” said Garodnick in a written statement to Streetsblog. “I want to make sure the NYPD gives this and similar cases the attention they deserve.”

Only about half of New York City motorists who kill pedestrians and cyclists are cited for careless driving. Unless a motorist is under the influence, and the evidence holds up in court, criminal charges against drivers who maim and kill are extremely rare. Drivers who take a life can expect to retain or regain their driving privileges, even in cases involving alcohol or drugs.

A few hours after Baum was killed, NYPD announced to the media that “no criminality was suspected.”

In response to our e-mail from earlier this week, Erin Duggan, communications director for Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, said, ”We decline to comment on individual investigations, but the DA’s office reviews all fatal crashes in Manhattan.”

Baum was the 27th Manhattan pedestrian or cyclist known killed by a motorist in 2012. To date, no motorists are known to have been charged for causing a death in any of those crashes.