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Posts from the "Dov Hikind" Category

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Myth Busted: Safer Streets Are Not Slowing Emergency Responders

A go-to NIMBY argument against safe street improvements is that bike lanes, pedestrian plazas, and ped refuge islands interfere with emergency responders.

We await the exclusive CBS 2 report retracting all their nonsense about safer streets slowing down emergency vehicles.

In 2009, one complainer at an event sponsored by then-Council Member Alan Gerson claimed that pedestrian islands on Grand Street “put lives in danger” by slowing down fire trucks and ambulances. Opponents of the Prospect Park West bike lane lobbed the same accusation at DOT and got Marcia Kramer to give them a megaphone. Assembly Member Dov Hikind spearheaded a successful campaign to make Fort Hamilton Parkway more dangerous for seniors based on nothing more than specious complaints from Hatzolah ambulance drivers, again amplified by Kramer.

A data set released by the city Wednesday blows another hole in what has always been a weak and cynical criticism. At an event on Randall’s Island yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg and Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano announced that in 2012, FDNY achieved the fastest average EMS response time in the city’s history. Fewer civilians died in fires last year than ever before, which the mayor and fire chief attributed to another near-record low average response time. From a City Hall press release:

The FDNY’s Emergency Medical Service averaged an ambulance response time for life-threatening medical emergencies of 6:30 — a second faster than the previous record of 6:31 set in 2011.

Structural fire response time in 2012 was 4:04, two seconds higher than last year when it was 4:02 due in part to the large call volume that occurred during and after Hurricane Sandy when the FDNY responded to nearly 100 serious structural fires.

Compared to the total amount of street space in the city, the square footage dedicated to pedestrians and cyclists in recent years is actually quite small. But there are still hundreds of places with new sidewalk extensions, pedestrian islands, and bike lanes, and at the very least the FDNY numbers suggest that new measures designed to make streets safer for walking and biking are not having the detrimental effect prophesied by the likes of Dov Hikind, NBBL, Marty Markowitz, and Marcia Kramer.

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Requiem for Three Pedestrian Islands in Boro Park

For the historical record, here’s three minutes of rather dull video capturing the pedestrian refuges on Fort Hamilton Parkway and 46th Street in Brooklyn. When the camera pans right you can also see the intersection at 47th Street, where there’s another refuge. I took the footage at the tail end of the p.m. rush this Wednesday, a few minutes before 6:30.

This is the Safe Streets for Seniors project that had local Assembly Member Dov Hikind up in arms for months, contending that the refuges impeded emergency response and interfered with deliveries to local businesses. While nearby Maimonides Medical Center and the FDNY said the islands posed no problem, the Hatzolah volunteer ambulance corps apparently felt differently and petitioned the local community board to have them taken out. Now DOT is going to remove these three refuges and add 24 blocks of striped center median, from 37th Street to 61st Street, to help compensate for the loss. A median island between 45th Street and New Utrecht Avenue will get shaved down but remain in place.

So, watch and see what all the fuss is about. In the snippet of time I got on video, the only person with any reason to complain is the cyclist who got a rude honking from a passing van driver at about the two-minute mark. Below is more footage from the intersection at 45th Street and the median island that’s slated for shaving.

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Maimonides Hospital, FDNY: Boro Park Ped Islands Don’t Slow Response Times

Despite what Dov Hikind and Marcia Kramer say, the fire department reports no trouble navigating the new pedestrian refuge islands on Fort Hamilton Parkway.

Here’s something Marcia Kramer, Dov Hikind, and Marty Markowitz forgot to mention in all their accumulated lawsuit threats, media events, and TV coverage on the Fort Hamilton Parkway pedestrian refuges: FDNY and Maimonides hospital report that the project has not affected response times.

In opposing the pedestrian islands, designed to calm traffic and provide a safer crossing for Borough Park’s large senior population, Kramer, Hikind, and Markowitz have attempted to wrap themselves in the banner of public safety. They claim that the islands make it difficult for emergency vehicles to traverse the road, slowing response times to nearby Maimonides. According to Maimonides itself and the FDNY, however, their vehicles are able to move freely and respond to emergencies as effectively as ever.

“As far as the hospital is concerned, there has been no issue with delivering care,” Maimonides Assistant Vice President for Public Relations Eileen Tynan told Streetsblog. “Our ambulance drivers concur.” If medical care is suffering as a result of the pedestrian islands, it’s news to those providing care.

The FDNY similarly reported no problem with its fire trucks or ambulances navigating the redesigned Fort Hamilton Parkway and no threat to public safety. Said a fire department spokesperson by e-mail, “FDNY met with DOT regarding these ‘pedestrian refuge islands’ before they were installed. As with any project, any concerns would be discussed and fixed. I do not have any information that says our units cannot drive safely on Fort Hamilton Parkway.” FDNY EMTs and paramedics respond to 1.2 million emergencies citywide each year, or three a minute.

Dov Hikind’s office has not responded to requests for comment about the statements from Maimonides and FDNY.

One subset of emergency responders who may be influencing Hikind’s opposition to pedestrian safety infrastructure is Hatzolah, the Orthodox Jewish volunteer ambulance service. Hatzolah has petitioned the local community board to ask the city to take out the refuge islands, according to CBS 2.

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Kramer and Hikind Exaggerate Victory in War on Pedestrians

Last night Marcia Kramer served up more of her unique brand of public service journalism, triumphantly reporting that the city will remove pedestrian safety measures designed to prevent seniors from getting killed and maimed in Borough Park traffic. Touring Fort Hamilton Parkway with Dov Hikind, the State Assembly rep who threatened last month to sue NYC DOT over the recently-installed pedestrian islands, Kramer reported that the city has agreed to remove what she called “the offending barricades.” But it seems like in their zeal to run up the score against pedestrian safety improvements, Kramer and Hikind overstated the extent of the changes in store for the street.

According to multiple sources familiar with the current status of the project, the changes that the city is considering will narrow but not remove the pedestrian refuges. It’s not clear how wide the refuges will be after the alterations. The changes will also include adding pedestrian safety features to other intersections on Fort Hamilton Parkway.

DOT spokesperson Seth Solomonow said the details of the changes are still getting fleshed out: “We are considering making adjustments and additional improvements along the corridor, though nothing has been finalized at this time.”

Hikind has been attacking the pedestrian refuges since last fall, with a few assists from Kramer. Her CBS2 segments have portrayed the refuges — built as part of NYC DOT’s citywide Safe Streets for Seniors initiative — as agents of “cement chaos” (note: they are made of concrete). While the Safe Streets for Seniors program uses traffic injury and demographic data to pinpoint locations where senior pedestrians are most in need of safety improvements, Kramer and Hikind are fond of using visual anecdotes and mangled logic to make their case for undoing street designs that save lives.

After announcing his intent to sue DOT over the pedestrian islands, Hikind told Streetsblog, “I care about pedestrians at least as much as you do.”

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Dov Hikind Threatens to Sue the Safety Off Fort Hamilton Parkway

Assembly Member Dov Hikind is stooping to a new low, even by Albany’s standards, to ensure that traffic keeps on menacing pedestrians to the fullest extent possible on NYC streets.

Dov Hikind rails against pedestrian safety measures at a CB12 hearing last fall.

The central Brooklyn rep announced today that he’s trying to force the Department of Transportation to remove pedestrian refuges from Fort Hamilton Parkway, threatening what looks to be a copycat lawsuit modeled after the anti-bike lane case filed by well-connected opponents of the Prospect Park West redesign.

Hikind’s office says he plans to file the lawsuit in the next 10 to 14 days, under the same state provision, known as article 78, employed by the PPW plaintiffs.

The Fort Hamilton Parkway refuges were installed last year as part of DOT’s citywide effort to improve street safety in areas with high proportions of senior pedestrians. The project [PDF] targeted a stretch in Borough Park with a grisly record of traffic violence, as local City Council Member Brad Lander wrote in the neighborhood newspaper Hamodia last fall:

On December 31st, 2009, a 74-year-old woman was hit by a truck and killed as she crossed Fort Hamilton Parkway at 49th Street in Boro Park. In April of this year, a 55-year-old person was killed crossing Fort Hamilton just a few blocks away. Nearby, several other pedestrians have been struck by cars. In 2008, when a car collision at Fort Hamilton and 44th Street killed two people, a local resident called it the “corner of death.”

Hikind’s announcement omits all mention of these fatalities. In a press release replete with scare quotes around the phrase “senior safety,” his office announced the delivery of 1,100 petitions to DOT Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Joseph Palmieri seeking the removal of the refuges. Hikind characterizes the refuges, which give pedestrians safer crossings and cause drivers to take turns more carefully, as “absurd islands.” A project to prevent deaths and injuries is, in Hikind’s view, part of “Sadik-Khan’s crusade against vehicles and motorists.”

Hikind, repeating arguments from a rant he delivered at Brooklyn Community Board 12 last year, hides behind a familiar argument against traffic calming projects all over the country: that streets designed to improve safety impede emergency response, in this case for vehicles en route to Maimonides Medical Center. Streetsblog noted in December that these claims are divorced from public health and safety research, which show that life-saving benefits accrue from traffic-calming, while no correlation exists between patient mortality rates and the time it takes to transport patients to a hospital. From a safety perspective, there is no reason to think that a Fort Hamilton Parkway without pedestrian refuges would do anything except put people at greater risk.

As Traffic author Tom Vanderbilt has written, using the emergency response argument against traffic calming measures entails a fundamental miscalculation:

Designing roads to meet some supposed emergency response criteria, for that dramatic last-second rescue, actually helps raise the risk of dying in a much more common way: In traffic.

Dov Hikind’s crusade against pedestrians will only cost lives. All he is seeking is to do is make Fort Hamilton as dangerous as it used to be.

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Shady Dealings Drive EDC Subsidies for Moisha’s Supermarket Parking Lot

Moisha's Discount Supermarket is set to expand with city assistance, but it'll be building more parking than supermarket. Image: Google Street View.

Wondering why the city is subsidizing 18,000 square feet of parking for a project that’s supposed to make fresh food more accessible to low-income New Yorkers? Political favors seem to have something to do with it.

Moisha’s Discount Supermarket is receiving $2 million in tax incentives to expand its operations and build parking for 45 cars under the FRESH program, intended to bring fruits and vegetables into underserved neighborhoods. But according to a report in the Daily News, there are 10 markets within five blocks of Moisha’s and all of them sell fresh produce. The News points to $41,690 in donations from Moisha’s owners to local politicians as an alternative explanation for Moisha’s tax breaks.

An article in City Hall News, which has been taken off their website (we’re looking into why), suggests more direct impropriety. They report that the district manager of Brooklyn Community Board 12 testified to the city’s Industrial Development Agency that his board was completely behind the Moisha’s expansion. But a member of CB12 said the board had never discussed the issue. The district manager and Moisha’s owners are reported to have close ties to Assembly member and local power broker Dov Hikind.

Assembly Member Dov Hikind speaking against pedestrian refuges on Fort Hamilton Parkway at a CB12 meeting last November.

All too often, political patronage is what determines how much parking New York City decides to build. From the city’s decision to give more parking to the Yankees in return for a luxury suite in left field to the Finance Department’s overruling of rank-and-file assessors to grant a politically-connected Jamaica parking operator non-profit status and millions in tax exemptions, too much of the city’s mushrooming parking supply is built and subsidized because of sweetheart deals.

Even when political favors aren’t at work, however, it’s usually still politics that determines how much parking gets built, not any kind of thinking about transportation policy. Parking is routinely thrown in as a “sweetener” for new development, something that a developer or the city can offer a neighborhood to accept growth.

It’s exceedingly rare for parking decisions to be made on the grounds of how much more traffic a garage will induce or how much air pollution it will add. No wonder the city keeps building acre after acre of it.

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Dov Hikind Demagogues Against Safer Streets

Via Gothamist, here’s Assembly Member Dov Hikind railing against the new pedestrian refuges on Fort Hamilton Parkway at a Brooklyn Community Board 12 meeting last week. Hikind apparently can’t comprehend a program to install street safety amenities that reduce crossing distances in parts of town where lots of seniors live. His 13-minute tirade followed City Council Member Brad Lander’s defense of the ped refuge installation by NYC DOT.

Hikind uses the same rationale about emergency response that Marcia Kramer has deployed in two separate CBS2 pieces on these refuges. See our post last month for a few reasons why the “slowing down ambulances and fire trucks” argument obscures the real public safety risks at work on our streets.

I’ll add that Hikind’s vow to “undo” the refuges is tantamount to a pledge to increase the risk of chronic disease for his constituents. While public health professionals, including NYC Health Commissioner Thomas Farley, are making the case that incorporating physical activity into our daily routines can help reduce the incidence of heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure, Hikind is doing his best to make streets in his district less safe and welcoming for walking.

This flare-up over the Borough Park pedestrian refuges comes at an interesting moment. The City Council just passed a bill requiring NYC DOT to post standards explaining why traffic calming projects are implemented. A write-up in the Post today gleefully calls it “a new weapon to fight bike lanes, pedestrian plazas and other traffic measures.”

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