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Posts from the "Eric Schneiderman" Category

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In Race to Succeed Schneiderman, Support for Transit, Skepticism on Tolls

31_array.jpgSenate District 31 contenders Miosotis Muñoz, Mark Levine, Anna Lewis, and Adriano Espaillat
One would be hard pressed to find a more broadly drawn constituency in the city than that of state Senate District 31, which spans from the Upper West Side to Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood before hopping the Harlem River into Riverdale. But in spite of vast differences in culture and income, most district residents have at least two things in common: they don't own a car, and they rely heavily on trains and buses to conduct their day-to-day lives.

Eric Schneiderman has represented District 31 since 1998. Though he has distinguished himself as a progressive who lauded PlaNYC and publicly blamed Albany for abandoning transit riders, Senator Schneiderman has basically been a no-show when it comes to the current MTA budget crisis. Now that Schneiderman's bid for state attorney general has opened up the seat, transit-dependent voters in the district's Democratic primary will have to choose from a field of candidates with varying views on providing the MTA with adequate, long-term funding -- though none are calling for road pricing to shift part of the burden to drivers entering their neighborhoods.

Among District 31 aspirants, Adriano Espaillat is probably the most widely known. That is, the Assembly member is known to be inconsistent when it comes to supporting stable revenue streams for the city's transit system. Espaillat was a vocal supporter of congestion pricing. But a year later he came out strongly against tolling the "free" bridges of Upper Manhattan, and never mind that some 80 percent of households in his Assembly district do not own a car. Espaillat also lambasted the MTA for its plan to cut student MetroCards, insisting that Albany had done its part to shore up transit finances. (Full disclosure: Espaillat, like Schneiderman, represents part of Inwood, where I live. In addition to covering Espaillat's maneuvering for Streetsblog, I posted the occasional related rant on my now-defunct neighborhood blog. Espaillat once accused me of making false statements about his record, but did not respond when pressed for specifics.)

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Eight Electeds Back Protected Bike Lanes for Manhattan’s West Side

amsterdam.jpgProtected bike lanes would enhance safety for cyclists and pedestrians on Amsterdam Avenue.
Several representatives in the City Council and state legislature, as well as Borough President Scott Stringer, have signed on in support of protected bike lanes for Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues.

Last fall, Manhattan CB 7 passed a resolution asking DOT to prepare a proposal for protected lanes in the district, which stretches from 110th Street to 59th Street. In a letter addressed to DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan earlier this week, eight electeds signaled their support for the resolution.

The letter [PDF] commends "DOT's ongoing effort to encourage safe, environmentally friendly and healthy modes of transportation" and offers to help the agency consult with local groups prior to implementing bike lanes on the West Side. In addition to Stringer, the signatories are State Senators Tom Duane, Bill Perkins, and Eric Schneiderman; Assembly members Linda Rosenthal and Dick Gottfried; and Council members Melissa Mark-Viverito and Gale Brewer.

DOT says it will work with West Side stakeholders as the agency develops proposals for the area.

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State Senate Bill Would Wipe Bad Driving Records Clean

A bill introduced in the Senate this month could make New York roads and streets more dangerous while dealing a severe setback to the state's traffic justice movement. 

Schneiderman.jpgSchneiderman
S5958 would permit drivers to conceal records of traffic violations three years after sentencing. First brought to our attention by a column in the Glens Falls Post-Star, the bill is sponsored by Senator Eric Schneiderman, who represents Upper Manhattan and parts of the Bronx. We're still parsing the details, but it appears the bill would allow for the sealing of records pertaining to traffic convictions after 36 months, with a handful of exceptions including driving under the influence.

Needless to say, this would be a significant obstacle to keeping dangerous drivers off New York State roads.

"For the countless number of businesses who have employees that regularly get behind the wheel of a car, truck, or tractor trailer, to summarily deny them the opportunity to first check the driving records of their prospective employees for past incidents of dangerous driving makes no sense at all," Transportation Alternatives General Counsel Peter Goldwasser told Streetsblog.

Worse, perhaps, would be its effect on efforts to secure justice for victims of traffic violence. As we have reported, advocates and prosecutors are in the midst of a years-long fight to beef up state codes to punish drivers who injure and kill. Beyond the tangible impact of giving reckless drivers a clean slate, for lawmakers to send the message that traffic crimes are insignificant, even cumulatively, would be a major blow. Says Nassau County vehicular crimes prosecutor Maureen McCormick: "It is a bad piece of legislation that goes directly against what should be happening -- greater transparency in driving records."

If there's a silver lining to be found in Albany these days, it's that S5958 may not see a vote this session. As of this writing it has not been picked up in the Assembly.

Streetsblog has a message in with Schneiderman's office about the reasoning behind the bill.

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Eric Schneiderman Cedes Leadership on MTA Rescue

Schneiderman.jpgIf there's one state legislator who gets it when it comes to the value of transit and car-free mobility, it's Senator Eric Schneiderman. Representing parts of the Upper West Side, Northern Manhattan and the Bronx since 1998, Schneiderman once served as counsel for NYPIRG. He heralded the release of PlaNYC, likening its sweeping vision for the city to that of "a twenty-first century, kinder and gentler Robert Moses." In late 2007 Schneiderman co-wrote, along with Gene Russianoff, an op-ed for the Daily News systematically tying MTA financial woes to the failures of Albany and, to a lesser degree, New York City lawmakers.

Lately, however, to the chagrin of some of his constituents, including yours truly, Schneiderman hasn't had much to say about the MTA, focusing instead on other (not inconsequential) issues as transit-riding New Yorkers teeter on the brink of doomsday. I contacted Schneiderman's office early this week and asked about MTA rescue -- specifically, whether the senator supports Malcolm Smith's taxi surcharge bill (set for a Tuesday vote at that point), or if he prefers a plan closer to the Ravitch proposal, including tolls on East and Harlem River bridges. This was the response:

Senator Schneiderman is fully committed to finding a solution that will both address the MTA’s fiscal crisis and gain the necessary votes in the Senate. As has been covered by the media, the details of the bailout have been a controversial matter. In the end, thirty-two senators must vote in favor of a bill. Up to this point, there have not been 32 Senators — including both Democrats and Republicans — who have been willing to support a particular proposal. However, Senator Schneiderman is confident that a plan will get worked out soon — a Senate bill has already been introduced this week — which will finally gain the necessary votes.

Considering Schneiderman's history of telling it like it is on this subject, this is a deeply unsatisfying answer. In fact, it's a non-answer, a mere summary of what one could read in most any local newspaper any day of the week, along with a platitudinous assurance that a workable plan is on its way -- and we all know what that means.

Streetsbloggers have repeatedly called on Manhattan's Senate delegation to take a strong position in favor of an MTA rescue package that at least resembles the Ravitch proposal -- a sensible, equitable plan that addresses traffic congestion while providing a sustainable transit revenue stream. Sadly, for those of us who were hoping Eric Schneiderman might respond to that call, it seems we need to turn elsewhere.

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Russianoff and Schneiderman Map the MTA’s Road to ‘Ruin’

In today's Daily News, Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign and State Senator Eric Schneiderman examine 337927939_d3cd0561d3.jpghow the MTA ended up the most debt-ridden transit system in the United States, and urge state leaders to chart a new course.

The governor must prevent next year's state budget from being a carbon copy of the budgets offered by his predecessor, which drove the Metropolitan Transportation Authority more deeply into debt than any transit system in U.S. history. But he can only do this if the MTA first commits to delaying all proposed fare hikes until after the 2008 state budget is put to bed in April.

Most straphangers will remember the chants of elected officials railing helplessly against the MTA every time the authority proposed to raise fares or cut service. What they may not remember is that, year after year, the Pataki administration submitted - and the Legislature passed - budgets that decimated the MTA's funding.

In 1982, the MTA started a series of five-year capital programs to restore our regional transit system to a state of good repair. We are now enjoying the fruits of these investments: a system that is in dramatically better shape than it was at the beginning of the 1980s, with ridership at a 35-year high. But the state did not maintain its commitment. It cut its share of the system's capital program from 19.6% in the MTA's 1982-86 plan, to 10.8% in the 1987-91 plan, to less than 1% during calendar years 1992 through 1999. The state provided zero direct funding for the 2000-04 capital plan.

That abandonment forced the authority to steadily increase its reliance on debt to finance repairs and improvements. Over 60% of the 2000-04 plan was financed with debt, up from about 40% for the previous plan.

As a result, the MTA is now "in hock" for $23 billion, Russianoff and Schneiderman write. They say freezing the base fare at $2 is "a first step" toward shifting reliance from MTA customers to the state for support.

Spitzer has a lot on his plate, but ending Albany's systemic abuse of our 7.5 million straphangers should be at or near the top of the pile. He must work with the Legislature and the MTA board, both to avoid a fare hike in 2008 and to set a new agenda for our state's mass transit program - an agenda that breaks with the unsustainable and inexcusable policies of the last 12 years.

Photo: peterkreder/Flickr