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Posts from the "Gale Brewer" Category

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Brewer: I Won’t Remove Community Board Members Who Impede Safe Streets

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer says she does not intend to remove community board members who stand in the way of transit improvements and projects that would make streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists. She expects new appointments to sway older members and make the case for street redesigns.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. Photo: NYC Council

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. Photo: NYC Council

Brewer hosted a small group of Manhattan web journalists Thursday for an informal interview at her downtown office. She said that for her first round of community board appointments, her staff and a panel of representatives from non-governmental organizations vetted 600 applicants, including long-time board members.

As in other boroughs, Manhattan community boards have a mixed record on street safety. Though their votes are technically advisory, as a rule DOT will not add bike lanes or pedestrian islands, or make other improvements, without an endorsement from the local board.

Recently, Community Board 10 in Harlem has succeeded in stalling safety fixes for Morningside Avenue, and contributed to delaying Select Bus Service on 125th Street. If it would make life better for people who walk, bike, or take the bus, it’s a pretty safe bet Manhattan CB 10 won’t like it.

Community Board 11′s Erik Mayor and Frank Brija waged a misinformation campaign against proposed safety measures for First and Second Avenues in East Harlem in 2011, leading the board to temporarily rescind its support for the project. Brija is still on the board.

On the Upper West Side, CB 7 is notoriously slow to sign off on changes, dithering over whether life-saving street designs should be implemented regardless of public testimony and DOT data.

Brewer was generally a reliable voice for livable streets on the City Council, and she’s already asked Manhattan CBs to identify dangerous locations in their districts. Streetsblog asked yesterday how she plans to deal with boards that impede safer streets and transit upgrades. Here’s her reply:

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Manhattan Community Boards Want to Fix 57 Dangerous Places for Peds

Yesterday, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer compiled a list of 57 pedestrian danger hotspots identified by community board district managers and sent it to city agency heads serving on Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero task force. Many of the locations in Brewer’s list have a long track record as dangerous locations, including many where people have died crossing the street.

Photo: Camila Schaulsohn/AIA-NY

Photo: Camila Schaulsohn/AIA-NY

“It’s essential that the proper resources be dedicated to implementation and enforcement” of safety fixes at these and other locations, Brewer wrote in her letter to Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg [PDF]. “This list is not meant to be exhaustive or definitive… but represents community input to help inform the Task Force.”

The mayor’s Vision Zero task force is charged with coming up with a strategy by February 15 to eliminate traffic fatalities within a decade. It includes the police, transportation, health and taxi commissioners.

In her letter, Brewer also said that district managers wanted more comprehensive and uniform crash data from DOT and NYPD so they could be better informed about pedestrian safety needs in their neighborhoods. “Many advocates have expressed frustration with the way that NYPD has historically published many datasets in static, PDF formats,” she wrote. As a council member, Brewer led the push for city agencies to release easily-accessible data. “I would urge NYPD and all City agencies to publish real-time data in open, machine- readable formats, such as CSV or Excel.”

The locations identified by district managers [PDF] were chosen for a number of reasons, including a history of fatalities or injuries, confusing design or signal timing, wide crossing distances and insufficient crossing times, high volumes of turning drivers, and lack of traffic enforcement.

Brewer requested three locations from each district manager. Some replied with only one location in need of pedestrian safety improvements, while others listed as many as 15 intersections and streets. At some of the locations, DOT has not proposed safety enhancements. At others, plans are awaiting community board support or have already been installed.

A couple of these locations have been the site of NYPD traffic enforcement operations, including some against pedestrians, but most are not known to have already been targeted by police.

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Brewer Asks Community Boards to Identify Dangerous Places for Walking

When it comes to street safety improvements, New York’s community boards are usually in a position where they react to proposals from NYC DOT. Now, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer could turn that dynamic on its head: She’s asked each board’s district manager to identify three traffic safety hotspots, saying that she’ll work with city agencies to make sure they’re addressed.

Photo: Camila Schaulsohn/AIA-NY

Photo: Camila Schaulsohn/AIA-NY

The issue tops the agenda at the monthly meeting Brewer will hold with community board district managers tomorrow evening.

“Citywide proposals such as lowering the speed limit will help, but a plan that will work has to be detailed and comprehensive. That means working with Community Boards and the Department of Transportation, as well as NYPD,” Brewer said in a press release. “I support Mayor de Blasio’s ‘Vision Zero’ plan and look forward to submitting a master list of these hotspots to his traffic task force.”

De Blasio has directed his Vision Zero task force to come up with a plan by February 15 outlining how to eliminate traffic fatalities within a decade.

Streetsblog has asked all 12 Manhattan district managers about locations they’ve identified for traffic safety improvements.

CB 11 manager George Sarkissian is hoping DOT will make improvements along the Park Avenue Metro-North viaduct, which has poor visibility for drivers and pedestrians, resulting in a history of deadly crashes. DOT has installed curb extensions at a few locations; Sarkissian said he hopes they can be added along the entire stretch of Park Avenue between 102nd and 111th Streets. Also of concern: Heavy car traffic accessing the 96th Street Transverse across Central Park and along Pleasant Avenue from 114th to 120th Streets heading to and from the big-box stores at East River Plaza.

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What the Manhattan BP Candidates Said About Bike-Share Last Night

Manhattan borough president candidates Julie Menin, Robert Jackson, and Gale Brewer. Photo: Camila Schaulsohn/AIA-NY

Borough presidents have limited power, but the influence they wield can still make a big difference for livable streets, especially by making community board appointments and weighing in during the city’s land use review process. The four Democratic candidates for Manhattan borough president – City Council members Gale Brewer, Robert Jackson, and Jessica Lappin, plus former Community Board 1 chair Julie Menin — often sound very similar to each other, and few distinctions emerged at a forum hosted last night by the Center for Architecture featuring Brewer, Jackson, and Menin. But telling differences emerged when the candidates were asked for their thoughts about the bike-share program and the planning process that preceded the launch of the system.

Over the course of 2011 and 2012, DOT hosted more than 150 meetings with business interests, neighborhood organizations, and community boards, including public meetings where residents could suggest bike-share station locations. The outreach effort included an online suggestion map for people who couldn’t make the meetings. All told, you’d be hard-pressed to identify a transportation initiative in New York City that underwent a more extensive public engagement process.

DOT hosted a bike-share planning workshop in March 2012 in partnership with CB 1, and also made two presentations — one to the planning and infrastructure committee, and another to the full board, according to the agency’s website. But that wasn’t sufficient for Menin, who chaired CB 1 until June 2012. “There wasn’t enough community outreach,” she told Streetsblog after the forum. “I fully support the idea of bike-share,” she said. “That said, it’s got to be put in places where the community is supportive.”

“You heard about it all on the news. The community wasn’t consulted,” Jackson said during the forum, asserting that powerful people were able to get stations moved after they were installed. “It needs to be a plan where the community board says okay, here are the areas where we’re going to put them,” he told me after the event. “It was obvious to me as an elected public official, that not enough was done.”

Brewer was the candidate who didn’t equivocate in her support of bike-share. “Some people would make Janette Sadik-Khan a dartboard, but I like her and I think she’s done a great job with the bike-share program,” she said. “I will get in trouble for saying that. But I believe in it, and I think that it’s terrific.”

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Brewer: CB 7 Should Pass Columbus Bike Lane Reso; Stringer Non-Committal

Buried in the pile of uninformed New York Post letters to the editor following Steve Cuozzo’s unhinged rant about the Columbus Avenue bike lane, intrepid readers found a note from Council Member Gale Brewer. “Bike lanes in my district are highly popular and strongly supported by the wider community,” she wrote. “Expanding these benefits is the right thing to do.”

Council Member Gale Brewer thinks it's time to vote in support of the Columbus Avenue bike lane. Photo: NYC.gov

Brewer has long been a booster of street redesigns in principle, but in her testimony before Community Board 7′s transportation committee, she fell short of requesting a vote in support of the specific plan on the table to extend the Columbus Avenue protected bike lane.

That night, a resolution supporting the plan failed to decisively clear the committee after a 5-4-1 deadlock.

Afterward, Brewer said she wanted the full board to take up the issue for more debate at its next meeting on January 3. Brewer now says she would like a vote in support of the plan at that meeting so the process can move forward.

“I hope it will go before the full board and pass,” she told Streetsblog yesterday.

DOT has been reaching out to each business on Columbus Avenue about how the plan can address their parking and loading needs. The agency will share the results of those discussions with the board in the next few weeks, Manhattan Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione told the committee last week.

Brewer, who said she was disappointed with DOT’s outreach on the bike lane’s initial segment and worked with merchants to tweak the lane after it was installed, is more encouraged this time around. ”To be honest with you, it’s a lot of outreach,” she said.

Because that process takes a good deal of time, Brewer said, CB 7 should not wait until it’s complete before giving the project a supportive vote at the next full board meeting.

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Tonight: DOT Talks Protected Bike Lanes With Upper West Side’s CB 7

In the wake of last week’s setback for efforts to bring more bike racks to the Upper West Side, Manhattan Community Board 7′s transportation committee will hold a key meeting tonight about an issue on which its chairs have failed to take action: protected bike lanes and complete streets.

The Columbus Avenue protected bike lane is currently only 19 blocks long. Photo: DOT

DOT is scheduled to provide an update on the existing Columbus Avenue lane, which runs between 96th and 77th Streets, and discuss plans for bringing more protected bike lanes to the neighborhood.

Council Member Gale Brewer will be at tonight’s meeting. “I’m a supporter of bike lanes, especially protected ones,” she said. The Columbus Avenue lane “isn’t used as much as I would like,” she noted, because “it doesn’t connect to anything.”

Although the neighborhood could use a stronger network of protected bike lanes, Brewer likes what she sees so far. The number of cyclists riding on the sidewalk has gone down, she said, adding that her office has received fewer complaints about the behavior of commercial cyclists.

Brewer, who worked to adjust the bike lane in response to community requests, was disappointed in DOT’s level of outreach when the lane was first installed, but is more satisfied with how the agency is addressing the concerns of businesses this time around.

“I think in this case they’re doing a lot more of that door-to-door,” Brewer said. Asked if she thinks others will be similarly pleased, Brewer was circumspect. ”We’ll find out,” she said.

Key people to watch at tonight’s meeting include long-time committee co-chairs Andrew Albert and Dan Zweig, who have used their positions to slow down street safety progress in the neighborhood. The meeting is open to the public and heavy attendance is expected. It begins at 7:00 p.m. at Congregation Rodeph Sholom, 7 West 83rd Street.

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Eyes on the Street: New Stripes for Pedestrians and Cyclists in Central Park

Workers applying bicycle markings on West Drive in the 80s. Photo: Rod Huntress

Last month, Streetsblog reported that the Central Park loop would be getting a new lane configuration to clarify where pedestrians and cyclists belong, similar to changes recently implemented in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. Less than 30 days after the announcement, walkers, joggers, and bike riders are all getting some extra room in the park, while the space for cars has been narrowed to one lane, calming vehicular traffic. Reader Rod Huntress sent in these photos from a ride this morning.

Council Member Gale Brewer, who represents the Upper West Side, said the fix has been widely welcomed. ”Everybody seems pleased with the process and the outcome,” she said.

West Drive near the 90th Street entrance is already receiving the new treatment. Photo: Rod Huntress

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About Time: James Vacca Declares Traffic Safety a “Civil Rights Issue”

Good on you, Jimmy. What's next? Photo: DNAinfo

Bravo, James Vacca.

On Wednesday Vacca joined Council Member Gale Brewer in calling attention to the needs of blind and sight-impaired pedestrians, particularly as they apply to new pedestrian plazas.

Brewer has introduced a bill requiring textured pavement around the perimeters of plazas and bike lanes, while other bills would speed up the installation of audible pedestrian signals and mandate accessible online notifications concerning changes to street design. DNAinfo reports:

“This is a serious civil rights issue,” said City Council Transportation Committee Chair James Vacca, who said he first became aware of the challenges of new street designs from his father, who was blind.

Vacca’s assessment is spot on. Being able to navigate your way to the grocery store without fear of being run over is a civil rights issue. As is taking a bike ride through your neighborhood. As is crossing the street with your elderly mother. As is surviving the walk home from school. Especially so when the risk of being hurt or killed in traffic is higher for some New Yorkers than others.

Vacca has spent a lot of time on camera since taking the helm of the transportation committee, and he has yet to call attention to the hundreds of road deaths and thousands of injuries that occur annually. He has yet to credit the new pedestrian spaces, bike lanes, and street redesigns for making New York a safer city.

After a year devoted to nitpicking street safety improvements and targeting those who need them while pandering to parking scofflaws, maybe he and the council will at last turn to the business of safeguarding the rights of everyone who deserves to move about the city safely.

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Bike Lane Made Columbus Avenue Safer, and UWS Residents Noticed

More than 55 percent of pedestrians surveyed on the Upper West Side thought the Columbus Avenue bike lane improved safety. Image: Office of Gale Brewer

The Columbus Avenue bike lane is both safe and popular, according to two assessments released at a meeting of Community Board 7 last night. Representatives from the Department of Transportation presented data showing that the street redesign reduced the number of crashes on the street by 34 percent, while 73 percent of Upper West Siders surveyed by City Council Member Gale Brewer said they think the bike lane and pedestrian refuge islands improved the street.

The bike lane on Columbus was installed last year between 77th Street and 96th Street following a vote of approval from CB 7. When some merchants complained about parking and loading issues after the lane was installed, a task force made up of local elected officials and community leaders put forward a series of tweaks to the design.

Along that mile of the Upper West Side, safety has greatly improved, according to a new evaluation of the redesign’s effects from DOT [PDF]. Crashes have decreased by 34 percent where the bike lane was installed, and total traffic injuries are down 27 percent. On the blocks of Columbus Avenue to the north and south of the bike lane, 29 percent of motor vehicles were clocked speeding, but only between eight and 17 percent of vehicles on the stretch of Columbus with the bike lane were measured going faster than 30 miles per hour.

In addition to improving safety, installing the bike lane has also encouraged cycling on Columbus Avenue. Bike counts are up by 56 percent on weekdays, while sidewalk riding has plummeted. Double-parking, too, is way down.

The safety benefits of the bike lane have not gone unnoticed. Of the 908 people surveyed by Brewer, 40 percent said the current design works for all users, 33 percent said it was a good start but needed some changes to work better, and only 27 percent said it doesn’t work well. Around 45 percent of those surveyed thought the redesign made it safer to cross Columbus, while 27 percent felt less safe.

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Gale Brewer Launches Survey on Columbus Avenue Bike Lane

Since a working group of elected officials and community leaders studied and tweaked the design of the parking-protected bike lane along Columbus Avenue in February, things have been relatively quiet on the Upper West Side.

Photo: Civitas

Now that the lane, which runs from 77th to 96th Street, is a year old and residents have had some time to get used to it, City Council Member Gale Brewer has launched a survey to gauge the neighborhood’s reaction. Brewer supports the lane but wants to see if there are ways to improve the street further.

If you live, work, shop or otherwise travel on the Upper West Side, you can fill out Brewer’s survey here. It only takes a few minutes. The questions ask how the bike lane has affected safety, lawfulness, activity and comfort among all street users. It offers space for open-ended remarks on what works well and what ought to be changed.

Given the Columbus Avenue lane’s relative isolation — it has no north-south connections at either end and doesn’t have a protected northbound pair — it’s important to expand this safe cycling design and integrate it into the city’s network of protected bikeways. Filling out this survey can help move that process along.