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Posts from the Gale Brewer Category

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Developers Adding More Parking Than They’re Supposed To, Thanks to DCP

For years, the City Planning Commission approved special permits that let developers in Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea get around limits on parking construction in the Manhattan core. Recently, the city implemented a new formula that reformers hoped would curtail these permits. But Community Board 4, Council Member Corey Johnson, and Borough President Gale Brewer say the city’s math is flawed, resulting in too much new parking. They’re asking the Department of City Planning to come up with a better measuring stick.

The city's rules allow buildings like this to exceed Manhattan parking regulations. Rendering: Related Companies and Zaha Hadid Architects

Luxury condos are securing exemptions to the Manhattan parking cap established in response to the Clean Air Act. Rendering: Related Companies and Zaha Hadid Architects

Since 1982, new buildings south of West 110th Street and East 96th Street have been subject to parking maximums established in response to the Clean Air Act.

But in practice, the city allows exceptions. If developers want to build more parking than allowed, they can apply for a special permit. For a long time, the city reflexively granted these permits for new buildings on the West Side, leading to the addition of thousands of parking spaces that otherwise wouldn’t have been built.

Then the city revised its Manhattan parking regulations in 2013, with DCP issuing new guidelines for developers looking for exemptions from parking maximums [PDF]. Has the new policy made a difference? Apparently not.

The city now requires developers seeking special permits to measure trends in the area over the past decade, by calculating changes in the number of residences and parking spaces within one-third of a mile of the project. Echoing the parking maximums in the law, DCP aims for there to be 20 percent as many new parking spaces as there are new apartments south of 59th Street. On the Upper East Side and Upper West Side, the ratio is 35 percent.

If the extra spaces being requested push that ratio above the target, it’s likely the permit will be denied. If the ratio stays below the target, the city is likely to approve the permit.

It sounds scientific, but by only looking at new development and new parking, DCP rigs the game.

For years, neighborhoods like Hell’s Kitchen and West Chelsea had lots of extra parking but little new residential development. In the past decade, that’s changed. As a result, City Planning’s numbers show the number of new apartments far outpacing the supply of new parking spaces. This opens the door for lots of special permits to get the parking ratio up to the department’s 20 percent target, but ignores the fact that the neighborhood had lots of parking to begin with.

“They are missing a very fundamental element of the calculation,” said CB 4 Chair Christine Berthet. “It’s broken. It clearly doesn’t work.”

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13 State and City Elected Officials Sign On to Move NY Toll Reform

The trickle of elected officials endorsing toll reform is starting to become more of a steady stream, and a look at who belongs to the coalition suggests that the politics of the Move NY plan are indeed different than the politics of congestion pricing.

More than a dozen state and city elected officials announced today that they support the Move NY toll reform plan, which establishes consistent tolls to drive into the Manhattan core while lowering tolls on outlying bridges. The signatories include some lawmakers who either sat on the sidelines during the 2008 congestion pricing debate or replaced representatives who actively opposed that proposal. Five of them represent areas of Brooklyn or Queens.

Is he listening? Photo: MTA/Flickr

Is he listening? Photo: MTA/Flickr

In a letter sent yesterday to Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders in Albany, the 13 electeds back a “full-line review” of the A and C trains and enactment of the Move NY toll reform plan to pay for needed fixes [PDF].

The letter is signed by state senators Adriano Espaillat, Brad Hoylman, and Daniel Squadron; assembly members Richard Gottfried, Walter T. Mosley, Linda Rosenthal, and Jo Anne Simon; council members Margaret Chin, Laurie Cumbo, Corey Johnson, Mark Levine, and Donovan Richards; and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

One name that especially stands out is Mosley, who represents the Brooklyn district formerly spoken for by Hakeem Jeffries, a congestion pricing opponent. Also of note: Simon and Squadron replaced Joan Millman and Martin Connor, who only came out as congestion pricing “supporters” after the proposal was defeated in Albany.

The letter urges the MTA to expand full-line reviews so each subway line is reviewed every five years. But without funding, the officials point out, those reports won’t do any good for riders:

[W]hile reviews have led to major service improvements, some of the strongest recommendations from each review are often not feasible to implement because the MTA lacks critical resources…

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Gale Brewer Reappoints Safe Streets Foes to Manhattan Community Boards

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer has reappointed a slate of community board members with a long history of opposing safer streets and better transit.

Brewer announced her 2015 board appointments on Monday. Among those granted another two-year term was Community Board 7’s Dan Zweig. Zweig was recommended by Council Member Helen Rosenthal and reappointed by Brewer despite protests by neighborhood residents and traffic violence victims all-too-familiar with his hostility toward projects that would save lives and reduce injuries on Upper West Side streets. Zweig’s reappointment will complicate efforts to install a protected bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue, which Rosenthal has said she supports.

Gale Brewer tells traffic violence victims how nasty they are for urging her to remove street safety obstructionists from community boards. Photo: Stephen Miller

Gale Brewer told street safety advocates they were “nasty” for urging her to remove obstructionists from Manhattan community boards. Photo: Stephen Miller

Community board votes are supposed to be advisory, but in practice, if a board opposes a street redesign, nine times out of ten DOT will water it down to the board’s satisfaction or withdraw the project altogether. Board member objections usually center on perceived impediments to driving and parking.

Hostile community boards are a huge obstacle to Vision Zero. Yet Brewer said last year she would not remove board members who oppose transit and street safety improvements. Through two rounds of appointments she has stayed true to her word.

Led by chair Henrietta Lyle, Harlem’s CB 10 has held up bus lanes on 125th Street and delayed safety fixes on streets including Morningside Avenue and Lenox Avenue. Lyle has dismissed census data showing that most Harlem households are car-free, and complained to Streetsblog that “empty” bus lanes on 125h Street slow her cab rides to the subway. Lyle was nominated this year by Council Member Inez Dickens and reappointed by Brewer. Brewer also reappointed CB 10’s Barbara Nelson, who opposes road diets and almost single-handedly stalled a plaza proposed by Harlem neighborhood groups.

Ted Kovaleff marshaled a CB 9 transportation committee vote against a road diet for Riverside Drive and pedestrian islands for W. 120th Street. The decision was based in part on Kovaleff’s belief that Riverside should remain conducive to speeding because traffic congestion used to interfere with his weekend car trips to Vermont. Brewer reappointed Kovaleff to CB 9.

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Will Rodriguez and Brewer Reappoint CB 12 Crank Jim “Honey Child” Berlin?

Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer can advance the goals of Vision Zero by retiring Jim Berlin from his CB 12 post.

Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer can advance the goals of Vision Zero in Upper Manhattan by retiring Jim Berlin from his CB 12 post.

City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer can remove a barrier to safer streets in Upper Manhattan by relieving Jim Berlin of his spot on Community Board 12, which covers Washington Heights and Inwood.

As Stephen Miller reported Thursday, Berlin and fellow CB 12 member Anita Barberis voted against a DOT plan for protected bike lanes in Washington Heights that would connect the Hudson River Greenway and High Bridge Park. The DOT proposal comes ahead of the highly anticipated re-opening of the High Bridge, a car-free Harlem River span linking Manhattan and the Bronx that has been closed to the public for decades.

Washington Heights and Inwood have precious little bike infrastructure, and at present just one protected bike lane in the pipeline. Berlin can surely claim some credit for that. For years he has used his community board position to waylay projects, from bike and pedestrian infrastructure to a Greenmarket, that would improve safety and give locals the opportunity to see their streets used for something other than free vehicle storage.

Community board votes are supposed to be advisory, but DOT rarely implements a street safety project over a board’s objection. On Monday Berlin succeeded in goading the CB 12 transportation committee to pass a resolution calling for DOT to shorten the proposed protected bikeway on Edgecombe Avenue for the sake of a few free curbside parking spots.

“This is a working-class area,” Berlin said, according to DNAinfo. “People don’t have the luxury of riding their bike in the morning and leaving their Beamer at home.”

It’s possible Berlin is so out of touch that he doesn’t know 75 percent of households in the district don’t own a car, and that working-class households are even more likely to be car-free. But judging by his public antics, it’s more likely he doesn’t care. The majority of residents who attended Monday’s meeting came to show support for the DOT plan, and Berlin dismissed them — even addressing one plan proponent, a staffer for Council Member Mark Levine, as “honey child,” according to multiple sources.

Berlin was last appointed by Rodriguez, and his term expires next month. According to a press release from Brewer, the number of new applicants for Community Board 12 and neighboring Community Board 11 “more than doubled” compared to last year. For the sake of public safety and quality of life in Washington Heights and Inwood, Rodriguez and Brewer should make room for a fresh face by thanking Berlin for his service and sending him on his way.

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United Front of Electeds Join CB 3 to Ask for Protected Bikeway on Chrystie

Advocates’ design concept for a two-way protected bike lane on Chrystie Street. Streetmix by Dave “Paco” Abraham

A week after Manhattan Community Board 3 unanimously approved a resolution asking for a protected bike lane and pedestrian islands on Chrystie Street, elected officials representing the area — from the city, state, and federal levels — sent a letter to DOT Manhattan Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione asking her to follow through [PDF].

The letter is signed by Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, State Senator Daniel Squadron, Assembly Member Sheldon Silver, Borough President Gale Brewer, and Council Member Margaret Chin. (The only elected officials representing the area who aren’t included are the state’s two U.S. Senators and the mayor himself.)

“We believe it is important to take into account the concerns of the local community board when it speaks so strongly,” they write. “We ask DOT to study this area quickly, work closely with the community on any next steps, and keep our offices informed.”

DOT says it will examine whether changes requested for Chrystie Street, such as a two-way protected bike lane, are feasible. The agency does not yet have a timetable for the study.

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UWS Residents to Brewer: No More Street Safety Obstructionists on CB 7

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, right, speaks with, from left, Mary Beth Kelly, Tom DeVito, and Dana Lerner before her State of the Borough address yesterday. Photo: Stephen Miller

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, right, with Mary Beth Kelly, Tom DeVito, and Dana Lerner before her State of the Borough address yesterday. Photo: Stephen Miller

Will Gale Brewer reappoint noted street safety obstructionist Dan Zweig to Community Board 7? Families of traffic violence victims came to her State of the Borough address yesterday seeking an answer.

Protesters stood outside Columbia University’s Alfred Lerner Hall with signs — “Gale, You Have the Power to Fix CB 7″ and “Lives Matter More Than Parking Spaces” — while handing out flyers to the borough’s politicos as they arrived for the speech.

The advocates, who included Dana Lerner, Mary Beth Kelly, and Sofia Russo — all of whom have lost family members to traffic violence — are asking for new leadership at the CB 7 transportation committee, which has been co-chaired by Zweig and Andrew Albert for at least 15 years. Over the years, Zweig and Albert have blocked or delayed several requests for traffic safety improvements on the neighborhood’s dangerous arterial streets.

Zweig is up for reappointment to the board this year. The decision to keep him on the board or not ultimately rests with Brewer.

On her way into the building, Brewer stopped and talked with the family members. “People are complaining about how nasty you are,” she told them. “I don’t mind meeting with you. I know what you want… We’ll talk. We’ll talk.”

“I’ve been called relentless, but not nasty,” Kelly said after Brewer left.

“She’s been a leader,” Transportation Alternatives Manhattan organizer Tom DeVito said of Brewer. “An elected official can’t make a career of appointing people who have been disappointing communities for decades, and she knows that.”

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Victims’ Families to Electeds: End the Obstruction of Safe Streets on the UWS

Council Member Mark Levine, Borough President Gale Brewer, and Council Member Helen Rosenthal can decide whether or not to reappoint longtime street safety foe Dan Zweig to Community Board 7. Photos: NYC Council

Years of frustration with the leadership of Manhattan Community Board 7 boiled over at a traffic safety forum on the Upper West Side last night. Twice during the event, neighborhood residents who lost family members to traffic violence called on elected officials not to reappoint Dan Zweig, who has co-chaired CB 7’s transportation committee for at least 15 years and blocked or delayed key street safety proposals.

Last night’s panel included Dana Lerner of Families For Safe Streets, whose son Cooper was killed by a turning cab driver last year. She told the audience she was shocked to learn after her son’s death that there were proposals from neighborhood groups to improve street safety — including for the block where Cooper was killed — that had failed to receive support from the community board. “When I found out about this, I was crushed. I was just crushed. I couldn’t understand,” she said. “All I could think was, if they had — if this had been looked at, might Cooper be alive? I always wonder that.”

After Cooper’s death, DOT implemented a road diet on West End Avenue, including pedestrian islands at the intersection where Cooper was killed. Lerner said neighbors ask her if she’s pleased to see the changes. “I don’t understand why it was my son’s death that made this happen,” she said. “Community Board 7, particularly Dan Zweig, was not receptive to the ideas of the community. And I feel that moving forward, we absolutely have to have people who are willing to listening to the community members.”

Zweig has a long history of stonewalling street safety projects. A redesign of Columbus Avenue added a protected bike lane and pedestrian islands, improving safety for all street users, including a 41 percent drop in pedestrian injuries. But Zweig, who had used parliamentary process to try to block the project, said he doesn’t trust DOT’s numbers and insists the street has become more dangerous.

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What’s the Matter With NYC Community Boards

albert

Andrew Albert has led the Community Board 7 transportation committee since many New Yorkers were in diapers.

It’s 2014. For at least 50 years, it’s been apparent that wider streets don’t make congestion go away. For about a decade, the work of UCLA professor Donald Shoup has popularized the notion that parking prices are key to the efficient operation of commercial streets, and London has shown the English-speaking world how to cut down on traffic by charging for road space. And for the last seven years, new protected bike lane designs have proven effective at preventing deaths and injuries on New York City streets.

If you lead the transportation committee of a New York City community board and a local TV news crew wants you to validate the view that a bike lane has screwed up traffic, maybe some of this thinking should seep into your comments. Maybe you should point out that the bike lane has made people safer, and it makes no sense to blame congestion on a street design when poor curb management and free roads pretty much guarantee gridlock at peak hours.

Borough President Gale Brewer and City Council Member Helen Rosenthal have failed to replace community board members who’ve stifled change for a generation.

But that’s not how Andrew Albert, the co-chair of Manhattan Community Board 7’s transportation committee, responded when ABC 7 went fishing for quotes to pin traffic congestion on protected bike lanes. “There’s frequent gridlock here,” Albert said in front of the cameras. “If there’s a truck making a delivery on either side of the avenue, you’re sometimes down to one or two moving lanes.” Clearly, if the bike lane went away, no delivery trucks would be blocked by cars at the curb and traffic could flow as God intended.

In his committee chairmanship at CB 7, which represents the Upper West Side, Albert is a gatekeeper for any street reform in a district that’s home to more than 200,000 people. His performance for ABC 7 is an extension of how he’s used this obscure, unelected perch to delay and block proposals like protected bike lanes and a car-free Central Park since the 1990s.

Albert embodies how the community board system can be hijacked by a small number of people to stonewall changes that have broad community support. No matter how many signatures are collected in favor of a street redesign, no matter how many people crowd into the room to show they want change, Albert is a reliable vote against reallocating space from cars. When public support for a project is too overwhelming for him to obstruct, he resorts to gaming the procedure.

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Brewer and Rosenthal Bill Would Allow Folding Bikes in Passenger Elevators

A bill from Gale Brewer and Helen Rosenthal would allow folding bike access in passenger elevators of commercial buildings.

A bill from Gale Brewer (left) and Helen Rosenthal would allow folding bike access in passenger elevators of commercial buildings.

Five years ago next month, the city opened the door for bike commuters — or more accurately, their bikes — with the Bicycle Access Law. That law provided, for the first time, a legal framework for New Yorkers to petition commercial landlords for bike storage space at work.

A new City Council bill could improve upon existing rules. Tomorrow, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Council Member Helen Rosenthal will introduce legislation that would require commercial buildings to permit folding bikes — so long as they are “fully folded” — on passenger elevators.

Under current law, access for all bikes can be limited to freight elevators. Intro 897 would simply allow commuters to access passenger elevators with the rough equivalent of a piece of carry-on luggage.

You may recall what a huge lift the Bicycle Access Law was in 2009. Ben Fried described it as “the biggest legislative victory ever achieved by bicycle advocates in New York City.” To get it passed, advocates and friendly electeds had to overcome what Ben called “some notion of office building propriety that the mere sight of a bicycle would violate.” The climate isn’t altogether different today — cyclists still have to contend with bike-averse landlords and security personnel. But in the era of Citi Bike, and even Vision Zero, maybe this common-sense bike access measure will have a smoother path.

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After Quick Work by CB 7 and DOT, Safety Fixes Debut at 96th and Broadway

Press gathers this morning on an expanded pedestrian island at 96th Street and Broadway that, until recently, had been a left turn lane. Photo: Stephen Miller

Press gathers this morning at a sidewalk extension at 96th Street and Broadway that, until recently, had been a left turn lane. Photo: Stephen Miller

After the deaths of Cooper StockAlexander Shear, and Samantha Lee at or near the intersection of 96th Street and Broadway shook Upper West Siders in January, DOT promised fixes to an intersection that locals complained had become even more dangerous to cross after a reconstruction project just a few years before. This morning, the city debuted those changes, including an expanded pedestrian island and new crosswalk.

“By restricting that left turn onto 96th Street, this island is twice as big as it used to be,” DOT Assistant Commissioner Ryan Russo told the assembled press on the brick-pattern sidewalk. “You’re standing in former road space.”

While northbound drivers can still turn left from Broadway to westbound 96th Street, drivers heading downtown on Broadway must either continue straight or make a right onto the cross street, resulting in less complex signal timing. Drivers are also now prohibited from turning left from westbound 96th Street to southbound Broadway. The design features a new crosswalk in the Broadway median leading across 96th Street to the subway entrance, as well as curb extensions on Broadway at six intersections between 93rd and 100th Streets.

Borough President Gale Brewer said the city was able to act quickly after the fatalities because Community Board 7 had already worked with consultants on a plan to improve pedestrian safety in the area. “We had a head start,” she said, adding that her office has worked with all 12 Manhattan community boards to compile a list of dangerous streets and intersections [PDF]. “DOT really is investigating each and every hot spot and will work on a plan for each and every one,” Brewer said.

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