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Posts from the James Oddo Category

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First Things First: Staten Island Needs Bikeable Streets

Borough President James Oddo says he wants bike-share for his constituents, but in his time in elected office, he’s done little to make bicycling conditions safer on Staten Island.

The frequently obstructed Richmond Terrace bike lane. Photo: Greg Mihalovich

This segment of the Richmond Terrace bike lane is frequently obstructed because it’s also an official parking zone. Photo: Greg Mihailovich

As a City Council member, Oddo opposed the addition of bike lanes on Staten Island streets, cheered the removal of the Father Capodanno Boulevard bike lane, and introduced legislation to require environmental review for all new bike lanes. (Oddo later said the bill was a gambit to expedite road widening projects. It went nowhere.)

As borough president, Oddo has shifted his tone somewhat, signaling support for a bike path on the Verrazano Bridge and releasing a proposal for Richmond Terrace, one of the island’s most dangerous corridors, showing bike lanes along a one-way bus lane. Earlier this year, he also co-sponsored a “hack-a-thon” at TransitCenter to rethink the borough’s outdated bus system.

At the same time, Oddo raised a stink this summer about DOT’s speeding enforcement cameras, and his default response to the borough’s growth is to call for road-widening projects. Safe streets for biking don’t have much of a place yet in Oddo’s plans for addressing the borough’s traffic problems.

Nevertheless, in testimony to the City Council last Monday and in a subsequent Daily News op-ed cowritten with Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Oddo said he wants bike-share for Staten Island.

“It’s great that he’s looking at the bigger picture and trying to create more transportation options for Staten Island,” said Transportation Alternatives Staten Island organizer Greg Mihailovich. But Mihailovich also pointed out that the area along the shore by Richmond Terrace and Bay Street, where Oddo wants to site stations, lacks good bike infrastructure.

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Three Hack-tastic Ideas to Fix Staten Island’s Broken Bus System

For all intents and purposes, Staten Island’s bus network is broken. Which isn’t surprising when you consider that the borough’s 31 local routes have barely changed in the last half-century. For the most part, ancient bus lines that pre-date the Verrazano Bridge (which opened in 1964) don’t go where people actually need to get around.

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In Manhattan, Staten Island express bus stops can be consolidated around areas where many passengers board or alight (the darker spots), saving a lot of time. Image: Sri Kanajan

Then there are the express bus routes that take Staten Island commuters to and from Manhattan. These are some of the city’s slowest and least reliable express buses, plagued by traffic jams and stops that are spaced too close together.

At the request of Borough President James Oddo, last summer the MTA announced a full-network study of all 51 bus lines serving Staten Island.

As part of the effort, Oddo and the MTA co-sponsored a “Bus Hackathon” with TransitCenter and NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation on Saturday. They invited teams of software developers and tech-savvy urbanists to use MTA ridership data to diagnose problems and propose solutions for the borough’s bus system. The 150 participants cranked out 15 proposals for improving bus service, from which a panel of judges selected three winners.

TransitCenter’s Jon Orcutt said the hack-a-thon was a way to “get a fresh set of eyes” on the problems plaguing buses serving not just Staten Island but all of New York City. Bus ridership has continued to decline in recent years even as subway ridership climbs to historic highs.

“A lot of things are the way they are because no one’s taken a look at them in a long time,” Orcutt said. “This isn’t rocket science, but someone has to look at it.”

Here’s a look at some of the most enlightening analysis from the hack-a-thon — you’ll notice a lot of overlapping ideas. (TransitCenter also posted a summary today.)

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James Oddo Calls for Wider Roads Hours After SI Traffic Violence Claims Life

A UPS worker who lost a leg when a Staten Island driver slammed into him in April has died. NYPD and Staten Island prosecutors issued no summonses and filed no criminal charges in the case.

Tom Ryan. Photo via SI Advance

Tom Ryan. Photo via SI Advance

Tom Ryan, 52, was unloading packages from his truck at 2044 Hylan Boulevard on the morning of April 6 when a driver hit him with a Toyota sedan, according to the Staten Island Advance. NYPD told the Advance the driver was in the left, northbound lane and “tried to avoid hitting a pedestrian who crossed in front of his vehicle.”

The driver lost control of his vehicle and it swerved into the right lane, striking and pinning Ryan against the back of the UPS truck, police said.

Ryan, of Bayonne, died this week, the Advance reported.

The impact from the crash severed one of his legs, causing him to bleed profusely and go into cardiac arrest. He slipped into a coma due to the loss of oxygen to his brain, and never regained consciousness, his wife [Elise Ryan] said.

“He had an anoxic brain injury — that was more of his injury than even the leg,” the grieving wife explained.

The driver who killed Ryan was not identified. Despite indications that driver speed contributed to the crash — and was likely the difference between whether Ryan lived or died — no charges were filed by police, former district attorney Dan Donovan, or acting DA Daniel Master Jr., who took office in May, after Donovan was elected to Congress.

The crash that killed Tom Ryan occurred in the 122nd Precinct — where as of July local officers had ticketed 1,180 drivers for speeding in 2015 — and in the City Council district represented by Steve Matteo.

According to DOT, while overall NYC pedestrian deaths have dropped by nearly 50 percent in the last 30 years, the number of people killed by drivers while walking in Staten Island has not declined. But making streets safer is not a priority for Staten Island electeds.

Matteo has one of the worst records in the council on safe streets legislation. He was one of four council members, along with former Staten Island rep Vincent Ignizio, to vote against lowering the city speed limit. Matteo has said he believes speed cameras are a revenue scam.

When he was on the council, Matteo’s predecessor James Oddo, who is now borough president, called for requiring an environmental review for new bike lanes. Hours after news broke of Tom Ryan’s death, Oddo took to Twitter to brag about upcoming road widenings and call for more such projects on Staten Island.

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DOT Axes Midland Beach Slow Zone, and Staten Islanders Seem OK With That

20 mph speed limits won't be coming to Midland Beach, but sped humps might. Image: DOT [PDF]

20 mph speed limits won’t be coming to Midland Beach, but speed humps might. Image: DOT [PDF]

DOT has shelved a Neighborhood Slow Zone planned for Staten Island’s Midland Beach neighborhood over local opposition to a 20 mph speed limit on one of the streets within the project area. Borough President Jimmy Oddo, who supported the Slow Zone as a council member, is now applauding DOT for canceling it.

The news came in a letter from Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg to Oddo and his City Council successor and former chief of staff, Steven Matteo. While the Slow Zone is dead, DOT says it will consider speed humps on cross streets in the neighborhood.

Neighborhood Slow Zones include speed humps, 20 mph speed limits, and signage to slow drivers in residential areas. Community Education Council 31, a group of volunteers who advise the city on education policy for the neighborhood, first applied for the Midland Beach Slow Zone in 2011, said president Michael Reilly, and resubmitted its application in 2013.

DOT accepted the Midland Beach application that year and announced it would be implemented in 2016. The zone is bounded by Father Capodanno Boulevard, Hylan Boulevard, Midland Avenue, and the Miller Field recreation area [PDF].

All streets in the zone were to get a 20 mph speed limit, and speed humps were to be installed on most streets, but not Lincoln Avenue and Greeley Avenue, which cross the neighborhood between Hylan and Father Capodanno.

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Staten Island Motorist Strikes Couple, Killing Elderly Man; No Charges Filed

Jefferson Avenue at Mason Avenue, where a motorist making a left turn struck a Staten Island couple Friday evening, killing one. Image: Google Maps

A motorist who killed an elderly man and injured his wife on Staten Island has been cleared of responsibility by NYPD.

Bujar Hasimja, 72, and his 64-year-old wife were crossing Jefferson Avenue at Mason Avenue, near their home, at approximately 7:30 p.m. Friday when the driver of a Nissan SUV hit them while making a left turn, according to reports.

The Post reported that Hasimja was declared dead on arrival at Staten Island University Hospital, and his wife, whose name was not released, suffered “minor injuries.”

If the crash occurred as described by police, at the very least the motorist failed to yield. Details such as vehicle speed and whether the driver may have been using a phone or was otherwise distracted are rarely divulged by NYPD.

Within hours of the crash, NYPD issued its boilerplate “No criminality suspected” statement to the press. There is about a 50 percent chance that the driver will not receive so much as a traffic summons for running over two people who had the right of way.

As pedestrians continue be wounded and killed at an alarming rate, their killers unpenalized by NYPD, the City Council continues to focus on delivery cyclists and parking perks.

This fatal crash occurred in the 122nd Precinct. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Captain Joseph B. Veneziano, the commanding officer, go to the next precinct community council meeting. The 122nd Precinct council meetings happen at 8 p.m. on the third Wednesday of the month at the precinct, 2320 Hylan Boulevard. Call 718-667-2292 for more information.

The City Council district where Bujar Hasimja was killed is represented by Minority Leader James Oddo, an enemy of bike lanes who has supported neighborhood slow zones while also stating that “drivable roads” for Staten Island motorists are his primary concern. Another pedestrian, Suying Du, was killed by a motorist in Oddo’s district last November. To encourage Oddo to take action to improve street safety in his district and citywide, contact him at 212-788-7159, joddo@council.nyc.gov or @HeyNowJO.

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Suying Du Killed by Staten Island Motorist; NYPD: No Criminality Suspected

The woman who was killed by a motorist in Staten Island on Saturday has been identified by NYPD as Suying Du, 56.

Suying Du was thrown some 15 feet into the air when she was struck by a motorist who passed another driver who had stopped to let her cross, according to witnesses. Photo: Staten Island Advance

Police told the Advance that Du was crossing Victory Boulevard at Christopher Lane against the light when she was struck in the right-hand westbound lane by the driver of a Subaru Outback. The driver of a minivan, in the left-hand westbound lane of Victory Boulevard, had stopped to let Du cross, according to witnesses.

A passenger in another vehicle told the Advance that Du was thrown some 15 feet into the air upon impact. The Advance reported that the windshield of the Subaru was cracked after the crash.

The posted speed limit on Victory Boulevard in the vicinity of Christopher Lane is 30 mph.

“She just came out of nowhere. I didn’t even see her,” said the driver, as quoted by the Advance.

Du was declared dead on arrival at Richmond University Medical Center, according to DNAinfo.

The crash occurred at approximately 6:30 p.m. A police source indicated to the Daily News that the driver may not have seen Du because she was wearing dark clothing.

The status of the NYPD investigation has not changed since Sunday, when police issued the standard “No criminality suspected, investigation ongoing” statement.

This fatal crash occurred in the 122nd Precinct. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Captain Joseph B. Veneziano, the commanding officer, go to the next precinct community council meeting. The 122nd Precinct council meetings happen at 8 p.m. on the third Wednesday of the month at the precinct, 2320 Hylan Boulevard. Call 718-667-2292 for more information.

The City Council district where Suying Du was killed is represented by Minority Leader James Oddo, an enemy of bike lanes who has supported neighborhood slow zones while also stating that “drivable roads” for Staten Island motorists are his primary concern. To encourage Oddo to take action to improve street safety in his district and citywide, contact him at 212-788-7159, joddo@council.nyc.gov or @HeyNowJO.

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Oddo: Bike Lanes Were Just to Grab Attention for Loosening Enviro Review

James Oddo

City Council Minority Leader James Oddo. Photo: SI Advance

City Council Minority Leader James Oddo has a surprising message for Streetsblog and its commenters: “Thank you.”

We didn’t think too highly of Oddo’s proposal to require environmental review for bike lanes. And experts said it would throw an unnecessary road block in front of expanding the bike network, making the projects exceedingly slow and expensive without any countervailing benefit.

But in a phone call with Streetsblog, Oddo said that story was exactly what he wanted to see. “I used you guys,” he crowed. “I knew when I touched the third rail of bike lanes, it would get noticed. The aim of my letter to the Deputy Mayor and the DOT Commissioner wasn’t bike lanes. It was the city’s environmental review process.”

He hurried to say that he didn’t have any problems with bike lanes — but his explanation will be cold comfort to cyclists who can no longer ride on the Father Capodanno Boulevard bike lane in his own district. “This commissioner and this department, they can build all the bike lanes they want,” he said. “As long as I get drivable roads in my borough, that’s my concern. I can’t help the fact that Staten Islanders are addicted to automobiles because the government hasn’t given us mass transit.”

Oddo called the environmental review process “arbitrary, pointless, and a job killer.” He said his ultimate goal was to raise attention to this white paper by Manhattan Institute fellow Hope Cohen, which outlines an agenda to reform environmental review.

To what end does Oddo want to loosen the city’s enviro review procedures? The Staten Island Advance reports today that he wants road widenings to be sped through the process — projects that will actually induce more traffic and cause more pollution. The Manhattan Institute paper does not address the appropriateness of environmental review for specific types of transportation projects, like road widenings.

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Enviro Law Experts: Review For Bike Lanes a Waste of Taxpayer Money

James Oddo

City Council Minority Leader James Oddo. Photo: SI Advance

You know something’s amiss when you hear Republicans calling for more red tape and government bureaucracy, as Staten Island Council Members James Oddo and Vincent Ignizio did earlier this week with their call to require environmental review for all new bike lanes. But let’s indulge Oddo and Ignizio and take their proposal seriously for a moment. Does it have any merit?

We asked some top legal and planning experts for their opinion, and they agreed: Bike lanes generally don’t and shouldn’t need to go through environmental review.

Oddo’s office didn’t respond to Streetsblog’s request to see the letter outlining his proposal, but it seems as though he would have to pass new legislation. It’s fairly clear that under current law, striping a bike lane generally doesn’t require environmental review. There’s a presumption that small street changes like signage are exempt from environmental review, said Columbia Law School professor and environmental law expert Michael Gerrard.

Specifically, the law exempts the “installation of traffic control devices on existing streets, roads, and highways.” Pavement markings are included in the federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, suggesting that bike lanes fall under that exemption.

Even if bike lanes aren’t categorically exempt, continued Gerrard, a given project may not be predicted to create a significant enough impact to require environmental review. That determination would be made, in this case, by the city DOT.

Bike lanes not only don’t need to go through environmental review, they shouldn’t, said former DOT First Deputy Commissioner Sam Schwartz, now the head of Sam Schwartz Engineering. “EIS laws and guidelines were established to protect the environment. If an action is not likely to meet the threshold set by regulation (and few if any bike lanes do), then why waste a ton of money?” Schwartz said. “Ironically, it would probably mean more work for my firm, but it’s a waste of taxpayer money.”

“No bike lane would fail an environmental review,” said Michael King, a principal at the transportation planning firm Nelson\Nygaard.

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Council Mem James Oddo: Require Enviro Review for All New Bike Lanes

Last week’s release of “before” and “after” stats on the Prospect Park West bike lane tells an increasingly familiar story: A DOT redesign has increased cycling while making the street safer for pedestrians and drivers. Since safer streets make it easier for New Yorkers to get around without a car, and since biking and walking are emissions-free modes, it’s safe to say that this is good news for the environment.

James Oddo

Staten Island Republican James Oddo. Photo: SI Advance

Well, City Council Member James Oddo begs to differ.

The Post reports that Oddo and fellow Staten Island rep Vincent Ignizio want to require time-consuming environmental reviews for future NYC bike projects:

Staten Island Councilman James Oddo, the Republican minority leader, said plans for new bike lanes should undergo the city’s lengthy environmental-assessment process, or the city should allow other, more minor traffic changes to bypass the review.

Oddo and Councilman Vincent Ignizio (R-SI) penned a letter last week demanding an explanation from Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, an avid cyclist and bike-lane proponent, of why the lanes don’t require the scrutiny.

“The creation of bike lanes and the removal of vehicle travel lanes represent a major reordering of Department of Transportation priorities that may affect the environment and appear to qualify” for a formal environmental review, the letter reads.

Oddo was part of the team that successfully lobbied to kill the Father Capodanno bike lane late last year. The city erased that decades-old cycling route — in what you might call a “major reordering” of the street — without any public hearing or environmental review. Now, under the guise of environmental review, Oddo and Ignizio want to throw more monkey wrenches at bike projects.

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Cyclists Blindsided By City’s Erasure of Father Capodanno Bike Lane

For the second time in 12 months, the Bloomberg administration will remove a link in the bicycle network after receiving complaints from bike lane opponents. The Staten Island Advance reports that the bike lane on Father Capodanno Boulevard will not be striped again after the street is repaved. The news comes two months after the Advance published an editorial urging the city to remove the lane, and about a year after the city erased a 14-block stretch of the Bedford Avenue bike lane in response to opposition from local Hasidic leaders.

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The Capodanno bike lane will be erased from Midland Avenue to Drury Avenue, a few blocks south of Lily Pond Avenue.

This time the bike route on Capodanno from Midland Avenue to Drury Avenue will be wiped out. The bike lane on the inland side of Capodanno will be converted to parking and turning lanes, and, in a measure of compensation for sustainable transport, the bike lane closer to the shore will be converted into a bus lane. A portion of the bike lane that crosses Staten Island Expressway ramps will be preserved, according to DOT.

Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro and local City Council member James Oddo both applauded the change. Molinaro, Oddo, and the Advance editorial board have been clamoring for the lane to be removed for some time.

Now, without any discernible public process, most of the Capodanno lane will vanish, erasing one of the few routes for safer cycling on the island. “Father Capodanno is an integral piece of Staten Island’s meager bike network, connecting bike commuters to and from the Staten Island Railway and the St. George Ferry Terminal, local cyclists to the Snug Harbor Park and Cultural Center and the Staten Island Yankees Stadium,” Transportation Alternatives said in a statement released this morning. “The Bloomberg administration has apparently decided that the opposition of a few drivers and local political bosses can trump public process and the irrefutable evidence that bike lanes save lives and make streets safer for everyone.”

Staten Island cyclists feel blindsided by the change. “None of us saw this coming, from a mile away,” said Meredith Sladek, a member of TA’s Staten Island volunteer committee. “None of us were consulted.” The greenway that runs parallel to Capodanno, she said, mainly serves recreational users and doesn’t meet the needs of people biking for transportation.

After dark, the greenway is interrupted due to the nighttime closure of Fort Wadsworth, near the Verrazano Bridge, which forces cyclists to take a route that crosses Staten Island Expressway ramps. The bike lane will be preserved on that portion of Capodanno, north of the intersection with Drury Avenue.

Streetsblog has phone calls in with Molinaro and Oddo, the mayor’s office, and Staten Island Community Board 2 to find out about how the decision was reached.

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