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Posts from the "James Oddo" Category

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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.

Read more…

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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.

Read more…

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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.

Read more…

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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.

Read more…

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Electeds, Local Media Wage War on Staten Island Cyclists

The recent motorist assault on a Staten Island cyclist is a symptom of anti-bike bias routinely displayed by local politicians and the Staten Island Advance, as chronicled on a web site encouraging action for safe streets.

STATEN_ISLAND_POLS.jpgCouncil Members Vincent Ignizio (l) and James Oddo scientifically prove that bikes can't fit on Jefferson Avenue in Dongan Hills. Photo: SI Advance
Drawing exclusively on Advance coverage, Islander Rob Foran's site, called "Life or Death?," notes that City Council Members Vincent Ignizio and James Oddo, along with Borough President James Molinaro, have called on NYPD to excuse illegal bike lane parking, for the elimination of "sharrows" on Jefferson Avenue, and for the removal of the bike lane on Father Capodanno Boulevard, where Gregory DeRespino was allegedly yanked off his bike by irate driver Michael Graziuso in July. Graziuso now faces charges of assault and harassment.

For its part, three times in the past two months the Advance has editorialized against bike infrastructure, while criticizing NYPD for enforcing laws intended to keep drivers out of bike lanes. Here's a passage from the first screed, published July 4, entitled "The City's Bike Obsession":

More people should ride bicycles, for a number of reasons. But in the real world, that's not going to happen to the degree the cycling true believers fantasize about. Many people simply can't. And the great majority of those who have the physical ability have no desire to ride bicycles for transportation or sport -- especially on city streets. So hard-core cyclists will always be a finite minority, no matter how many bike lanes the city creates. And the notion that all these new lanes will promote a massive surge in cycling is pure fantasy.

Not only do they object to safer cycling conditions on the grounds that so few Staten Islanders bike -- in part because it isn't safe -- Advance editors claim that helpless motorists are bound to occasionally act out against cyclists who insist on exercising their right to the road.

Read more...
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State DOT Pulls Transit Bait-and-Switch on Staten Island

sie_bus.jpgPhoto: SI Advance via MTR.
One of the more common excuses we've been hearing from local pols during the current MTA crisis is that "service never improves," so why bother to fund transit? Set aside, for the moment, the fact that subways and buses are moving way more New Yorkers than they did just a few years ago. Courtesy of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, here's an interesting case study of service actually getting worse and why it happened.

Last month, the state DOT opened the dedicated bus lane on the Staten Island Expressway to cars with two or more passengers. Tri-State's Michelle Ernst has more:

The conversion aims to appease some politicians and drivers who’ve pressured NYSDOT to open the bus lanes to cars since the lanes were opened. But even the commenters in the Staten Island Advance recognize that it will do little to alleviate congestion in the general purpose lanes, and will completely obliterate any time savings currently enjoyed by Staten Island’s bus riders.

The Expressway was widened to add the bus lane in 2005. Now, opening the busway to private cars turns that transit enhancement into a de facto highway expansion. Before the change, average bus speeds in the dedicated lane averaged 50 mph despite lax enforcement of the bus-only policy. With any multi-passenger car allowed in the lane, and even more license for solo drivers to break the rules, buses may soon move at the same speed as the regular traffic lanes -- 25 mph.

"There's already plenty of people carpooling on the Expressway," Ernst said. "This is just going to pull cars from the regular lanes and induce more traffic." The state DOT, for its part, says bus-exclusivity will be restored if riders end up saddled with slower rides.

So where did the political pressure come from? The Advance reports:

Many people welcome the change. Sen. Charles Schumer, Rep. Michael McMahon and Councilman James Oddo are three elected officials who have been outspoken in their support of the switch to HOV lanes.

Mr. Oddo said upon hearing of the DOT's plan, "Maybe they've woken up," adding, "You have to maximize the infrastructure."

Someone should inform the efficiency-minded Oddo that buses carry a lot more people than cars, and that potentially cutting their speeds in half is no way to "maximize infrastructure." Meanwhile, at least one of those Advance commenters is pinning responsibility on -- you guessed it -- the MTA.