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Posts from the Jimmy Van Bramer Category

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Van Bramer + 24 Council Members Call on Albany to Allow More Speed Cams

Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer standing in support of speed cameras at every school earlier this month alongside Transportation Alternatives' Paul Steely White and members of Families for Safe Streets. Photo: David Meyer

Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer (second from left) with Transportation Alternatives Director Paul White, Public Advocate Tish James, and members of Families for Safe Streets calling for speed cameras at every school earlier this month. Photo: David Meyer

City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, 24 of his colleagues, and Public Advocate Letitia James are calling on the state legislature to expand NYC’s life-saving automated speed enforcement program.

Assembly Bill 9861, sponsored by Deborah Glick, would allow New York City to expand its speed camera program to every school in the five boroughs. It would also allow the cameras to operate at all hours, instead of only during school activities, and make the program permanent (it’s currently set to expire in 2018).

Van Bramer introduced a resolution yesterday with 25 co-sponsors calling on the state legislature to do away with the limit on the number of speed cameras NYC can employ. A separate resolution from Council Member Carlos Menchaca, with eight co-sponsors, calls for the elimination of the time-of-day restrictions on automated speed enforcement.

Van Bramer, James, and the two dozen other sponsors of the resolution — including Public Safety Committee Chair Vanessa Gibson and Deputy Leader for Policy Brad Lander — also sent a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo urging him to support the expansion of the speed camera program [PDF].

“All pedestrians, particularly children, are at a heightened risk of traumatic injury and death in speed-related crashes,” the letter says.

State law currently limits the city to 140 speed cameras for its 6,000 miles of streets. The cameras can only be used during school activities — even though most fatal crashes occur at night.

Speeding has dropped by 60 percent in locations with automated enforcement since the city first began using the cameras in 2013, according to NYC DOT. In 2014 and 2015, traffic deaths in New York City reached historic lows, but more than 200 people each year still lose their lives to motor vehicle crashes on city streets.

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Van Bramer Wants Better Crash Data on the City’s Vision Zero View Map

DOT's VIsion Zero View online platforms visualizes crash injury and fatality data. Image: Vision Zero View

The city’s Vision Zero View map shows traffic injuries (orange) and fatalities (red), but a lot of useful information could still be added. Image: Vision Zero View

City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer has introduced a bill to expand the city’s online publication of crash data.

When City Hall launched Vision Zero View in November 2014, it was a major upgrade. For the first time, New Yorkers could see up-to-date information on where crashes happen, with data refreshed every month. But there’s a lot still missing.

Currently, the platform maps traffic injuries and fatalities each month, and you can filter the view to see only crashes that harmed pedestrians, or cyclists, or motor vehicle occupants. A “street design” tab shows the location of leading pedestrian intervals, arterial slow zones, speed humps, neighborhood slow zones, “safe streets for seniors” zones and “major safety projects.” Users can also see the density of crashes by police precinct, city council district, or community board district.

Van Bramer’s bill, Intro. 1116, would add significantly more detail to Vision Zero View. Under the legislation, the map would distinguish between serious injuries and less severe injuries, which are currently lumped into a single category. The map would also show the approximate time of day that crashes occurred (within a three-hour window), as well as the speed limit of every street in the city.

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Long Island City’s Streets Need to Catch Up With a Growing Neighborhood

Jackson Avenue cuts diagonally into 11th Street right where it intersects with the Pulaski Bridge approach, a nightmare for all users. Image: Google Maps

Jackson Avenue cuts diagonally into 11th Street right where it intersects with the Pulaski Bridge approach, creating a hostile environment for walking and biking. Image: Google Maps

Long Island City is booming with new residences, and more are on the way with the massive Hunters Point South development. As the area becomes home to more people, its streets need to catch up.

On Wednesday night, Council Member Van Bramer and DOT hosted a public workshop to discuss how $8 million in capital funds can be put to use redesigning the neighborhood’s streets. About 25 Long Island City residents and businesspeople attended.

With the Queensboro Bridge, the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, and the Pulaski Bridge on its borders, Long Island City is overrun with more traffic than most neighborhoods. Many industrial business remain, leading to heavy truck traffic, particularly on Jackson Avenue and Vernon Boulevard. And with scant on-street parking regulations, Manhattanites have used Long Island City as a free parking lot for decades. Residents at the meeting said drivers routinely travel far above the speed limit on the neighborhood’s streets.

DOT has been studying the area since January and plans to develop a preliminary plan for the neighborhood to be presented early next year. At the workshop, attendees split into three groups and worked with DOT reps to discuss streets and intersections most in need of improvement. “We’re looking for opportunities to have the different modes have a better way to get around the neighborhood,” DOT Queens Borough Planner Samantha Dolgoff said.

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Tish James and Queens Pols to DOT: Finish Strong on Woodhaven BRT

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Public Advocate Tish James with City Council members Donovan Richards and Jimmy Van Bramer on the steps of City Hall this morning. Photo: David Meyer

Public Advocate Letitia James joined Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, Council Member Donovan Richards, and Queens transit activists on the steps of City Hall this morning to push the de Blasio administration to follow through on its plans for better bus service along Woodhaven Boulevard.

Earlier this year, DOT presented plans for bus lanes and pedestrian safety improvements along 14 miles of Woodhaven Boulevard and Cross Bay Boulevard [PDF], from Jackson Heights to the Rockaways. The project would speed up the Q52 and Q53, which serve 30,000 passengers each weekday but currently spend just 57 percent of the time in motion. New pedestrian islands and medians are also expected to reduce injuries on one of the deadliest streets in the city.

The rally comes at an important moment. While Richards and several other council members have called for full-fledged Bus Rapid Transit on Woodhaven Boulevard, the reallocation of street space from cars to buses is encountering some resistance in the neighborhood of Woodhaven.

With capital construction not set to begin until 2017, the implementation process is going to last at least two more years. The rally was a reminder that support for overhauling Woodhaven Boulevard runs deep, sending a message that DOT and City Hall shouldn’t buckle to pressure to water down the project. The BRT for NYC Coalition has now collected 7,000 signatures in favor of it.

For sections of Woodhaven and the Rockaways where high poverty rates couple with long commute times, said Richards, the project “is a transit equity issue.”

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NYPD Doesn’t Want to Track NYC’s 38,000+ Annual Hit-and-Run Crashes

There have been 38,000 hit-and-run crashes in NYC so far this year, 4,000 of which injured people, the NYPD revealed at today’s City Council transportation committee meeting. Of 48 recorded “catastrophic” hit-and-run incidents, resulting death or serious injury, only 28 have led to prosecutions of any sort.

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer has introduced bills to increase civil penalties for repeat offenders and require NYPD to release more information about the results of hit-and-run cases. NYPD Inspector Dennis Fulton expressed support today for the former but not the latter.

Van Bramer said that increasing civil fines for repeat offenders could discourage dangerous driving by partly addressing the “perverse incentive for drunk drivers to flee the scene.” Currently, criminal penalties for fleeing the scene are less severe than the ones for drunk driving. City legislation can’t address that flaw — only Albany can (and Albany’s attempts have gone awry). But the city can adjust civil penalties.

In the case of repeat hit-and-run offenders, the bill would establish fines of “up to $1,000 if property damage results from the incident; $2,000 to $5,000 if a person is injured; $5,000 to $10,000 if there is a serious injury; and $10,000 if death results.”

Fulton was on board with that, but he opposed another bill requiring NYPD to include statistics regarding civil penalties in hit-and-run cases in its quarterly reports to the Council, saying the department lacked the “technical ability” to track details of hit-and-run incidents citywide.

In 2014, the City Council passed a law requiring NYPD to provide quarterly reports on hit-and-run incidents, but Fulton said that specifics that could be helpful in guiding preventive practices — such as time of day and location — are currently only tracked at the precinct level.

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NYC Toll Reform Makes Too Much Sense to Fade Away

Don’t count out Move New York just yet.

Cuomo’s budget promises become much easier to keep if he also adopts the Move New York plan.

When Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio hashed out their deal to fill the gap in the MTA capital program, it seemed like a window of opportunity was closing on the plan to cut congestion and fund transit by reforming the city’s dysfunctional toll system. The governor would borrow $8.3 billion and pay it back with general fund revenues to cover the state’s end, and that would be that (at least for the next five years).

As it happens, the window might still be open.

Cuomo has repeatedly rejected Move NY as a political non-starter, but the number of elected officials signing on to the plan — which would put a price on driving in the most gridlocked parts of town while lowering tolls on outlying crossings — keeps growing. The latest endorser is City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, who reps western Queens and came out for the plan yesterday.

Van Bramer’s district includes the approaches to the Queensboro Bridge. With no price on that crossing, local streets jam up with drivers hunting for a bargain. For western Queens and similar districts, like northwest Brooklyn or Lower Manhattan, a big part of the appeal of Move New York is its promise of relief from the road-clogging, horn-honking mess. For electeds like James Vacca, whose district includes the Throggs Neck and Whitestone bridges, it’s the discounts on less-traveled crossings that sweeten the deal.

So what would be the appeal for Cuomo, who’s given no indication that he cares about fixing New York City’s pestilential traffic? In a thrilling twist, it might come down to the imperatives of budget math.

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Van Bramer to Car Dealers: Stop Hogging Northern Boulevard Sidewalks

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer isn't shopping for a new car at City Mitsubishi's dealership. He's trying to walk down the sidewalk on Northern Boulevard. Photo:  John McCarten/NYC Council

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer isn’t shopping for a new car at City Mitsubishi’s dealership. He’s trying to walk down the sidewalk on Northern Boulevard. Photo: John McCarten/NYC Council

Walking the car-clogged sidewalks of Northern Boulevard this morning with street safety advocates and press in tow, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer called on two NYPD precincts to crack down on auto dealerships that treat pedestrian space as car showrooms.

“They have a right to make money,” Van Bramer said of the dealerships. “But they do not have a right to block the sidewalks.”

Northern Boulevard regularly ranks as one of the most dangerous streets in Queens. Van Bramer, standing outside PS 152 at the intersection where 8-year-old Noshat Nahian was killed on his way to school in 2013, said parking cars on the sidewalks doesn’t help the situation. “Northern Boulevard is busy enough, dangerous enough,” he said. “We cannot accept pedestrians’ lives being put in danger in order to sell cars.”

PS 152 principal Vincent Vitolo said he has spoken with dealerships next to the school about keeping the sidewalks clear for students. But after brief bouts of compliance, the dealers put cars back onto the sidewalk, blocking the way for kids going to school. “We’re in touch with all the dealerships around us,” he said. “Nobody’s perfect.”

Cristina Furlong of Make Queens Safer said representatives of a Honda dealership told her there was an exception in state law that allows car dealerships to park on sidewalks. The claim appears to be a complete fiction, and police occasionally do ticket the dealers for appropriating sidewalk space.

Van Bramer said his office has reached out to many of the dealerships, and met with the 108th and 114th precincts yesterday about the issue. While the precincts have done some enforcement blitzes in the past, the dealerships remain defiant. The problem is worse on the weekends, when dealers put out even more display cars on the sidewalks.

“There are some problems, some community issues, that ultimately seem intractable and people come to accept them as ‘that’s just the way it is,'” Van Bramer said. “These businesses cannot accept these tickets as a cost of doing business.”

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Queens CB 2 Votes Unanimously in Favor of Queens Blvd Protected Bike Lane

Queens Boulevard will be redesigned this summer before being reconstructed in 2018. Image: DOT [PDF]

Queens Boulevard will be redesigned this summer before being reconstructed in 2018. Image: DOT [PDF]

Big changes are coming to Queens Boulevard in Woodside this summer after a unanimous vote last night from Queens Community Board 2 for a DOT redesign.

The plan will add protected bike lanes and expand pedestrian space on 1.3 miles of the “Boulevard of Death,” from Roosevelt Avenue to 74th Street [PDF]. Six people were killed on this stretch of Queens Boulevard between 2009 and 2013, including two pedestrians and one cyclist, according to DOT. Over the same period, 36 people suffered serious injuries, the vast majority in motor vehicles.

DOT plans on implementing the design in July and August with temporary materials before building it out with concrete in 2018. It’s the first phase in a $100 million, multi-year project to transform the notoriously dangerous Queens Boulevard between Sunnyside and Forest Hills.

“It was an incredibly important and, dare I say, historic moment for Queens and for the safe streets movement,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer. “Having a bike lane on Queens Boulevard — I can remember several years ago, people saying to me, ‘That is the most pie-in-the-sky, ridiculous harebrained notion ever. It’ll never happen.’ But, you know, it’s gonna happen. It’s happening. That is seismic, in terms of the shift in where the thinking has gone.”

“We have come up with what I consider to be one of our most creative and exciting proposals that this department has ever put together,” Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told CB 2 last night. “It’s going to greatly enhance safety. It’s going to make the road more pleasant and more attractive for pedestrians, for cyclists, for the people who live and have their business on Queens Boulevard. And it will keep the traffic flowing, as well.”

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Participatory Budgeting: Your Chance to Vote for Livable Streets

A record 24 City Council members have launched participatory budgeting efforts this year, giving local residents a say in how to spend a share of the council’s discretionary capital funds. Starting last fall, volunteers and staff spent months refining proposals and suggestions. Council members are now releasing sample ballots so the public can learn more about the projects before voting for their favorites in the coming weeks.

Of the City Council’s 51 districts, 24 (in black) have participatory budgeting ballots. Map: NYC Council

For a sample of what can be found on PB ballots, here are the livable streets projects up for a vote in two council districts in Western Queens.

We start in District 22, represented by Costa Constantinides, covering Astoria, Steinway, and the northwest corner of Jackson Heights. Voting will be open from April 13 to 19 and residents can vote for up to five of the 18 projects on the ballot [PDF]. There are two livable streets projects under consideration:

  • Newtown Plaza: This project would provide $400,000 to redesign Newtown Avenue between 32nd and 33rd streets to include a pedestrian plaza. A proposal from DOT to install a plaza at this location was rejected by Community Board 1 almost three years ago.
  • 21st Street and Astoria Boulevard: This project would provide $500,000 to fund the installation of curb extensions at this complex, multi-leg intersection. The Department of City Planning recommended neckdowns and pedestrian islands for this location, but they were not included in DOT’s safety plan for 21st Street.

Work on selecting which proposals would make it to the ballot began last October. “Our budget delegates have worked through the city budget process from a grassroots level and have been empowered to make decisions that will better our community,” Constantinides said in a press release. “For the first time, anyone in the district can directly make decisions about how taxpayer money is spent.”

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Big Turnout for DOT’s First Queens Boulevard Safety Workshop

Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Change is coming to the most feared street in New York.

More than 100 people turned out last night to tell NYC DOT how they want to improve safety on Queens Boulevard. Known as the Boulevard of Death for its appalling record of traffic fatalities and injuries, Queens Boulevard functions as a surface-level highway running through more than seven miles of densely settled neighborhoods. DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg announced last week that it would be a Vision Zero priority in 2015, and Wednesday’s meeting kicked off what advocates hope will be a comprehensive yet expeditious process to redesign the street for safe walking and biking and effective transit.

Queens Boulevard remains one of the deadliest streets in the city, even after signal timing changes and other adjustments led to major reductions in pedestrian deaths about 15 years ago. In 2013 alone, six pedestrians were killed on the street, reports the Times Ledger.

Streetsblog couldn’t attend last night, so we reached out to Queens residents this morning to get their take on the event. There’s a lot of excitement for what DOT has set in motion, as well as a sense that the agency has to act swiftly and decisively to keep the momentum going.

Last night’s workshop focused on the segment of Queens Boulevard in Woodside, from Roosevelt Avenue to 73rd Street. Grouped together at 12 tables, participants were briefed by DOT staff on the agency’s street design toolkit and then each group got to work imagining how those safety improvements could apply to this stretch of Queens Boulevard. At a separate event on the Upper West Side last night, Trottenberg said those ideas will inform short-term fixes for now, with more workshops to follow for other sections, the idea being to piece together a permanent safety overhaul for the whole corridor.

Our contacts remarked on how the different perspectives at the workshop converged around similar ideas. “There was a cross-section of users of the street at the workshop, including people who walk, bike, drive, and take buses, and all who spoke mentioned feeling unsafe on the Boulevard as it is currently designed,” said Transportation Alternatives volunteer Rachel Beadle. “Participants at EVERY break-out table were asking for bike lanes, bus lanes, and safer pedestrian crossings.”

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