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Posts from the "Joe Lentol" Category

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McGuinness Boulevard Is NYC’s Third 25 MPH Arterial Slow Zone

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg speaks at today's arterial slow zone announcement on McGuinness Boulevard. Photo: Jon Orcutt/Twitter

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg speaks at today’s arterial slow zone announcement on McGuinness Boulevard. Photo: Jon Orcutt/Twitter

Ask a Greenpoint resident to name the neighborhood’s most dangerous street, and they’ll likely point to McGuinness Boulevard, an infamous speedway that splits the neighborhood in half. Today, it became the city’s third “arterial slow zone” to receive a 25 mph speed limit, retimed traffic signals to discourage speeding, and focused enforcement.

The arterial slow zone will be installed by the end of next month along 1.1 miles of McGuinness between Freeman and Bayard Streets. Seven pedestrians and one cyclist died on this stretch of road between 1995 and 2007, according to CrashStat. DOT says that from 2008 to 2013, four other people were killed on McGuinness — three pedestrians and one cyclist, but no motorists — including Neil ChamberlainNicole Detweiler and Solange Raulston. Arterial streets like McGuinness comprise only 15 percent of New York’s roadways but account for 60 percent of its pedestrian fatalities, according to DOT.

A survey two years ago by Transportation Alternatives, Neighbors Allied for Good Growth, Community Board 1, and area residents found that two-thirds of McGuinness drivers were speeding above 30 mph, with 36 percent traveling above 35 mph. Truck drivers were clocked going as fast as 47 mph.

The 94th Precinct, which covers McGuinness, has issued nearly double the number of speeding tickets in the first three months of this year compared to the same period last year. The precinct, which ticketed people for jaywalking on McGuinness last month in the wake of a pedestrian death, has issued slightly more than two speeding tickets daily so far this year. McGuinness is not among the locations where speed cams are known to have been used under the limited automated speed enforcement program allowed by Albany. In January, Council Member Steve Levin asked DOT to install cameras on McGuinness near PS 34.

Neighborhood residents and elected officials have been working for years to slow down drivers and save lives on McGuinness, yielding incremental changes.

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Overcoming Skepticism, Lentol Joins Families to Back 20 MPH Speed Limit


Yesterday, members of Families for Safe Streets traveled to Albany to speak with legislators about legislation to lower NYC speed limits and increase automated enforcement of dangerous driving. They came away with an early victory: Assembly Member Joe Lentol of Brooklyn, a street safety ally who had been skeptical of a bill to lower the city’s default speed limit to 20 mph, surprised the families by showing up at their press conference and giving a moving speech about why he now supports the measure.

“I understand why this is a difficult bill for some of my members, and for a lot of people. They believe that they can safely speed. Even I do. All of us do. We think that we have things under control, and that we are able to speed at will and be able to stop,” said Lentol, who chairs the Assembly Codes Committee, which would play a key role in the bill’s passage. “We’re wrong. We can’t always put our foot on the brake and stop the car.”

“Speed kills,” he said.

This morning, I asked Lentol, who has backed neighborhood slow zones and 20 mph speed limits on some of his district’s most dangerous streets, why he had hesitated to come out in support of the bill, sponsored by Assembly Member Dan O’Donnell. “I think I misunderstood the O’Donnell bill,” he said. The proposal would set a default citywide speed limit of 20 mph, while allowing the City Council to set higher speed limits where it sees fit. (For the record, since City Council members don’t always let good policy guide their transportation decisions, this override power should rest with NYC DOT instead.)

“I don’t see why we can’t have a lower default rate of speed,” Lentol said. “If you don’t see a speed limit sign that says 30 or 25, you as a driver have to understand that the default speed limit is 20. That should be the law.”

Lentol’s support came after families met with him in Albany yesterday. “It was a lack of understanding that this is a default, and there can be adjustments up,” said Ellen Foote, whose son Sam Hindy was killed in a 2007 crash. “He listened to us.”

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Electeds Want MTA Onboard With Vision Zero After Latest Pedestrian Death

Marisol Martinez was struck by an MTA bus driver as she crossed Union Avenue at Meeker Avenue in Brooklyn. The red arrow represents the movement of the driver and the white arrow the movement of the victim, according to reports and photos from the scene. Image: Google Maps

Marisol Martinez was struck by an MTA bus driver as she crossed Union Avenue at Meeker Avenue in Brooklyn with her cousin and a friend. The red arrow represents the movement of the driver and the white arrow the movement of the victim, according to reports and a witness account. Image: Google Maps

Electeds and advocates called for changes at the MTA and for Mayor de Blasio to focus street safety resources on northern Brooklyn after another pedestrian was killed by a bus driver this weekend.

Marisol Martinez, 21, was crossing Union Avenue at Meeker Street in Williamsburg with two other people at around 1:25 a.m. Saturday when she was hit by a bus driver making a left turn.

“When we were in the middle of the crosswalk, we saw the bus, and we saw it too late,” the victim’s cousin, Jose Gonzales, said at a press conference on Sunday. ”We had the right to cross, so I mean, for the bus not to yield, for it not to stop, I don’t know.”

Martinez was at least the tenth pedestrian or cyclist killed by an MTA bus driver in the last 12 months. Photo via ##http://nypost.com/2014/03/01/woman-21-killed-by-bus-in-williamsburg/##New York Post##

Martinez was at least the tenth pedestrian or cyclist killed by an MTA bus driver in the last 12 months. Photo via NY Post

Gonzales, 22, said he and his friend Jonathan Acosta, also 22, ran to get out of the driver’s path, and barely avoided being hit themselves. Martinez was behind them. She was first hit by the front of the bus, Gonzales said, and was run over by the right rear tire.

“I made it in time, my friend [Acosta] made it in time, but as I turned around at the same time I saw my cousin go down face first and get ran over. It ran over her body, and I didn’t see her anymore on my side. I went around the other side to see her crushed. Her leg was crushed. The flesh was all over the floor. I couldn’t bear to see it. I saw her on the floor. I couldn’t get near her. I couldn’t do anything to help her anymore. My friend screamed for the bus to back up. It never did.”

Acosta told the driver, an unidentified 50-year-old woman, to move the bus off of Martinez, Gonzales said. “She said she couldn’t do anything about it.” The Daily News reported that the bus driver was not charged for turning a bus into a crosswalk where three people were walking. As of this afternoon, a spokesperson told Streetsblog NYPD could not confirm information on charges or summonses, and said the investigation is ongoing.

Martinez was a sophomore at Hunter College and wanted to be a nurse, according to a News 12 report.

Martinez was the third pedestrian or cyclist killed by an MTA bus driver in 2014, and at least the tenth such fatality in the last 12 months, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. On Sunday, officials joined loved ones of Martinez, Ella Bandes, and Seth Kahn — who were fatally struck by bus drivers in 2013 and 2009, respectively — at Grand Street and Borinquen Place. On hand were City Council members Steve Levin and Antonio Reynoso and Assembly members Joe Lentol and Martiza Davila.

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Lentol Wants 20 MPH Speed Limits on Big, Dangerous Brooklyn Streets

This afternoon, Assembly Member Joseph Lentol announced that he’s sent a letter to Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg asking for 20 mph speed limits on the busiest, deadliest roads in his district.

Assembly Member Joe Lentol. Photo: Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership

Assembly Member Joe Lentol. Photo: Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership

“There are three main streets within my district that are notorious for speeders – McGuinness Boulevard, Kent Avenue, and Park Avenue,” Lentol wrote in the January 21 letter [PDF], noting that Mayor de Blasio has proposed expanding the number of 20 mph zones across the city. “I urge you to consider these three roadways when determining where to introduce these new speed zones.”

All three streets strike fear into local residents. Campaigns for traffic calming on McGuinness Boulevard and Park Avenue have led to a few changes by DOT, but advocates along those streets are calling for more significant measures. DOT, which already redesigned much of Kent Avenue to include a two-way protected bike lane, recently proposed a traffic calming plan for the avenue in South Williamsburg after a speeding driver killed a young couple and their unborn child in a hit-and-run crash. The plan has been approved by Community Board 1 and is scheduled to be installed this summer.

State law currently requires streets with speed limits below 25 mph in New York City to include some kind of additional traffic calming measure. “Street layout changes are something that the DOT’s engineers would be tasked to design,” Lentol told Streetsblog in an e-mail. “How DOT and the NYPD goes about that is up to them — of course with community input.”

If DOT agreed to Lentol’s request, it would signify an increased willingness to adjust speed limits on major streets. The city’s Slow Zone program launched with a focus on residential streets but not bigger roads, which consistently see high rates of traffic injuries and fatalities. DOT’s stance could be changing. Recently, the agency lowered the speed limit on Prospect Park West to 25 mph, independently of a Slow Zone project. Streetsblog has asked DOT if it has a response to Lentol’s letter.

Separately, Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell’s bill to lower the citywide speed limit to 20 mph, except where the city council or DOT say otherwise, has gained support from co-sponsors Walter Mosley, Rhoda Jacobs, Gabriela Rosa and Ellen Jaffee.

Lentol said he liked the legislation’s goals but would not commit to backing the bill, which would replace speed limit signs across the city. “I will have to take a more comprehensive look at this legislation to understand the variables involved,” he said, “including of course the cost with such a drastic policy change.”

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Cuomo Announces $67M for Bike/Ped Projects, Including Pulaski Bridge

Image: NYC DOT

[Editor's note: Streetsblog will not be publishing Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.]

Via the Tri-State Transportation Campaign: Earlier this week Governor Andrew Cuomo announced $67 million in funding for walking and biking infrastructure statewide, after advocates had pressed the state to follow through on the recently passed complete streets law with actual resources. These are federal funds that will be distributed by the state DOT.

One of the local projects that will receive funding is the protected two-way bike lane on the Pulaski Bridge, which will double the amount of space for walking and biking on this increasingly well-used connection between Queens and Brooklyn. The state contribution is $2.5 million, with the remaining $625,000 provided by the city.

NYC DOT revealed the design for the bikeway in December, and Assembly Member Joe Lentol, who has fought for the project since 2012, sent out a press release today with the news that Brooklyn Community Board 1 voted in favor of the plan earlier this week. Lentol says work on the project should begin once the weather warms up and construction season resumes. Here’s his full release:

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Lentol: DOT Will Finalize Design for Pulaski Protected Bike Lane This Year

DOT is drawing up plans for a dedicated bike lane on the Pulaski Bridge, according to the office of Assembly Member Joe Lentol, and should have a final design ready before the end of the year

The current layout of this Queens-Brooklyn link squeezes pedestrians and cyclists onto a narrow shared path, while motorists speed along on six lanes for auto traffic. A year ago, Lentol asked DOT to consider adding a two-way protected bike lane, and has since worked with Transportation Alternatives staff and volunteers to build support for the project. After the proposal cleared a traffic analysis, DOT conducted an engineering study, presumably focusing on how to protect cyclists from car traffic and make it safe to bike across the bridge’s wide expansion joints.

Today Lentol announced the final design will be presented to Community Board 1 in Brooklyn and CB 2 in Queens before the year is out. ”The bike lane construction slated to begin in late spring or early summer of 2014 will allow for cyclists and pedestrians to be enjoying a safer journey over the bridge sooner rather than later,” Lentol said in a press release.

“We have been working on obtaining a dedicated bike lane on the Pulaski Bridge for over a year now and I am happy to say it is finally coming to fruition,” Assemblyman Lentol added. “The safety of bike riders and pedestrians on the bridge has always been of my utmost concern.”

“I applaud Commissioner Sadik-Khan for her vision in creating a more pedestrian and cyclist friendly transportation infrastructure for New York City,” Lentol concluded.

We’ve asked DOT to confirm the project timeline, and will update here when we hear back.

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Pulaski Bridge Bike Lane OK’d by DOT Traffic Study; Engineering Review Next

A protected bike lane on the Pulaski Bridge — calming traffic heading to McGuinness Boulevard and providing much more breathing room than the bridge’s narrow bike/ped path alone — has cleared a significant planning hurdle. In a letter to Assembly Member Joe Lentol [PDF], DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said that the proposal meets traffic analysis requirements, and that an engineering study and recommendations will be made by the end of the year:

DOT says an engineering study is underway for a protected bike lane on the Pulaski Bridge, and the agency will make recommendations by the end of the year. Photo: *Bitch Cakes*/Flickr

Since December, we have analyzed traffic data and we are confident that one Brooklyn-bound lane can be removed from the Pulaski Bridge without an adverse effect on traffic flow… However, there are some engineering questions remaining about how to properly design and install such a bicycle path on the bridge. To resolve these questions, we are initiating an engineering study with a structural engineering consultant.

The most likely engineering concerns are related to the bridge’s wide joint gaps, which could ensnare narrow bike tires, and how to maintain an adequate physical barrier between bicycles and motor vehicles on the drawbridge section of the span. DOT expects to wrap up the study and recommendations later this year, according to Sadik-Khan’s letter.

While this update puts the study schedule behind the March deadline that Lentol had cited at the beginning of the year, it’s a good sign of progress.

In the meantime, advocates continue to build support for the bike lane. The Transportation Alternatives Queens volunteer committee, which has a petition supporting the lane with 300 signatures, will be gathering more signatures on the Queens side of the bridge path on Saturday, May 11, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m.

The bridge path would complement a separate proposal to bring bike lanes to 11th Street in Long Island City, connecting north to Queens Plaza and the Queensboro Bridge. ”DOT and CB 2 have already agreed to this,” TA volunteer Steve Scofield told Streetsblog via e-mail. “We’re expecting their exact proposal and an implementation date in a matter of weeks.”

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Lentol: DOT Study of Pulaski Bridge Bike Lane Slated to Wrap By March

Photo: Clarence Eckerson, Jr.

Quick update on the campaign for a protected two-way bikeway on the Pulaski Bridge: We don’t know if DOT is going to implement one yet, but we know when they’ll make a decision. Yesterday, Assembly Member Joe Lentol sent out word that DOT chief Janette Sadik-Khan told him the agency will wrap up its feasibility study of the bikeway by March:

Although the response from Commissioner Sadik-Khan did not provide a definitive answer to the likelihood of the dedicated bike lanes installation, it did explain that the Bicycle and Pedestrian Programs unit is investigating the matter. The investigation will examine various factors, including the traffic conditions on the roadway, the structure of the movable bridge and the connections on the Brooklyn and Queens sides of the bridge. The investigation is slated to be completed by March 2013.

Lentol asked DOT to study the bikeway in October, after hosting a public meeting about the increasingly crowded conditions on the bridge’s narrow bike-ped path. DOT announced their feasibility study the next month, saying the main engineering challenge would be designing physical protection for cyclists that works on the drawbridge section of the roadway.

As Lentol noted in his statement yesterday, converting a southbound traffic lane on the bridge to a protected bikeway would also help control drivers’ speeds as they head off the bridge onto McGuinness Boulevard, which has a terrible safety record:

“I have long advocated for traffic calming measures on McGuinness Boulevard and this proposed bike lane would undoubtedly slow drivers down, while making the Pulaski Bridge safer for pedestrians and cyclists who travel along this road everyday. This bike lane is a common sense solution to a multi-faceted problem and I hope Commissioner Sadik-Khan’s investigation will result in the correct decision to make this bike lane a reality.”

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Joe Lentol to DOT: Pulaski Bridge Needs Protected Bike Lane

The narrow bike and pedestrian path across the Pulaski Bridge has long been a concern for bridge users and local residents. Earlier this month, Assembly Member Joseph Lentol hosted a meeting to air the issues and find a solution. Now, Lentol is asking DOT for a two-way protected bike lane on the bridge.

Runners cross the Pulaski Bridge during the New York City Marathon. Photo: nycstreets/Flickr

“This is not us versus them,” Lentol told Streetsblog, saying that attendees at the meeting wanted to find a solution that works for both pedestrians and cyclists. “I think everybody is in consensus that there ought to be a way to take away the southbound right lane of traffic and dedicate that to cycling and give the walkway back to the pedestrians,” he said.

The big hurdle, he noted, is convincing DOT to figure out a way to make that happen, which is why he’s appealing to the top in a letter to Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. “I understand that there are inherent engineering challenges that need to be overcome,” Lentol wrote, “but I have faith in your ability to motivate the DOT engineers to make it happen.”

Funding for the project could fall into place if DOT commits to the project. While Lentol said he doesn’t have direct access to discretionary funds, he can request Multi-Modal Funds from the New York State DOT to help pay for the project. But “the only way you can spend it is if the Department of Transportation has a project they approve,” he added.

Lentol was quick to note that removing a lane of southbound auto traffic on the bridge, in addition to providing space for bike riders and walkers, would help calm traffic on notoriously dangerous McGuinness Boulevard, which is a continuation of the bridge on the Brooklyn side. ”If we could get a speed camera on McGuinness Boulevard and slow the traffic coming off the Pulaski Bridge,” he said, “It would work in tandem.”

Tackling enforcement and design on the same roadway could yield real benefits. “This would be a nice coordinated effort,” Lentol said. While Albany needs to take action on speed camera legislation, the engineering side of the equation could be solved by DOT.

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“Park Avenue Is Broken, And It Can Be Fixed”

Left, Council Member Letitia James and Assembly Member Joseph Lentol speak in support of MARP's Park Avenue plan. Right, an 11th grade student from Benjamin Banneker Academy measures speeding. Photos: Stephen Miller

Council Member Letitia James and Assembly Member Joseph Lentol joined local residents on Park Avenue in Brooklyn yesterday to push DOT and other city agencies to implement recommendations from the Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Partnership’s pedestrian safety plan. The plan calls for a set of pedestrian safety improvements and traffic enforcement measures to make Park Avenue less of a BQE service road and more of a neighborhood street.

“Government’s most primary responsibility is to protect its citizens,” Lentol said. “We definitely need traffic calming measures.” Lentol also called for an expansion of speed cameras in the city. “Speed kills,” he said. “We’ve got to slow these cars down.”

Over a two-hour period on a recent afternoon, MARP clocked 40 percent of drivers on Park Avenue speeding, with the fastest hitting 53 mph. When a student from Benjamin Banneker Academy broke out the speed gun yesterday afternoon, the first reading came back at 38 mph. New York City’s speed limit is 30 mph.

M. Blaise Backer, executive director of MARP, called on city agencies to begin design and implementation of the report’s recommendations. “Park Avenue is broken, and it can be fixed,” he said. “We have to get DOT’s attention.”

Council Member James echoed the sentiment. “We really need to get all of the entities involved to focus on this,” she said. James and Lentol were joined by representatives of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and Transportation Alternatives at the event.

Community participation in formulating the plan has been significant. If you’d like to learn more about how MARP and its partners collaborated on the report, the Center for Architecture will host a panel Friday morning featuring architects, planners and community members.

Community members read the report and sign the petition asking DOT to implement the pedestrian safety plan's recommendations. Photos: Stephen Miller