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Posts from the Jumaane Williams Category


De Blasio Signs Right of Way and Bike Access Bills

Today's legislation ensures that pedestrians who enter a crosswalk during the flashing “Pedestrian Change Interval” have the right of way under New York City law. Image: DOT

The new law ensures that pedestrians who enter a crosswalk during the flashing “Pedestrian Change Interval” have the right of way under New York City law. Image: DOT

Following unanimous City Council votes earlier this month, Mayor de Blasio signed several bills yesterday with important implications for walking and biking in NYC.

Public Advocate Letitia James’ Intro 997-A, now known as Local Law 115, amends the legal definition of pedestrians’ right of way so anyone who steps off the curb during the flashing “Don’t Walk” phase has the protection of the law.

Without the legislation, district attorneys and NYPD had declined to charge many motorists who struck people in crosswalks, citing a passage in the city’s traffic rules that said “no pedestrian shall enter or cross the roadway during the flashing ‘Don’t Walk’ phase.”

“By passing this law, we are taking a common-sense step toward protecting pedestrians and making New York’s streets safer,” James said in a statement. The new rule goes into effect on December 27, 90 days after the signing.

At the same ceremony, de Blasio also signed three bills enhancing bike access to commercial and residential buildings.

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Three Bills Enhancing Bike Access to Buildings Get Council Approval

This afternoon the City Council voted in favor of a package of bills aimed to improve bike access to commercial and residential buildings.

New Yorkers will be able to bring folding bikes like this Brompton (demonstrated by Dulcie Canton in City Council chambers last October) into passenger elevators at the workplace. Photo: Julia Kite

The bills augment the 2009 Bicycle Access to Buildings Law, which required office building owners and managers to create bicycle access plans when tenants request them.

That law had a number of limitations. For one, it only required access to freight elevators. Since freight elevators in many buildings are shut down before most workers leave for the day, the law has not been much use for people who work in buildings where management does not want to accommodate bikes.

DOT, which supported all three bills, conducted a survey of 209 tenants who had applied for bike access to their offices, and many said limitations on elevator access discouraged them from biking to work.

Intro 795-A, sponsored by Council Member Jumaane Williams, addresses this loophole by allowing people with bikes to use passenger elevators when freight elevators are not in service.

Williams has updated the bill since a hearing last year. The initial version only covered exiting buildings with a bike. At DOT’s suggestion, the bill now ensures that cyclists can also bring their bikes into buildings through the passenger elevator when the freight elevator is not operating. If building management wants an exemption from the bike access mandate, the legislation also now requires personal approval from the DOT commissioner.

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City Council Passes Home Rule Message for 25 MPH. Is Klein Listening?

Update: The Daily News reports that Klein will be introducing legislation by the end of the week to lower speed limits to 25 mph only on streets with two lanes or less. Streets with more than two lanes would remain at 30 mph, and the local community board would be required to make a request for a lower speed limit before the city could make the change. This would effectively tie the city’s hands on arterial streets, where DOT can already set the limit at 25 mph under current law.

This afternoon in a 44-4 vote, the City Council passed a home rule message asking Albany to pass legislation to lower New York City’s default speed limit from 30 to 25 mph. Now it’s up to the State Senate to introduce a companion bill to legislation sponsored by Speaker Sheldon Silver, and advocates are hoping Senate Co-Leader Jeff Klein will step up.

The City Council wants the State Senate to step up for a lower speed limit. Will Jeff Klein take it on? Photo: NY Senate

“We’re requesting that we be given the authority to establish a citywide 25 mph speed limit, while also making it easier to sign 20 mph speed limits in select locations,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

Streetsblog asked Klein spokesperson Anna Durrett this morning if the senator had a reaction to the home rule message. “I will get back to you,” she said. (So far, she hasn’t.) The window for action from Klein is closing: This year’s legislative session ends a week from tomorrow.

The home rule bill, which unanimously passed the transportation committee yesterday, received wide support at the full City Council this afternoon. Council members were accompanied on the floor by students in the “Council Member for a Day” program, and one of them had a message about the speed limit bill.

“Traffic in the city is dangerous, and by lowering the speed limit from 30 to 25, police can ticket more people who are speeding,” said Christopher Gerbasi, a student at P.S. 128 in Middle Village who was spending the day with Council Member Elizabeth Crowley.

Not all council members agreed with the majority. The four “nay” votes were from Vincent Ignizio and Steven Matteo of Staten Island, Eric Ulrich of Queens, and Jumaane Williams of Brooklyn.

“I am very much in support of the vast majority of Vision Zero, but I’m not convinced that we need to lower the speed limit to 25 mph across the entire city,” Williams said, adding that he supports Slow Zones. Williams said he is aware that people are much safer in crashes at slower speeds, and noted that 20 is even safer than 25 mph, but somehow this did not lead him to vote for the bill. Instead, he said there should be more tickets for drivers violating the existing 30 mph limit. “I am not convinced that it’s not an issue of enforcement,” he said.

After his vote, Williams said on Twitter that “it’s possible” he misunderstood the bill and “would be happy to learn more” — but the issue is out of the City Council’s hands now. It’s up to the State Senate.


Jumaane Williams: Time to Tame the “East Flatbush Motorist Danger Zone”

City Council Member Jumaane Williams with (l-r) Transportation Alternatives general counsel Juan Martinez, Four-in-One Block Association president Hazel Martinez, and Small Business Men and Women of Avenue D president Terrence LaPierre. Photo: Keith Dawson/NYC Council

City Council Member Jumaane Williams yesterday called on the city to take action to improve traffic safety in East Flatbush, where hundreds of people have been injured and killed by reckless drivers in less than two years.

The area targeted by Williams centers on Kings Highway, and is bounded by Utica Avenue and Ralph Avenue to the west and east, respectively, Church Avenue to the north, and Glenwood Road to the south.

Williams was joined at a press conference by neighborhood leaders and Transportation Alternatives, which released a map of severe crashes within what Williams calls the “East Flatbush Motorist Danger Zone” [PDF]. Between August 2011 and February 2013, 69 pedestrians, 24 cyclists, and 385 motorists were injured in the target area. Two pedestrians and three motorists were killed.

Among the victims of reckless drivers in East Flatbush is Denim McLean, a toddler who was fatally struck by a curb-jumping motorist in March. Nine other bystanders, including Denim’s mother, were injured in that crash. The driver was not charged with a crime by NYPD or District Attorney Charles Hynes. Williams first announced his intent to pursue measures to tame traffic in his district in the aftermath of McLean’s death.

“My primary responsibility is the safety of my constituents, and the fact is that our streets are not meeting an acceptable standard of safety,” said Williams, in a press statement issued Wednesday. “There have been multiple fatalities and hundreds of injuries in the last couple years along Kings Highway, Utica Avenue and nearby thoroughfares. We need to double our efforts to reduce speeding and related violations that endanger motorists, pedestrians and cyclists.”

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Jumaane Williams Calls for Speed Cams in Wake of Toddler’s Death

City Council Member Jumaane Williams has issued a statement calling for speed cameras and other traffic-calming measures following the death of Denim McLean, the 2-year-old killed by a curb-jumping driver in East Flatbush.

City Council Member Jumaane Williams

Williams also says more motorists should be held responsible for crashes that result in death.

This incident took place at the corner of Church and Utica Avenues, which has long been a problem area for accidents with pedestrians, even according to the Department of Transportation. I plan to meet with DOT officials in the coming days to discuss safety at this intersection and the Utica Avenue corridor in general. We must push for more traffic calming measures, measures that save lives and improve transportation in the long term. We need speed cameras at this cross-section and throughout this community, and it is my sincere hope that the State Senate will end their obstruction of this effort. While I do not know fully the details of this accident, I do believe that we must work together toward achieving greater accountability of drivers that cause fatal crashes. Finally, we must all exercise much greater caution on the roads. Getting to our destination safely must always be the priority.

There were six pedestrian fatalities in Williams’s district between 2009 and 2011, according to federal data mapped by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. All of the victims were children and seniors. The 67th Precinct, which encompasses much of the district, wrote 45 speeding tickets in 2012, an average of one every eight days.

Speed cameras have overwhelming support among city officials. A proposed demonstration program was included in the State Assembly budget proposal, but was blocked by Marty Golden and Simcha Felder in the Senate. Bronx Senator Jeff Klein has introduced a bill to bring speed cameras to NYC, but Golden says more 20 mph zones will be sufficient to reduce the number of crashes like the one that killed Denim McLean.