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Posts from the "Margaret Chin" Category

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Chin Asks de Blasio to Choose Affordable Housing Over Cheap Parking

Council Member Margaret Chin has set up a simple choice for Mayor Bill de Blasio: Which is the higher priority, affordable housing or cheap parking?

DOT owns 39 parking lots and garages in all five boroughs. Many of them could be affordable housing sites, if Mayor de Blasio follows through on his plan. Image: DOT

DOT owns 39 parking lots and garages in all five boroughs. Many of them could be affordable housing, if Mayor de Blasio decides to prioritize housing over car storage. Image: DOT

In a letter to Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg first reported by the Wall Street Journal [PDF], Chin urged the de Blasio administration to redevelop the city-owned parking garage on Ludlow Street in the Lower East Side, calling it a “great opportunity for the development of affordable housing” in an area with “an urgent need for more.”

According to an analysis by the City Council’s land use division, it could accommodate 89 housing units under current zoning.

Chin’s request comes two months after de Blasio released his affordable housing plan, which singled out municipal parking lots as a type of city-owned property ripe for affordable housing development.

The Department of Housing Preservation and Development is charged with coming up with a list of suitable city-owned properties. Last month, an HPD spokesperson said the effort was in the early stages and it was still reaching out to other agencies. The department offered a similar line today.

After an event in May, I asked Trottenberg whether DOT would get out of the parking lot business to help the mayor achieve the his affordable housing goals. “It’s too soon to say,” she said. “I can’t pre-judge that now.” Trottenberg would only say that DOT is “ready to do whatever we can to help,” including creating an inventory of its developable properties.

DOT has not replied to questions today about Chin’s proposal to redevelop the Ludlow Street garage, but did tell the Journal that it “serves a significant community need for parking” and is undergoing a $5.8 million renovation.

The garage is is one of 39 DOT-managed garages and lots, accounting for more than 8,100 spaces citywide. Many of those municipal lots offer cheap parking well below the going rate. The Ludlow Street garage, for example, charges $4.50 for the first hour and $2 for each additional hour. Nearby garages start at $10 for the first hour.

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Council Members Say DOT Needs Funds for Vision Zero, Bike-Share Expansion

City Council members today expressed strong support for Vision Zero, bike-share expansion, and other safe streets initiatives, but it’s not clear how they will be funded.

At a transportation committee budget hearing, council members heard from the Taxi and Limousine Commission, the MTA, and DOT. Among other issues, reps from each agency were asked how they planned to help reduce traffic injuries and deaths.

“Vision Zero is already underway at DOT,” said Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. Among other projects, work on the Brooklyn Greenway and new public plazas in Bushwick and Washington Heights are on the agenda for FY 2015.

In response to questions about the Vision Zero time frame from chair Ydanis Rodriguez and committee member Jimmy Van Bramer, Trottenberg said DOT is planning a series of borough town hall meetings, followed by more localized forums, to gather citizen input. Still, she said, “Our goal is 50 projects per year,” in keeping with Mayor de Blasio’s pledge for citywide pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure improvements.

Van Bramer, of Queens, and Brooklyn rep Brad Lander asked Trottenberg about bike-share expansion. Lander said he would like to see a “full build-out” of the system, with city funds if needed. While DOT is “very keen” to develop a long-term expansion plan, Trottenberg said, “We’re not there yet.” On a couple of occasions Trottenberg referred to issues caused by the Bixi bankruptcy as one obstacle to overcome. “We’re going to get there as quickly as we can,” she said.

When Van Bramer asked if DOT could more quickly respond to requests for stop signs and speed bumps, which he said can take years to address, Trottenberg said the agency doesn’t have the funds to process all requests at once.

Council members Margaret Chin and Debi Rose complained about through traffic on Canal Street, with Rose citing the Sam Schwartz fair toll plan as a potential solution. Chin also asked if DOT could deploy “pedestrian managers” as an antidote to NYPD TEA agents, who tend to prioritize vehicle throughput over pedestrian safety.

In addition to supporting bike-share, Lander said the city should come up with funds for DOT to devote to Vision Zero initiatives in general. Steve Levin, of Brooklyn, asked if more money is needed for Slow Zones. More resources are always helpful, Trottenberg said.

While it was generally agreed that it will take additional funds to carry out Vision Zero, no specific figures were discussed.

We’ll have more on the hearing tomorrow.

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Margaret Chin and 1,000 Citizens Ask NYPD to Investigate Pedestrian Death

Council Member Margaret Chin’s office has joined those calling for a full investigation into the death of Kwok Fu, the 82-year-old man who was struck by the driver of  a National Guard truck on Canal Street.

Following an email exchange with Streetsblog, Margaret Chin's office has pledged to ask NYPD to "fully investigate" the death of Kwok Fu.

A convoy of National Guard trucks was on its way to the Javits Center to pick up Sandy relief supplies on the afternoon of November 6 when Fu was killed as he attempted to cross Canal at Centre Street. Witnesses said convoy truck drivers did not slow down and gave no warning before running a series of red lights on Canal.

National Guard spokesperson Eric Durr told Streetsblog that the convoy was trailing a police escort. No published accounts of the crash made mention of an escort, and a man who had to step out of the way of the convoy, and who witnessed the collision, told Streetsblog he did not see one.

Durr claims that the National Guard is not investigating the crash, and referred our questions to NYPD, which in characteristic fashion has ignored our query.

After Streetsblog informed a Chin spokesperson that the National Guard has taken no responsibility and that police aren’t talking, the spokesperson said she would contact NYPD ”and urge them to fully investigate this incident.”

The National Guard’s refusal to own up to its role and NYPD’s eternal silence are indicative of how city traffic fatalities are handled as a matter of course. This is not lost on the 1,000-plus who have signed an online petition calling for a full investigation into Fu’s death.

That a City Council member would have to ask Ray Kelly’s NYPD to investigate a fatality is a telling indicator of the state of New York City traffic enforcement. Worse still, considering that police have not responded to Dan Garodnick, who made a similar request concerning the crash that killed Upper East Side pedestrian Rubin Baum, it’s not known what if anything such pleas accomplish.

To prod NYPD to take action to ensure justice for Kwok Fu, to help prevent the next traffic fatality, and to hold NYPD accountable for slapdash crash investigations and loosen the department’s grip on crash information, the council will have to act as a body. A first step would be passage of the Crash Investigation Reform Act, which would bring the formation of a multi-agency task force charged with assessing NYPD crash investigation practices and recommending reforms. The package of bills has gone nowhere in the four months since it was introduced.

The office of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, who is up for reelection in 2013, does not comment on vehicular crimes.

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National Guard Says It Is Not Investigating Fatal Chinatown Crash

The National Guard says NYPD was leading the convoy involved in the November 6 crash that killed 82-year-old Kwok Fu, shown here parked on Centre Street. A witness told Streetsblog that he saw no escort, and there has been no mention of an escort in other published witness accounts. Photo: Ben Fried

Accounts of last week’s fatal crash in Chinatown do not match that of the National Guard, which insists a convoy was following an NYPD escort when the driver of one of the trucks struck an elderly man on Canal Street after reportedly running a red light. The National Guard is not conducting its own investigation into the crash, according to a spokesperson.

The convoy was on its way to the Javits Center to pick up Sandy relief supplies on the afternoon of November 6 when Kwok Fu, 82, was killed as he attempted to cross Canal at Centre Street. Witnesses said convoy truck drivers did not slow down and gave no warning before running a series of red lights on Canal.

National Guard spokesperson Eric Durr said the convoy was following a route set by NYPD, in keeping with protocol for moving troops through urban areas, though he did not know its point of origin. Protocol may vary depending on guidance from the convoy commander and local police, Durr said, but he indicated that it is normal for a convoy to disregard traffic signals, even on a relief mission in an American city.

“Generally a convoy tries to stay together, and that is why there’s a police escort. Stop and think: When the president is in town he has a police escort, right? Does he go through red lights?”

“We can’t just drive around on our own,” Durr said. “We have to coordinate with police. They’ll set up the routes. They send the police escorts. In this case I know there was a police escort, because the convoy commander said ‘I had a police escort.’”

Durr said he does not know how the crash occurred, but believes Fu was struck by the third truck in the 11-vehicle convoy. “The gentleman stepped out from the sidewalk and the driver unfortunately could not stop in time,” said Durr. “That is my understanding.”

The presence of a police escort has yet to be corroborated by witness or media reports. Nor is it clear why, if lights and sirens were blaring, the victim would have stepped into a procession of military trucks.

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NYPD: Not Even a Ticket for Truck Driver Who Killed LES Pedestrian

We have more details on the August 9 crash that killed a pedestrian on the Lower East Side, though many of them conflict with information previously provided by NYPD.

Memorial for "Lorii," run down by a truck driver who "had the right of way," according to NYPD. Photo: Bowery Boogie

According to a witness account first published by Bowery Boogie, the victim was crossing Allen Street at Stanton Street at around 10 p.m. when she was struck by the driver of a truck who stepped on the accelerator the instant the light turned. NYPD told Gothamist the woman died at Bellevue Hospital on August 11. According to Gothamist, NYPD also said that the Accident Investigation Squad did not investigate the crash.

When Streetsblog first contacted NYPD, the department’s public information office said it had no information on the collision. “We’re not going to have anything unless there’s criminality suspected,” a spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for City Council Member Margaret Chin told Streetsblog today that, according to the 7th Precinct, the department’s Accident Investigation Squad was dispatched to the scene. The precinct said the vehicle involved was a truck, but not a garbage truck or a city vehicle, according to the spokesperson.

The police report said the driver “had the right of way” — had the light — remained at the scene, and had not been drinking, the spokesperson said. No summonses were issued.

An officer at the precinct said police “did not believe the driver was acting to purposefully hit the victim and determined this to be a genuine accident,” the spokesperson said. This is largely immaterial, of course, since state law requires all drivers to operate with due care to avoid hitting pedestrians and cyclists. Nevertheless, only about half of New York City motorists who kill vulnerable street users are cited for careless driving, while those who injure are virtually never ticketed. Unless a motorist is under the influence, and the evidence holds up in court, criminal charges against drivers who maim and kill are extremely rare. Drivers who take a life can expect to retain or regain their driving privileges, even in cases involving alcohol or drugs.

How the driver in this case failed to see a person in the street directly in front of the vehicle before hitting the gas remains an open question.

Attempts by Streetsblog and others to ascertain the victim’s identity have been unsuccessful. An NYPD spokesperson said today that, since the victim did not die at the scene, such information is not readily available to the public information office. The 7th Precinct told Chin’s office it did not know the victim’s age or race. An update posted today by Bowery Boogie reads:

The victim reportedly lived on the fourteenth floor of the Hernandez Houses at 189 Allen Street, where one of her neighbors knew her simply as Lorii. We are told that she was in her late-thirties or early-forties. Not much else is known at this time, other than there’s a “collection for her because no family member has come forward.”

Chin’s office did not have enough information about the crash or the investigation to provide a statement on NYPD’s findings, according to her spokesperson.

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Council Members Propose Widening Brooklyn Bridge Bike-Ped Path

The council members' proposal would triple the width for pedestrians and create a separated, two-way bikeway on the bridge. Image: Office of Council Member Brad Lander

Council Members Brad Lander, Margaret Chin, and Stephen Levin — along with advocates from Transportation Alternatives — stood at the Manhattan entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge this morning and put forth a proposal to expand the bridge’s increasingly popular and exceedingly cramped bike and pedestrian path.

“It’s about time, in 2012, that we update it a little bit,” said Lander.

This announcement comes as a response to several years of rising pedestrian and bike traffic on the bridge. As the number of cyclists crossing the Brooklyn Bridge surpasses an average of 3,000 daily, and the number of tourists and walk-to-work commuters exceeds 4,000, according to NYC DOT, the potential for conflict and collisions has grown. While the daily tabloids have sensationalized the competition for space, there’s no doubt that it’s real and that something must be done about it.

The most recent efforts to address this issue have been the “pedestrian safety managers” that were hired by the city to ensure safety on the bridge. But as Levin said, “there is a limit to what can be done with management of the path.”

Currently the path ranges from eight feet to 16 feet wide, not including wider sections where the path passes the bridge buttresses. (It was also narrowed by three feet in some places due to reconstruction work that began in 2010.) The proposal unveiled today would widen the path to 34 feet, providing significantly more space for both pedestrians and cyclists.

The crux of the proposal is to expand the path so that the entire length is as wide as the sections that extend out and over the roadway in order to pass the buttresses. Extending the more generous width to the whole length of the bridge would allow for the creation of a two-way, separated bike path and a tripling of the space dedicated to pedestrians.

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DNAInfo: Pedestrians Have No Time to Cross Delancey

In the wake of the death of Dashane Santana, the 12-year-old girl killed by a minivan driver while she was crossing Delancey Street earlier this month, Lower East Side leaders are demanding safety improvements for the many pedestrians who cross this approach to the Williamsburg Bridge. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Borough President Scott Stringer, State Senator Dan Squadron and City Council Member Margaret Chin have each called on DOT to take action to prevent one more life from being taken by Delancey Street traffic.

A report from DNAinfo this morning lays out just how hostile the design of Delancey is to pedestrians. To cross Delancey at Clinton Street, where Santana was killed, pedestrians must traverse ten lanes of moving traffic in just 22 seconds.

That’s far less crossing time than pedestrians have at some of the city’s most notoriously dangerous intersections, which DNAinfo went out and measured. Reports DNAinfo’s Julie Shapiro:

For example, pedestrians crossing the eight-lane Queens Boulevard at Union Turnpike have a full 30 seconds to make it to the other side.

People traversing the six-lane Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard at 145th Street have 40 seconds, nearly double the crossing time on Delancey Street.

Other busy intersections with longer crossing times than Delancey Street include West Street at Albany Street, where pedestrians have 31 seconds to cross eight lanes; Houston Street at Essex Street, where pedestrians have 30 seconds to cross eight lanes; 12th Avenue at 23rd Street, where pedestrians have 34 seconds to cross six lanes; Ocean Parkway at Church Avenue in Brooklyn, where pedestrians have 45 seconds to cross 10 lanes; and Atlantic and Flatbush avenues in Brooklyn, where pedestrians have 60 seconds to cross four lanes.

DNAinfo’s report also includes the above video, which includes an interview with one of Santana’s schoolmates.

The area’s elected officials are primarily calling for pedestrian crossing times to be extended, a move that would surely make it easier to cross. Shrinking Delancey down from ten lanes should also be on the table; no matter how long the light is, that’s a wide street to ever cross safely.

DOT will present its plan for improving Delancey Street next Wednesday.

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Lower East Side Electeds Come Together for Safer Delancey Street

Extra-wide Delancey Street is one of the most dangerous roads in New York. One pedestrian and one cyclist have already been killed on Delancey this year. Image: Google Street View.

Delancey Street is one of the most dangerous roads in the city. Between 2008 and 2010 alone, 134 pedestrians and cyclists were hit by drivers on Delancey, according to Transportation Alternatives, and two were killed on the street this year.

Last week, Streetsblog reported on a new design for the base of the Williamsburg Bridge which routed cyclists off Delancey and onto calmer side streets. The implication, it seemed, was that the Department of Transportation wasn’t planning to make Delancey safer for cyclists and pedestrians, just less trafficked by them.

Elected officials on the Lower East Side, however, aren’t standing for the deadly status quo. On Monday, State Senator Daniel Squadron convened the first meeting of a new working group meant to improve safety in the area.

“For too long, Delancey has been the scene of far too many tragedies,” said Squadron in a statement. “Our working group is a much-needed step toward ending the cycle of danger. I’m confident that, together, we can find the short-term and long-term solutions to ensure a safe Delancey Street for all types of users.”

Joining Squadron were City Council Member Margaret Chin and representatives from the offices of Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Borough President Scott Stringer, Community Board 3, the Lower East Side Business Improvement District, and Transportation Alternatives. Staff from the Department of Transportation and the NYPD, which would have to implement any safety plan, were also in attendance.

The group will meet monthly to create a set of short-term and long-term changes to improve safety for all users of Delancey. “All solutions are still on the table,” said Squadron spokesperson Amy Spitalnick. In an e-mail, she listed a few possible solutions already being considered: “turning restrictions, stop lines, lengthening medians and crossing times, and a real solution for bikes (understanding that they’ll end up on Delancey no matter what).”

We’ll be reporting on the working group’s recommendations as they develop, but for now, it’s encouraging to see this broad and powerful coalition of elected officials and community leaders commit to a safe Delancey Street. Their statements, collected in a press release, are below:

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