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Posts from the "Mark Weprin" Category

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Traffic Violence Victims’ Families Tell Their Stories at City Hall

The family of Kelly Gordon, killed on York Avenue three weeks ago, joined council members and other victims' families outside City Hall today. Photo: Stephen Miller

The family of Kelly Gordon, killed on York Avenue three weeks ago, joined other victims’ families and City Council members outside City Hall today. Photo: Stephen Miller

Before the big City Council hearing on street safety legislation this afternoon, elected officials joined families of traffic violence victims outside City Hall to push for speed camera and speed limit bills in Albany, along with more traffic enforcement and better street designs from the de Blasio administration.

Three weeks ago, 22-year-old Kelly Gordon was struck and killed on York Avenue. She was going to graduate from Boston College in May. Today, her family came to City Hall to tell her story.

“To clear up the record, it was reported in the press that Kelly was jaywalking. She was not. The police report reflects that. Witnesses reflect that. Kelly was not jaywalking,” said Gordon’s aunt, Lori Centerella. “She was standing just off the curb when a driver sped through the yellow light, struck her, and sent her into the path of another driver.”

Both drivers were operating yellow cabs. ”These two taxi drivers left that scene with not even a single summons,” said her father, Donald Gordon. “For all we know, they could’ve picked up another passenger a block away.”

Centerella was overwhelmed by the number of families at City Hall this afternoon who had also lost loved ones to traffic violence. “When we came here today, we thought we would be the only ones,” she said. “Look at all the families that have walked this road before us.”

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Council Member Mark Weprin: Driving on a NYC Sidewalk Should Not Be Legal

Ride a bike on a sidewalk in New York City and you are subject not only to a traffic ticket, but a criminal summons. Amazingly, there is no commensurate penalty for the curb-jumping motorist, despite the potential to inflict far greater harm, and countless deaths and injuries that occur every year. Unless intoxication is a factor, prosecutions are rare — even for crashes that result in death — possibly in part because the act of driving on a city sidewalk is itself not a crime.

City Council Member Mark Weprin

In connection with his StreetsPAC endorsement, Council Member Mark Weprin pledged to, in StreetsPAC’s words, “champion legislation in the city council to ensure serious consequences for drivers who, through their own negligence, hop curbs and strike pedestrians on sidewalks.” Weprin says his staff is looking into how such a bill would be crafted.

“We’re going to see what the best possible solution would be,” Weprin told Streetsblog. ”Obviously, the circumstances need to help dictate this a little bit. People’s state of mind and all of that is a big part of it, whether they were reckless in what they did or not. But when someone gets hurt someone needs to pay a price.”

Attorney Steve Vaccaro, a StreetsPAC board member who represents pedestrians and cyclists, says the city needs a law based on current regulations against sidewalk bike riding, which do not require recklessness.

When a cop stops a cyclist for sidewalk riding, Vaccaro says, “There’s no inquiry into whether the cyclist intended to be on a sidewalk, or disregarded a risk that they might end up on a sidewalk, or failed to perceive a risk of ending up on the sidewalk, which would be a criminal negligence standard. There’s just, ‘You’re on the sidewalk, you’re operating a bicycle.’”

“Unless you can show that someone picked you up and put you down and made you go on the sidewalk through no fault of your own, you are guilty of a misdemeanor,” says Vaccaro. “That’s strict liability.”

Vehicular law in New York State generally disfavors strict liability, Vaccaro says, putting the burden on police and prosecutors to prove intent — including the recent case where a driver jumped a curb and hit a parking meter and five people without stopping. “If you’re not drunk, there has to be smoking gun evidence of recklessness that’s shoved in the face of the police or they’ll just call it a mistake.” Vaccaro says. “There’s this incredible disconnect.”

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Participatory Budgeting Offers Chance to Vote for Livable Streets Projects

Eight city council members have put a portion of their discretionary capital funds up for a vote as part of an exercise in participatory budgeting, which allows residents to decide how the money will be spent in their own neighborhoods. Votes in each district are approaching soon, and there’s an opportunity to support livable streets projects.

With participatory budgeting, residents of a City Council district have a say in how $1 million in discretionary capital funds are spent. Photo: Daniel Latorre/Flickr

The participating council members are David Greenfield, Brad Lander, Stephen Levin, and Jumaane D. Williams of Brooklyn; Dan Halloran, Eric Ulrich, and Mark Weprin of Queens; and Melissa Mark-Viverito of Manhattan. Each has put up $1 million in discretionary capital funds, with residents submitting ideas that will appear in early April on a final ballot, open to district residents age 16 and older.

In Lander’s district, stretching from Cobble Hill to Borough Park, there are five projects related to pedestrian safety and livable streets:

  • A Safe Routes to School project at Yeshiva Torah Temimah, on Ocean Parkway near 18th Avenue [PDF];
  • Extending an upcoming DOT capital project on Church Avenue by adding curb extensions at Coney Island and McDonald Avenues [PDF];
  • Constructing a larger plaza space at the triangle intersection of Church Avenue, 14th Avenue, and 35th Street;
  • Adding capital funds to an existing DOT project on Hicks Street, to gain concrete curb extensions and improve visibility at the intersection with Congress Street;
  • Creation of a new concrete pedestrian plaza adjacent to a community garden at Van Brunt Street and Hamilton Avenue.

Lander is hosting a science fair-style expo where residents can learn more about the projects on the ballot, this Thursday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Park Slope branch of the Brooklyn Public Library.

Council Member Stephen Levin’s office identified two projects that may be of interest in the district, stretching from Park Slope to Greenpoint along the East River waterfront:

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Weprin Survey Finds 61 Percent Like Bike Lanes, Even in Eastern Queens

In City Council Member Mark Weprin's district, 61 percent of those surveyed said they like the city's bike lane program. Image: City Council

Several surveys this year by top polling organizations have found citywide support for bike lanes. And in Park Slope and the Upper West Side, questionnaires put out by local elected officials have shown consistent neighborhood-level approval for new bike infrastructure. Now, another member of the City Council has found widespread enthusiasm for the city’s bike lane program among his constituents — and he doesn’t represent the heart of the NYC bike belt.

In fact, the district in question upends the assumption, held by certain members of the tabloid media, that “ordinary New Yorkers” aren’t interested in safer streets for cycling. It’s the turf of Council Member Mark Weprin, whose Queens district hugs the Nassau County line. A recent survey found that 61 percent of Weprin’s constituents support the city’s installation of bike lanes.

“I was somewhat surprised at the results,” said Weprin (not to be confused with his brother, Assembly Member David Weprin, who recently lost the race for Anthony Weiner’s seat in Congress and fought hard against congestion pricing when he sat in the City Council). “You tend to hear from the naysayers. When you go out to civic meetings, a lot of people complain about bike lanes, but obviously that’s not the majority.”

The survey went out by e-mail to a list of thousands of Weprin’s constituents, asking: “Do you support the network of bicycle lanes that the New York City Department of Transportation has installed on city streets?” About 400 people responded. While the methodology wasn’t scientific, Weprin guessed that if anything, it probably oversampled the high-intensity opinions of the bike lane opponents. “People seem to like them,” said Weprin, “including myself.” In the latest Q-poll, which uses random sampling and other scientific statistical techniques, 53 percent of Queens residents said they supported the expansion of the bike lane network.

Weprin's pro-bike lane district sits at the easternmost edge of Queens. Image: NYCityMap.

“It always helps to know that your constituents are behind you when you support an issue,” Weprin said when asked how the survey would affect his actions moving forward. While he cautioned that there might be problems with the location of any given bike lane, Weprin said it’s important “to realize that we have too many cars in this city and it would be more environmental and healthier to have more people ride bikes.”

He also praised the city’s upcoming bike-share program, again reserving the right to critique the particulars of its implementation, should issues arise. “In theory, it’s a great idea to have bike-sharing and have people have an alternative to taking taxi cabs and even subways and buses, because those too are overcrowded on occasion,” said Weprin.