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Posts from the "Marty Markowitz" Category

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Iris Weinshall on Marty Markowitz: “He’s a Creep… Always Has Been”

Marty Markowitz and Iris Weinshall

So today we’ve been reviewing all the cynical ploys that former DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall, former First Deputy Mayor Norman Steisel, and former Brooklyn College dean Louise Hainline used in their attempt to reverse the public planning process that produced the Prospect Park West bike lane. The lawsuit that’s back in the news today is the centerpiece of their sweeping body of work, and right now, the centerpiece of the lawsuit is an affidavit that Borough President Marty Markowitz submitted at the 11th hour in the summer of 2011.

In case the details of the case have faded from memory, here’s the quick recap… In order for the bike lane opponents to get a judge to rule on the actual legal arguments in their case (which are incredibly flimsy), they first had to prove that they filed their lawsuit before the statute of limitations expired. To do this, they had to show that the bike lane was installed as a “pilot,” not a permanent redesign. The problem was, there was no record of DOT ever calling the bike lane a pilot or a trial. In fact, DOT’s Josh Benson explicitly said at a public meeting in April, 2010, that the bike lane was not a trial, and the opponents themselves acknowledged that they’d never come across an instance where DOT said the project was provisional.

Enter Markowitz and his affidavit, in which he alleged that DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan described the project as a trial in a closed-door meeting between members of Markowitz’s staff and DOT’s staff. Sadik-Khan refuted Markowitz’s version of events in her own affidavit.

Basically, the opponents have been able to drag out the case based on this one dubious piece of testimony from Markowitz. So it only seems fitting to share this assessment of Marty Markowitz from none other than Iris Weinshall herself.

When Steisel wrote to Weinshall in October, 2010, worried that Markowitz’s commitment to their cause might be wavering, Weinshall replied: “Not surprised about Marty… he’s a creep… always has been… he’s not burning any bridges with Bloomberg!”

Well, she was wrong about the burning bridges part.

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Markowitz: Loosen Downtown BK Parking Regs for Older Buildings Too

Borough President Marty Markowitz wants to reduce parking minimums in Downtown Brooklyn, and he thinks developers should be able to convert existing parking spots to other uses.

Downtown Brooklyn Map

The area of downtown Brooklyn rezoned in 2004 will be affected by DCP's proposed parking rule changes.

This spring the Department of City Planning unveiled a plan to cut Downtown Brooklyn’s onerous parking requirements in half, and Markowitz’s recommendations [PDF] are the latest step on the way to enacting some type of reform. In some respects, his preferred parking reforms go farther than DCP’s original proposal and a resolution passed by Community Board 2 this summer. The borough president wants to retroactively apply the reduced parking minimums to downtown Brooklyn properties developed since 2001, condition the relaxed parking requirements for new development on the inclusion of affordable housing units, and increase the requirements for bicycle parking.

While this bodes well for Downtown Brooklyn parking reform, it also indicates that DCP didn’t aim very high with its original proposal. With local Council Member Steve Levin being an early proponent of reform, perhaps the complete elimination of Downtown Brooklyn parking requirements would have stood a chance.

Markowitz’s bike parking recommendation is attracting the most attention this week, but his most significant request may be to retroactively apply the new parking rules to any development built since 2001, which would allow parking spaces that currently sit empty to be converted to more productive uses. Markowitz’s position goes farther than Community Board 2, whose land use committee voted 9-2 in June to support retroactive application only for projects that included an affordable housing component, after a vote to apply the rules to all existing development failed.

Markowitz does not go so far as to support removing parking minimums entirely. “We should not make future plans based on initial trends of the past decade,” he states in the letter. Arguing that the area may attract residents in the future who “will view access to automobiles in a different light,” Markowitz says that one of the country’s most transit-rich neighborhoods needs parking mandates in cases when “public transportation is inadequate for the intended journey.”

And in fact he’d like to attach some conditions to relaxed parking minimums in new development. Echoing CB 2, Markowitz wants the zoning code to create further incentive for developers to utilize the inclusionary housing program, by triggering the reduced parking requirements for market-rate units only if at least 20 percent of a project’s units are affordable. It should be noted that lowering parking minimums is, on its own merits, a way to reduce the cost of housing.

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Fox 5 Anchors Scotto and Kelly Set New Low for NYC Transpo Reporting

Fox 5′s Good Day New York unleashed a torrent of bile for bike, bus, and pedestrian improvements, seasoned with a healthy dose of unprofessionalism, in a pair of segments focused on bike-share this morning.

First, co-anchors Greg Kelly (son of Ray) and Rosanna Scotto had DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan on, taking a ten minute break from the generally upbeat tone of morning news to express unrelenting hostility to bikes, bus improvements, pedestrian islands and the commissioner herself. Then the pair asked Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz to explain why he doesn’t like bike-share.

The Know-Nothing stance of Kelly and Scotto was so intense that Markowitz’s attacks on the Department of Transportation and cycling, cartoonish though they were, came across as well-informed and even-handed in comparison.

Scotto led off her bike-share questioning (check the 7:50 mark) not by asking Markowitz’s opinion on the program — he hadn’t publicly spoken on the topic before — but by presenting a leading question all but demanding nay-saying and conflict. “We’re all concerned you’re going to get a lot of amateurs on the bike,” she started. “This is a tough city to ride a bike. What are your concerns?”

For people new to bike-share, concerns about riders’ safety are common. But several systems have been up and running for years now, and the data actually show that bike-share has a much better safety record than riding your own bike, across the globe. In Paris, London, D.C., Minneapolis, and even Mexico City, bike-share has a sterling safety record. As of last year, not a single London bike-share user had been seriously injured in 4.5 million trips. Washington bike-share riders had a crash rate half that of regular cyclists, again with no serious injuries or fatalities.

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Next Week: Fourth Avenue Task Force Talks Transportation

Brooklyn's Fourth Avenue is all kinds of pedestrian-unfriendly, but a task force set up by Borough President Marty Markowitz is aiming to fix that.

Right now, Brooklyn’s Fourth Avenue is known for its speedway design and anti-urban architecture. But Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz hopes to turn the road into a grand “Brooklyn Boulevard” and in August, he established a task force charged with planning the street’s future. This Monday, the task force’s transportation and traffic committee will hold its first meeting, charting a course going forward.

Markowitz chief of staff (and potential successor) Carlo Scissura is the task force’s chair. In an interview with Patch last month, Scissura said that he wants to see the street made safer and livelier. Trees and public seating might be added to the sidewalks and plazas, while in the street, Scissura proposed removing left turn lanes and widening the medians.

The task force has support from four City Council members and three Congresspeople in addition to the borough president. Any changes it develops will probably have significant political backing — and possibly significant access to funds. Go and make your voice heard: This is a moment when people are listening.

The transportation and traffic committee meeting is the first opportunity to share ideas about how the street should function. It will be held at Brooklyn Borough Hall (209 Joralemon Street) at 6:00 p.m., on Monday, November 14. The following night, the full task force will meet at 6:00 p.m. at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, 249 9th Street (at Fourth Avenue).

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Marty Markowitz Chooses the Perfect Moment to Jump Into PPW Lawsuit

How’s this for some impeccable timing? Less than 48 hours before the next scheduled court date in the Prospect Park West case, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz is inserting himself into the proceedings in an attempt to keep the tenuous suit from being thrown out.

Not on Marty's watch: After fighting for years against a redesign that has brought all-ages cycling to Prospect Park West, the borough president has now directly inserted himself into the legal maneuvering to wipe out the PPW bike lane. Photo: PlanetGordon/Flickr

Yesterday afternoon LCG Communications, the PR firm representing bike lane opponents, alerted the local press: Markowitz had submitted an affidavit stating that DOT “explicitly described the PPW bike lane as a trial.” (Streetsblog is trying to obtain the actual affidavit; for now we just have the press release [PDF].) Markowitz has been fighting this project for at least two years, and the finality of the redesign has been a central legal issue for months, but only now, apparently, at the eleventh hour, did the borough president’s memory kick in.

For everyone who’s catching up on this story — we are deep in the weeds here. The permanence of the PPW redesign is a legal question with no actual bearing on the success, popularity, or legitimacy of the project. We are talking about an idea that was requested and approved by the local community board. A redesign that has slowed down speeding traffic, reduced crashes causing injury, and increased cycling while reducing sidewalk riding. It enjoys widespread support in the local community, and it’s attracting new riders, including kids who can now safely bike to Prospect Park on their own.

In a legal sense, however, the “trial” issue is important, because the plaintiffs missed their chance to file a lawsuit within the four-month statute of limitations following the permanent installation of a city project. Their case will get tossed unless the judge rules that the PPW redesign was implemented on a temporary basis.

The most pressing question raised by Markowitz’s affidavit is this: Why now? Why, with only hours to go until the next court hearing, did Markowitz come forward to share a recollection from 16 months ago? Given everything we know about Markowitz’s relationships with bike lane opponents and his deep involvement in the campaign to reverse the redesign of Prospect Park West, the sequence of events makes no sense.

Consider:

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Calling the PPW Redesign a “Trial”? That Was Brooklyn Borough Hall’s Idea

Here we are again, a few days away from a court hearing that could finally put the Prospect Park West lawsuit to bed. At issue in Brooklyn Supreme Court next Wednesday will be the seemingly tangential matter of whether the redesign of Prospect Park West was designated a “trial” or “pilot” project by NYC DOT. If it was not, the plaintiffs’ case has no standing in court, because the statute of limitations ran out a few months before they filed their complaint.

Borough President Marty Markowitz

Streetsblog has been reporting on this project for more than two years now, and in all that time — throughout the community board presentations, open houses, and yet more community board presentations — not once have I seen or heard someone from DOT call the PPW redesign a trial. In fact, at one of the few meetings we didn’t report on — an April 29, 2010 Community Board 6 Transportation Committee meeting — DOT bike and pedestrian director Josh Benson explicitly said the project was not a trial. So where does this “trial” idea come from?

The plaintiffs’ attorney, Jim Walden, has embarked on an extended expedition ostensibly in search of the answer — issuing FOIL requests and subpoenas to NYC DOT and City Council Member Brad Lander’s office. He recently told the press, “We believe clearly, given [Lander's] own public statements, that the DOT told him in no uncertain terms it was a trial program, it was a trial bike lane.”

Well, after some digging, we found out who wanted the Prospect Park West bike lane to be a “trial” project, and it wasn’t DOT. It was Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.

Flash back to February 2010. Brooklyn Community Board 6 had voted in favor of the Prospect Park West bike lane the previous June. Then in October, Markowitz, with the backing of former DOT commissioner Iris Weinshall, had written to current commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, demanding that the project be shelved indefinitely. In preparation for a March 1 meeting between Markowitz and DOT brass, Borough Hall transportation policy point man Luke DePalma sent a memo prepping the borough president [PDF]. He concluded with the following piece of coaching:

DOT still plans to implement this project.
You should restate your opposition and concerns, and insist that this bike lane, if installed, be done on a “pilot” or trial basis. This will give DOT a chance to monitor the impacts the lane might have on the traffic during the spring and summer.

So, by a count of one to zero, this memo from the borough president’s office refers to a “pilot” or “trial” project more than all the DOT presentations on PPW combined.

At the March 1 meeting, DOT informed Markowitz that the redesign was moving ahead and would be installed soon. The borough president was not pleased. As a concession, DOT told Markowitz they would not pour any concrete as part of the project in 2010.

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Ten Things NBBL Doesn’t Want You to Know

#3: Before NBBL was lobbying City Hall to remove the Prospect Park West bike lane, Marty Markowitz and Iris Weinshall were lobbying DOT to not even build the PPW bike lane (PDF). #4: NBBL has a U.S. Senator on their side.

If opponents of an effective street safety project repeat dishonest distortions about it often enough, does that make their position true? Apparently, the Daily News editorial board thinks so. An opinion piece they published over the weekend on the Prospect Park West bike lane might as well have come straight from the desk of Gibson Dunn lawyer Jim Walden, the corporate litigator, Chuck Schumer campaign donor, and rumored Brooklyn DA hopeful who’s now representing bike lane opponents “pro bono.”

A decade ago Daily News reporters were crusading for safety improvements on Queens Boulevard, leading to measures that prevented injuries and saved lives. Now, without any hint of skepticism, truthseeking, or other basic journalistic impulses, the Daily News editorial writers seem content to lift talking points straight from street safety opponents, aligning themselves with the goal of making New York more dangerous. They apparently believe the narrative spun by the anti-bike lane group known as “Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes” and their spin-off, “Seniors for Safety” — a story in which DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan is the only person in New York who wants safer streets for biking and walking, and the local community could, at any moment, “erupt into open revolt.”

It can be time-consuming to visit the neighborhood you’re opining about, do nuts-and-bolts research, or fact-check the faulty assertions in a lawsuit before you reprint them for hundreds of thousands of readers, so Streetsblog has compiled this handy list for the future reference of the Daily News editorial staff, or anyone who’s actually curious about how this project came to be and what the opponents are really after (hint: it’s not safety or “better bike lanes”).

The NBBL narrative obscures the following:

  1. Community groups asked for the project

    One of NBBL’s basic tenets, unchallenged by the tabloid dailies, is that the city foisted the Prospect Park West redesign on the neighborhood. But the fact is that public pressure to tame traffic on Prospect Park West had been mounting since 2006, when the Park Slope Civic Council’s traffic and transportation forum highlighted rampant speeding on PPW as a major quality of life concern.

    Later that year, after holding a series of public workshops, the Grand Army Plaza Coalition produced a report including recommendations for better bike access to GAP, and in 2007, Brooklyn Community Board 6 asked the city to study the implementation of a two-way, protected bike lane on PPW. Park Slope Neighbors later gathered 1,300 signatures asking for a two-way bike lane and traffic calming measures on the street — all before DOT proposed the PPW redesign in 2009. No one had to convince people that their neighborhood streets could function a lot better.

  2. DOT’s safety data is rigorous and honest

    Data collected from the six-month study period after implementation of the re-design clearly shows that the incidence of speeding on PPW has gone down significantly, and the early results indicate that crash and injury rates have declined. You can’t be “for safety” and oppose a project that produces these benefits, so NBBL has attacked the data and cherrypicked numbers to undermine confidence in DOT’s methodology.

    To do this, NBBL claimed that DOT typically doesn’t use multi-year averages of crash data to ascertain the effect of street redesigns, when the truth is that this is exactly how DOT and other transportation agencies measure safety effects, because that’s the statistically rigorous way to do it. As Gary Toth, a 34-year veteran of the New Jersey Department of Transportation, told Streetsblog: “It is the opponents’ lawyers who are grasping at aberrations and doing the very thing they accuse the DOT of — selectively picking data to stack the deck in their favor.”

  3. Before NBBL was lobbying City Hall to remove the PPW bike lane, Iris Weinshall and Marty Markowitz were lobbying DOT to not even build the PPW bike lane

    From the beginning, the campaign against the bike lane has been spearheaded by opponents with political clout. In October 2009, after the PPW redesign had been approved by CB 6, Borough President Marty Markowitz wrote to Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, asking her not to install the redesign. “I am joined in this request by former DOT Commissioner, Iris Weinshall — who absolutely agrees that the installation of a two-way, barricaded bike lane would cause incredible congestion,” Markowitz wrote in a letter [PDF] obtained by Streetsblog through freedom of information requests. The attempt to perform an end-run around a multi-year community-led planning process had begun. Weinshall would later join Louise Hainline and Norman Steisel in penning a letter to the New York Times on behalf of NBBL, speciously claiming that the redesign increased danger on PPW.

  4. They have a U.S. Senator on their side

    NBBL leaders have taken to saying that only “a small number” of their members are politically connected. But it only takes one former deputy mayor to go over the heads of the local community board and get direct access to City Hall. It only takes one former transportation commissioner to lend an air of legitimacy to spurious claims about a traffic-calming project increasing risk. And if that former DOT chief is married to a U.S. Senator, that’s all you need to enlist City Council members to start agitating against the current DOT and its projects to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists.

  5. They have media access that would make Snooki jealous

    In the annals of NYC NIMBYism, NBBL may be the only neighborhood-level opposition group that has hired a PR firm to get its message out to the press. They’ve also received a helping hand from Marty Markowitz’s office, which offered to put members of NBBL in touch with CBS2 reporter Marcia Kramer last October, according to email correspondence obtained by Streetsblog. CBS2 aired a Kramer segment in February featuring Markowitz, NBBL member Steve Spirn, and video footage provided by NBBL. The coordination between all these parties is never revealed to the viewer, who sees a series of bike lane opponents that seem unrelated to each other. Kramer never mentioned NBBL herself during the segment; only after she kicked it back to the anchor did he say that a group called “Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes” planned on suing the city.

  6. Read more…

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Read All About It: Victims’ Loved Ones Fed Up With Markowitz

For some reason this piece by Jake Pearson in today’s Daily News didn’t make it into the online edition, but here’s a look at what they printed on page 33…

For those who don’t want to squint, Pearson’s lead paragraphs go like so:

The families of Brooklyn residents killed or injured by cars while biking in the borough last year are fuming at Borough President Marty Markowitz.

Advocates and angry victims’ families charge Markowitz made light of their loss by peddling into last week’s State of the Borough address on an oversized tricycle — an obvious jab at the controversial Prospect Park West bike lane.

“At the very least he could acknowledge the issue, as opposed to making jokes about it,” said Naomi Doerner, 32, whose boyfriend Scott Andresen suffered a serious spinal cord injury after being struck by a speeding car last July on Myrtle Ave. in Clinton Hill.

“His constituents are paying the ultimate price, and we’re not the butt-end of a joke,” Doerner said.

You can read the rest here.

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This Is How Marty Markowitz Shows the World He’s Not Anti-Bicycling

Via Gothamist, here’s the video of Marty Markowitz making his entrance to the State of the Borough address last night. The Borough President, who parks his SUV on the pedestrian plaza of Borough Hall and uses lights and sirens on local streets when he’s late for press events, is perfectly comfortable riding a trike on 100 or so feet of traffic-free carpet. (To the delight of City Council Member David Greenfield, the first to rise for the standing O.)

So pay no attention to Marty’s dogged efforts to undo street safety improvements that can help reduce the thousands of preventable traffic injuries in Brooklyn each year. Marty likes bikes.

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Markowitz Speaks Against Safer Streets in State of the Borough

Earlier this week, friends and family members of traffic violence victims wrote to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, asking him to stop standing in the way of street improvements to make walking and biking safer. They had lost loved ones and seen lives disrupted by crashes that could have been prevented by better street design. They asked Markowitz to start taking the prevention of traffic injuries and deaths seriously.

Marty Markowitz at a press conference last month, calling for the removal of pedestrian refuges.

In his State of the Borough address last night, Markowitz did not acknowledge those letters. He did not mention the 80 lives lost each year on Brooklyn streets. Instead, he played his opposition to street safety measures for laughs, and continued to oppose a popular traffic-calming project, the re-design of Prospect Park West.

From Markowitz’s prepared remarks:

[Borough President rides in on bike lane]

Welcome to beautiful Sunset Park, Brooklyn, USA, and the 2011 State of the Borough address!

As you can see, I’ve taken advantage of the Department of Transportation’s newest bike lane. Of course, I can tell it’s still under construction, because the D.O.T. hasn’t yet removed all the seats in the auditorium to make room for it!

TRANSPORTATION

As I’m sure you noticed, I made my entrance tonight on what I like to [call] my senior cycle, so I hope you understand that I am not against bicycles. I’m not even against bike lanes. I’ve supported their creation around Brooklyn, including 9th street near Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Greenway that runs from Greenpoint to Sunset Park.

But for the majority of New Yorkers, it is simply not feasible to make bicycles their primary mode of transport, and unfortunately that’s the direction I believe the City’s policy is heading. They are trying to stigmatize car owners and get them to abandon their cars, when the fact is, even many bicyclists also own cars!

Cycling is no substitute for mass transit, and there are still tens of thousands of Brooklynites who live far from public transportation and who rely on a car to reach their jobs and live their lives. But of course, we must have a comprehensive plan that insures the safety of drivers, walkers and cyclists. And we should all remember to show respect to one another — drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, everybody who uses our streets. I have been a vocal critic of the Prospect Park West bike lane because I think it is a perfect example of how not to install a bike lane. It has disrupted the aesthetics of one of Brooklyn’s most beautiful thoroughfares and made it more dangerous to cross the street safely, especially for seniors, young children and parents with strollers.

Markowitz says he is for the safety of drivers, walkers, and cyclists, but in fact he is opposed to a project that has reduced injuries and tamed rampant speeding, making the street safer for drivers, walkers, and cyclists. At no point does he mention the 16,000 injuries sustained in motor vehicle crashes in his borough each year, or how he would keep Brooklynites safer on their streets.

Markowitz says he is concerned about people’s ability to get around and live their lives, but the data show that the PPW re-design has had no discernible effect on traffic travel times on any avenue. Meanwhile, thanks to the protected bike lane, more Brooklynites are using PPW to reach their jobs, take their kids to school, and conduct their daily lives than before.

Markowitz says he is concerned for Brooklynites who live far from transit. At no point in his speech does he mention the 57 percent of Brooklyn households who do not own a car, or how the city should improve streets so that they can get around more conveniently and safely.

Markowitz says he supports the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, but he was publicly silent last year when business interests based in the Brooklyn Navy Yard threatened to derail a large portion of the greenway route, on Flushing Avenue.

Markowitz says he is not against bike lanes, but he is against the Prospect Park West bike lane, which enjoys 78 percent approval among his own constituents, according to Council Member Brad Lander’s survey of nearly 3,000 Brooklynites.

Markowitz claims to be looking out for the interests of seniors, young children, and parents with strollers, but he is not looking out for these seniors, young children, and parents with strollers:

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