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Posts from the Melissa Mark-Viverito Category

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Mark-Viverito’s East Harlem Plan Recommends Tossing Parking Minimums

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito greets constituents in her East Harlem district, which is slated for upzoning as part of the mayor's plan to increase the city's affordable housing stock. Image: William Alatriste

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito greets constituents in her East Harlem district, which is slated for upzoning as part of the mayor’s plan to increase the city’s affordable housing stock. Photo: William Alatriste

Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito has released an “East Harlem Neighborhood Plan” to guide the city’s rezoning of the community, and one of the recommendations is the elimination of parking minimums.

The 138-page plan [PDF] was developed over the past 10 months as a joint project of Mark-Viverito, Community Board 11, Borough President Gale Brewer, and the grassroots social justice group Community Voices Heard. Among its recommendations, the plan calls for “increased density in select places to create more affordable housing and spaces for jobs” and that “any potential rezoning should eliminate minimum parking requirements.”

The parking minimum recommendation is unequivocal and would apply to all housing, not just subsidized housing like the de Blasio administration’s citywide “Zoning for Quality and Affordability” plan. ZQA only eliminates minimum parking requirements for affordable and senior housing development within the so-called “transit zone” — areas that are, generally speaking, a short walk from high-capacity transit.

Mark-Viverito hasn’t taken a position on the parking reforms in ZQA, and her office declined multiple inquiries from Streetsblog on the topic. The City Council is fractured on the issue, but the East Harlem plan indicates that the speaker supports the idea that mandatory car storage is less important than maximizing housing options.

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Council Calls on de Blasio to Double “Great Streets” Redesign Funds

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Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez says Mayor de Blasio should increase the city’s budget for major street safety redesigns.

The City Council wants Mayor de Blasio to double funding for DOT capital projects to overhaul the city’s most dangerous streets and save more lives, faster.

At a council budget hearing last week, transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez called for additional funds in the executive budget for the “Great Streets” program. As of now the mayor’s budget proposes $250 million for safety improvements on streets selected for the initiative: Queens Boulevard, the Grand Concourse, and Atlantic Avenue and Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn. Motorists killed 34 pedestrians, and seriously injured 215, on those four streets from 2009 to 2013.

In April, the City Council’s preliminary budget called for a much larger “Great Streets” allocation of $500 million. Rodriguez and the council reiterated that demand in a statement published by the Daily News today. “With $250 million additional dollars we can more than double the amount of redesigned roadways,” said Rodriguez. “Though the executive budget was a good start, the more money we put in, the more results we will attain.”

De Blasio has shown some flexibility in budgeting for streets. Last month, the mayor announced an accelerated DOT repaving schedule at a conference on Staten Island, but did not mention Vision Zero.

We asked the mayor’s office about the council Great Streets ask. De Blasio spokesperson Wiley Norvell sent us this statement:

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Will de Blasio and Mark-Viverito Back Effort to Fully Fund Vision Zero?

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City Hall will have to double its commitment to street redesigns that prioritize safety in order to dramatically reduce traffic deaths on NYC’s most dangerous streets in our lifetimes, advocates say. That level of spending could be accomplished with a relatively small shift in resources in the city’s total capital budget.

Transportation Alternatives has drafted a letter to Mayor de Blasio asking the administration to dedicate additional resources to redesigning the city’s most dangerous streets. On Monday, more than 100 volunteers for TA and Families For Safe Streets visited council members seeking their support, and so far 19 have signed on.

Advocates want the city to both double its planned investment in Vision Zero capital projects — permanent street redesigns cast in concrete — and scale up its “operational” projects — redesigns made with paint and other low-cost materials that can quickly bring down the death toll on city streets. They also emphasize the need for solid timetables for implementation, to ensure the city stays on track to meet its goals.

On the capital side, that would mean spending $2.4 billion every 10 years to overhaul the most dangerous streets. TA says that level of investment could comprehensively redesign the city’s arterial streets within 50 years.

While that would represent a large increase, it would not be a large share of the city’s total capital budget, which amounted to about $80 billion over the 10-year period from 2003 to 2012. A faster street reconstruction timetable could also save the city money in the long run by reducing lifecycle maintenance costs.

Mayor de Blasio’s “Great Streets” initiative committed $250 million over several years for redesigns of four arterials, including Queens Boulevard and the Grand Concourse, and the preliminary City Council budget recommends doubling that amount. That would be progress, but it’s no substitute for a detailed, long-term funding and implementation strategy.

Outside of the Great Streets program, for instance, DOT is planning just 50 Vision Zero projects a year citywide, some no bigger than a single intersection. That’s not nearly enough to meet the need for street safety upgrades.

“Neighborhoods across the five boroughs are really clamoring for safety improvements on local streets, so there’s an unprecedented demand for what we know are proven fixes,” says TA Deputy Director Caroline Samponaro. “That presents a challenge for the city, but it’s ultimately an opportunity for us to invest in what the next generation of New York City streets should look like.”

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Select Bus Service Launches on 125th Street

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg speaks at today's event marking the launch of Select Bus Service on 125th Street. Photo: Stephen Miller

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg speaks at today’s event marking the launch of Select Bus Service on 125th Street. Behind the podium are City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Member Mark Levine, Carmen Bianco of New York City Transit, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, and City Council Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez. Photo: Stephen Miller

On Sunday, Select Bus Service launched on a route that stretches from 125th Street in Harlem to LaGuardia Airport. Public officials marked the occasion — the first SBS route to debut during the de Blasio era — at a Harlem press conference today. With off-board fare collection and dedicated bus lanes (on part of the route), the upgrades will speed cross-town trips for 33,000 bus riders daily, on both the M60 SBS route and local routes that will benefit from the bus lanes only.

Not that long ago, it seemed like SBS on 125th Street might never happen. The bus lanes were originally planned to extend between Second and Morningside Avenues, but after State Senator Bill Perkins led objections to the planning process, the plan was scaled back, calling for bus lanes between Second Avenue and Lenox. The entire project appeared dead soon after, then was revived in October after closed-door meetings with Perkins and other erstwhile opponents.

At today’s press conference, elected officials made the case for extending the bus lanes west to Morningside.

“While it’s a fabulous day for East Harlem, it’s a slightly less wonderful day for Central and West Harlem, because a key feature of this route, which is the bus-only lane you see right here, stops — comes to an abrupt halt — at Lenox Avenue,” said Council Member Mark Levine. “That’s simply not fair to residents in the western part of this wonderful street.”

Levine, whose call for extending the bus lane was echoed by State Senator Adriano Espaillat, said he hoped that it could be implemented as soon as this fall.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito thinks success on the initial segment will lead to westward expansion. “Once people start using this and really seeing the benefits, you’re going to start getting the support of people asking and clamoring for more,” she said. “Some of us, we thought this wouldn’t move forward.”

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With Mark-Viverito as Speaker, Who Will Chair Transportation Committee?

Original Photo: William Altatriste/NYC Council. Illustration: Stephen Miller/Streetsblog

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, center, with Jimmy Van Bramer, upper left, James Vacca, lower left, and David Greenfield, right. Original Photo: William Altatriste/NYC Council. Illustration: Stephen Miller

Almost immediately after Melissa Mark-Viverito was elected city council speaker yesterday, she formed the council’s rules committee, installing her progressive caucus co-leader Brad Lander as its chair. Lander, like Mark-Viverito a livable streets stalwart who has also championed overhauling many of the council’s procedures, is now in a prime position to help pick who will chair the council’s committees.

Lander’s proposals, outlined last fall, aim to give committee chairs more power over their agendas and staffs, removing some control from the speaker. If these reforms proceed under Speaker Mark-Viverito, it makes the policy goals of those who would occupy chairmanships all the more important.

Committee chairmanships, and their attendant pay raises, are often political spoils for those who backed the winning speaker candidate. In the past, many chairmanships have gone to senior supporters of the Bronx and Queens Democratic party organizations. Most recently under Speaker Christine Quinn, for example, James Vacca of the Bronx headed transportation, Leroy Comrie of Queens chaired the pivotal land use committee, and Peter Vallone Jr. of Queens led public safety.

This time around, the Queens and Bronx organizations were on the losing end after Brooklyn Democratic party chair Frank Seddio aligned with the council’s progressive caucus, top unions, and Mayor Bill de Blasio to back Mark-Viverito.

Soon after Seddio’s move, talk began flying about chairmanships for Brooklyn council members unaligned with the progressive caucus. Chief among them: David Greenfield, who is said to be a favorite to lead land use or transportation. He began publicly campaigning heavily for Mark-Viverito after Seddio’s decision to back her.

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NYC’s New Council Speaker Is Melissa Mark-Viverito

Melissa Mark-Viverito will serve as the next New York City Council speaker following a vote today by her peers in the council. She now holds the second most powerful position in New York City politics, after the mayor himself, and will set the agenda for the City Council for the next four years. The vote was un-contested after her chief rival for the speakership, Dan Garodnick, officially conceded.

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Mark-Viverito’s district encompasses East Harlem and parts of the South Bronx. In her eight years on the council, she has been one of the true standouts on streets and transportation issues, leading Streetsblog to name her the Elected Official of the Year in 2012.

In 2008, she vocally supported congestion pricing and was one of the only NYC elected officials to publicly counter suburban politicians who tried to frame the proposal as harmful to working class New Yorkers. She also called for upgrades to the M15 to include physically separated bus lanes (DOT and the MTA eventually went with camera-enforced, un-separated lanes) and waged an effective campaign to extend protected bike lanes on First and Second Avenues through East Harlem.

Garodnick, who mounted the strongest challenge to Mark-Viverito, is no slouch on street safety and transit issues either, and like Mark-Viverito he earned an endorsement from StreetsPAC in his re-election campaign this year. But there was certainly a gap between the coalitions supporting each candidate.

Mark-Viverito’s bid for the speakership became insurmountable after her base — the council’s Progressive Caucus, which she launched with Council Member Brad Lander in 2010 — was joined by the Brooklyn Democratic Party machine in a deal brokered by Mayor Bill de Blasio. While support for livable streets policies is far from universal among the Brooklyn Democrats, the Progressive Caucus has an outstanding transportation platform.

Garodnick’s coalition, meanwhile, consisted of the Bronx and Queens Democratic Party machines, which, despite a handful of enlightened members, don’t instill confidence when it comes to re-engineering streets to prioritize walking, biking, and transit.

In the end, Garodnick and Mark-Viverito embraced in the council chambers, and there was no contested vote.

Next up: Committee chair assignments. The top three committees to watch are transportation, chaired in the previous term by James Vacca; land use, formerly chaired by Leroy Comrie, who is no longer in the council; and public safety, which was chaired by Peter Vallone, Jr., also term-limited. We’ll have more on those positions in a separate post.

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Tomorrow: Celebrate a Safer East Side With TA and Melissa Mark-Viverito

First Avenue at 79th Street, with bike and pedestrian improvements. Photo: DOT

Tomorrow, Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito and Transportation Alternatives will take a well-deserved victory lap on the First and Second Avenue protected bike lanes.

Streetsblog readers know how difficult it was to overcome the misinformation campaign waged by a small number of business owners who didn’t want to see street improvements come to East Harlem. But there are a lot more businesses that support safer streets, and they will be joining in tomorrow’s celebration.

From a TA press release:

“This ride is about celebrating the work we did as a community to bring protected bike lanes to El Barrio/East Harlem,” says City Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. “The local businesses that Transportation Alternatives will be visiting understand that the bike lanes will help, not hinder, their ability to thrive in our community. I thank Transportation Alternatives, El Museo del Barrio and our local businesses for helping to organize this tour.”

“Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito has demonstrated tremendous leadership by uniting community residents and local businesses around the shared goals of safe neighborhood streets and a strong local economy,” says Caroline Samponaro, Senior Director of Campaigns and Organizing for Transportation Alternatives.

DOT completed work on the First Avenue project on October 15, bringing a smoother, safer ride for cyclists and shorter crossing distances for pedestrians from 72nd to 125th Street.

The tour will visit several bike-friendly businesses and murals in Mark-Viverito’s district. Participating businesses include East Harlem Café, El Paso Taqueria, Heavy Metal Bike Shop, Amor Cubano, Camaradas El Barrio, Spaha Soul, Sabor Borinqueno, El Barrio Juice Bar, and Coco Le Vu Candy Shop and Party Room.

Tomorrow’s ride starts at El Museo del Barrio, at Fifth Avenue and E. 105th Street, at 1 p.m.

Also tomorrow, the TA Queens committee will lead a walking rally for traffic calming and pedestrian safety improvements to 21st Street in Astoria. Queens Community Board 1 has shown interest in making improvements to the street, and has indicated the board may request a study from DOT. City Council members and candidates are expected to be on hand for the walk, which starts at 2 p.m. at the entrance to Queensbridge Park, at Vernon Boulevard and 41st Avenue.

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Which City Council Member Will Call for Bike-Share Expansion Next?

Council Members Stephen Levin, Melissa Mark-Viverito, and Jimmy Van Bramer want bike-share to expand in their districts. Photos: NYC Council

Council members whose constituents live beyond the reach of bike-share’s first 330 stations are already clamoring for the system to expand. Capital New York’s Dana Rubinstein spoke with Steve Levin about expanding the system in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, Melissa Mark-Viverito about stations in East Harlem and the Bronx, and Jimmy Van Bramer, who wants the program in western Queens.

Levin, who joined Citi Bike before it launched, sees the potential for using bike-share to connect with other transit services:

“There are certainly cyclists in the Northside and Greenpoint that are jealous… As a Greenpoint resident, I am jealous. It would be great to have those right next to McGolrick Park so I could get over to the Nassau G stop.”

Mark-Viverito also wants it in her district:

“Given how El Barrio/East Harlem has embraced protected bike lanes on First and Second Avenues, I of course would welcome seeing the bike share program extend to my district… I would hope as the program grows, that we can see consideration for communities above 96th Street and in the South Bronx.”

And Van Bramer, who like Levin is a bike-share member, also wants the program expanded:

“I think that not having western Queens be a part of this at the beginning is definitely a loss for the program… I definitely think there are some people who feel left out.”

The council members join Ydanis Rodriguez, who also wants bike-share expanded to his Upper Manhattan district.

DOT has said it’s aiming to roll-out bike-share to Long Island City, Greenpoint, and the rest of Williamsburg and Bedford Stuyvesant by the end of the year. Future expansions to bring the system to 10,000 bikes and beyond will require additional funding. Although the Bloomberg administration has committed to running bike-share without taxpayer dollars, council members working with future administrations might not face the same restrictions.

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Mott Haven Residents Rally for Safe Streets and Truck Enforcement

South Bronx Unite and Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito rallied against deadly truck traffic in Mott Haven on Saturday. Photo: Stephen Miller

Early Saturday afternoon, about 25 people gathered at the corner of St. Annes Avenue and East 138th Street in the South Bronx, protesting heavy truck traffic and deadly driving in the Mott Haven neighborhood.

A series of pedestrian deaths in recent months and the lack of truck route enforcement from the 40th Precinct — as well as a city-subsidized Fresh Direct distribution center planned for the neighborhood — have many residents concerned about the safety of crossing the street.

On December 13, Ignacio Cubano, 69, was killed in crosswalk at 138th Street and St. Annes Avenue by a semi truck driver. On January 7, an elderly woman was critically injured crossing at the same location. Six days later, a taxi driver ran over a man at 138th Street and Brown Place. Most recently, on April 1, a hit-and-run SUV driver killed two pedestrians on Bruckner Boulevard at 138th Street. On Saturday afternoon, an elderly driver injured four people on the sidewalk near The Hub, a busy commercial area at the north edge of the neighborhood.

At the rally, convened by the environmental justice group South Bronx Unite, participants handed out fliers to people walking along the bustling commercial street. “We walk these grounds with our feet — we hope that we can get safe streets!” the group chanted.

East 138th Street is designated as a local truck route, which means truck drivers should be heading to or from a destination in the neighborhood. But residents say many truck drivers use the street as a through route to Manhattan to avoid traffic on the Major Deegan and the Bruckner Expressway.

In 2012, officers from the 40th Precinct did not write a single ticket for truck route violations, while issuing 2,272 tickets for tinted windows over the same period [PDF]. Responding to a January letter from resident Monxo Lopez, the precinct’s commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Christopher McCormack, said that citations are often issued for tinted windows because officers need to see inside a vehicle during car stops.

At a precinct community council meeting in January, after the two crashes at 138th Street and St. Annes Avenue, McCormack told residents that “most of the victims are elderly, and they are making mistakes,” according to the Mott Haven Herald. In an interview last week with DNAinfo, McCormack noted that some of the victims were not using crosswalks.

“He has a 1950s mentality,” Lopez said on Saturday. “He’s blaming the pedestrians for their own deaths.”

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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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