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Posts from the "Melissa Mark-Viverito" Category

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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.

Melissa Mark-Viverito

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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On Traffic Justice, Stringer Lets Ray Kelly and Cy Vance Off the Hook

After the driver who killed six year-old Amar Diarrassouba on Thursday was let off with two summonses, for failure to yield to a pedestrian and not exercising due care, NYPD says its Accident Investigation Squad has concluded its investigation. Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance refuses to comment.

Assembly Member Robert J. Rodriguez, Borough President Scott Stringer and Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito announce Stringer's letter to DOT. Photo: Stephen Miller

This afternoon, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer was joined by other elected officials and approximately a dozen community leaders on the sidewalk in front of Diarrassouba’s school, P.S. 155 in East Harlem, to show their outrage.

“We mourn, but we also are angry,” Stringer said. “We should never be standing at a press conference like this again demanding action.”

But instead of demanding action from the NYPD and the DA, Stringer announced that he is sending a letter to Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. “This is a shot across the bow to the Department of Transportation to take meaningful action,” Stringer said.

It’s a strange tactic, given that DOT is expected to continue its implementation of protected bike lanes and pedestrian refuges in East Harlem this year — a project that was, for a time, obstructed by Stringer appointees to Community Board 11.

Citing the significant safety gains of DOT’s Safe Routes to Schools program, Stringer’s letter calls for some worthy improvements, including bringing more Leading Pedestrian Interval signals to East Harlem (currently the neighborhood only has two, while there are 143 in the rest of Manhattan) and installing reduced-speed school zone signs at P.S. 155, which currently has none. But by focusing his critique solely on DOT, Stringer is letting law enforcement off the hook.

“We’re certainly going to defer to the police and the district attorney on these issues,” said Stringer, who is not sending a letter to the DA or NYPD. His specific policy recommendations to DOT, meanwhile, indicate that he has no problem telling less powerful agencies what to do.

Stringer’s letter doesn’t mention the street safety project that will bring bike lanes and pedestrian islands to First Avenue and has already redesigned a stretch of Second Avenue just west of P.S. 155. It also doesn’t mention that two of Stringer’s community board appointments, Erik Mayor and Frank Brija, delayed the project by claiming it would make asthma rates worse. In the end, the full community board voted to support the traffic calming plan not once but twice.

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How Complete Streets Came to East Harlem

This is the story about how East Harlem residents and street safety advocates — with leadership from Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito — banded together to win complete streets on First and Second Avenues. After the city backtracked on a plan to build protected bike lanes and pedestrian refuges up to 125th Street on the East Side of Manhattan, this coalition mobilized to put the project back on the table. Later, when the safety improvements came under attack from a few business owners, public health professionals joined Mark-Viverito and NYC DOT to combat misinformation about the redesign and see it through to implementation.

Former Streetsblog Reporter Noah Kazis covered the campaign for protected bike lanes in East Harlem and helps recount the story in this video.

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Construction of East Harlem Protected Bike Lanes Slated to Start This Month

Image: NYC DOT

Before cleaning his workspace yesterday and packing up for New Haven, Noah Kazis snagged one more piece of good news, which it is my pleasure to report: DOT will begin constructing a protected bike lane on Second Avenue in East Harlem at the end of August.

The first section to be built will stretch from 125th Street to 100th Street. (Second Avenue Subway construction will keep the redesign from extending further south for a few more years.) The construction timetable for the northbound lane on First Avenue will be available soon, according to a DOT spokesperson.

This project has been a long time coming — protected bike lanes up to 125th Street were first announced early in 2010 — and a lot of people helped bring it to this point. Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito steadfastly advocated for the project after City Hall walked back the initial timetable and when local restaurant owners temporarily eroded support from the local community board. Transportation Alternatives and local volunteers mobilized when the Bloomberg administration’s commitment to complete the redesign appeared to be flagging. And in the final round of community board meetings, the Department of Health helped DOT dispel the notion that the project would worsen asthma rates.

I also give Noah a lot of credit for highlighting the support for this project from Mark-Viverito and State Senator José Serrano when it seemed like it might continue to languish. Not long after that post last April, East Harlem’s protected bike lanes were officially “well on their way.”