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Posts from the "Michael Bloomberg" Category

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Bloomberg’s Resiliency Plan Calls for Permanent Bus, Ferry Expansion

Yesterday afternoon, Mayor Bloomberg unveiled a resiliency plan to better prepare New York for flooding due to climate change and severe storms. The report’s team, put together in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and led by Economic Development Corporation President Seth Pinsky, used the administration’s PlaNYC 2030 sustainability plan as the foundation for a sweeping set of resiliency-specific recommendations, covering everything from temporary bikeways to new landfill development on the East River.

Bloomberg's resiliency plan includes flashy real estate development projects and calls for the expansion of the city's bus and ferry network. Image: NYC.gov

The heart of the mayor’s plan would build levees and barriers at targeted locations, including the Rockaways, Staten Island, Coney Island, and Newtown Creek, to protect vulnerable areas from flooding. These barriers could offer opportunities for permanent esplanades and greenways for these neighborhoods.

While the levees only tangentially involve transportation, most of the plan’s transportation-specific initiatives didn’t receive marquee treatment in the mayor’s speech and are instead buried in the report. If implemented, however, they could be major components of both the city’s storm response and its permanent infrastructure.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, many New Yorkers took to bicycling and walking as the only reliable means of transit, but improved pedestrian and bike access was not part of the city’s response plan. The mayor’s new report recommends that DOT and NYPD be ready to deploy “temporary pedestrian and bicycle capacity” in the event of an emergency, including dedicated lanes leading to ferry terminals and the East River bridges, as well as on the bridges themselves, by the end of 2014.

After Hurricane Sandy, the city and state implemented temporary bus service while subways below 34th Street were without power. The plan calls on DOT to coordinate with the MTA and other agencies on the implementation of similar “bus bridges” or ferry links in case of emergency, as well as to investigate greater access for city residents to Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road, with the possibility of “cross-honoring” tickets in case of service disruption.

Like the bus connections, HOV-3 restrictions for vehicles entering the Manhattan central business district came after a day of crippling gridlock when many drivers drove to work alone. The report calls for a plan by the end of 2013 so the DOT, NYPD, and the Office of Emergency Management know when to implement HOV-3 restrictions in case of emergency and are able to quickly set up HOV-3 enforcement. (A bill from Council Members Deborah Rose and James Vacca is being introduced to the Public Safety committee today to require OEM to develop a broader emergency traffic management plan.)

In addition to temporary interventions during an emergency, the plan also has recommendations that would affect how New Yorkers travel on non-emergency days, most notably by devoting more road and highway space to buses.

The plan says the city will continue to expand the number of Select Bus Service routes. In addition to routes already in planning or development for Nostrand Avenue, 125th Street, Webster Avenue, Astoria Boulevard, and Woodhaven Boulevard, the report says that “over the next five years NYC DOT will work with the MTA to implement four additional SBS routes,” though it does not specify which routes are on track for implementation.

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Ariel Russo, 4, Killed by Unlicensed Teen and NYPD Pursuit Protocol

The driver who allegedly struck and killed 4-year-old Ariel Russo and injured her grandmother during a police chase on the Upper West Side Tuesday morning has been charged with manslaughter. But if authorities and the media place 100 percent of the blame on a kid who tried taking the family car to school, a conviction won’t make the public any safer.

Ariel Russo

NYPD says Franklin Reyes, 17, was stopped on 89th Street between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues for driving across several lanes to make a turn, according to the Times and the Post. As officers approached the Nissan SUV, Reyes “sped off” north on Amsterdam Avenue, and the officers “jumped back in their car and gave chase,” the Times said.

Reyes, who has a learner’s permit and had taken his family’s vehicle without permission, drove for eight blocks at unknown speeds before he attempted a left turn onto 97th Street at an estimated speed of 34 mph, officials said. At some point, according to reports, Reyes jumped the curb. From the Times:

The S.U.V. pinned the victims against the security gate of a corner restaurant, the police said. As the driver reversed in an attempt to get away, he may have struck one or both of the victims again, the police said. He crashed into a parked car on the other side of the street, they said.

FDNY said responders arrived eight minutes after the crash. “It took way too long to get an ambulance here,” said Steven Davis, a witness and volunteer EMT who lives on the corner of 97th and Amsterdam, to the Times. Ariel was pronounced dead at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt. Her grandmother, 58-year-old Katia Gutierrez, was in stable condition, the Post said.

The crash occurred at approximately 8:15 a.m., when neighborhood sidewalks are packed with kids. Ariel and Gutierrez were struck outside Holy Name School, where Ariel attended pre-K. She had a younger brother.

Reports say Reyes was charged with manslaughter and vehicular manslaughter. Since he had not yet been arraigned, as of this morning Cy Vance’s office could not confirm the charges.

The Post says Reyes told police he took the car to drive to school, and fled because he didn’t want to be caught without a licensed driver. A strong argument could be made that teenagers have no place behind the wheel in New York City — and, for that matter, that carmakers should be required to equip vehicles with technology that makes them accessible only to licensed drivers — but we’ll save those issues for later.

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Bloomberg Was on Fire at Yesterday’s Bike-Share Presser

Photo: Dmitry Gudkov

Yesterday’s Citi Bike announcement was maybe the last occasion to see Michael Bloomberg answer a whole string of bike-related questions from the NYC press corps in one sitting. The mayor has a reputation for jousting with reporters at these events, sometimes more crankily than others. Yesterday he was combative but clearly enjoying himself. He had solid responses for just about all the questions that came at him.

Here are some highlights from the Q&A with Bloomberg and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. In most cases the reporters weren’t clearly audible from my vantage point, so the questions are paraphrased.

The first question was about dedicating officers to ticketing Citi Bike users.

Michael R. Bloomberg: Everyone’s going to be more aware of this. I’m sure there will be people who will, just like they are today, take their bicycles and do things that break the law. This will shock you but there are even people in automobiles who do the same thing. When you take a look at the number of people killed in automobiles, it sort of dwarfs everything put together on the road. I’m sure there’ll be some teething pains, there will be some people who need a wake-up call, and we’ll try to do it to the best extent we can.

Next question was about maintaining the system and referred to the Citi Bike that was stolen Sunday evening while crews were setting up stations.

Janette Sadik-Khan: It was taken off the truck as it was being loaded, not from the station itself.

MRB: I’m sure that’s the first bicycle that’s been stolen in this city. So I’m sure we’ll go back and look at your coverage, and you’ve been covering every one of those, is that correct? And it was recovered, incidentally. And it wasn’t ours, it was the private sector’s, not government property. Somehow or other you can make a bad story out of that, I don’t know, but we’ll pay attention, and it will be fascinating to see how clever you are.

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New York City Sets in Motion America’s Largest Bike-Share System

Mayor Bloomberg addresses the press corps with Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson by his side. Photo: Dmitry Gudkov

Five years ago, the New York City Department of Transportation signaled its interest in creating an extensive bike-share system “to accommodate a wide range of potential short trips.” Now New Yorkers have that system at their fingertips. With today’s launch of Citi Bike, there’s a new travel option in the mix – 6,000 bikes at 330 stations that will extend the reach of the transit system and expand access to the point-to-point convenience of bicycling.

“I am thrilled to declare that as of this moment, Citi Bike, the largest bike-share network in the country, is officially launched,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced at a press event outside City Hall this morning. Touting a 75 percent reduction in the cycling injury rate over the past decade and the improved safety outcomes for pedestrians along the city’s protected bike lanes, Bloomberg said that “Citi Bike will make our streets safer,” and reiterated the city’s commitment to ramp up to a 10,000-bike/600-station system.

While transportation funding stagnates and mega-projects run billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule, the Bloomberg administration has delivered a new transit option at minimal public expense, with the potential to expand relatively quickly into other parts of the city. So far, more than 15,000 New Yorkers have signed up for the $95 annual pass, and about 13,000 now have access to the system using Citi Bike key fobs. On Sunday, June 2, the system will open up to weekly and daily members.

The culmination of intense study, planning, and public outreach, the bike-share launch marks the birth of a new transit network. “It’s a rare thing to see a brand new transportation system become unveiled before our eyes,” said Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. “We have the A Train, and the New York City cab, and the Staten Island Ferry, and now Citi Bike joins the ranks of the transportation icon family in New York City.”

Bloomberg and Sadik-Khan prepare to ride for the cameras. New York City bicycling has perhaps never been in the public eye more than today. Photo: Dmitry Gudkov

Within the service area, which at the moment extends from 59th Street in Manhattan to Bedford Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, bike-share gives New Yorkers the ability to go directly from point A to point B without the expense, hassle, and space-gobbling footprint of driving a car. The bike-share option is especially well-suited for some of the city’s most vexing types of trips — like getting across town or going anywhere on a weekend when subway service is disrupted. Soon GPS units embedded in each bike will provide a wealth of data about how New Yorkers use the system.

From the outset, Sadik-Khan, DOT Policy Director Jon Orcutt, and DOT bike-share program director Kate Fillin-Yeh strove to make a system that would be big enough to succeed. Since the bike stations are sited closely together, subscribers know they will be able to find a dock near their destination, as long as it’s in the service area. And because the service area covers a big chunk of the city (though it could, of course, grow considerably over time), including the biggest job centers, a huge number of short trips are now feasible using the system.

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Mike Bloomberg’s NYPD Traffic Enforcement Blind Spot

It’s not for nothing that Michael Bloomberg is known as a champion of traffic safety. He has given millions to reduce global road deaths, and the life-saving innovations that have become the hallmark of his DOT are setting the pace for cities across the U.S.

Making streets safe from reckless drivers is not a priority for Ray Kelly's NYPD, and Mayor Bloomberg is just fine with that. Photo: Brad Aaron

This makes the mayor’s refusal to acknowledge NYPD’s traffic enforcement shortcomings especially perplexing. More than that, Bloomberg has on multiple occasions downplayed the role NYPD must play to keep city streets safe from reckless drivers, most recently in the Daily News.

Here’s the quote from a Monday story about the death of 6-year-old Amar Diarrossouba:

“We deploy our police officers when they’re not doing other things,” he said. “We have signs. We try to educate our kids.”

“Parents also have a responsibility to talk to their kids and explain to them that they have to look before they cross and not go out without supervision,” the mayor added.

The mayor was not speaking off the cuff. On his radio show in January, Bloomberg said: ”[W]e don’t enforce the automobile traffic laws or the pedestrian laws as well as we should. The police have a lot of things to do. They focus on the most serious things and when have time, do these others.”

At a street safety event two years ago, attended by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Bloomberg told Streetsblog that NYPD lacks the resources to enforce city speed limits. He has also chastised a reporter for questioning NYPD’s commitment to investigating traffic crashes.

Bloomberg knows that speeding kills, of course. International efforts to increase speed enforcement, funded in part by Bloomberg Philanthropies, are touted on his web site. At the 2010 event, the mayor called speeding “the biggest killer on our roads.”

A 2009 Transportation Alternatives study found that 39 percent of city motorists clocked with radar guns and speed cameras were speeding, heedless of school zones and other areas with heavy pedestrian traffic. TA also found that a motorist could speed every day in NYC and get ticketed only once every 35 years, and that police and enforcement cameras combined catch only one out of every 438 red light runners.

Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly draw a lot of attention to gun violence. But while traffic crashes now rival guns as a mortal threat in NYC, dangerous drivers are clearly not an NYPD priority. Rather than bring the department in line with his street safety agenda, for whatever reason, Mayor Bloomberg is its chief apologist.

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Bloomberg’s Final State of the City Captures the Contradictions of His Legacy

Michael Bloomberg’s twelfth and final State of the City address neatly encapsulated the internal contradictions of his transportation and planning policies. In his prepared remarks, the mayor called the impending launch of bike-share “the biggest change to our transportation network in ages,” but the speech was also peppered with boasts about stadium-related mega-projects that are going to generate torrents of traffic on city streets. Also in the mix: some references to the welcome push for transit-oriented density in Midtown East, and an electric-car incentive that we’ll be taking a closer look at in the days ahead.

A note to prospective mayors: There are many ways to differentiate yourself from Bloomberg’s legacy on the built environment that won’t totally alienate New Yorkers who want safer streets for walking and biking. The mayor’s prepared remarks today contained a few opportunities on that front.

Bloomberg delivered the address from the Barclays Center, the arena built over the Vanderbilt rail yards thanks to a sweetheart land deal with the MTA, copious public subsidies, and a whole lot of eminent domain. In an unintentionally fitting touch, the mayor compared the project to a highway tunnel that was thankfully never built:

Remember: after the courts stopped the Westway highway project in the early 1980s, you’d often hear people say that big projects like this were no longer possible in New York City. And for a long time, that certainly seemed to be largely true. But not anymore. Over the past 11 years, working with our partners in the City Council and in Albany, we have overcome the defeatists and shown that this big city of big dreams can still get big things done.

After subsidizing the Nets arena and new stadiums for the Mets and Yankees, including thousands of parking spaces, the Bloomberg administration is still treating stadium construction as an economic development strategy. The city is pushing for a new stadium in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, and Bloomberg pledged today to “work with Major League Soccer to bring soccer back to our city for the first time since the Cosmos left in 1977.” The proposed stadium site is farther from the 7 train than the existing sports facilities by Willets Point, and neighborhood residents fear that new highway ramps will end up being part of the bargain.

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Puran Thapa, 7, Killed by Motorist in Ridgewood; No Charges Filed

Myrtle Avenue at Madison Street. Image: Google Maps

A 7-year-old boy was struck and killed by a motorist in Ridgewood Thursday evening.

Puran Thapa was crossing Myrtle Avenue at Madison Street when, as his father looked on, he was hit by the driver of a Toyota SUV traveling east on Myrtle, according to reports. From the Post:

“I saw the child lying in the street — right on the double yellow line,” said pharmacy worker Darlyn Deleon, 22. “The father was kneeling next to the child and crying. The child looked bad.”

NYPD told the Post that Puran “darted” into the street. As is the norm when a child killed in traffic is blamed for his or her own death, no mention was made of the motorist’s speed. Within hours of the crash, police were telling the media that “No criminality is suspected.”

In the past 13 months, no fewer than nine children aged 14 and under have been killed by city motorists, according to data compiled by Streetsblog. Of the eight drivers who remained at the scene, or fled the scene but were later identified, none were charged by NYPD or city district attorneys for causing a death.

As Mayor Bloomberg continues his work to reduce worldwide road fatalities, traffic crashes remain the second leading cause of death for children in New York City, after illness. Bloomberg hasn’t lifted a finger to reform the NYPD’s shoddy approach to traffic enforcement and investigations under Ray Kelly. Rather than addressing the charge that the department’s crash investigation procedures are in violation of state law, the mayor has scolded the press for raising the question.

This fatal crash occurred in the 104th Precinct. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Deputy Inspector Michael A. Cody, the commanding officer, go to the next precinct community council meeting. The 104th Precinct council meetings happen at 7:30 p.m. on the last Wednesday of every month at Maspeth Town Hall, 53-37 72nd Street. Call 718-386-2431 for information.

The City Council district where Puran Thapa was killed is represented by Diana Reyna. To encourage Reyna to take action to improve street safety in her district and citywide, contact her at 212-788-7095 or 718-963-3141.

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Bloomberg Says Car-Free High Bridge Will Be Open by Next Year

Mayor Bloomberg and electeds from Upper Manhattan and the Bronx at today's groundbreaking. Photo: @EspaillatNY

After talking up bike-share on the airwaves this morning, Mayor Bloomberg headed uptown, where he and other electeds broke ground for the restoration of the High Bridge.

The High Bridge is the city’s oldest standing bridge, and connects the Highbridge neighborhood in the Bronx with Washington Heights. Built as part of the Croton Aqueduct in 1848, it stopped carrying water in 1958, and was closed to the public completely in 1970. Its restoration is years behind schedule, but will be complete “by 2014,” according to a press release:

“In 2007, when we launched PlaNYC, our long-term sustainability plan, we committed to restoring and re-opening the High Bridge — one of our city’s great treasures,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “The $61 million restoration of this this bridge, and its reopening to pedestrians and cyclists, will also open up new opportunities for communities on both sides of the river. It will bring people here from all over the five boroughs, and even all over the world, to see some of the most spectacular views in the city.”

The project received $50 million from the city, plus $5 million from Congressman José Serrano and $7 million in federal funds, according to the press release.

Unfortunately, in an editorial that pretty much takes credit for the whole project, the Daily News says the bridge will be topped with a much-maligned eight-foot mesh fence. Other items at issue during the public input process were bike access and park hours. An early plan called for the bridge to be open only on weekends, and only during the day, which would severely limit its viability as a transportation link. Parks representatives have said in the past that the city would make use of existing park trails and bike routes for cycling access, but it’s not clear what the current plan calls for.

We’ll follow up with Parks and flesh out the details in a future post.

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Bloomberg on the Radio: Bike Share Is the “Wave of the Future”

Mayor Bloomberg brushed off an anti-bike crank while bragging on bike-share, set to launch this spring, during his radio show this morning.

Photo: Politicker

“It is just gonna be unbelievable,” the mayor said, showing off a Citi Bike key he keeps on his keychain to co-host John Gambling. “And the people that don’t like it are gonna become converts, just like [the smoking ban].”

Dana Rubinstein at Capital New York reports:

“George from Manhattan” called in toward the end of the program.

“I want to talk about the lack of enforcement against the bicycle violators that is going on in the city,” he said. “They’re very dangerous, and you want to increase the number of bikes in the city by perhaps several thousand. Right now they’re a menace to pedestrians …”

The mayor cut George off.

“Oh, it’s going to be increased by tens of thousands,” he said. “Every city that’s done this, George, it is phenomenally popular.”

And then the mayor said, “We don’t enforce the bicycle laws as much as we should, you’re right there. But we don’t enforce the automobile traffic laws or the pedestrian laws as well as we should. The police have a lot of things to do. They focus on the most serious things and when have time, do these others. … But it’s the wave of the future, George.”

Bloomberg’s dismissal of traffic enforcement is a little cringe-worthy — the mayor could have pointed out that bike lanes have improved safety for all users on the streets that have them, and that motorists are responsible for hundreds of deaths a year, while fatalities caused by cyclists are extremely rare.

All in all, though, well done.

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Myth Busted: Safer Streets Are Not Slowing Emergency Responders

A go-to NIMBY argument against safe street improvements is that bike lanes, pedestrian plazas, and ped refuge islands interfere with emergency responders.

We await the exclusive CBS 2 report retracting all their nonsense about safer streets slowing down emergency vehicles.

In 2009, one complainer at an event sponsored by then-Council Member Alan Gerson claimed that pedestrian islands on Grand Street “put lives in danger” by slowing down fire trucks and ambulances. Opponents of the Prospect Park West bike lane lobbed the same accusation at DOT and got Marcia Kramer to give them a megaphone. Assembly Member Dov Hikind spearheaded a successful campaign to make Fort Hamilton Parkway more dangerous for seniors based on nothing more than specious complaints from Hatzolah ambulance drivers, again amplified by Kramer.

A data set released by the city Wednesday blows another hole in what has always been a weak and cynical criticism. At an event on Randall’s Island yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg and Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano announced that in 2012, FDNY achieved the fastest average EMS response time in the city’s history. Fewer civilians died in fires last year than ever before, which the mayor and fire chief attributed to another near-record low average response time. From a City Hall press release:

The FDNY’s Emergency Medical Service averaged an ambulance response time for life-threatening medical emergencies of 6:30 — a second faster than the previous record of 6:31 set in 2011.

Structural fire response time in 2012 was 4:04, two seconds higher than last year when it was 4:02 due in part to the large call volume that occurred during and after Hurricane Sandy when the FDNY responded to nearly 100 serious structural fires.

Compared to the total amount of street space in the city, the square footage dedicated to pedestrians and cyclists in recent years is actually quite small. But there are still hundreds of places with new sidewalk extensions, pedestrian islands, and bike lanes, and at the very least the FDNY numbers suggest that new measures designed to make streets safer for walking and biking are not having the detrimental effect prophesied by the likes of Dov Hikind, NBBL, Marty Markowitz, and Marcia Kramer.