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Posts from the "Peter Vallone" Category

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Bill to Release Street Safety Data Gains Steam Over NYPD Objections

Legislation that would compel the NYPD to open some of its traffic safety data to the public got a big boost today, when City Council public safety committee chair Peter Vallone Jr. announced his support at a hearing on the bill. The hearing was marked by a tense confrontation between council members and police officials who refused to concede that New Yorkers have a right to such information. 

Intro_120_Rally_Pic.JPGCity Council member Peter Vallone Jr. speaks at a rally on the steps of City Hall before today's hearing, along with colleagues Jimmy Vacca and Jessica Lappin. Photo: Transportation Alternatives.
Sponsored by Council Member Jessica Lappin, Intro 120, the "Saving Lives Through Better Information Bill," would require the NYPD to post data on crashes and summonses as frequently as it releases CompStat data on violent crimes. It also stipulates that the NYPD convey where crashes occurred, who was involved, any contributing factors such as cell phone use or drunk driving, and what kinds of summonses were issued. That data, which the department already compiles, would equip New Yorkers with better information to push for safety improvements in their neighborhoods and hold the NYPD accountable for the effectiveness of its enforcement tactics.

Before the hearing, transportation committee chair Jimmy Vacca was already one of 16 co-sponsors of Intro 120. Today public safety chair Vallone, whose committee has jurisdiction over the bill, signed on. "I support this," said Vallone near the end of the hearing, "and I think the committee will too."

The police department, however, came out strongly against Intro 120, arguing that it would require too much personnel at a time when the department is already facing a manpower shortage. More importantly, police officials made it clear that they fundamentally do not believe that releasing traffic data would promote street safety. 

The police's objections stemmed primarily from what was repeatedly characterized as a "philosophical difference" between the department and council members, on the question of whether traffic data is even useful to the public. "The information sought by the bill does not provide meaningful information which can illuminate the reasons for a vehicle accident or the mechanisms used to enhance traffic safety," said NYPD Chief of Transportation James Tuller. "This information is only valuable to those with the training, knowledge and experience to understand its context and interpret it correctly... That is the role of the police commander." 

Council members vehemently disagreed with the department's assessment that only the police can interpret data on collisions and summonses. Vacca characterized the NYPD's position as "'Leave us alone. We know what's best.'" "I will not leave you alone," he continued. "I have a right to know." 

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DOT Shows No Traffic Calming Ingenuity for Astoria’s Deadly 21st Ave

Astoria_Rally.jpgAstoria residents demanding a safer 21st Avenue. Image: indiejourno.com.

Over the last six weeks, Astoria residents have made a strong push for a safer 21st Avenue, a street plagued by speeding cut-through traffic. In response to requests for traffic calming, NYCDOT recently sent what one resident called a "cryptic letter" explaining only that the street would not be receiving speed humps. Although DOT is now studying additional measures, residents would like to see a stronger response from the agency.

Last December, Astorians held a rally asking the city to calm traffic on 21st Avenue. The seven blocks from 21st Street to 28th Street saw 36 car crashes and four deaths in just the last two years, according to the Queens Chronicle.

Rally organizer Helen Ho, the former vice-chair of Transportation Alternatives' Queens Committee, identified the problem with the avenue: "A lot of folks use 21st Avenue as a speedy bypass for Ditmars Boulevard. It's a stretch of road that for six blocks has nothing. No stop lights. No stop signs. No traffic calming measures of any sort. Some of the intersections don't even have crosswalks."

The call for traffic calming was widespread, motivated by concern for the safety of senior citizens, one of whom was killed on 21st Avenue last year, and for students at the two schools in the area. According to rally organizers, more than 50 people showed up in the December rain to ask for safer streets. The effort also has the backing of local politicians -- including Council Member Peter Vallone, Assembly Member Michael Gianaris, and Democratic District Leader Costa Constantinides -- as well as Queens Community Board 1, which requested traffic calming measures from DOT.

In a letter back to the community board, DOT stated only that it could not install speed humps on 21st Avenue, because it's a bus route. No other solution was proposed.

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First Post-Election Business for City Council: Making Traffic Worse

Looks like the City Council is ready to assert itself in the wake of Michael Bloomberg's underwhelming re-election to a third term. They've chosen to draw a line in the sand, apparently, by creating more congestion on New York City's streets.

council_members_rip.jpgTo signal their displeasure with law enforcement, Council members David Weprin, Simcha Felder, and Vincent Gentile ripped up parking tickets on the steps of City Hall. Photo: Daily Politics.
This morning, the transportation committee, still helmed by Comptroller-elect John Liu, considered bills to create a five-minute "grace period" for muni-meter and alternate-side parking, and to hand out more parking placards to members of the clergy. The Post and AM New York report that both bills will likely sail through the council with enough votes to override Bloomberg's expected veto.

According to Council Member Peter Vallone, Jr. the bills are "an attempt to legislate common sense and discretion." But really, what we have here is old-fashioned pandering combined with a failure to comprehend the consequences of giving away curb space.

The council calls it a "grace period," but what does it really mean to ban parking agents from issuing a ticket until five minutes after the allotted time expires? Well, if you drive somewhere and pay for 40 minutes of metered parking, now you get 45 minutes. The bill gives on-street parkers more bang for their buck -- a subsidy for the minority of New Yorkers who get around by private car.

With less turnover of metered spaces, drivers will double-park more and cruise around longer as they search for open spots. Whether you're walking, biking, riding a bus, or driving, you'll have to contend with more traffic clogging up the streets.

The expansion of parking placards for clergy will have the same effect -- more free curb space for an entitled class of drivers, with less to go around for everyone else. The bill flies in the face of placard-reduction policies that the Bloomberg administration began enacting in 2008 with an eye toward cutting congestion.

City Room reports that Bloomberg, predicting "chaos and enormous increases in contested tickets," is ready to veto the grace period bill. A council override would not augur well for the next four years of New York City transportation policy.

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Council Committee Gives Short Shrift to Deterring Traffic Violence

vallone.jpgPublic Safety Chair Peter Vallone, Jr.
It sounds as if yesterday's City Council Public Safety Committee hearing on Resolution 145, which calls on state lawmakers "to address the legal loopholes that allow dangerous and deadly drivers to drive under the influence of drugs or to drive with a suspended or revoked license," could have gone better.

According to Audrey Anderson, whose son Andre was killed by a motorist in 2005, the hearing was dominated by other resolutions, so that when it came time to hear testimony on traffic violence, council members were more interested in clearing the room.

"I couldn't even finish my statement," Anderson said. "None of them [members of the committee] really questioned any of us."

Anderson said that as she spoke about incomplete investigations of traffic collisions resulting in injury or death to pedestrians, she was interrupted by committee chair Peter Vallone, who said the city doesn't have enough police.

"He actually said this meeting was not about that," Anderson told Streetsblog. "I was stunned."

Yesterday's hearing was held to gather testimony; there was no vote. If the council's initial foray into tougher punishment for drivers who kill is any indication, Anderson, for one, isn't hopeful much will come of it.

"It was grandstanding," she said. "There was nothing more to it than that."

If anyone else out there attended the hearing, please leave your impressions in the comments.