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Posts from the "Ray Kelly" Category

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Surviving a Walk in NYC Should Not Depend on Luck

As far as Bill de Blasio's NYPD and TLC are concerned, this never happened. Image: CBS 2

As far as Bill de Blasio’s NYPD and TLC are concerned, this never happened. Image: CBS 2

The Taxi and Limousine Commission says it doesn’t know anything about a cabbie who drove onto a Midtown sidewalk, hit a pedestrian, and crashed into a building earlier this week. Other than to deflect blame from the driver, NYPD has refused to release information about the crash.

It happened Monday morning. From the Post:

“He [the pedestrian] was literally flying. He fell right here in front of this window,” said Elsa Gomez, 28, who works in Macaron Cafe on East 59th Street near Madison Avenue.

The cab careened onto the sidewalk at around 11:50 a.m. and continued into the front of an eyeglass store, shattering its window.

“It was a huge, scary noise,” said James Escobar, 50, owner of Page and Smith Opticians.

“We were working inside … and we heard a big, huge boom,” Escobar told CBS 2. “I couldn’t even open the door.”

The pedestrian was hospitalized with a leg injury, reports said. “We were lucky,” said Escobar.

NYPD declined to release information about the cab driver or the victim to the press, other than the normal exculpatory statements about the driver. Police told CBS 2 “the cabbie somehow lost control of his vehicle,” and the Post reported that “his license was valid and there were no signs of criminality.”

When I called the department’s public information office, I was told to send an email request. This is NYPD’s polite way of saying “Go away.” I have emailed NYPD many times in seven-plus years at Streetsblog, and have never received a response. We’ll update if we hear back.

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Vision Zero: Where Do We Go From Here?

John Petro is a policy analyst for New York City affairs and the co-author of “Vision Zero: How Safer Streets in New York City Can Save More Than 100 Lives a Year.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio released his administration’s Vision Zero Action Plan earlier this week, following up on a high-profile campaign promise just six weeks after taking office. The Action Plan [PDF] offers dozens of initiatives and strategies that the new administration will employ to cut the high number of traffic deaths that plague the city.

Photo: NYC Mayor’s Office

The mayor pledged to use “the full weight of city government” to dramatically reduce traffic fatalities and injuries.” In the Action Plan’s introduction, the mayor wrote, “The fundamental message of Vision Zero is that death and injury on city streets is not acceptable, and we will no longer regard serious crashes as inevitable.”

But as the afterglow of the announcement fades, where exactly does the Action Plan leave us? It includes both new initiatives and a continuation of strategies initiated under the Bloomberg administration. What exactly has changed, and how can we be assured that the Action Plan will result in a dramatic reduction in fatalities?

The Action Plan represents a commitment from the mayor to keep street safety among his administration’s top priorities. By upholding Vision Zero, de Blasio has brought the issue of dangerous driving and its impact on life and death to the forefront of public discourse. The moral imperative ingrained in Vision Zero has begun to change the public’s attitudes toward street safety, which is the first step toward changing behavior on the street.

This isn’t to say that Mayor Bloomberg didn’t place great importance on reducing pedestrian fatalities. Bloomberg unflinchingly supported the DOT’s traffic calming initiatives even in the face of vitriolic tabloid screeds. But Bloomberg was unwilling to press his police commissioner, Ray Kelly, to prioritize the enforcement of dangerous driving behaviors like speeding, failure to yield, and distracted driving.

De Blasio’s Vision Zero Action Plan explicitly calls for increased enforcement of dangerous driving by the NYPD. The department will purchase more speed guns, expand the number of officers trained to use them, and increase the ranks of the Highway Unit (NYPD’s chief anti-speeding unit). The plan would also increase the penalties for certain infractions, such as driving without a license, and would amend the Hayley and Diego law in a way that would no longer require an officer to witness a crash in order to issue a summons (both changes would require state action).

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Koo Will Try Override After Bloomberg Vetoes NYPD Hit-and-Run Bill

As one of his last acts in office, Mayor Michael Bloomberg vetoed a bill that would have required NYPD to report to the City Council and the public on hit-and-run crashes. With lead sponsor Leroy Comrie also gone from City Hall, Council Member Peter Koo plans to marshal an effort to override the veto.

Intro 1055, passed by the council in December, would mandate that NYPD report quarterly on the total number of “critical injury” hit-and-run crashes, the number of crashes that resulted in arrest, and the number of crashes for which no arrest was made. The bill would require the department to provide the council with crash locations, and “a brief description of what steps were taken to investigate” each incident. Crash data, disaggregated by precinct, would be posted online.

The hit-and-run bill was born of frustration and grief caused by NYPD’s indifference toward crash victims and their loved ones — investigations that did not start for weeks after a fatal crash and, predictably, yielded no evidence; families left in the dark on what police were doing to bring a relative’s killer to justice. According to Transportation Alternatives, of 60 fatal hit-and-runs investigated in 2012, NYPD arrested just 15 drivers.

For all his DOT did to make streets safer for walking and biking, Bloomberg let NYPD’s deterrence of traffic violence stagnate under commissioner Ray Kelly. Bloomberg’s veto message [PDF], probably drafted with significant input from NYPD, called the language of the bill unworkably vague, and claimed that requiring NYPD to reveal hit-and-run data would compromise investigations while ”draining scarce resources from actual police functions.”

Intro 1055 was co-authored by Comrie, Koo, and Rosie Mendez. With Comrie termed out, Koo’s office says he has not given up on the bill. “Councilman Peter Koo will take the lead and work with the new speaker to override the mayor’s veto,” said Koo spokesperson Ian Chan. “He intends to enact this very important piece of legislation.”

Said TA general counsel Juan Martinez, in an emailed statement: “The NYPD must make the arrest of hit-and-run drivers a top priority, because to do otherwise gives criminal drivers permission to remain on the road, which puts us all at risk, and prolongs families’ pain. New York is better than that. We will be calling on the council’s next transportation and public safety chairs to work with the NYPD and determine whether the department is giving victims’ families and all New Yorkers the justice they deserve.”

Asked whether Koo would re-introduce the bill if an override fails, Chan said the council member is focused on seeing the bid through. “Working with the speaker, of course.”

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Ray Kelly Sees Value in Mapping Car Thefts, But Not Car Crashes

Car thefts, January to October, 2013. Image: NYC Crime Map

Car thefts, January to October 2013. Image: NYC Crime Map

A couple of months ago, NYPD brass told the City Council that it would be useless for the department to map where people are being killed and injured by motorists. On the other hand, Commissioner Ray Kelly believes the public will benefit from knowing where cars are being stolen.

The council succeeded this week in prodding NYPD to produce an interactive map of seven types of felony crimes: murder, rape, felony assault, burglary, grand larceny, and grand larceny of a motor vehicle. While NYPD has for years refused to acknowledge the value of crash data in helping citizens and advocates understand where streets are most dangerous, Kelly touted the felony map as an important crime-fighting and communications tool.

“With unprecedented population levels, New York City is safer than ever, with homicides on pace this year to fall below recent historic lows,” Kelly said in a statement. “This administration has relied on data to drive its crimefighting, and this map helps enhance New Yorkers’ and researchers’ understanding of where felony and violent crime persists.”

Back in October, Susan Petito, NYPD assistant commissioner of intergovernmental affairs, said that mapping crashes would only confuse the public, since data are derived from reports that site crashes based on the nearest intersection. And when asked if NYPD would join the council in trying to get the state crash report form changed to allow for addresses or geographic coordinates, Petito said, “I don’t think so. The utility of a street address, I can’t sit here and tell you that would add anything.”

That hearing was the latest episode in a long battle to wrest traffic crash information from NYPD, which the department has historically guarded as if it were a matter of national security.

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As Bloomberg Touts Traffic Safety, Ray Kelly Says “Accidents” Happen

Who's in charge here? Mike Bloomberg at this morning's International Downtown Association conference, and Ray Kelly speaking at CityLab. Images: Pratt Institute/YouTube (left), The Atlantic (right)

In a moment that crystallized the schizophrenic traffic safety policies of the Bloomberg administration, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly revealed completely different philosophies concerning New York City’s streets while speaking at two different conferences this morning.

Bloomberg, at the International Downtown Association annual meeting, spoke about the safety gains, economic benefits, and popularity of initiatives like plazas, bike-share, and protected bike lanes. He started with Times Square, which has seen rents and sales receipts continue to rise after plazas were installed.

“Pedestrians who were once crammed for space and constantly got hit by cars are far safer,” Bloomberg said. “And that’s not only far more relaxing and pleasant, it also translates into major economic benefits.”

But it’s not just plazas, Bloomberg said, touting protected bike lanes that encountered initial opposition from some merchants who were worried about losing drive-by customers. “In most of these cases, we didn’t allow you to stop and jump out of your car and shop, so you weren’t exactly losing anything,” Bloomberg said. “Progress never comes easy. People are comfortable with what they have, and anything new is worrisome.”

Bloomberg also said bike-share is “off-the-charts successful,” despite an avalanche of negative press before it launched. “Today, all the reporters and even the publishers ride the bicycles,” he said.

“Lots of neighborhoods want us to close the streets to automobile traffic and turn them into pedestrian malls. Unfortunately, we still need to have streets open for trucks, for buses, and for cars, and so it’s a fine balance,” said Bloomberg. “The truth of the matter is, the more you make a neighborhood friendly, the better it is for the people that live there, who visit, and the merchants.”

A few minutes earlier at the CityLab conference, Ray Kelly was asked a question by Sarah Goodyear, reporter for Atlantic Cities and Streetsblog alumna, about the NYPD’s approach to traffic safety. “There’s a perception that a lot of drivers don’t get prosecuted for criminal activity,” said Goodyear. “Do you think the NYPD could be doing a better job of preventing traffic violence on the street, and how could they do that?”

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With No Charges From Cy Vance or NYPD, Curb-Jumping Cabbie Driving Again

Six weeks after cab driver Mohammed Himon drove onto a Midtown sidewalk and hit tourist Sian Green, severing her leg, Green is back home in England. Meanwhile, Himon is again driving a taxi, as no charges have been filed against him by NYPD or Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.

Sian Green is back home in England, and after no charges were filed by NYPD or DA Cy Vance, the cab driver who maimed her is back driving the streets. Photo: Daily News

The August 20 crash attracted international attention — a young tourist horrifically injured on a gorgeous day in the heart of Midtown, her life saved by a plumber and celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz. NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and Vance’s office announced investigations, which is never a given when a motorist maims or kills in NYC. Himon pleaded guilty to a suspension summons and surrendered his hack license on August 23, but the Taxi and Limousine Commission says he reclaimed it on September 26.

“Without any action having been taken against him by the DA’s office or the NYPD, there’s no lawful basis for TLC to have held it beyond the 30-day suspension he served,” said TLC spokesperson Allan Fromberg, “so his license was reinstated.”

After a cab driver killed a senior in the West Village last year, the TLC told Streetsblog that unless a cabbie faces criminal charges, or a consumer files a complaint, the agency can’t take action against a driver who harms a pedestrian. Potential sanctions include the suspension of a driver’s TLC license, and additional actions can be taken based on the outcome of a case.

The Wall Street Journal reported in September that, due to a record-keeping error, for the past three years the TLC allowed 4,500 dangerous cabbies to keep driving without penalty, including 600 drivers with 10 or more points on their records.

According to published reports, Himon has a history or reckless driving, with three moving violations in 2011, including citations for running a red light and doing 65 mph in a 45 mph zone, resulting in nine points on his license. He was also involved in another crash that resulted in injury, reports said.

Himon reportedly drove a quarter of a block on a Midtown sidewalk with a cyclist on the hood before slamming into Green. He confessed to the media that he intentionally stepped on the gas before mounting the curb. Green has said Himon should be charged criminally. Yet city law enforcers and the agency charged with regulating cab drivers are either unable or unwilling to keep a habitually dangerous cabbie from endangering other innocent people.

Vance’s office was highly critical of our initial coverage of this crash, when we cited media tips from law enforcement sources who said Himon would not face criminal charges. Vance’s office would not comment when we asked about this case in September. We contacted the office this morning to ask if the investigation is still active. We have yet to hear back.

Update: Cy Vance’s office sent us this statement: “This case is an open and active investigation.”

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TLC Seeking 30-Day Hack License Suspension After Midtown Curb-Jump Crash

The Taxi and Limousine Commission is moving to suspend the hack license of the cab driver involved in Tuesday’s curb-jump crash in Midtown, which would keep him off the job for 30 days. Meanwhile, the Post reports that NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly says police are investigating the crash.

The cabbie was identified in the press as Faysal Kabir Mohammad Himon, 24, of Queens. On Tuesday morning Himon rammed a cyclist with his cab at Sixth Avenue and 49th Street, then drove on the sidewalk with the cyclist on the hood before striking tourist Sian Green, according to multiple accounts. FDNY said two victims were transported from the scene.

“The impact severed Green’s left foot and shattered her right leg,” writes the Post. “Doctors had to amputate the left leg below the knee, but were able to save her right leg.”

The Daily News and the Post reported that Himon has a history of reckless driving, with three moving violations in 2011, including citations for running a red light and doing 65 mph in a 45 mph zone, resulting in nine points on his license. The Post says in 2010 Himon was involved in another crash that resulted in injury.

“He’ll receive a summons and his due process rights will allow him the opportunity to have a hearing on it with an administrative law judge,” a TLC spokesperson said. If the TLC action is successful, Himon would receive a 30-day “punitive suspension,” the spokesperson said.

After a cab driver killed a senior in the West Village last year, the TLC told Streetsblog that unless a cabbie faces criminal charges, or a consumer files a complaint, the agency has no lawful basis for action against a driver who harms a pedestrian.

The Daily News reported that Himon was issued a summons for “unauthorized use,” which the paper described as “an administrative violation for not submitting a form notifying the Taxi and Limousine Commission that he would be driving that particular cab.” The office of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance is investigating the crash, as is NYPD, according to Kelly.

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Attention Ray Kelly: NYPD Still Using “Accident” to Describe Traffic Crashes

The NYPD web site and crash data reports don't reflect the post-"accident" policy announced by Ray Kelly in March.

Earlier this year, Commissioner Ray Kelly announced that the word “accident” would be eliminated from the NYPD lexicon. Not only would the Accident Investigation Squad be rebranded as the Collision Investigation Squad, Kelly said, but “accident” would be changed to “collision” on all departmental materials.

In a letter to City Council transportation chair James Vacca, Kelly said what safe streets advocates have long wanted to hear from NYC’s top cop.

The term “collision,” which is utilized by other jurisdictions throughout the country, provides a more accurate description. In the past, the term “accident” has sometimes given the inaccurate impression or connotation that there is no fault or liability associated with a specific event. The term “collision” will now be utilized in all relevant Department materials, forms and manuals.

From the outside, it appears the department has barely changed its terminology in the three months since Kelly’s announcement. The AIS is now the CIS, but NYPD still uses “accident” on monthly crash data reports, and on the department’s web site.

And in a recent interview with the Times, Highway Patrol chief Inspector Paul Ciorra used “accident” to describe a typical DWI hit-and-run, though such a crash would be a potential felony.

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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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Brooklyn Senator Marty Golden Lobbies Against Life-Saving Speed Cameras

State Senator Marty Golden and the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association are working to keep life-saving speed enforcement cameras out of NYC.

State Senator Marty Golden has a history of advocating for street safety, but opposes speed enforcement cameras, which are known to reduce crashes.

A demonstration program with a handful of cameras was included in the State Assembly budget, and has the support of Mayor Bloomberg, the City Council and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly. City leaders and street safety advocates have worked years to get the program this far, but Golden — a former cop — and the police union are lobbying Albany lawmakers to kill it.

“Speed cameras are no substitute for live policing,” said PBA President Patrick Lynch, to the Daily News.

He said the cameras would allow drivers who are drunk, carrying weapons and fleeing crimes to “slip by.”

Said Golden: “What we need are the actual police officers on the street. Cops on the street are what slows people down.”

But according to Kelly, streets will be safer with speed cameras. “Motorists know that there will never be a sufficient number of police officers to catch everyone who violates the traffic laws,” said Kelly, in a recent letter to Governor Cuomo, “but the presence of speed cameras can create a strong deterrent effect, serving to reduce speeding and the collision and physical injury that it causes.”

NYPD traffic enforcement is on the decline. Officers issued as few as 19,119 summonses for speeding on neighborhood streets in 2012, and the overall number of traffic citations was down 20 percent from 2008.

In four precincts encompassed by Golden’s south Brooklyn district — the 61st, 62nd, 63rd, and 68th — officers wrote a total of 507 speeding tickets last year, according to NYPD. That’s less than two motorists caught speeding per day in Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, and parts of Sheepshead Bay, Gravesend, and Marine Park combined. With 39 percent of motorists speeding on city streets, that equates to practically zero enforcement.

Speeding was cited as a factor in 55 of 250 fatal NYC crashes last year, according to the state Department of Motor Vehicles. Crash data compiled by Streetsblog show that since January 2012 at least five pedestrians have been killed by motorists in the precincts in Golden’s district. One of the victims was a child, and two were seniors. Another victim, Chenugor Dao, died when two drivers collided in Gravesend, sending one vehicle onto the sidewalk, where Dao was standing with family members.

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