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Down to the Wire: Senate Could Vote on 25 MPH Speed Limit Tomorrow

Senators to watch: Marty Golden, Andrew Lanza, Tony Avella, Diane Savino, and Dean Skelos. Photos: NY Senate

Senators to watch: Marty Golden, Andrew Lanza, Tony Avella, Diane Savino, and Dean Skelos. Photos: NY Senate

Update: Tony Avella and Diane Savino have backed the 25 mph bill, leaving it up to Republicans Marty Golden and Andrew Lanza to convince Senate Co-Leader Dean Skelos to hold a vote on the bill.

Lowering New York City’s default speed limit from 30 to 25 mph depends on the votes of a handful of key state senators tomorrow, the final day of the legislative session. Senate Co-Leader Jeff Klein expects his bill to come up for a vote, according to WNYC, but the measure could become a victim of party politics.

The senators to keep an eye on are Marty Golden, Andrew Lanza, Tony Avella, and Diane Savino. None of them have responded to Streetsblog’s requests for comment. Golden and Lanza, the city’s two Republican senators, will likely determine the ultimate position of Senate Co-Leader Dean Skelos of Long Island.

As members of the Klein-led Independent Democratic Conference, Avella and Savino occupy important spots in the Senate. Avella came out against an earlier 20 mph bill but hasn’t said anything about the 25 mph legislation now up for debate. Savino hasn’t said anything publicly, either, but reports from late last month indicated that she might back the bill.

You can contact the senators at their Albany offices:

Skelos, who shares power with Klein in a day-by-day agreement, remains noncommittal. “I don’t know if it will be on the floor. It is certainly one of the things we will be discussing,” he said, according to the Daily News. ”I know how important it is to Mayor de Blasio and he’s certainly one of my best friends.”

Mayor de Blasio, you may remember, brokered an endorsement deal with the Working Families Party in which Governor Cuomo came out in favor of Democratic control of the Senate, a shift that would cost Skelos his position atop the chamber. Best friends, indeed.

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All Eyes on Senate as Families for Safe Streets Push for Lower Speed Limit

From left, Greg Thompson, Joy Clarke, DOT's Juan Martinez, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Aaron Charlop-Powers, Mary Beth Kelly, and Ellen Foote in Albany yesterday on a Families for Safe Streets visit to legislators. Photo: Families for Safe Streets/Twitter

From left, Greg Thompson, Joy Clarke, DOT’s Juan Martinez, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Aaron Charlop-Powers, Mary Beth Kelly, and Ellen Foote in Albany yesterday on a Families for Safe Streets visit to legislators. Photo: Families for Safe Streets/Twitter

Yesterday, five members of Families for Safe Streets were joined by Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg in Albany to build support for a bill to lower the city’s default speed limit to 25 mph. Advocates say Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is set to sign on as a sponsor, while City Hall and advocates continue to aim for support in the State Senate, potentially from Senate Co-Leader Jeff Klein.

A source tells Streetsblog that Trottenberg met with Klein this morning, asking him to add his name to the legislation. As leader of the Independent Democratic Conference, which shares power with Senate Republicans, Klein could put the bill over the top in the chamber. DOT and Klein’s office have not responded to questions about the meeting.

klein

The fate of legislation to reduce the default speed limit in NYC to 25 mph and make it easier to designate 20 mph streets may rest with State Senator Jeff Klein.

“I think he’s receptive to the change. He was a big, big supporter of speed cameras,” said Aaron Charlop-Powers, whose mother was was killed while riding her bike to work in the Bronx in 2010. “I’m hopeful that he’ll also emerge as a sponsor in this session.”

The bill seems to have a clear path to passage in the Assembly. Caroline Samponaro of Transportation Alternatives said Silver supports the 25 mph bill“We really heard there was commitment from him to move the bill forward with the speaker as the lead co-sponsor,” she said.

While Silver’s office has yet to return a request for comment, other members of the Assembly leadership are on the record signaling they will support the 25 mph bill. Ways and Means Committee Chair Herman ”Denny” Farrell told Streetsblog yesterday that while he needed more information and assurances that it would not lead to unfair speed traps on major streets, he’s receptive to the bill. “That one I’ve got to hear more about,” he said. ”I will probably vote for the 25 mph [bill].”

The bill already has the support of 38 Assembly members, including Codes Committee Chair Joe Lentol, Bronx Democratic Party leader Carl Heastie, and Harlem representative Keith Wright, who until recently was chair of the state Democratic Party.

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Safety of NYC Streets Again Depends on State Senator Marty Golden

The Assembly yesterday passed legislation that would expand NYC’s speed camera program by 120 cameras, bringing the total to 140. The bill, which also allows speed cameras in Nassau and Suffolk counties, was referred to the Senate rules committee this morning, bypassing the transportation committee. Rules is the last stop before a bill moves to the floor for a vote.

State Senator Marty Golden. Photo: NY Senate

As the leader of the NYC delegation, Marty Golden will be key to pushing this legislation through the Senate. Golden objected to introducing speed cameras to NYC streets last year, but eventually voted in favor of the small pilot program. Streetsblog has asked Golden’s office if he supports the current bill.

As it stands, new cameras allowed by Albany would be subject to the same restrictions as the 20 cameras the city has now, which can only be used near schools during the school day, though most fatal crashes occur during evening and nighttime hours and on weekends.

“Passing this legislation brings us one step closer to ensuring the safety of our children as they travel to and from school,” said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. “I urge my colleagues in the Senate to act quickly.” Governor Cuomo has signaled support for the bill.

Automated enforcement is an essential element of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan. From a statement issued by the mayor’s office Monday:

With the Assembly’s vote today, we are one step closer to the expansion of school slow zones throughout our city where we can install speed cameras, allowing us to protect our children and make our streets safer. This bill will truly save lives.

Speeding is one of the primary causes of pedestrian fatalities, and addressing this epidemic has been a priority for my administration from the beginning. We can no longer accept these fatalities as inevitable.

The Daily News reported today that the Senate “may push for several amendments.” A source tells Streetsblog that some Senate lawmakers may want to reduce the number of cameras, and are afraid that towns upstate will want cameras as well. How to spend the revenue is also reportedly a point of contention. CapNY reports that Queens Assembly rep Michael DenDekker, who voted for the bill, “suggested the revenue go toward hiring crossing guards.”

There appears to be no discussion among legislators on lifting restrictions on where and when NYC can use speed cameras in order to further reduce crashes, injuries, and deaths.

The City Council will take up a resolution Wednesday asking for local control of traffic cams.

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Albany Delays Speed Cam Expansion — Time to Draft a Better Bill

Governor Cuomo and the leaders of the Assembly and State Senate all purportedly favor expanding NYC’s speed camera program, yet they failed to authorize the use of more cameras during budget negotiations. As it stands a speed cam bill won’t be acted on until later in April at the earliest, as both houses are adjourned and Cuomo refused to expedite a vote.

An upside to the delay: Advocates now have time to push for a better bill.

According to Capital New York and the Daily News, Cuomo yesterday rejected a request from Silver and Senate Co-Leader Jeff Klein to fast-track a bill that would add 120 speed cameras to NYC’s program, and authorize cameras in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Bills are normally subject to a three-day waiting period before they can be voted on, and since Cuomo declined to issue a “message of necessity,” the bill has stalled for now. The Assembly meets again on April 7, and the Senate is adjourned until April 23.

“A source said Cuomo initially agreed to give the message, but then changed his mind,” the Daily News reports. “The source said he didn’t want to give another budget victory to Mayor de Blasio — who sees the speed cameras as a big part of his Vision Zero plan to cut down on pedestrian deaths.”

Under the proposed bill, any new cameras allowed by Albany would be subject to the same restrictions as the 20 cameras the city has now, which can only be used near schools during the school day, though most fatal crashes occur during evening and nighttime hours and on weekends. If legislators could be convinced in the coming weeks to ease or eliminate these restrictions, speed cameras in NYC would be far more effective.

Meanwhile, an analysis from Right of Way assigned a number to what a built-out NYC speed camera program might look like. From a press release issued Monday:

The de Blasio administration’s Vision Zero Action Plan reports that “In Washington D.C., at intersections where speed cameras are in use, the number of crashes and injuries has gone down by 20%.” Based on population, for the same coverage and reduction of crashes as the D.C. model, New York needs 1,000 speed cameras.

Said another anonymous source to the Daily News: ”The Assembly and everyone knows the Senate and the governor supports speed cameras for New York City and Long Island and are committed to seeing this bill pass in April.” New Yorkers’ safety depends on it.

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Speed Cams Eliminated From State Budget But Resurface in Shelly Silver Bill

After Governor Cuomo proposed allowing speed cameras on Long Island and the State Senate recommended expanding New York City’s small, 20-camera program by 160 cameras, the final state budget agreement reached late Friday night included neither. But a bill from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver would make up for much of what was lost in budget negotiations, bringing speed cams to Long Island and expanding NYC’s automated speed enforcement program by 120 cameras.

Speaker Sheldon Silver. Photo: Wikipedia

Speaker Sheldon Silver. Photo: Wikipedia

Silver’s bill, referred to the Assembly transportation committee yesterday, would allow Nassau and Suffolk Counties to install one speed camera for each of Long Island’s 125 school districts, and would expand NYC’s program to 140 cameras. The city, using only five of its 20 allotted cameras, has issued more than 11,715 camera tickets to speeding drivers since the program began in mid-January.

While the Assembly legislation would significantly expand automated speed enforcement in NYC, it does not remove the geographic and time-of-day restrictions that prevent the city from deploying the cameras where and when they are needed.

Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero action plan calls for home rule over speed cameras — which would give the city freedom to use cameras as it sees fit. City Hall also asked for the NYC camera expansion in the Senate budget. We have a request in with the mayor’s office about what it would like to see in this latest legislation.

One possible reason for the quick legislative push in the Assembly: Nassau County had been relying on speed camera revenue projections in its budget, though Suffolk County did not include the cameras in its budget plans. According to Capital New York, “a dispute about the Nassau County cameras led leaders to remove all the cameras from the budget deal.”

With Silver sponsoring this bill, it’s a lock to pass the Assembly. The question is whether it will also find a champion in the State Senate majority. Senate Co-Leader Jeff Klein led the push to create NYC’s school zone speed cam program after Senator Marty Golden stymied automated speed enforcement in last year’s budget.

In the meantime, advocates called for swift action on speed cams. Advocacy group Right of Way released a statement with families of New Yorkers who lost their lives to traffic violence.

“While our politicians dicker, New Yorkers are needlessly dying on our streets,” said Amy Cohen, who helped found Families for Safe Streets after her 12-year-old son Sammy was killed on Prospect Park West. “The safety of our children, and of all New Yorkers, cannot be subject to political horse trading.”

“We beg you,” said Barron Lerner, whose nephew Cooper Stock was killed in an Upper West Side crosswalk by a turning cab driver who failed to yield. “Please do not let politics, bureaucracy and interest group squabbling prevent meaningful reform.”

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Assembly to Reject Cuomo’s $40M Transit Raid; No Word From State Senate

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver will look to block Governor Cuomo’s $40 million transit raid, according to the Daily News.

Cuomo’s executive budget proposes to divert $40 million in dedicated transit revenue to pay for MTA bonds the state had pledged to pay off from the general fund. The move could cost the MTA around $350 million over the life of the bonds.

Last week a group of 32 Assembly members called on Silver to restore the funds in the legislative budget, which is scheduled to be voted on Wednesday.

From the News:

The Assembly will reject the governor’s plan in a formal response it unveils this week to Cuomo’s budget proposal, a source close to Speaker Sheldon Silver said.

“These funds could be used to offset fare increases, restore past service cuts or help fund the MTA capital plan,” the source said.

Sources tell Streetsblog there is no word yet from the State Senate. When Cuomo put a $20 million raid in the budget last year, the Senate removed the provision from its budget proposal. The Assembly went along with Cuomo, however, and the cut was enacted.

This is a developing story. We will post updates as we get them.

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32 Assembly Members Want to Reverse Cuomo’s Transit Raid. Where’s Shelly?

dendekker cropped

Assembly Member Michael DenDekker, with fellow members Nily Rozic, Richard Gottfried, and Jim Brennan behind him, speaks at Sunday’s rally against Governor Cuomo’s proposed transit raid. Not present: Shelly Silver.

It’s crunch time for the state budget, and so far Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has not said a word about undoing the $40 million MTA raid in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive budget, even though 32 Assembly members have called on Cuomo to restore the funds [PDF].

Cuomo’s budget proposal shifts $40 million in bond obligations to the MTA, reneging on the state’s earlier promise to pay off the debt from its general fund. The cost-shifting sets a precedent that could cost the MTA nearly $350 million over the life of the bonds. That’s money the agency won’t have to expand service.

Last year, when Cuomo snuck a $20 million raid into the state budget, the Republican-led State Senate actually removed the provision from its proposal, but the Silver-led Assembly did not, and it was ultimately enacted.

Where’s Shelly?

Now the Assembly and the State Senate are putting the finishing touches on this year’s budget proposals, and Silver, who leads a caucus with dozens of members opposed to Cuomo’s transit raid, is the logical person to put a stop to it. So far, though, no word from Shelly.

Silver’s Manhattan Assembly district neighbors — Deborah Glick and Richard Gottfried — have both signed on to the letter opposed to the transit raid. But the speaker’s office has not returned a request to comment.

“When Albany takes money out of the transit budget, riders end up paying more,” said Riders Alliance Executive Director John Raskin. “Transit riders need both the Senate and the Assembly to stand up for us in the budget process.”

The Assembly and the Senate are expected to submit budget proposals in the middle of next week, with the actual dollars and cents getting hammered out as soon as today. If the Assembly speaker who represents transit-rich Lower Manhattan won’t stop Cuomo from raiding transit, who will?

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In Wake of Traffic Fatality Spike, Officials Tout Safer Delancey Street

This morning, elected officials and community leaders unveiled a slate of pedestrian safety improvements to Delancey Street, long ranked as one of the city’s most dangerous places to walk.

Nine people were killed and 742 injured between 2006 and 2010 on Delancey, from the Williamsburg Bridge to the Bowery. In the last six years, there have been 118 pedestrian injuries and six pedestrian fatalities on the corridor, according to DOT.

Local officials cut the ribbon on Delancey Street's pedestrian improvements. Photo: Stephen Miller

The Delancey Street Working Group, convened by State Sen. Daniel Squadron in September 2011, gained new urgency after Dashane Santana, 12, was killed while crossing the busy street in January.

Teresa Pedroza, Dashane’s grandmother, was at today’s press conference, which was convened by DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. Sadik-Khan was joined by State Senator Daniel Squadron, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Rep. Nydia Velázquez, Community Board 3 Chair Gigi Lee and Lower East Side BID executive director Bob Zuckerman.

Delancey Street now has more than 21,000 square feet of new pedestrian space, shorter crossing distances, longer crossing times, new turn restrictions and more consistent lane markings for drivers going to and from the Williamsburg Bridge. Drivers can now access the Williamsburg Bridge via Clinton Street, which also includes a two-way protected bike lane. The improvements were funded through the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program.

Carmen Luna, 60, lives on Clinton Street near its intersection with Delancey, and has lived in the area for most of her life. Her sister was hit by a truck driver while crossing Delancey about two decades ago, she said, and suffered brain damage as a result. Luna welcomed the safety improvements. “This is very important,” she said. “We don’t have enough crossing time.”

Luna also admired the new pedestrian space and seating, which will be maintained by the Lower East Side Business Improvement District.

Traffic enforcement continues to be the missing component for pedestrian safety on Delancey Street. “They don’t do anything,” Luna said of officers directing traffic.

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DNAInfo: Pedestrians Have No Time to Cross Delancey

In the wake of the death of Dashane Santana, the 12-year-old girl killed by a minivan driver while she was crossing Delancey Street earlier this month, Lower East Side leaders are demanding safety improvements for the many pedestrians who cross this approach to the Williamsburg Bridge. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Borough President Scott Stringer, State Senator Dan Squadron and City Council Member Margaret Chin have each called on DOT to take action to prevent one more life from being taken by Delancey Street traffic.

A report from DNAinfo this morning lays out just how hostile the design of Delancey is to pedestrians. To cross Delancey at Clinton Street, where Santana was killed, pedestrians must traverse ten lanes of moving traffic in just 22 seconds.

That’s far less crossing time than pedestrians have at some of the city’s most notoriously dangerous intersections, which DNAinfo went out and measured. Reports DNAinfo’s Julie Shapiro:

For example, pedestrians crossing the eight-lane Queens Boulevard at Union Turnpike have a full 30 seconds to make it to the other side.

People traversing the six-lane Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard at 145th Street have 40 seconds, nearly double the crossing time on Delancey Street.

Other busy intersections with longer crossing times than Delancey Street include West Street at Albany Street, where pedestrians have 31 seconds to cross eight lanes; Houston Street at Essex Street, where pedestrians have 30 seconds to cross eight lanes; 12th Avenue at 23rd Street, where pedestrians have 34 seconds to cross six lanes; Ocean Parkway at Church Avenue in Brooklyn, where pedestrians have 45 seconds to cross 10 lanes; and Atlantic and Flatbush avenues in Brooklyn, where pedestrians have 60 seconds to cross four lanes.

DNAinfo’s report also includes the above video, which includes an interview with one of Santana’s schoolmates.

The area’s elected officials are primarily calling for pedestrian crossing times to be extended, a move that would surely make it easier to cross. Shrinking Delancey down from ten lanes should also be on the table; no matter how long the light is, that’s a wide street to ever cross safely.

DOT will present its plan for improving Delancey Street next Wednesday.

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Cuomo Deal Will Cut Payroll Tax, Reimburse MTA, Create Infrastructure Fund

The details of Governor Cuomo’s economic plan, which includes both tax reform and a new infrastructure fund, were released today with support from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

One of the MTA’s most important revenue streams is seriously affected by the tax reforms. The payroll mobility tax will be cut by $250 million under the deal, though the MTA will be reimbursed for its losses.

The payroll tax, which generates around $1.5 billion in revenue for transit every year, has been a top target of Senate Republicans from the minute it was proposed in 2009. Under the deal, small businesses — likely those with annual payrolls less than $1.75 million, based on previous reports — will have their MTA tax reduced. The current payroll tax exemption for public schools will also be extended to private and parochial schools.

According to the Daily Politics blog, the reductions were one price of Senate Republican support for the tax package. It does not appear, based on press reports, that previously-discussed plans to reduce the payroll tax in suburban counties made it into the package.

According to the Straphangers Campaign’s Gene Russianoff, that $250 million cut may not affect the MTA at all. For public schools, the exemption currently works like this: They first pay the payroll tax and then file for a refund from the state’s general fund. The MTA gets the money up front despite the exemption. If the proposed reimbursements work like this, transit service will likely remain unharmed by the changes.

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