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Council Members Say DOT Needs Funds for Vision Zero, Bike-Share Expansion

City Council members today expressed strong support for Vision Zero, bike-share expansion, and other safe streets initiatives, but it’s not clear how they will be funded.

At a transportation committee budget hearing, council members heard from the Taxi and Limousine Commission, the MTA, and DOT. Among other issues, reps from each agency were asked how they planned to help reduce traffic injuries and deaths.

“Vision Zero is already underway at DOT,” said Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. Among other projects, work on the Brooklyn Greenway and new public plazas in Bushwick and Washington Heights are on the agenda for FY 2015.

In response to questions about the Vision Zero time frame from chair Ydanis Rodriguez and committee member Jimmy Van Bramer, Trottenberg said DOT is planning a series of borough town hall meetings, followed by more localized forums, to gather citizen input. Still, she said, “Our goal is 50 projects per year,” in keeping with Mayor de Blasio’s pledge for citywide pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure improvements.

Van Bramer, of Queens, and Brooklyn rep Brad Lander asked Trottenberg about bike-share expansion. Lander said he would like to see a “full build-out” of the system, with city funds if needed. While DOT is “very keen” to develop a long-term expansion plan, Trottenberg said, “We’re not there yet.” On a couple of occasions Trottenberg referred to issues caused by the Bixi bankruptcy as one obstacle to overcome. “We’re going to get there as quickly as we can,” she said.

When Van Bramer asked if DOT could more quickly respond to requests for stop signs and speed bumps, which he said can take years to address, Trottenberg said the agency doesn’t have the funds to process all requests at once.

Council members Margaret Chin and Debi Rose complained about through traffic on Canal Street, with Rose citing the Sam Schwartz fair toll plan as a potential solution. Chin also asked if DOT could deploy “pedestrian managers” as an antidote to NYPD TEA agents, who tend to prioritize vehicle throughput over pedestrian safety.

In addition to supporting bike-share, Lander said the city should come up with funds for DOT to devote to Vision Zero initiatives in general. Steve Levin, of Brooklyn, asked if more money is needed for Slow Zones. More resources are always helpful, Trottenberg said.

While it was generally agreed that it will take additional funds to carry out Vision Zero, no specific figures were discussed.

We’ll have more on the hearing tomorrow.

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Electeds Want MTA Onboard With Vision Zero After Latest Pedestrian Death

Marisol Martinez was struck by an MTA bus driver as she crossed Union Avenue at Meeker Avenue in Brooklyn. The red arrow represents the movement of the driver and the white arrow the movement of the victim, according to reports and photos from the scene. Image: Google Maps

Marisol Martinez was struck by an MTA bus driver as she crossed Union Avenue at Meeker Avenue in Brooklyn with her cousin and a friend. The red arrow represents the movement of the driver and the white arrow the movement of the victim, according to reports and a witness account. Image: Google Maps

Electeds and advocates called for changes at the MTA and for Mayor de Blasio to focus street safety resources on northern Brooklyn after another pedestrian was killed by a bus driver this weekend.

Marisol Martinez, 21, was crossing Union Avenue at Meeker Street in Williamsburg with two other people at around 1:25 a.m. Saturday when she was hit by a bus driver making a left turn.

“When we were in the middle of the crosswalk, we saw the bus, and we saw it too late,” the victim’s cousin, Jose Gonzales, said at a press conference on Sunday. ”We had the right to cross, so I mean, for the bus not to yield, for it not to stop, I don’t know.”

Martinez was at least the tenth pedestrian or cyclist killed by an MTA bus driver in the last 12 months. Photo via ##http://nypost.com/2014/03/01/woman-21-killed-by-bus-in-williamsburg/##New York Post##

Martinez was at least the tenth pedestrian or cyclist killed by an MTA bus driver in the last 12 months. Photo via NY Post

Gonzales, 22, said he and his friend Jonathan Acosta, also 22, ran to get out of the driver’s path, and barely avoided being hit themselves. Martinez was behind them. She was first hit by the front of the bus, Gonzales said, and was run over by the right rear tire.

“I made it in time, my friend [Acosta] made it in time, but as I turned around at the same time I saw my cousin go down face first and get ran over. It ran over her body, and I didn’t see her anymore on my side. I went around the other side to see her crushed. Her leg was crushed. The flesh was all over the floor. I couldn’t bear to see it. I saw her on the floor. I couldn’t get near her. I couldn’t do anything to help her anymore. My friend screamed for the bus to back up. It never did.”

Acosta told the driver, an unidentified 50-year-old woman, to move the bus off of Martinez, Gonzales said. “She said she couldn’t do anything about it.” The Daily News reported that the bus driver was not charged for turning a bus into a crosswalk where three people were walking. As of this afternoon, a spokesperson told Streetsblog NYPD could not confirm information on charges or summonses, and said the investigation is ongoing.

Martinez was a sophomore at Hunter College and wanted to be a nurse, according to a News 12 report.

Martinez was the third pedestrian or cyclist killed by an MTA bus driver in 2014, and at least the tenth such fatality in the last 12 months, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. On Sunday, officials joined loved ones of Martinez, Ella Bandes, and Seth Kahn — who were fatally struck by bus drivers in 2013 and 2009, respectively — at Grand Street and Borinquen Place. On hand were City Council members Steve Levin and Antonio Reynoso and Assembly members Joe Lentol and Martiza Davila.

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Council Reso Calls on Albany to Lower Citywide Speed Limit to 20 MPH

Steve Levin and Ydanis Rodriguez today introduced a resolution calling on Albany to lower the citywide speed limit to 20 miles per hour, as proposed in legislation sponsored by Assembly Member Dan O’Donnell and state Senator Martin Dilan.

“We have seen time and time again the pain inflicted on families as the result of crashes and we as New Yorkers refuse to stand by and let another person be killed in traffic,” said Levin via a press release. “By reducing speed limits in New York City we will save lives and achieve the goals of Vision Zero.”

“Speed kills, plain and simple,” Rodriguez said. “Whether here or in Albany, we as legislators have a responsibility to protect the lives of our constituents.”

The reso also calls on the state legislature “to give the City Council the authority to impose different speed limits in the city.” While it’s great that Levin and Rodriguez have taken up this cause, determining where and whether drivers should be exempted from the citywide speed limit should be left to DOT, and should not be subject to council politics. As demonstrated most recently by Vincent Ignizio, it’s a bad idea for council members to get the final say in how streets work.

O’Donnell’s bill had picked up about a dozen co-sponsors at this writing, while Dilan’s companion bill had three.

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Levin to DOT: Deadly McGuinness Blvd Needs Traffic Calming, Speed Cams

McGuinness Boulevard at Nassau Avenue, where Nicole Detweiler died a week ago and Solange Raulston died in 2009. Photo: Google Maps

McGuinness Boulevard at Nassau Avenue, where Nicole Detweiler was killed a week ago and where Solange Raulston was killed in 2009. Photo: Google Maps

A week after Nicole Detweiler was killed while walking on McGuinness Boulevard — at least the third person to be struck and killed on the street in the last five years — Council Member Steve Levin sent a letter to incoming Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg asking her to prioritize traffic calming and and speed cameras on the busy multi-lane road cutting through Greenpoint [PDF]:

Speed cameras from the recently approved pilot program should be installed at PS 34, which is just off of McGuinness Boulevard, and would reduce speeds and increase safety. I also request the implementation of a neighborhood slow zone in the area surrounding PS 34, left-hand turn signals, countdown clocks at crosswalks, and other traffic calming elements.

Council Member Steve Levin. Photo: NYC Council

Council Member Steve Levin. Photo: NYC Council

A state law passed last year allows the city to install up to 20 speed cameras within school zones, which extend a quarter-mile from public and private schools. The city began operating speed cameras last September, issuing drivers $50 tickets for speeding at least 10 mph above the limit during school hours. The cameras are movable, so the city can deploy them in any eligible area where speeding is a problem. Because Albany allowed only 20 cameras, the locations are not disclosed in an effort to maximize the deterrent effect.

An analysis by WNYC last year showed that school zones cover two-thirds of city streets, including 82 percent of all streets in Brooklyn. In addition to PS 34, cited by Levin, other nearby schools include PS 31, PS 110, JHS 126, Brooklyn Automotive High School, Believe Southside Charter School, Believe Northside Charter School and Frances Perkins Academy.

WNYC’s school zone map indicates a nearly mile-long stretch of McGuinness Boulevard, from Greenpoint Avenue to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, is included within a school zone and thus qualifies for speed cameras.

Levin’s letter comes in response to the death of Detweiler, 28, who was hit by a BMW driver and a truck driver at the intersection of McGuinness and Nassau Avenue. The truck driver, 35-year-old Roberto Amador, was arrested for driving with a suspended license. Amador had been arrested just one week earlier for driving with a suspended license on the Upper West Side, according to DNAinfo.

The death rate on McGuinness Boulevard is horrific. In December 2009, cyclist Solange Raulston, 33, was struck and killed by the driver of a flatbed truck at McGuinness and Nassau Avenue, the same intersection where Detweiler was killed. In April 2010, 28-year-old Williamsburg resident Neil Chamberlain was killed by a hit-and-run driver as he walked near the intersection of McGuinness and Calyer Street.

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Samuel Cohen Eckstein, 12, Killed by Van Driver on Prospect Park West

Samuel Cohen Eckstein, a 12 year-old boy about to celebrate his bar mitzvah, was killed yesterday at the intersection of Third Street and Prospect Park West in Park Slope. NYPD says the crash investigation is ongoing and as of now there are no arrests or summonses for the driver who ran him over. Although police would not release information about the driver, NYPD said that “preliminary results” show that Cohen Eckstein “ran into the street.”

The Daily News reports that Cohen Eckstein was bouncing a ball off a monument at the entrance to Prospect Park, across the street from his home, at about 5:15 p.m. yesterday when the ball rolled into the street and he chased after it. NYPD says that Cohen Eckstein suffered trauma to his torso and was taken to Methodist Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Cohen Eckstein was hit by the driver of a white 2006 Chevrolet van belonging to New Wave Design of Sunnyside, Queens. Photos and reports from the scene indicate the driver was moved to the back seat of an NYPD cruiser after the crash, but he was later released. NYPD would not release the identity of the driver of the van; Streetsblog’s calls to New Wave Design have not been picked up and lead to a full voicemail box.

Park Slope Stoop reports that Cohen Eckstein was planning to celebrate his bar mitzvah next month.

Cohen Eckstein’s parents, Gary Eckstein and Amy Cohen, spoke at community meetings in support of traffic calming and the protected bike lane on Prospect Park West. “I like to pick up my kids from Hebrew school on my tandem,” Eckstein said at a 2011 community board meeting about PPW. “Before it wasn’t safe, but now I can do it.”

“The city feels much safer than when we started,” Cohen said in a 2008 Los Angeles Times article about bicycling in New York.

Eckstein was also interviewed for a 2008 New York Times article about malfunctioning pedestrian signals. “My kids have been noticing them around Park Slope,” he said, noting that some pedestrian signals do not work properly during the walk phase. “Although confusing, it is probably not as dangerous as it could be.”

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Eyes on the Street: Minivans Parked All Over Williamsburg Sidewalk, Bikeway

Bike lane? Sidewalk? To these Williamsburg drivers, it's the perfect place to park.

A reader sent in this photo of what looks to be several dozen minivans in Williamsburg parked all over the sidewalk and bike lane on Kent Avenue.

Along this section of Kent, which is part of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, the parked cars blocked both a southbound bike lane and a northbound bike route on the sidewalk.

“Kent Avenue is a very busy street with a great deal of vehicular traffic and the bike lane is there to ensure safety,” Council Member Steve Levin said in an e-mail, adding that he would check with NYPD about the issue. “Obviously, people should not be parking in bike lanes.”

This section of Kent Avenue borders the 88th and 90th precincts. We’ve asked NYPD if the agency has done any parking enforcement here. We’ll let you know if we hear anything back.

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Lander and Levin to DOT: A Safer Fourth Avenue Can’t Wait

The left-turn bans opposed by CB 6 protect pedestrians from turning drivers and widen medians while reducing crossing distances. Image: NYC DOT

City Council members Brad Lander and Steve Levin are urging NYC DOT to move forward with safety improvements for Fourth Avenue in Park Slope despite a vote against the proposal by Brooklyn Community Board 6.

The Daily News reported today that in response to the CB 6 vote, DOT might take out some of the left-turn bans in its proposal. The turn bans reduce conflicts between motorists and pedestrians, and free up space for wider medians and shorter crossings. Lander and Levin endorse them. In their joint letter to Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, the council members say they “look forward to seeing any modifications you propose in the very near future” but that they disagree with the CB 6 vote against the plan and want to see it implemented this summer.

Here’s the meat of the letter:

DOT conducted extensive community outreach to gather input and share ideas for improving safety on 4th Avenue. We were pleased to have taken part in the 4th Avenue Task Force, convened by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, and the subsequent public planning process organized by DOT with the support of the Park Slope Civic Council’s Forth on Fourth Committee and the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. DOT conducted a well-attended public traffic safety workshop for community members on February 13 to gather input, utilized an innovative online input map (nyc.gov/4thAve), held an open house on April 9 to display the proposal, met with principals from 6 schools along the corridor, and made presentations to the CB2 and CB6 transportation committees during May to gather feedback.

After having participated in the planning process and having heard from numerous residents and other stakeholders in our districts and along the corridor, we support your proposal. The Corridor Safety Improvements you propose – similar to improvements implemented on 4th Avenue in Sunset Park from 15th Street to 65th Street last year – will narrow traffic from three lanes to two lanes in both directions south of Union Street, and southbound north of Union Street (leaving three northbound lanes from Union Street north toward Flatbush). This will calm traffic, allow for longer turn bays (a major improvement for drivers), and allow the medians to be significantly widened (a major improvement for pedestrians). Because left turn bans have worked further south on 4th Avenue—to reduce safety risks for pedestrians and drivers alike—your proposal will ban selected left turns along the corridor in pedestrian-heavy locations near subways and schools, and where opposing left turns have contributed to a large number of crashes.

We are aware that on June 12, 2013, Brooklyn Community Board 6 (CB6) resolved by a vote of 18 to 9, with 5 abstentions, to disapprove DOT’s proposed redesign of 4th Avenue. During our terms in elected office, there have been very few instances in which our position on an issue differs with that of a local Community Board, and doing so is not a decision we take lightly. However, given the severity of the safety risks along 4th Avenue, we respectfully but strongly disagree with CB6’s rejection of the proposal.

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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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Who Will Be the Next City Council Member to Subscribe to Citi Bike?

Steve Levin is the second council member to announce his Citi Bike membership. He is one of over 5,000 people to sign up for bike-share since memberships went on sale Monday.

With Brad Lander signing up earlier in the week, Brooklyn council members lead Manhattan 2-0. Who will be the first Manhattan rep to join?

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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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