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Posts from the "Vincent Gentile" Category

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How a DOT Parking Rule Change Made NYC Streets Less Safe

Photo: Brad Aaron

Prompted by Council Member Vincent Gentile, in 2009 DOT made it legal to park in unmarked crosswalks, satiating demand for free on-street parking once and for all. Photo: Brad Aaron

I violated a traffic rule on the day I moved to New York City.

I parked a minivan, rented for the move, in this spot on Seaman Avenue. I locked up the van and was headed to my apartment when a passerby informed me that I would get ticketed, if not towed, if I left it there. I didn’t notice the pedestrian ramp, which leads to Payson Avenue across the street, and I’d blocked the crossing.

As noted recently on Urban Residue, in 2009 DOT adopted a rule change that allows drivers to park at T intersections. The change was prompted by Council Member Vincent Gentile, who had introduced a bill to make it legal to park in unmarked crosswalks across the city.

According to a Brooklyn Eagle report, Gentile wanted “to open up more parking spaces” — and, of course, keep pedestrians from putting themselves in harm’s way.

Sloped curb cuts where vehicles are now permitted to park, Gentile explained, are “unfit for safe pedestrian crossing” because they there are no traffic signals or stop signs to slow down oncoming traffic. And there are no crosswalk lines marking where pedestrians should cross, he added.

You’ll recall that in the days before Vision Zero, as far as transportation policy was concerned, the City Council was focused on little else besides making it easier to park. With Speaker Christine Quinn and transpo committee chairs John Liu and Jimmy Vacca trying to score points by addressing one car owner gripe after another, Gentile’s bill might have passed even if DOT hadn’t beaten him to the punch.

We don’t know how many parking spaces were created by this rule change, but one thing’s for sure: The headaches for NYC car owners aren’t going away as long as curbside parking is totally free.

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Vincent Gentile: Speed Cams Must Be Part of the Enforcement Toolkit

This afternoon, the City Council is expected to vote on a resolution asking Albany to allow a speed camera demonstration program in New York City. With Council Speaker Christine Quinn backing the measure, there’s little doubt speed cams will pick up the council’s endorsement.

Council Member Vincent Gentile says speed cameras must be part of the street safety solution. Photo: City Council

In Albany, the Assembly has included the speed cam program in its budget, but the State Senate has not. State Senator Marty Golden, a Republican representing Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, and Bensonhurst, appears to be the one legislator standing in the way of NYC’s first automated speeding enforcement program. Along with the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association — the city’s largest police union — Golden is opposing speed cameras on the grounds that only cops should enforce the speed limit, even though NYPD shows little inclination to devote manpower to the task.

Other Bay Ridge representatives don’t see speed cameras and conventional enforcement as an either/or proposition. Vincent Gentile, whose City Council district overlaps with much of Golden’s Senate district, told Streetsblog that the city needs both.

Here’s the statement on speeding enforcement from his office:

There is no substitute for more police and patrols. That said, we must not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. While speeding cameras may not be a panacea, they have been proven to reduce speeding. And right now there are simply too many drivers speeding and not enough enforcement resources. In addition to the speeding cameras, I am calling upon the Mayor of the City of New York and the New York City Police Department, via an official resolution, to immediately hire and deploy a minimum of 200 more police officers citywide solely for speed enforcement and reckless driving deterrence. Whether it’s speed cameras, education programs, more cops or more enforcement — there is no single silver bullet but something has to be done. Nothing can be left off the table when lives are at stake. I will continue to work closely with the Department of Transportation towards making our streets a safe place where pedestrians, cyclists and motorists can all co-exist safely, peacefully and responsibly.

“We need an all-encompassing approach,” said Gentile spokesperson Justin Brannan, noting that camera enforcement can help support traffic calming projects like the one underway on Fourth Avenue at a time when there are insufficient enforcement resources.

This issue has some added political intrigue: John Quaglione, Golden’s deputy chief of staff, is running against Gentile in November.

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Why Did Vincent Gentile Boot Pro-Bike Member From Community Board 10?

City Council Member Vincent Gentile chose to replace only one Community Board 10 member this year: Bob Cassara, who clashed with Gentile over a proposed bike lane on Bay Ridge Parkway. Image: NYC Council

The Department of Transportation has made it a de facto policy not to implement major changes to the streets without a favorable vote from the local community board. The idea is to defer to a group perceived as representing the will of the entire neighborhood.

But these bodies are only as representative as the borough president and local City Council members want them to be, as shown by the dismissal of Bob Cassara, the Brooklyn Community Board 10 member who led the fight for a bike lane on Bay Ridge Parkway.

Council Member Vincent Gentile decided not to re-appoint Cassara for another two-year term on the community board in late May, according to his spokesperson Dena Libner. She confirmed that Cassara was the only board member not to be re-appointed this year, though half of the fifty members’ terms were up.

Gentile’s decision to boot Cassara from the board was first reported in the Brooklyn Eagle. The Eagle drew the connection between Cassara’s dismissal and his strong push for the bike lane at the community board and in the press. (Speaking to the press can be dangerous for community board members, as former Brooklyn CB 1 transportation committee chair Teresa Toro learned when she was temporarily ousted from her position in 2008.) Gentile had been a top opponent of the Bay Ridge Parkway lane, working with his colleague Domenic Recchia and Assembly Members Peter Abbate and Alec Brook-Krasny to scuttle DOT’s plans to stripe it.

In her first statement on why Cassara was removed, Libner told the Eagle: “As many people as possible should have the chance to help shape our neighborhood’s future and welcoming new members onto the community board is the best way to achieve that.”

Bringing fresh voices onto community boards is a noble goal, but not one that would justify removing Cassara.

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Domenic Recchia: There’s a Place For Bike Lanes, But I’m Not Telling Where

Domenic Recchia says he's not against bike lanes, but here's a helpful tip: When you kill what would be your district's first east-west bike lane and refuse to suggest an alternative, you're against bike lanes. Photo: Tracy Collins via Brownstoner.

“I’m not against bike lanes,” City Council Member Domenic Recchia told the New York Times after forcing DOT to scrap plans for a four-mile painted bike lane along Bay Ridge Parkway two weeks ago. “I believe there’s a place for them.”

I’d like to believe Recchia. After all, there are currently no on-street bike lanes headed east-west between his district and that of Vincent Gentile, Recchia’s partner in crime. To repeat, in all of Sunset Park, Borough Park, Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst and Gravesend, there’s not one east-west lane that runs for more than a couple of blocks. I’m sure, therefore, that as soon as Recchia proposes his alternate location, DOT will jump at the opportunity.

Since Recchia scuttled the Bay Ridge Parkway plan, Streetsblog has reached out repeatedly to his office to ask the self-identified bike lane supporter where he’d propose a lane instead. He wouldn’t. All he would say, in full, is: “Bike lanes should be sited based on community input. If my community requests a bike lane, I will be happy to entertain a proposal.”

Perhaps Recchia wouldn’t offer an alternative because articulating what exactly was wrong with the Bay Ridge Parkway lane would be nearly impossible without having to drop the pro-bike pretense.

After all, a DOT presentation on the proposed bike lane [PDF] promised that striping it wouldn’t require taking away a single travel lane or a single parking space. Where space was tighter, the bike lane was to be sacrificed, with sharrows replacing it.

It couldn’t be that the bike lanes would overly constrict motor vehicles. Even with the addition of five-foot bike lanes, moving traffic would have 11-foot lanes in each direction. To put that in perspective, 12-foot lanes are the standard for interstate highways. On Bay Ridge Parkway, an urban street with only one lane in each direction, all that excess room for cars just causes dangerous speeding.

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Tomorrow: Packed Agenda for Council Transpo Committee as Liu Eyes Exit

The City Council Transportation Committee will consider a slate of bills Thursday. Several of them should be of particular interest to livable streets advocates. Here's a rundown.

  • Intro 624: This is Jessica Lappin's effort to hold businesses responsible for traffic law violations committed by bike delivery personnel. The bill was inspired in part by Upper East Side constituent complaints about restaurant employees and other commercial delivery workers riding on sidewalks.
  • Intro 901, from committee chair, presumptive comptroller-elect and rock star John Liu, would mandate all commercial parking facilities to set aside 10 percent of spaces, or 10 spots, whichever is less, for car-sharing programs.
  • Intro 947: Responding to the deaths of Robert Ogle and Alex Paul and Diego Martinez and Hayley Ng, Queens Council Member Elizabeth Crowley's bill would raise the fine for unattended idling vehicles to $250. The current fine: five bucks.
  • Continuing his crusade against the travesty that is parking enforcement, Vincent Gentile's Intro 1076 would require DOT to give 60 days notice to community boards and council members in advance of changes to parking meter regulations.
  • Intro 1077, another Gentile bill, looks as if it would basically codify DOT's current practice of presenting new projects -- pilot projects, specifically -- to community boards prior to implementation.

In the end the votes matter most, but it's interesting that Gentile, for instance, is not a co-sponsor of Crowley's anti-idling bill or Liu's car-sharing intro, but is on board with Lappin's commercial cyclist regulations. Guess we all have our priorities.

Tomorrow's hearing, one of the last of Liu's tenure as committee chair, convenes in the council chambers at 10 a.m.

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City Council Members: Down With Parking Enforcement

council_members_rip.jpgCouncilmen Weprin, Felder, and Gentile protest the injustice of enforcing the law. Photo: Daily Politics
Sick of walking around cars parked on the sidewalk? Fed up with the excessive traffic cruising for parking spots in your neighborhood? Tough luck. A gaggle of City Council members has got nothing for you, but they do want to ease up on the car owners who contribute to these problems.

A new bill has surfaced that would tack on a five-minute "grace period" to time restrictions on parking spots. It would codify the contention of a certain class of New Yorkers who believe the law doesn't really apply to drivers.

The anti-enforcement contingent behind the bill includes Vincent Gentile and Simcha Felder of Brooklyn, David Weprin of Queens, and James Vacca of the Bronx. Who are the people these elected representatives are sticking up for? The Daily News, in a story that openly cheers for the new bill to take effect, tells us about one driver who would love some extra time to drop off her pet for a doggie manicure:

Meryl Blackman, 57, a Realtor in Brooklyn Heights, says she needs even more time to unload her dog. She admits leaving her SUV in no-parking zones to deal with the pooch.

"A five-minute grace period is great, but we need more time," she said. "Ten to 15 would be fabulous. It would make the quality of life so much better."

Give 'em five minutes, they'll take an hour. I can already hear the whining about getting a ticket just after the "grace period" expires.

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