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Posts from the Ydanis Rodriguez Category


Trottenberg Announces Plaza Equity Program at Plaza de Las Americas Reveal

Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, and a cast of uptown players marked the opening of Plaza de Las Americas today. Photo: Brad Aaron

Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, and a cast of uptown players marked the opening of Plaza de Las Americas today. Photos: Brad Aaron

Just eight months after the groundbreaking ceremony, officials held a ribbon-cutting this morning at Plaza de Las Americas, an impressive new public space in Washington Heights. Also today, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg announced a City Hall initiative to assist plazas in neighborhoods without the resources of a major business improvement district.

Plaza de Las Americas reclaims one block of W. 175th Street, between Broadway and Wadsworth Avenue, with 16,000 square feet of pedestrian space. Bookended to the north and south by the United Palace theater and a grocery store, respectively, the plaza comes equipped with electric and water service for vendors. Other amenities include a public restroom, decorative pavers, benches, trees, and a fountain by artist Ester Partegás.

The block has been the site of a farmers market since 1980, and since 1994 vendors have set up on the street to sell household wares, clothes, and other items. Sponsored by the Washington Heights and Inwood Development Corporation, the proposal to make those uses permanent received $5 million in city funds when it was chosen in the first round of the plaza program in 2008. The project was designed and built by DOT and the Department of Design and Construction.

“After years of planning, today we come together to celebrate the location our community has valued for decades transformed into an even better venue,” said City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez in prepared remarks. “La Plaza de Las Americas will be a focal point for the communities of Northern Manhattan and assuredly a boon to local business and our very active street vendors.”

Other electeds on hand included Congressman Charles Rangel, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, Assembly Member Guillermo Linares, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

Trottenberg announced the OneNYC Plaza Equity Program, which will allocate $1.4 million from the city budget to provide maintenance and management assistance to 30 “medium and high need” plaza projects, most of them in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Upper Manhattan. Trottenberg said projects are eligible to receive up to $80,000, along with other assistance, such as organizing and fundraising help, for up to three years. Plazas that lack resources for upkeep can quickly fall out of favor with the public.

Another tidbit: Rodriguez said he’d like to see Plaza de Las Americas extended to St. Nicholas Avenue, two blocks east, as a “gateway” to Washington Heights and Inwood.

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Rodriguez Champions Toll Reform in Broad Vision for NYC Transportation

Reforming New York’s broken road pricing and parking policies top an extensive list of transportation priorities from City Council Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez, which he unveiled this morning in a speech at New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation.

City Council Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez outlines his transportation vision this morning. Photo: Stephen Miller

City Council Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez outlines his transportation vision this morning. Photo: Stephen Miller

The most pressing item on Rodriguez’s agenda is the Move New York toll reform proposal, which would put a price on the four East River bridges and a cordon at 60th Street while reducing tolls on outlying crossings. “There is no longer a question of should we pass this plan, but when,” he said. “I will commit myself, over the coming weeks and months, to ensure that my council colleagues get behind this transformative plan.”

If City Hall coalesces behind the road pricing plan as a way to fill the gap in the MTA’s capital budget, it still must gain the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has a famously rocky relationship with Mayor Bill de Blasio. So far, the mayor has indicated that he is open to the idea of toll reform, but has not made it one of his priorities in Albany.

With a champion in Rodriguez, it’s conceivable to see a path forward for Move New York through the City Council. Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito reportedly has a more genial relationship with the governor than de Blasio does.

Rodriguez is seeking to leave his own mark on Move New York, proposing that a portion of toll revenue be set aside in what he’s calling a “Community Transit Fund.” Through a to-be-determined mechanism — Rodriguez has previously suggested community boards or participatory budgeting — neighborhoods would be able to steer funds to local transportation priorities.

Rodriguez laid out ambitious goals for traffic reduction in a plan that goes beyond road pricing. He’d like to cut the number of households in the city that own cars from 1.4 million in 2010 to 1 million in 2030. That would drop New York’s car ownership rate from 45 percent to 30 percent when the city’s projected population increase is taken into account.

By 2030, Rodriguez wants NYC to reach 12 percent bicycle mode share and 2,000 total miles of bike lanes, including 400 miles of protected bikeways. (De Blasio had initially aimed for 6 percent by 2020, then his administration scaled-back its targets.) Rodriguez also called for a car-free Earth Day next year.

Reducing the number of cars in the city will be tough as long as New York requires the construction of parking in new development. The de Blasio administration has proposed eliminating parking mandates for affordable housing near transit, a measure Rodriguez said should also apply to market-rate units. Rodriguez said he’s looking to hold a hearing soon on off-street parking reform.

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Rodriguez Bill Would Mandate Daylighting at 25 Intersections Per Year

City Council transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez introduced legislation today intended to improve pedestrian safety along bus routes and at intersections with high crash rates.

Ydanis Rodriguez, with Council Member Brad Lander at right, outside City Hall today. Photo: @ydanis

Transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez, with Council Member Brad Lander at right, outside City Hall today. Photo: @ydanis

Intro 912 would require DOT to daylight the five “most dangerous intersections” in each borough annually, as determined by the number of fatalities and injuries. Curb extensions would be installed to prevent parking within 15 feet of selected crossings.

Twenty-five intersections a year isn’t a large number, but by codifying the selection process based on crash data, daylighting projects would not be subject to the whims of community boards, which routinely prioritize parking over street safety. It would also compel DOT to make more consistent use of an effective and relatively simple street safety tool.

A second bill, Intro 911, would require DOT to study pedestrian and cyclist safety along bus routes and implement traffic-calming measures — including turn restrictions, neckdowns, daylighting, and leading pedestrian intervals — at “high risk intersections.” It would also require DOT to develop a comprehensive strategy for bus route safety.

Finally, Reso 854 calls on the MTA to study measures to reduce “blind spots” on buses and install audible warnings to alert drivers to the presence of pedestrians.

“The most important is the one that will mandate DOT to remove two parking spots in each of the five most dangerous intersections in [each borough],” Rodriguez told Stephen Miller today, following an event on Manhattan traffic congestion organized by Borough President Gale Brewer. “The reason why this legislation has strong merit is because 74 percent of pedestrians killed in New York City are killed in intersections. Eighty-nine percent of cyclists killed in New York City also are killed in intersections.”

“We believe that we, working together with DOT, will be able to do daylighting,” said Rodriguez. “It will improve visibility for drivers.”

The bills have support from several council members, including Brad Lander, Margaret Chin, Helen Rosenthal, and Rory Lancman.


Levine and Rodriguez Press DOT to Implement West Harlem Bus Lanes ASAP

Council Member Mark Levine speaks in support of bus lanes on 125th Street in West Harlem. He was joined by Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez and advocates from Riders Alliance, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Transportation Alternatives, and StreetsPAC. Photo: Stephen Miller

Council Member Mark Levine calls for bus lanes on 125th Street in West Harlem. He was joined by Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez and advocates from Riders Alliance, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Transportation Alternatives, and StreetsPAC. Photo: Stephen Miller

Transit advocates and Upper Manhattan elected officials gathered this morning at the corner of Amsterdam Avenue and 125th Street to urge DOT to extend bus lanes on 125th Street to West Harlem as soon as possible.

The city installed bus lanes on 125th east of Lenox Avenue last spring, and DOT says they will be extended west to Morningside Avenue next month. Given the contentious history of the project, however, local electeds who support the bus lanes don’t want to take any chances. Earlier this month, Council Member Mark Levine and State Senator Adriano Espaillat sent a letter to DOT stressing the need to follow through on the project [PDF].

While the vast majority of local residents depend on transit, not private cars, the proposal for West Harlem bus lanes continues to draw fire at community board meetings — particularly CB 10, where the chair has complained about bus lanes slowing down her cab rides and transportation committee meetings are often filibustered by bus lane opponents.

“Look, the politics of this are always complicated. If they weren’t, we wouldn’t be fighting over it,” Levine said this morning. “There’s still a very entrenched car culture in this city, and for years the car has been king. And that’s how we made policy.”

Levine is worried that further delay could push the bus lane project into next year. “We’re going to keep the pressure on every day until the work is completed,” he said. “That’s my commitment.”

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After Fatal Crash, Rodriguez Asks DOT for W. 207th Street Safety Study

Two drivers hit two pedestrians, killing a 24-year-old man, on W. 207th Street at Ninth Avenue in Inwood. Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez has asked DOT to study W. 207th for potential safety measures. Image: Google Maps

Two drivers hit two pedestrians, killing a 24-year-old man, on W. 207th Street at Ninth Avenue in Inwood. Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez has asked DOT to study W. 207th for potential safety measures. Image: Google Maps

City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez wants DOT to study safety improvements for an Inwood street where drivers killed a pedestrian and injured a second victim last night.

Two drivers struck two men, ages 24 and 35, as they attempted to cross W. 207th Street near Ninth Avenue at around 10:27 p.m. The victims entered the street “outside the crosswalk,” saw vehicle traffic approaching, and were trying to run back to the curb when they were hit by a driver traveling westbound in a Ford SUV, according to NYPD and published reports. The victims were thrown into the eastbound lane and were hit by a second driver in a Toyota sedan.

The 24-year-old victim died and the second victim was hospitalized in serious condition. As of this afternoon, NYPD was withholding the name of the deceased pedestrian pending family notification.

The NYPD public information office had no information on driver speed, a key factor in the severity of the crash. Police said both drivers passed sobriety tests and no charges were filed. The drivers’ names were not released.

Anonymous police sources blamed the victims in the press, telling the Daily News they “bolted across W. 207 St. outside the crosswalk,” while exculpating the SUV driver. “The driver of the vehicle hit the brakes, but couldn’t stop in time,” cops told WCBS.

The crash occurred in the 34th Precinct, where local officers issue around 13 speeding summonses a month.

The intersection of W. 207th Street and Ninth Avenue is wide and hazardous. This stretch of W. 207th Street is often clogged with honking drivers headed to and from the Bronx via the University Heights Bridge. According to the city’s Vision Zero map, three pedestrians were injured at W. 207th and Ninth in 2015 as of the end of May, in addition to nine motor vehicle occupants — an indication that drivers are colliding at high speeds.

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Ydanis Rodriguez: “We Should Leave the Right of Way Law As It Is”

Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez opposes an amendment to the Right of Way Law that would provide a special exemption for bus drivers.

Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez. Photo: NYC Council

Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez. Photo: NYC Council

“I stand in support of the bill as written,” he told Streetsblog this afternoon. “I think that we should leave the Right of Way Law as it is.”

The Transport Workers Union is seeking an exemption from the law, which makes it a misdemeanor for drivers to strike pedestrians or cyclists with the right of way. The union targeted Rodriguez with a work slowdown in his district this morning. Previously, Rodriguez had not said where he stood on the TWU bill, which is sponsored by 25 of the council’s 51 members.

“My focus is not on changing that bill, but my focus is on what can we correct when it comes to dangerous intersections,” Rodriguez said. “We can focus on how to make streets safer for everyone.”

Rodriguez said he is developing three pieces of legislation to improve conditions for bus drivers and pedestrians alike. One would require DOT to “daylight” dangerous intersections by removing two parking spaces at the corner. Another bill would require DOT to work with MTA to reduce the number of left turns on bus routes. A third bill would call on DOT and MTA to study technology that alerts drivers to pedestrians or cyclists in their blind spots.

While Rodriguez opposes TWU’s attempt to secure a special exemption to the Right of Way Law, he says he has not yet formed an opinion on a bill from Council Member Rory Lancman that would micromanage NYPD’s crash investigations of Right of Way cases.


TWU Demands to Be Allowed to Kill People Who Have the Right of Way

The Transport Workers Union is making a great case for why the Right of Way Law should apply to all drivers.

The law made it a misdemeanor for drivers to strike pedestrians or cyclists with the right of way. As part of its campaign to secure a special exemption for bus drivers, TWU Local 100 launched a work slowdown on 181st Street in Washington Heights this morning. From 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., according to the Post, drivers were instructed not to enter crosswalks if pedestrians were present and to come to a complete stop if people were crossing.

The implication: Under normal conditions, maiming and killing pedestrians is the inevitable cost of operating buses.

In a perfect illustration of its disregard for people’s right to cross the street safely, TWU tweeted a photo this morning of a bus operator waiting to turn left as a woman in the crosswalk checked her phone. “Bus waits to take a left turn as oblivious pedestrian crosses intersection,” the union tweeted. The woman had the light — and the right of way.

The union was targeting City Council Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez, who represents the area. Rodriguez himself would not comment for this story, but his spokesperson, Lucas Acosta, said he is undecided on the bus driver exemption. “The council member is exploring all of the legislation regarding the Right of Way Law and has yet to come out in support or opposition,” Acosta said. “He is reviewing the MTA regulations.”

Update 5:43 p.m.: City Council Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez says he opposes amending the Right of Way Law to exempt bus drivers.

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DOT and Ydanis Rodriguez Break Ground on Uptown Bike Lanes

Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez and local high school students celebrated new bike lanes near the High Bridge in Washington Heights this afternoon. Photo: Ben Fried

Don’t underestimate the importance of this development: Today, Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez announced the groundbreaking for new bike routes linking the Hudson River Greenway to the restored High Bridge, which connects Upper Manhattan to the Bronx.

The shovels-in-the-ground moment and its sibling, the ribbon-cutting-with-oversized-scissors, are irresistible to elected officials everywhere. Usually, this feeds into the political incentive to push for big, dumb road projects. One way to flip this dynamic: start holding groundbreakings and ribbon-cuttings for smart transportation projects, too.


The new uptown bike routes will consist of two-way protected lanes on 170th Street and segments of 158th Street and Edgecombe Avenue. Other segments will consist mainly of sharrows. The routes will provide safer and more direct connections between the Hudson River Greenway, Washington Heights, and the High Bridge, which reopened to the public this week after being off limits for 45 years.

Rodriguez pointed out that a lot of families have moved across the river from Washington Heights to the Bronx in the last 20 years, and these projects are going to connect people who have relatives on the other side of the river.

“Not only are we connecting both sides of the river,” said Assembly Member Guillermo Linares, “but we are making it easier to get to the bridge if you are walking and if you are riding a bike.”

The officials were joined by high school students from I Challenge Myself, a program that promotes fitness in NYC high schools. “It’ll be a lot safer and more people will be able to come down here,” said Brian Zarzuela, a sophomore at the High School for Media and Communications in Washington Heights. “With the lanes, it should be a lot easier to navigate.”

In related news, DOT announced that it will begin holding public workshops for its Harlem River Bridges Access Plan starting next week. Currently, people biking or walking across the bridges have to contend with hostile street conditions. Safer routes across the river could make biking a much more attractive travel option.

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Council Calls on de Blasio to Double “Great Streets” Redesign Funds


Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez says Mayor de Blasio should increase the city’s budget for major street safety redesigns.

The City Council wants Mayor de Blasio to double funding for DOT capital projects to overhaul the city’s most dangerous streets and save more lives, faster.

At a council budget hearing last week, transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez called for additional funds in the executive budget for the “Great Streets” program. As of now the mayor’s budget proposes $250 million for safety improvements on streets selected for the initiative: Queens Boulevard, the Grand Concourse, and Atlantic Avenue and Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn. Motorists killed 34 pedestrians, and seriously injured 215, on those four streets from 2009 to 2013.

In April, the City Council’s preliminary budget called for a much larger “Great Streets” allocation of $500 million. Rodriguez and the council reiterated that demand in a statement published by the Daily News today. “With $250 million additional dollars we can more than double the amount of redesigned roadways,” said Rodriguez. “Though the executive budget was a good start, the more money we put in, the more results we will attain.”

De Blasio has shown some flexibility in budgeting for streets. Last month, the mayor announced an accelerated DOT repaving schedule at a conference on Staten Island, but did not mention Vision Zero.

We asked the mayor’s office about the council Great Streets ask. De Blasio spokesperson Wiley Norvell sent us this statement:

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Ydanis Rodriguez Bill Would Let NYC’s Press Corps Park for Free

City Council Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez thinks the city’s press corps needs a special break: He’s proposing legislation that would exempt drivers with press plates from paying at meters or obeying time limits.

“The news business should have the same privileges as every other business,” Rodriguez said in a release before today’s City Hall press conference, wrongly implying that every other business in New York gets a free parking pass.

Rodriguez, who said today that he hoped the bill would gain the support of Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and expressed confidence that it would garner a veto-proof majority, was joined this morning by fellow council members Laurie Cumbo, Daniel Dromm, and Corey Johnson.

I asked Rodriguez if he would give up his parking placard, like State Senator Tony Avella does each year. “I believe that having placard parking is important,” Rodriguez said, saying it came in handy when he drove to the scene of the East Harlem building explosion last year. “I believe that having a parking placard, as other people have — teachers have it, police officers have it, council members have it — people from the media should also have it.”

The legislation would not actually give parking placards to the media, but would exempt them from meters and time limits. (Currently, press plates give special parking privileges in areas marked for NYP plates, typically near courthouses and other government buildings.) As part of its crackdown on parking abuse, the Bloomberg administration eliminated this perk for the city’s press in 2009. Governor Cuomo also cut down on placards around the same time.

The New York Press Photographers Association has been leading the charge to restore this privilege. Association board member Robert Roth said the de Blasio administration has not set up a meeting to discuss a change in policy, despite multiple requests — which is why the association turned to the City Council.

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