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Posts from the "Ydanis Rodriguez" Category

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City Council: Drivers With Free On-Street Parking Have Suffered Enough

It may be the Vision Zero era, but some things never change. If you’re looking for cost-free, consequence-free storage of your private automobile in public space, the City Council still has your back.

The bill under consideration today by the City Council’s transportation committee, to nibble away at alternate side parking restrictions, may not be as egregious as previous council ideas like free time at unpaid meters or changing city law to mandate parking permits for teachers. But it did offer an opportunity for council members to inveigh on behalf of put-upon “real New Yorkers” who store their cars on the street for free.

Although the average car owner in New York City has a much higher income than a car-free counterpart, that didn’t stop council members from constantly referring to parking tickets as a tax on the middle and working class.

“It’s the anger of real New Yorkers who feel that the city is using them as a piggy bank and that the middle class is being squeezed by unnecessary tickets,” said Council Member Costa Constantinides of Astoria, who signed on to the legislation after seeing illegally-parked drivers on a swept street get tickets before the parking restriction ended. ”It felt as if it was just for revenue,” he said.

The bill would allow drivers to park during prohibited hours so long as they are “in the vehicle and ready to move” when the street sweeper comes through. ”We should not be going after the working class or middle class,” said Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez, who has pushed the legislation for years. ”[It's] a struggle New Yorkers are all too familiar with.”

The city’s sanitation and police departments testified today in opposition to the bill. ”The signs are put up there for a reason,” said NYPD Inspector Dennis Fulton. “The streets need to be cleaned.”

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Council Bill Would Fine Drivers for Leaving the Scene of a Crash

Council Members Jimmy Van Bramer and Ydanis Rodriguez have introduced a bill that would impose civil penalties for hit-and-run crashes.

Intro 371 would attach escalating fines, based on injury severity, for violating Section 600 of the state traffic code, which deals with leaving the scene. Fines would begin at “not more than” $250 for drivers who leave the scene of a crash, $500 to $1,000 for a crash resulting in physical injury, $1,000 to $5,000 for a serious injury crash, and $2,000 to $5,000 for a fatal crash.

The bill refers to Article 10 of the state penal law for definitions of injury — “impairment of physical condition or substantial pain” — and serious injury — “injury which creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes death or serious and protracted disfigurement, protracted impairment of health or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.”

Unlike Intro 238, a bill passed by the council last week that applies a strict liability standard to cases where motorists strike pedestrians or cyclists who have the right of way, Intro 371 would apply only when a driver ”knows or has cause to know that physical injury has occurred.” This burden of proof gives rise to the “I didn’t see her” defense, often employed by hit-and-run drivers who avoid prosecution, even in cases where the victim dies.

Current state law gives drivers who have been drinking an incentive to flee the scene, as the criminal penalty for hit-and-run can be less severe than for causing injury while driving drunk. Albany has repeatedly failed to pass legislation that would toughen criminal penalties for leaving the scene.

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Council and Advocates Unite Behind 25 MPH Limit to Pass Bill in Albany

In an effort to pass a bill in the state legislature this session to reduce the city’s default speed limit, the City Council and street safety advocates are uniting behind the de Blasio administration’s call for a 25 mph limit. In a unanimous 9-0 vote this morning, the City Council Transportation Committee passed a resolution supporting a 25 mph limit. It is expected to pass at the City Council’s stated meeting this afternoon.

Rodriguez at this morning's committee vote in favor of supporting a 25 mph speed limit. Image: NYC Council

Rodriguez at this morning’s committee vote in favor of supporting a 25 mph speed limit. Image: NYC Council

Advocates, led by the families of traffic violence victims, had been supporting bills in Albany to lower the limit to 20 mph. ”My decision to change my stance from a 20 to 25 mph speed limit was not taken lightly,” Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez said at this morning’s hearing. “In order for meaningful action to be taken, we must unite as a city.”

“The political will is not there as it would be if we were arguing with a unified voice,” Rodriguez spokesperson Russell Murphy said before the vote. The focus, he said, is on ensuring that a bill “gets passed this session instead of getting put off any further.” Murphy said that the 20 mph bills from Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell and State Senator Martin Malave Dilan would be amended to reflect the new consensus behind 25 mph.

Advocates aren’t giving up on securing 20 mph speed limits for some streets. “There will be strong 20 mph options in the 25 mph bill, I understand,” Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White said in an email. TA staff added that the bills could allow the city to lower speed limits to 20 mph without additional traffic calming measures, in much the same way current law allows 25 mph speed limits like those in the arterial slow zone program.

Streetsblog has reached out to O’Donnell and Dilan for more information about amendments to their bills and will have more on this story as it develops.

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After Quick Work by CB 7 and DOT, Safety Fixes Debut at 96th and Broadway

Press gathers this morning on an expanded pedestrian island at 96th Street and Broadway that, until recently, had been a left turn lane. Photo: Stephen Miller

Press gathers this morning at a sidewalk extension at 96th Street and Broadway that, until recently, had been a left turn lane. Photo: Stephen Miller

After the deaths of Cooper StockAlexander Shear, and Samantha Lee at or near the intersection of 96th Street and Broadway shook Upper West Siders in January, DOT promised fixes to an intersection that locals complained had become even more dangerous to cross after a reconstruction project just a few years before. This morning, the city debuted those changes, including an expanded pedestrian island and new crosswalk.

“By restricting that left turn onto 96th Street, this island is twice as big as it used to be,” DOT Assistant Commissioner Ryan Russo told the assembled press on the brick-pattern sidewalk. ”You’re standing in former road space.”

While northbound drivers can still turn left from Broadway to westbound 96th Street, drivers heading downtown on Broadway must either continue straight or make a right onto the cross street, resulting in less complex signal timing. Drivers are also now prohibited from turning left from westbound 96th Street to southbound Broadway. The design features a new crosswalk in the Broadway median leading across 96th Street to the subway entrance, as well as curb extensions on Broadway at six intersections between 93rd and 100th Streets.

Borough President Gale Brewer said the city was able to act quickly after the fatalities because Community Board 7 had already worked with consultants on a plan to improve pedestrian safety in the area. ”We had a head start,” she said, adding that her office has worked with all 12 Manhattan community boards to compile a list of dangerous streets and intersections [PDF]. ”DOT really is investigating each and every hot spot and will work on a plan for each and every one,” Brewer said.

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Takeaways From This Week’s City Council Vision Zero Hearing

The office of Ydanis Rodriguez says he is aiming to get several traffic safety bills passed in the near future, while others that were taken up by his transportation committee at a Wednesday Vision Zero hearing may be held up.

At a press conference announcing the Broadway arterial slow zone Thursday, Rodriguez said of the 26 bills and eight resolutions: “Many of those bills already had the support of the administration. And other bills, there was some concern and issues, but we will continue having conversations.”

A spokesperson for Rodriguez said his office could not say which bills may go forward and which may not, due to legal issues.

“We are looking to move quickly on a package of six to seven bills that were discussed [Wednesday] as they need only little to no adjustments,” said Rodriguez spokesperson Russell Murphy. “While I won’t put a definitive timeline on it, we’d like to see these bills aged in the next few months.”

“We want to ensure the bills are comprehensive and complete and that we can pass through a number at the same time to bring about immediate action.”

Testimony submitted by city officials Wednesday gives some idea as to which bills the de Blasio administration may, and may not, be ready to act on. Here’s a summary.

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Traffic Violence Victims’ Families Tell Their Stories at City Hall

The family of Kelly Gordon, killed on York Avenue three weeks ago, joined council members and other victims' families outside City Hall today. Photo: Stephen Miller

The family of Kelly Gordon, killed on York Avenue three weeks ago, joined other victims’ families and City Council members outside City Hall today. Photo: Stephen Miller

Before the big City Council hearing on street safety legislation this afternoon, elected officials joined families of traffic violence victims outside City Hall to push for speed camera and speed limit bills in Albany, along with more traffic enforcement and better street designs from the de Blasio administration.

Three weeks ago, 22-year-old Kelly Gordon was struck and killed on York Avenue. She was going to graduate from Boston College in May. Today, her family came to City Hall to tell her story.

“To clear up the record, it was reported in the press that Kelly was jaywalking. She was not. The police report reflects that. Witnesses reflect that. Kelly was not jaywalking,” said Gordon’s aunt, Lori Centerella. “She was standing just off the curb when a driver sped through the yellow light, struck her, and sent her into the path of another driver.”

Both drivers were operating yellow cabs. ”These two taxi drivers left that scene with not even a single summons,” said her father, Donald Gordon. “For all we know, they could’ve picked up another passenger a block away.”

Centerella was overwhelmed by the number of families at City Hall this afternoon who had also lost loved ones to traffic violence. “When we came here today, we thought we would be the only ones,” she said. “Look at all the families that have walked this road before us.”

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Grand Concourse Will Be the Next Arterial With 25 MPH Limit

NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan, Council Member Vanessa Gibson, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and Assembly Member Mark Gjonaj unveil the city's second "arterial slow zone" this morning. Photo: Stephen Miller

NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan, Council Member Vanessa Gibson, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and Assembly Member Mark Gjonaj unveil the city’s second “arterial slow zone” this morning. Photo: Stephen Miller

Local elected officials and advocates joined NYC DOT and NYPD this morning to unveil the city’s second “arterial slow zone” on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, where speed limits will be dropped to 25 mph and traffic signals will be retimed to discourage speeding.

The lower speed limit will apply to 5.2 miles of the Grand Concourse from East 140th Street in Mott Haven to Moshulu Parkway in Bedford Park. Along this stretch of the Grand Concourse, there were 12 fatalities between 2008 and 2012, including seven pedestrians, according to DOT. Speeding is the leading cause of traffic fatalities in New York City.

“This is not the Daytona 500,” said Assembly Member José Rivera at this morning’s event. “We should consider placing speed cameras all along the Grand Concourse.”

That’s unlikely to happen immediately. State law limits speed cameras to streets with school entrances within a quarter-mile, prevents them from operating overnight and on weekends, and caps the number at 20 cameras. (DOT has five cameras running and hopes to bring the remainder online this spring.)

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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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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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More Highlights From Yesterday’s Vision Zero Hearing

TLC chief operating officer Conan Freud, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and NYPD Transportation Chief Thomas Chan. Photo: William Alatriste/NYC Council

TLC Chief Operating Officer Conan Freud, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and NYPD Transportation Chief Thomas Chan. Photo: William Alatriste/NYC Council

Yesterday’s four-hour City Council hearing on Vision Zero featured testimony from families of traffic violence victims, discussion of NYPD’s enforcement priorities, and Cy Vance’s office weighing in on how district attorneys should be involved in traffic justice. But not all of the testimony fit neatly into a theme or narrative.

Here are some of the highlights from yesterday’s hearing that didn’t make it into our other coverage:

  • The Vision Zero Action Plan does not include benchmarks to measure progress. In its testimony, Transportation Alternatives urged the City Council to set deadlines as well as provide funding to ensure that DOT has enough engineers and planners to make the changes happen on schedule.
  • Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, who said that DOT initiated an internal Vision Zero working group last week, noted that expansion of automated enforcement will be key to improving traffic safety: At intersections where red light cameras have been installed in New York City, she said, injuries to cyclists were down 64 percent and injuries to pedestrians were down 31 percent.
  • Public Safety Committee Chair Vanessa Gibson asked why the administration endorsed a 25 mph citywide speed limit, as opposed to the 20 mph citywide limit that advocates are pushing for. “I don’t think the answer is necessarily written in stone,” Trottenberg replied, adding that she would work with the council to come up with a final speed limit the city will pursue through legislation in Albany.
  • Council Member Mark Weprin argued that there needs to be a presumption of criminality if a driver crashes onto a sidewalk. NYPD Transportation Bureau Chief Thomas Chan said the department’s hands were tied by current law: “Unless we can determine other factors, where this individual might have a suspended license or he’s intoxicated,” he said, “It is difficult.” Chan added that state legislation upgrading sidewalk crashes to a misdemeanor would give the police more tools in this area, and Weprin said he would be interested in pursuing that.
  • Taxi and Limousine Commission COO Conan Freud said TLC has recently contracted with CUNY to update the taxi school program, which provides classroom training to yellow and green car drivers, to include information about bus and bike lanes, among other topics. TLC hopes to roll out the newly-revamped program this summer.
  • TLC will also provide new training for drivers involved in crashes. Freud said he hopes to require drivers who have been in serious crashes to take an on-road driving course, as well.
  • Inside cabs, TLC will be adding street safety PSAs to Taxi TV and will install stickers visible to drivers that remind them of the dangers of left turns.

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