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Eyes on the Street: Carving Up Morningside Avenue for a Road Diet

After a breakthrough vote from Community Board 10 in May, DOT crews are out remaking 10 blocks of Morningside Avenue as a safer, calmer neighborhood street. This morning, @SteveMiami captured this circular saw operator at what looks like the moment of incision — the asphalt will be cut away to make room for a concrete pedestrian island.

An earlier photo of a pedestrian island outline from Transportation Alternatives’ Tom DeVito gives a nice sense of scale:

The Morningside project will trim the four-lane speedway down to two lanes plus center-median turn bays [PDF]. Pedestrian islands will be installed at four intersections where people cross the street to access Morningside Park entrances, and there will be several painted sidewalk extensions to demarcate expansions of pedestrian space.

Neighborhood residents had requested action from the city to tame dangerous speeding on Morningside, but the plan almost didn’t make it through the gauntlet of Community Boards 9 and 10. The May vote in favor of the project followed nine months of waffling.

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July 25: Meet NYC’s New Ultimate Utility Bike + Benefit Streetsblog

bike_design_project

Come out to DUMBO next Friday for a bike design party where all proceeds from beer sales will benefit Streetsblog and Streetfilms.

The new bike at the center of the party is the NYC entrant in Oregon Manifest’s 2014 Bike Design Project. Allow me to explain a bit more: The non-profit Oregon Manifest is putting on a bike design competition, inviting teams from five different cities to design the best urban utility bike they can. The winner will be decided via online voting and could get a production contract with Fuji (here are the criteria for the competition).

At the DUMBO Loft next Friday, you can get up close and personal with the prototype from NYC-based design firm PENSA and Horse Cycles. Plus, you can feel really good about visiting the bar repeatedly, because all beer sales will be donated to Streetsblog and Streetfilms.

We’re looking for a few good volunteers who can help out at the event. If you’d like to donate your time, email Kelly Donohue with the subject “bike party.”

The venue is a special landmark in NYC livable streets history — it’s right next to the Pearl Street Triangle, one of the first parking-to-public-space conversions in the NYC DOT plaza program. Here’s where to go:

The Dumbo Loft & Dumbo Triangle
155 Water Street

6 – 9 p.m.

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Cuomo Panel Approves Clean Water Funds for Highway Bridge Construction

Earlier today, the state Environmental Facilities Corporation unanimously approved a $511 million loan from the state’s federally-funded clean water program to the Tappan Zee Bridge construction project, using funds intended for clean water initiatives in New York City.

The state says this is an estuary protection project worthy of low-interest clean water funds. Image: Thruway Authority

In its press release, the board of Cuomo appointees said the loan, which will help the Thruway Authority save at least $17 million over three years, will go to pay for projects that mitigate the negative impact of the highway and “will help keep tolls on the new bridge as low as possible.”

The state says the highway qualifies for the loan — half of which is low-interest, the other half interest-free — because it is an estuary protection project that helps implement an EPA-approved estuary plan. The state claims the Tappan Zee project helps implement an estuary plan dating from 1996 focused on New York Harbor. While the bridge is just outside the plan’s core area, it does fall within its “watershed-based” boundaries.

Advocates aren’t buying it. According to their calculations, only $12.5 million of the $511 million loan would go to “genuine environmentally beneficial projects,” all of which the state agreed to as part of mitigation for the highway. In addition, the Tappan Zee environmental impact statement, completed two years ago, never mentions the estuary plan once. If the bridge project is related to protecting the estuary, why was that never mentioned before the state set out to get a clean water loan?

Robert Pirani is program director for the New York-New Jersey Harbor and Estuary Program, the EPA-funded initiative that created the 1996 plan. “They’re not projects that are discussed in the comprehensive management plan,” he said of the Tappan Zee loan.

Pirani noted that it’s up to the state to determine whether its own highway qualifies for the clean water loan. “There’s a lot of stuff we just don’t know,” he said. “They need to justify to themselves that this is an appropriate use of the funding.”

Advocates are also worried that the state could snap its fingers and turn this loan into funding with no expectation of repayment.

Read more…

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Tell Marty Golden and Andrew Lanza the Lifesaving 25 MPH Bill Can’t Wait

Senators Marty Golden and Andrew Lanza need to hear from New Yorkers who want safer streets.

Senators Marty Golden and Andrew Lanza need to hear from New Yorkers who want safer streets. Photos: New York State Senate

If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to urge key Senate lawmakers to get behind the bill to lower New York City’s default speed limit from 30 to 25 miles per hour.

With just hours remaining in the current legislative session, it’s up to NYC’s two Senate Republicans, Marty Golden and Andrew Lanza, to convince Senate Co-Leader Dean Skelos to see this lifesaving bill passed. Neither Golden nor Lanza have responded to Streetsblog’s requests for comment, but Lanza told Capital New York today that his support for a lower NYC speed limit hinges on passage of a bill that would require stop signs near schools and increase fines for traffic violations in school zones.

While Lanza is horse-trading, Skelos is playing party politics. Senator Jeff Klein, who heads the Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference and shares power with Skelos, says he expects the speed limit bill to pass, but Skelos has declined to say if he will bring it to the floor for a vote. Skelos indicated yesterday that Mayor de Blasio’s efforts to secure Democratic control of the State Senate will factor into his decision.

Depending on what emerges from the Senate, the Assembly is likely to act on one of two bills: a duplicate of Klein’s Senate bill, or a different 25 mph bill sponsored by Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell. Each has the backing of Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Lanza and Golden need to hear from New Yorkers who want a lower, safer speed limit in NYC. When asked if she had a message for senators today about the 25 mph bill, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg focused on the public safety benefits. “For every five miles that you slow down the speed of a car, you have some pretty dramatic effects on what happens when you have a collision,” Trottenberg said. “Even a car going five miles slower — the driver has more reaction time, the impact is that much lighter, and you get a 10 to 20 percent reduction in fatalities. So it’s pretty important.”

Here is contact info for NYC’s Republican senators at their Albany offices:

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The Move NY Fair Tolling Plan Is Polling Better Than Congestion Pricing

Toll reform is polling better in New York City than congestion pricing did, even when pollsters don’t mention that the Move NY plan would mean billions in transit revenue.

Capital New York’s Dana Rubinstein reports

“Would you support or oppose a plan to charge tolls on the East River bridges, which go into Manhattan, and at the same time reduce tolls on the bridges between the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island?” a Quinnipiac University pollster asked New York City voters earlier this month.

The voters were divided, 49 percent against, 41 percent in favor.

Support fluctuated by borough — it was strongest in Staten Island and the Bronx — and was about the same among voters who drive to work (51-43 percent opposed) and those who take transit (49-42 percent opposed).

These are stronger numbers than congestion pricing got in 2007 and 2008. The proposal for a road charge below 60th Street in Manhattan during rush hours polled in the 30s, generally, when transit revenue was not mentioned. Pricing polled in the high 50s and low 60s when it was framed as a way to keep fares low.

The Move NY plan, developed by transportation consultant “Gridlock” Sam Schwartz, would establish a Central Business District cordon at 60th Street and add tolls to East River bridges, while tolls on outer-borough crossings would be reduced. The plan calls for removing the Manhattan parking tax rebate and adding a taxi trip surcharge. It would raise nearly $1.5 billion a year, with a quarter of revenue dedicated to road and bridge maintenance and the remainder to transit capital and operating funds.

Congestion pricing has risen in popularity in cities that have implemented it. Despite intense opposition beforehand, after three years 70 percent of Londoners said that city’s road pricing program was effective, and twice as many supported the charge as opposed it. Though it doesn’t yet have a champion in Albany, a coalition of interests, from the Straphangers Campaign to AAA New York, has coalesced behind the Move NY toll reform proposal. There’s room for its poll numbers to climb, if the upside for transit is part of the framing.

Here’s another figure for state lawmakers to consider: In 2007, 87 percent of voters said traffic congestion was a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem. This month it was essentially unchanged at 86 percent.

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Riders Alliance’s Volunteer Day for Transit Benefits

A New York City commuter who uses pre-tax transit benefits can save hundreds of dollars a year on public transportation. But riders can only take advantage of the tax break if it’s offered as a benefit by their employer.  Join us when we ask train and bus riders to sign our petition to Mayor De Blasio and Speaker Mark-Viverito asking them to pass the Affordable Transit Act, which would help hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers access this transit tax break by requiring employers of 20 or more people to offer the benefit to their staff.

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Manhattan Community Board 12 Transportation Committee Meeting

DOT will present of safety improvements at Saint Nicholas Place, West 155th Street, and Edgecombe Avenue.

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Calling All Streetsblog Superheroes: Sunday Is Your Last Chance to Give

Here we are with just a couple of days left in the Streetsblog spring pledge drive, and we’re two-thirds of the way to our goal of 400 donors. Every contribution makes a difference — please give what you can and support our coverage.

There’s a tremendous window of opportunity in New York right now to win safer streets and better transit, with momentum in both City Hall and Albany. By keeping New Yorkers informed and active on these issues — and by keeping public officials on their toes — Streetsblog makes the most of these chances. We rely on the support of our readers to produce our reporting and commentary, and the contributions we get during our pledge drives help keep us going the rest of the year.

Don’t forget, we also have two fabulous and useful items to give away to a couple of lucky donors. Your tax-deductible contribution before Sunday at midnight will put you in the running for a Cleverhood rain cape or a CINCH belt from Vespertine, available in one of three colors:

One final note: If you are feeling the guilt pangs of a regular Streetsblog reader who has yet to contribute, I suggest giving as soon as possible so you can fully enjoy the beautiful weekend.

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Time Is Running Out to Become a Streetsblog Superhero — Give Today

This is it! The final days and the final giveaway of our spring pledge drive. So far, 221 superheroes have donated to Streetsblog and Streetfilms. To reach our goal, we need 179 more readers to step up and give by Sunday at midnight.

If you’ve been holding out until the end of the pledge drive to make your mark (or just casually procrastinating), now’s the time to fill out our secure donation form and contribute to media that makes streets safer and more sustainable.

More to the point, if you value the impact of Streetsblog in your city, if you want to see more coverage making the case for 21st century transportation policies that work for people, not cars, if you value the way Streetfilms help great ideas for city streets go viral — your gift makes it all happen.

In keeping with the superhero theme of this pledge drive, our final giveaway will reward one lucky donor with an impervious cape and another with an eye-grabbing yet utilitarian belt. Give before midnight on June 1 and you’ll be entered to win a Cleverhood rain cape in Ocean State Blue, imparting the power of dry all-weather biking, or a reflective CINCH belt from Vespertine, which makes you extra-visible and is available in your choice of three colors:

Cleverhood_Vespertine

Big thanks everyone who’s contributed so far. One more big push and we’ll reach our goal.

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Streetsblog and Streetfilms Are Searching for a Development Director

After three stellar years with Streetsblog and Streetfilms, our development director Christa Orth is embarking on a new chapter with the fundraising consultancy Wingo. Christa masterminded the creation of a fundraising system essentially from scratch, and it’s safe to say Streetsblog and Streetfilms would not be in the position we are today without her. If you’ve ever attended one of our benefits or happy hours here in New York, you probably heard her ebullient laughter. We’re going to miss her and we wish her all the best.

We are now accepting applications for the development director position, which is based in our headquarters in New York. Here’s what we’re looking for in our next hire…

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Founded in 2006, Streetsblog and Streetfilms produce powerful media that makes the case for designing cities around people, not cars. With outlets in four major cities plus coverage of national policy, Streetsblog is the marquee news source in the movement for streets that work better for walking, biking, and transit. Streetfilms is the go-to online video site for educational and fun short films about how smart transportation policy results in better places to live, work, and play. Streetsblog and Streetfilms are projects of OpenPlans, a 501c3 non-profit organization.

Streetsblog and Streetfilms have a robust fundraising program supported by small donors, large donors, foundations, advertising, and corporate sponsorships. We seek an experienced development leader to work with our staff, board, and volunteers to grow our fundraising, so we can increase the impact of our media outlets.

Responsibilities

Working closely with the Streetsblog Editor-in-chief, the Development Director will be responsible for strategic planning, implementation, and oversight of all efforts to raise approximately $800,000 annually and grow additional support over time. Activities include:

  • Work with the Streetsblog and Streetfilms Advisory Board to grow our base of small and large donors
  • Identify prospective foundations, write grant proposals and reports, cultivate relationships with existing philanthropic supporters
  • Grow individual funding base through online fundraising campaigns, direct mail, and events
  • Solicit corporate sponsorships and manage corporate funding relationships
  • Oversee all events including our annual fall benefit, The Streets Ball (250+ attendees)
  • Write organizational materials including funding reports, appeals, and acknowledgments
  • Manage the Salesforce donor database, generate reports for finance reconciliation and budgeting
  • Supervise volunteers and other members of the development team

Qualifications

Qualified candidates have a bachelor’s degree and at least five years development experience, with demonstrated growth in responsibilities over time and a track record of raising funds from a number of sources. Must have experience working with major donors and managing an annual funding program. A passion for and understanding of livable streets issues is a plus.

Please send your resume and cover letter to developmentdirector@openplans.org. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, with the position to start by June 15th or earlier.