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Two Weeks Until The Streets Ball — Get Your Tickets Today

If you haven’t bought your tickets to the annual benefit for Streetsblog and Streetfilms on October 23, there’s no time like the present. Come join us at The Streets Ball and support media that makes a difference. Tickets start at just $50 ($25 for students).

We’ll be honoring the work of former DOT policy director Jon Orcutt and Families for Safe Streets — heroes of the movement to reshape city streets to prioritize people, not cars. All proceeds go directly to the production of Streetsblog reporting and Streetfilms videos — high-impact media that captures the imagination, commands the attention of public officials, galvanizes grassroots activism for livable streets, and catalyzes real policy change.

Our events team has put together a wonderful evening at the Invisible Dog, an arts space on Bergen Street right off the F/G train. We’ll have food from Kickshaw Cookery, beer and wine, live music, and a silent auction with a little bit of everything.

What really makes The Streets Ball special is the crowd and the community that comes together to take stock of the year behind us and get ready for the year ahead. Join us on the 23rd and help keep Streetsblog and Streetfilms going strong.

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Flushing to Jamaica SBS Community Workshop

Join the NYC Department of Transportation and the MTA for an interactive workshop to discuss surface transit needs and challenges in and between Flushing and Jamaica. Participants will have the opportunity to learn about Select Bus Service and share ideas to improve transit between the two downtowns.

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Queens Community Board 5 Transportation Committee Meeting

The agenda includes discussion and recommendations regarding Move NY proposals, “Faster. Safer. Fairer.”; discussion of current local freight rail issues; capital project updates on the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge, the Kosciuszko Bride Project, the 69th Street and Calamus Avenue Sewer Projects, and upcoming plaza projects; and review of traffic safety issues and requests.

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Join Us for The Streets Ball 2014 on October 23

StreetsBall2014

Save the date — our annual benefit, The Streets Ball, is happening October 23 and tickets are on sale now, starting at just $50 ($25 for students). The Streets Ball is a great time to connect with other New Yorkers who care about livable streets, mark this year’s advocacy successes, and support the work we do here at Streetsblog and Streetfilms so we can keep on making powerful media in 2015.

We’ll be honoring former NYC DOT policy director Jon Orcutt and Families For Safe Streets. Orcutt’s career spans advocacy and government, and he played a leading role in setting the agenda for street reforms under both Janette Sadik-Khan and Polly Trottenberg at NYC DOT. Families For Safe Streets is a powerful new force at City Hall and Albany, whose message helped pass multiple pieces of legislation this year, including the new 25 mph speed limit.

Come join us in recognizing their contributions to New York City streets on October 23. We’ll have great food from Kickshaw Cookery, live music, beer and wine, all in a fantastic space — the Invisible Dog, right off the Bergen Street stop on the F and G trains. Our event team has put together a wonderful evening and on behalf of the Streetsblog and Streetfilms crew, we’d love to see you there!

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The Link Between Northeast Ohio’s Flooding and Its Sprawl

As Cuyahoga County has sprawled since 1948, with roughly the same population now covering nearly four times the land area, it’s become more susceptible to flooding. Map: Cuyahoga County Planning Commission via Tim Kovach

After a string of major flooding events, residents of Northeast Ohio are looking for someone to blame, reports Tim Kovach. Are local governments at fault for the property damage from these floods? Or should residents, as a great poet once said, blame it on the rain?

Neither question really gets to the heart of the matter, says Kovach. If Northeast Ohio hadn’t spent the last 60 years spreading out ever farther, covering huge areas with impermeable pavement and developing every last inch of land, then the region would be much more resilient in the face of torrential storms, he writes:

…a recent study out of the University of Utah suggests that from 2000-2010, the Cleveland metro area became even more sprawling (PDF). Using Smart Growth America’s sprawl index, the authors examined the rate of change for the 162 largest metro areas (paywalled) during this period. While Akron actually became 2.7% more compact, Cleveland sprawled by another 13.3%, the 10th worst change of any metro area…

So why does this all matter for flooding? Well, simply put, areas that follow sprawl-based development models are more likely to suffer from flooding problems. Sprawl increases the percentage of land area that is covered with impervious surfaces, such as parking lots, roads, and driveways. As the extent of impervious surfaces rises, so too does the amount of precipitation that winds up as surface runoff during storms. Forested areas are excellent at controlling stormwater (PDF); trees enable 50% of precipitation to infiltrate the soil and allow another 40% to return to the atmosphere through evapotranspiration. Urbanized areas, in contrast, drastically reduce the amount of water that can infiltrate into the soil, guaranteeing that 35-55% of precipitation ends up as runoff.

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Brooklyn Community Board 3 Transportation Committee Meeting

Brooklyn CB3’s Transportation, Sanitation & Environment Committee kicks off its 2014-2015 session.  The agenda is TBD.

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Time’s Up: 6 Things to Know About Today’s Transpo Showdown

Today is the House of Representatives’ last day in session before departing for an August recess full of photo ops and electioneering in their districts. The Senate will stick around DC for one more day before going home. Before that happens, the two houses have to come together on a plan to keep the Highway Trust Fund going. If not, U.S. DOT will have to take drastic measures.

Republican Sen. Bob Corker disagrees with the House GOP on when the bill should expire and how to pay for a new one.

Republican Sen. Bob Corker disagrees with the House GOP on when the bill should expire and how to pay for a new one.

Both the House and the Senate have voted on not entirely dissimilar plans to keep the fund going. But the differences between them have set up a high-stakes showdown that has to be resolved by tomorrow.

Here are the key points:

  1. The timing: The House voted down the Senate bill this afternoon. Now they’ll leave town, meaning the Senate can either cave or be blamed as the Highway Trust Fund goes dry before August recess ends and transportation works grind to a halt. Meanwhile, Sec. Anthony Foxx has warned state DOTs that federal payments will slow down August 1 — that’s tomorrow — if Congress doesn’t take action to keep the Fund from going insolvent.
  2. The numbers: The House is gloating that the Senate’s bill contains a $2 billion technical error — which is true; it comes up with just $6.2 billion of the $8.1 billion needed — but Senate Democrats say it can be easily fixed.
  3. The urgency: Since summer is the high season for construction, the real pressure on the Highway Trust Fund is between now and the end of the year, when states will need to get reimbursed for the work that’s going on now. That’s why there’s not a huge monetary difference between the House proposal that lasts till May and the Senate proposal that ends in December. There’s just not a lot of cash going out the door at U.S. DOT between January and May.
  4. The conflict: The House and Senate disagree on what budget gimmicks to use to “pay for” the transfer into the trust fund, but more fundamentally they disagree about how long the patch should be. As we’ve reported before, Boxer prefers a December deadline, saying it’s unfair for this Congress to fail to fix a problem that occurred on its watch and instead kick it to the next Congress. What she means is that she wants her six-year bill to pass and that won’t happen after the end of this year if the GOP wins a majority in the Senate and she loses the chairmanship of the EPW Committee. That’s precisely why the House is gunning for a May deadline.
  5. The breakdown: The Senate Republicans aren’t as enthusiastic as the House about having to take this up when they’re in charge. Thirteen Rs joined the Ds in pushing for a December sunset, including Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who wants to raise the gas tax and be done already. “Wouldn’t it be great to finish 2014 actually solving one issue; taking one issue off the plate next year?” he said yesterday at a WSJ press breakfast. Only one Democrat, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, voted no on Boxer’s date-change amendment. Notably, David Vitter, the ranking member on the EPW Committee, who has shown great bipartisan unity with Boxer, broke with her on this and voted to essentially flush their six-year-bill down the toilet. His predecessor, James Inhofe, voted in favor of Boxer’s December 19 deadline.
  6. The fallout: If the GOP does win the Senate in 2014, the conventional wisdom says they’ll lose it again in 2016. Will the Republicans really want to take on a tax increase of any kind during the only two years when they’ll get the lion’s share of the blame? Of course not. The prognosis is that if there’s no long-term bill this term, it’ll be another three years. Three more years of patchwork funding gimmicks is nothing to look forward to.
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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.

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