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Will Milwaukee Fall for the Convention Center Shakedown?

Milwaukee's Convention Center has seen healthy growth in recent years. But a new study says it's not good enough. Photo: Urban Milwaukee

A consultant recommended that the way to fix dead zones near the Milwaukee Convention Center is to subsidize a bigger convention center. Photo: Urban Milwaukee

This is how it begins: Local leaders in Milwaukee commissioned a study examining whether the city’s convention center is up to snuff. Surprise, surprise, reports Bruce Murphy at Urban Milwaukee: Hunden Strategic Partners, a consulting firm that loves convention centers, says Milwaukee really ought to be pumping a bunch of public money into expanding its convention facilities and a new arena for its NBA franchise, the Bucks. Oh, and a large publicly subsidized hotel wouldn’t hurt either. This is the same outfit that did the study for Kansas City’s Power and Light District, which has turned into a notorious money pit for the city.

Does Milwaukee really need to double the size of its convention center and chip in for a 1,000-room hotel? Murphy does a good job highlighting some weaknesses in the report:

“The cost and investment of keeping the Bucks is one worth working hard for, as the loss of a team can be devastating to the downtown economy,” Hunden warns, but offers no evidence whatsoever of this contention. The clear consensus among economists is that there is no economic spinoff from such investments, and Hunden never addresses this.

As for the need to increase the convention center, its own data undercuts that recommendation. For starters, the study finds Milwaukee’s convention attendance has increased by nearly 130 percent between 2007 and 2014, while convention hotel room nights increased 26 percent during the same period. So the convention center has done pretty well in recent years.

As for what a bigger convention center might accomplish, the study’s analysis of the Wisconsin Center “suggests that the convention-generated business downtown is minimal. The sales generated by those coming downtown from the suburbs (and beyond) for major events, especially during the summer, is a significant impact on downtown.”

In short, the convention center is not bringing much business downtown. So why should the city invest more money in it?

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De Blasio NYCHA Proposal: More Space for People, Less Subsidized Parking

Mayor de Blasio’s plan to stabilize the finances of the New York City Housing Authority includes higher, but still subsidized, parking fees and a promise to develop a mix of market-rate and affordable housing on under-utilized property, including parking lots.

A conceptual plan for East River Houses would replace parking with new housing and retail. Image: NYCHA [PDF]

A concept for East River Houses would replace parking with new housing and retail. Image: NYCHA [PDF]

The mayor announced that the city will be developing new housing on NYCHA property. De Blasio took pains to distinguish the levels of subsidized housing in his proposal from an un-implemented Bloomberg administration proposal to develop housing on NYCHA property in Manhattan.

The new development plan would build 10,000 units in buildings where all residences would have below-market rents, plus about 7,000 residences in buildings that would be a 50-50 mix of market-rate and below-market units.

It’s an open question, however, exactly which NYCHA properties will be the site of new development. De Blasio said the city will begin announcing development sites in September. The New York Times reported that the first sites would be at Van Dyke and Ingersoll houses in Brooklyn and Mill Brook Houses in the Bronx.

The authority says the developments would “transform underutilized NYCHA-owned property,” including parking lots and other street-facing parcels like trash or storage areas, over the next 10 years. Parking lots are particularly promising, since they cover more than 467 acres of NYCHA property, according to a parking reform study prepared for the Institute for Public Architecture last year.

The Bloomberg administration’s development plan would have replaced any parking removed to make way for new housing. The de Blasio administration has not yet replied to a question asking if that will be the case with its plan.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Rory Lancman Explains Why He Wants to Hinder NYPD Crash Investigations
  • LICH Developers Try to Appease Apoplectic Cobble Hill Locals With Parking (Bklyn Paper, DNA)
  • Cyclists Say More People Would Bike the Bronx If Streets Were Safer (City Limits)
  • WNYC Explains Why It Will Be Years Before MTA Implements Positive Train Control
  • Lancman: Toll Reform a Bad Idea Because Drivers Have Different Incomes (QChron via SB)
  • NJ Transit Moves Seating Away From Penn Station Waiting Area, Baffling Commuters (Voice)
  • Evgeny Friedman, Who Wanted City Bailout, Avoids Foreclosure on Taxi Medallions (Post)
  • Cab Drivers Collide, Overturn Taxi Near LaGuardia; Three Injured (News)
  • Amazon Is Using the Subway and Bikes for Manhattan Deliveries (Gizmodo, Consumerist)
  • Daily News Editorial Board Says What All New Yorkers Are Thinking

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Rory Lancman Will Introduce Bill to Hamstring NYPD Crash Investigators

City Council Member Rory Lancman thinks NYPD is playing fast and loose with the Right of Way Law, and he’ll soon introduce a bill that would make it more difficult for police to apply it.

Rory Lancman

A key facet of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative, the Right of Way Law allows NYPD to file misdemeanor charges against drivers who harm people who are walking and biking with the right of way. Lancman voted for the law, but has complained that NYPD uses it too often.

Motorists have injured or killed over 8,000 pedestrians and cyclists since the Right of Way Law took effect last August. As of April, NYPD had applied the law 22 times. As of now virtually all cases resulting in Right of Way Law charges were worked by the Collision Investigation Squad, which is trained to investigate serious traffic crashes.

In an email to fellow council members today, Lancman called on them to sponsor a Right of Way Law amendment that would place additional burdens on NYPD crash investigators, and create loopholes for motorists who harm people who are following traffic rules.

Wrote Lancman:

[I]t is unclear whether the police department is conducting a “due care” analysis before deciding to arrest and charge drivers with a misdemeanor, or what factors are incorporated into such a “due care” analysis. Indeed, the Transport Workers Union has filed a lawsuit to declare the law unconstitutional and unenforceable in part because of this ambiguity.

This amendment clarifies the meaning of “failure to use due care” by requiring the police department to consider visibility, illumination, weather conditions, roadway conditions, and roadway design as well as whether the pedestrian was in violation of any vehicle and traffic laws at the time of the accident.

Adding a provision to the bill to require an analysis of due care will penalize drivers who hit pedestrians out of recklessness and gross negligence, while sparing drivers when accidents are caused by poor road conditions, bad weather and scofflaw pedestrians.

NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan has explained publicly that the department files charges under the Right of Way Law only when probable cause can be determined based on evidence. Given the number of pedestrian and cyclist injuries and deaths since the law was adopted, if anything it seems NYPD is exercising excessive restraint in applying the law.

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Can LA Make “Great Streets” If the Mayor Won’t Stand Up for Good Design?

This plan for the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge was preferred by neighborhood residents. But the city capitulated to a more status quo design. Photo: KCET via Los Angeles Walks

Residents preferred this plan for the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge across the Los Angeles River, with bike lanes, sidewalks, and a road diet, but appointees of Mayor Eric Garcetti opted for more space for traffic instead. Image via Los Angeles Walks

Los Angeles, with its expanding transit network, is supposed to be in the process of shedding its cocoon of car-centricity and emerging, in the words of a recent Fast Company headline, as America’s “next great walkable city.” The city’s streets, however, didn’t change a whole lot under former mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. When Eric Garcetti was elected mayor in 2013, advocates thought he could provide the leadership to finally prioritize walking, biking, and transit on LA’s streets.

And Garcetti got off to a great start. He chose Seleta Reynolds, a standout from the San Francisco MTA’s Livable Streets program, to lead LADOT. The city retained groundbreaking former New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan to help shape its Great Streets strategic plan. The city is expected to adopt a Vision Zero policy in just a few weeks.

Garcetti himself has said, “As city leaders, we need the backbone to make the bold changes necessary to build great streets.” But the mayor’s failure to go to bat for a pedestrian-friendly redesign of the critical Glendale-Hyperion Bridge calls into question the strength of his commitment to changing streets — and with it, Los Angeles’s potential to become a walkable, bikeable, transit-rich city.

Last week, the city’s Public Works Board, whose members are all appointed by the mayor, rejected the bridge design that neighborhood advocates favor. That design, reported Streetsblog LA, would have repurposed one motor vehicle lane to create safe access for walking and biking on both sides of the bridge. The mayoral appointees, bowing to pressure from City Council members Mitch O’Farrell and Tom LaBonge, went a different route, voting for a design that preserves all the car lanes while removing an existing sidewalk from one side of the bridge.

About 1,200 people had signed a petition supporting the proposal with bike lanes and sidewalks on both sides of the bridge, as had dozens of businesses, nearby schools, and the neighborhood councils in two of the three surrounding districts. Traffic studies showed that reducing the road to three lanes wouldn’t affect car congestion significantly. But the Public Works Board voted for a proposal that maintains four traffic lanes and leaves pedestrians with just one sidewalk — and a long, uncomfortable detour.

Advocates did not expect a decision so soon. LaBonge is at the end of his tenure in the council, and the leading candidates vying for his seat favor the more pedestrian- and bike-friendly design. With elections this week, the local politics were guaranteed to shift in favor of the better design in a matter of days. Instead, Garcetti’s appointees rushed through a decision the week before the election.

Read more…

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Just in Time for Summer, Two Big Detours on the Hudson River Greenway

This detour, between 59th and 63rd streets, will last until the end of August so DOT can repaint the highway viaduct.

One of New York’s busiest bicycle routes has been interrupted this summer by two detours where the city is asking riders to dismount and walk for blocks.

Both work zones cropped up last week without any signage explaining why they were installed or how long they would last. A tipster who asked to remain anonymous reported the detours to Streetsblog, and here are the explanations we got from city agencies.

This detour

This detour at the 79th Street Boat Basin will return for a few months starting in June.

The first detour is from DOT, which says it is painting the Joe DiMaggio Highway viaduct between 59th and 63rd streets. Crews will intermittently close the bikeway between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. on weekdays, and cyclists will be directed to the pedestrian path along the river, where they must dismount and walk. DOT said it expects to finish work by the end of August. Observing the detour will add several minutes to bike trips on this stretch of the greenway.

The dismount zone is right next to one of the worst pinch points on the greenway, a section that’s been narrowed to accommodate construction work by the Department of Sanitation at 59th Street. Greenway cyclists will be able to bypass the Sanitation project once a newly-built segment by the water opens to the public.

The second detour is from the Parks Department, which is repairing Dock A at the 79th Street Boat Basin after damage from Hurricane Sandy. The Esplanade is closed entirely, with greenway users directed to the traffic circle by the Boat Basin Café.

That detour first popped up last week, but work has now been postponed until June, said Parks Department spokesperson Sabirah Abdus-Sabur. Construction should last for a few months, depending on weather.

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NYPD: No Charges for Collision That Killed Man on Hell’s Kitchen Sidewalk

Victor Grant was killed on the sidewalk after two drivers collided on 11th Avenue at 42nd Street. No charges were filed. Image: NY1

Victor Grant was killed on the sidewalk after two drivers collided on 11th Avenue at 42nd Street. No charges were filed. Image: NY1

NYPD filed no charges after a vehicle collision that resulted in the death of a man who was walking on a sidewalk in Hell’s Kitchen.

Last Friday at approximately 9:45 p.m., 56-year-old Victor Grant was walking on 11th Avenue just south of W. 42nd Street when the drivers of a GMC SUV and a FedEx Freightliner truck collided on the avenue, according to reports. The SUV driver then jumped the curb, pinning Grant beneath the truck, the Daily News reported.

The crash occurred outside a FedEx facility located on the southeast corner of the intersection. Photos published by the Daily News show the SUV on the sidewalk next to the building, with a toppled fire hydrant on the street. It is unknown if the FedEx driver was en route to or from the FedEx building.

Grant, who lived in the Bronx, was pronounced dead at Bellevue Hospital, according to News 12. No charges were filed against either driver by NYPD or Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.

The Post reported that both drivers passed a Breathalyzer test at the scene, but media accounts did not mention driver speed, which was likely a factor in the crash. A woman interviewed by NY1 said the intersection of 11th Avenue and 42nd Street, in the theater district, is “very dangerous, especially at night.”

As of April, officers from the 10th Precinct, where the crash occurred, had issued just 31 speeding tickets in 2015. The precinct didn’t cite a single driver for speeding last month.

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Like Great Transit, a Compact City Gives People Freedom

The Congress for New Urbanism has posted a video of Jarrett Walker (of Human Transit fame) delivering a new presentation, “Learning the Language of Transit.” There’s a passage where Walker frames transit as not simply a mode of transportation, but a means to access your city and, ultimately, the freedom and opportunity to do the things you want.

Inspired by Walker’s talk, Dan Keshet at Network blog Austin on Your Feet says the same rationale applies to building a compact city:

Access here is the stuff of life. Can I get to that job interview on time? Can I get home from work in time to see a movie? Can I meet my friends for dinner? Does this okcupid match live close enough to make dating possible? When my daughter asks to play on the traveling soccer team, can she get to practice?

The context of Walker’s talk is public transportation network design. But access is just as much an issue in land use — what buildings, parks, roads, etc get built where. Whether you’re driving, riding, walking, biking, ubering, or whatever, the basic fact is that you can reach more destinations in the same amount of time when those destinations are close together. And more destinations means more opportunities — whether that’s opportunities to work, to learn, to shop, or to meet people. This was the basic lesson I took from living my own life in different parts of Boston.

This shouldn’t be a complicated or counterintuitive concept. Even with a car, traveling from one end of Austin to another is already quite a daunting trip to make more than occasionally. The more people Austin gets, the more destinations there will be — economic, cultural, or otherwise. But the more we spread out, the less access new and old residents will have to each other and to the destinations we create. We are foreclosing options by where we build.

Elsewhere on the Network: Systemic Failure shares five factoids from the IMF about the staggering scale of global fossil fuel subsidies — $5 trillion annually. And the Wash Cycle has some ideas about Capital Bikeshare can get subscribers to rebalance bikes.

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Today’s Headlines

  • $1.3 Billion Bailout Keeps Thruway From Adding More Debt or Tolls (TU, Capital, LoHud, Bloomberg)
  • De Blasio’s NYCHA Plan Includes New Development, Higher Parking Fees (WSJ, NYT)
  • Driver Leaving Gas Station Injures 3-Year-Old on Sidewalk; No Charges (Post)
  • Port Authority Police Officers Crash Into SUV and Lightpole in Gramercy (WNBC)
  • De Blasio Administration Wants City Council to Rewrite Law Banning Motorized Pedicabs (Post)
  • MTA Shortens Station Announcements, Adds Staff to Crowded Platforms (WNYC, DNA)
  • Nicole Garcia Named DOT’s New Queens Borough Commissioner (TL)
  • Far West Side Residential Development Pushes Car Dealerships From 11th Avenue (Observer)
  • 10-Story Apartment Building to Replace Gas Station on Fulton Street in Bed-Stuy (YIMBY)
  • MTA Uses 8-Bit Aesthetic to Explain Train Delays (Gothamist, Curbed, Brokelyn)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Cabbie Faces Right of Way Charges for Critically Injuring Midtown Pedestrian

Image: NY1

Image: NY1

Taxi driver Babul Miah, 29, faces charges under the city’s Right of Way Law after critically injuring a 20-year-old woman who was in the crosswalk at Eighth Avenue and West 57th Street on Saturday at approximately 5:30 p.m.

The woman, who was not identified by police, was crossing 57th Street from south to north on the east side of Eighth Avenue when Miah, driving north on Eighth Avenue, struck her while turning right onto 57th Street, according to NYPD. He then crashed into a payphone on the sidewalk. The woman was taken to Weill Cornell Medical Center in critical condition and is “likely to die,” police officials told the Daily News.

“It was hectic. It was just hectic. Everybody was mad because it was so much people,” a witness told NY1. “Her boyfriend, the people who was watching it, was like, ‘Could you stop, stop, stop.'”

Miah was charged with failure to exercise due care and failure to yield to a pedestrian, misdemeanor charges under the city’s Right of Way Law. His hack license was “immediately suspended” under Cooper’s Law, the Taxi and Limousine Commission told Streetsblog.

Miah is new to taxi driving. He was issued a hack license in April and was still in a probationary period, allowing the TLC to take “more aggressive actions,” including automatic revocation of a license [PDF]. TLC has not yet taken any action other than suspending Miah’s license.

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