StreetsPAC's Testimony to City Council on Exclusive Commercial Waste Zones

StreetsPAC earlier today gave the following testimony at the New York City Council Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management's hearing on a bill that would remake the way commercial waste is collected in the city, with significant implications for improved street safety:

As advocates for improving the safety of the city’s streets, we support the passage of Intro 1574, which would adopt exclusive Commercial Waste Zones in New York City.

As the analysis conducted for the Department of Sanitation’s Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement made clear, an exclusive waste zone program will lead to the largest possible reduction in vehicle miles traveled by commercial waste haulers, reducing overall VMT by approximately 60% versus the current non-zoned system. That equates to a reduction of nearly three million vehicle miles traveled annually.

This is critically important from the standpoint of safety, since drivers of commercial-waste vehicles have killed more than two-dozen people on New York City’s streets over just the past five years. The current system, in which different carting companies drive routes that can crisscross the entire city, leads to some of the most reckless driving behaviors one can imagine: blatant running of red lights, wrong-way operation, backing up through intersections, and hazardous speeding. Anyone who’s walked a street late at night in the city has witnessed this firsthand.

But private sanitation drivers don’t set out to be a menace. That type of driving behavior is fed by the current dysfunctional system, in which overworked crews zigzag across the city in a nightly race to complete their haphazard, disjointed routes, frequently working 12- or 14-hour shifts. An exclusive zone system will greatly rationalize this current, dangerous mess.

Moreover, the reduction in VMT will be even more pronounced in the densest parts of the city. An exclusive-zone plan would reduce VMT in Midtown Manhattan by more than half versus a non-exclusive, multi-hauler arrangement.

This further reduction in VMT from an exclusive-zone system will provide important benefits aside from improved safety. Reduced VMT will mean better air quality and lower greenhouse-gas emissions, and the more streamlined routing of trucks will lead to reduced noise levels. Crucially, worker safety will also be optimized under an exclusive-zone system.

Finally, exclusive zones will require fewer trucks and less fuel, leading to significant cost savings for the commercial haulers awarded exclusive-zone contracts, savings that can be passed along to customers, helping to offset concerns about increased costs due to reduced competition – which the city can and must manage through better regulation.

The long-term stability created by an exclusive-zone system will best enable private haulers to amortize investments in newer, cleaner, and safer trucks and technology, thanks to the stable customer base, predictable revenue stream, and long-term, enforceable contract with New York City that such a plan will create. While we’re here today because of what an exclusive-zone system will mean for life and limb, these other benefits are substantial and meaningful.

We urge the Committee on Sanitation, and the full Council, to pass Intro 1574.

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Today: Vote Tiffany Cabán for Queens District Attorney!

Good morning! Today is the Democratic Primary Election for Queens District Attorney.

TiffanyCaban385x385.pngWe urge you to cast your vote for Tiffany Cabán, a young public defender who has pledged to change the way the Queens DA's office handles crash investigations and prosecutions, putting victims first while working to ensure that dangerous drivers are held accountable.

Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. You can confirm your polling site at voting.nyc. And you can hear about Tiffany's candidacy in her own words here.

Our full endorsement statement is below.

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Tiffany Cabán for Queens District Attorney

Competitive elections for District Attorney in New York City's five boroughs are rare events. Absent term limits, DAs tend to get re-elected many times over. Robert Morgenthau served as Manhattan District Attorney for 35 years before retiring at the end of 2009. Richard Brown, who served as Queens District Attorney for nearly 28 years, announced in March that he would step down, and subsequently passed away last month while still in office.

The end of Mr. Brown's long tenure as District Attorney presents Queens voters with an opportunity to elect a reformer who can reshape the office for the first time in a generation – including the ways in which it handles vehicular crimes. And when those voters go to the polls this coming Tuesday, we urge them to vote for Tiffany Cabán.

TiffanyCaban385x385.pngMs. Cabán, a 31-year-old public defender, is committed to reducing incarceration and to eliminating inequality in prosecutions. But she also understands that black and brown and economically disadvantaged communities are disproportionately the victims of traffic violence. She believes that victims of crashes are too often not empowered, not helped by DA's offices, and not supported with necessary access to social services, and she's determined to change that. Importantly, she points out that the current system does nothing to prevent harm to victims from happening again.

As a strong believer in restorative justice, Ms. Cabán has pledged to pursue creation of a Queens version of Brooklyn's Driver Accountability Program, the successful pilot effort run by the Brooklyn DA's office in conjunction with the Red Hook Community Justice Center and the Center for Court Innovation, which has shown promise for reducing dangerous-driving recidivism.

Ms. Cabán is also committed to establishing a Vehicular Crimes Unit within the Queens DA's office, with a special emphasis on helping victims. She believes that too often, police and prosecutors fail to bring charges in cases of vehicular crime, defaulting to the "Rule of Two" or failing to rigorously pursue available evidence. While she will always seek non-punitive means of delivering justice, she acknowledges that there are times when dangerous drivers must be taken off the street in order to keep the public safe.

Ms. Cabán will also appoint a dedicated liaison to work with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, to ensure use of best practices and to try to prevent traffic violence from happening in the first place.

As a career public defender with strong progressive credentials, Tiffany Cabán has the potential to remake the Queens DA's office and to tackle vehicular crime in a new and more effective way. We urge Queens voters to give her that chance. Please vote for Tiffany Cabán in the Democratic primary for Queens District Attorney on June 25th.

One final note: we want to recognize and commend the candidacy of Jose Nieves, an experienced prosecutor who has worked in the office of the New York State Attorney General and the Kings County District Attorney. Mr. Nieves shares Ms. Cabán's interest in changing the way the Queens DA's office handles vehicular crimes, and her belief in restorative justice. If elected, Ms. Cabán would do well to consider Mr. Nieves as a candidate to lead her Vehicular Crimes Unit.

To check your voting status, please visit voterlookup.elections.ny.gov, and to locate your polling site and see a sample ballot, please visit nyc.pollsitelocator.com.

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StreetsPAC's Testimony to City Council on a Transportation Master Plan and LPIs for Bikes

StreetsPAC earlier today gave the following testimony at the New York City Council Committee on Transportation's hearing on bills that would create a Transportation Master Plan, and authorize LPIs for bikes:

StreetsPAC strongly supports Intro 1557, which would require the Department of Transportation to issue and implement a master plan for use of the city’s streets, sidewalks and pedestrian spaces.

As City Council Speaker Corey Johnson underscored in the comprehensive “Let’s Go” report his office issued in March, the city too often takes the path of least resistance in implementing bicycle or pedestrian or transit projects. This is not meant as a criticism of NYCDOT; Commissioner Trottenberg and her teams are deeply committed to the safety and mobility of all New Yorkers. Politics, however, too often get in the way of their work.

While the Department is of course concerned about being held to arbitrary targets, we’re confident that NYCDOT and the Council can arrive at mutually agreed benchmarks that are both aggressive andachievable. And the simple fact is that we needtargets. The city’s Bicycle Master Plan has not been updated since it was issued in 1997. While we have of course expanded greatly on that plan, we still are far from the kind of fully connected and safe bike network the Speaker’s report envisions, and that a truly bike-friendly city requires.

Creating a master plan will also help insulate our progress on transportation from the vagaries of changing administrations. We’re falling behind major world cities that have more quickly recognized the importance of reducing car dependency, including Paris, London, Oslo and Barcelona, to name just a few. The future of New York City surely is not one in which cars will dominate our streets, and a master plan will help us get to that future more quickly, directly, and efficiently.

A master plan will also help us better integrate the many facets of our transportation network. There’s no good reason New Yorkers shouldn’t be able to transfer freely from a bus to a ferry, or a shared bicycle to a subway. And the fact that our transit system is not accessible to all New Yorkers, regardless of their mobility, is just not acceptable.

Additionally, a comprehensive plan will be critical to turning around our struggling bus system, which is in dire need of separated lanes, universal signal priority, streamlined routing, and all-door boarding. It will help us more quickly rationalize the way we treat the curbside, implement better parking and loading-zone policies, and accelerate the breaking of car culture. It will help improve the safety and mobility of all New Yorkers.

It is hugely important, however, that the City Council provide NYCDOT with the resources it will need to create, and adhere to, a transportation master plan. This is a mandate that cannot go unfunded. As the first line of the “Let’s Go” report states, transportation is the lifeblood of New York. We must ensure that we fund it as such.

StreetsPAC fully and unequivocally supports Intro 1457, which would permit a person riding a bicycle to proceed on a green leading pedestrian interval, or LPI signal, at an intersection. The 50-intersection pilot program for the LPI-for-bikes effort has been a complete success, and we urge quick passage and implementation of the bill. It will improve safety for people riding bikes, without compromising safety for anyone else. Let’s roll it out citywide as soon as possible.

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StreetsPAC's Testimony to City Council BQX Task Force

StreetsPAC gave the following testimony today to the New York City Council's Task Force on the BQX, the proposed Brooklyn-Queens Connector streetcar line:

In general, enhancements to public transportation are things that we should embrace as a city. New transit lines that enhance connectivity and provide service to areas that have been underserved by existing systems have the potential to greatly improve people’s lives.

So we’d like to sit here today and welcome the proposed BQX with open arms, but there are a number of reasons for concern.

The cost of building the BQX will be significant, and it’s easy to argue that parallel bus service, which would offer equal or superior transit performance, could be implemented far more cheaply, and more quickly as well. Most new streetcar projects built across the country during the past decade, however, have been constructed primarily to enhance economic development, rather than as robust additions to local transit networks. The costs tend to be borne widely, while the benefits accrue much more narrowly.

It’s also easy to argue that investments in transit would have much greater return if directed toward improving the city’s struggling bus network, building protected bus lanes, speeding up the implementation of signal priority and off-board, all-door boarding, and the like.

Most importantly, there are two essential features critical to the BQX’s success, and without ironclad commitments to those features, the project should not proceed.

The first is fare integration with the existing New York City Transit system. If the BQX is to serve as a pathway to economic opportunity for those neighborhoods along the planned route, it must offer seamless and free transfers to and from intersecting subway and bus lines. Requiring people to pay a second fare to connect to other transit options will create a barrier that those most in need won’t be able to afford, and will render the BQX a streetcar line serving mostly affluent riders.

The second key element required for the BQX to succeed is 100% dedicated right-of-way along the entirety of the route. Where streetcars have failed, it has been principally due to incursion by drivers into the path of streetcars. We all know far too well New York drivers’ propensity to double-park with impunity; to think that somehow that won’t happen along a streetcar route is pure folly. Right-of-way cannot be enforced; it must be created and maintained structurally. And without completely dedicated right-of-way, the BQX will be doomed to failure.

We urge the task force to mandate fare integration and exclusive right-of-way if the BQX project is to move forward.

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Bike to City Hall with the City Council's Progressive Caucus this Wednesday!

This Wednesday, May 22nd, please join us to celebrate Bike Month as we team up with the New York City Council's Progressive Caucus, Transportation Alternatives, and other advocacy groups for our 6th Annual Bike to Work event.

BiketoWork2019.pngThere will be three main feeder rides, one convening at the corner of Skillman Avenue and 43rd Street in Queens at 7:30 a.m., another meeting up on the plaza behind Brooklyn Borough Hall at 8:00 a.m., and a third gathering on the 14th Street steps at Union Square in Manhattan at 8:30 a.m. The rides will converge at City Hall for a rally at 9:00 a.m.

Additionally, there are two organized "rides to the rides." On Manhattan's Upper East Side, join Council Member Ben Kallos at his district office, at 244 East 93rd Street, between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, at 7:15 a.m., for a ride to Union Square.

In Brooklyn, you can join a group riding from Grand Army Plaza to Borough Hall. Meet up and be ready to go by 7:30 a.m.

Please join us, along with partner organizations Transportation Alternatives, Bike New York, Get Women Cycling, and Citi Bike, for this fun, casual ride, and the chance to bike with some of the City Council's leading voices for safer streets, including Antonio Reynoso, Brad Lander, Ben Kallos and Helen Rosenthal.

Please RSVP at http://tinyurl.com/BiketoWorkPC so we have a sense of how many riders to expect, and if you don't have your own wheels, you can request a Citi Bike with your RSVP.

As of right now, the weather forecast for Wednesday predicts bright, sunny skies and a high of 72° – in other words, perfect cycling weather. Be there!

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Huge Speed-Camera Expansion Becomes Law; Bike to City Hall with us May 22nd

Cuomo Signs Speed-Camera Expansion into Law

Yesterday, in a symbolic Mother's Day nod to the Families for Safe Streets moms who played an instrumental role in advocating for it, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a major expansion of New York City's speed-camera program. The legislation, which was sponsored by Deborah Glick in the State Assembly and StreetsPAC endorsee Andrew Gounardes in the State Senate, authorizes the city to deploy up to 750 school-zone speed cameras – enough, according to the Department of Transportation, to cover virtually every school in the five boroughs.

The full complement of cameras will roll out over the next three years, with the first new cameras targeting schools with demonstrated speeding and crash problems, according to a report in the New York Post.

CuomoSpeedCameraExpansion.jpg

That Governor Cuomo had a bill to sign is yet another testament to how much elections matter. The city's life-saving school-zone camera program was allowed to lapse last year, when then-State Senator Marty Golden and then-State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan blocked action on legislation that would have extended the program. Flanagan was Majority Leader only because of the complicity of several Democratic Senators who caucused with Republicans under the moniker of the Independent Democratic Conference, or IDC. Most of the IDC members were defeated at the polls last year, several of them losing to candidates endorsed by StreetsPAC.

And in the most important contested State Senate race last November, we endorsed Gounardes against Golden, an eight-term incumbent who had never faced strong opposition. Gounardes won by a little more than 1,000 votes in a tight race in which StreetsPAC volunteers knocked on about 5,000 doors. It's not hyperbolic to say that without that effort, coupled with the push to topple the IDC, this expansion of the speed-camera program would not have happened.

We want to thank our indispensable volunteers and donors, the selfless members of Families for Safe Streets, Transportation Alternatives, and of course, Senator Gounardes, Assemblymember Glick, and Governor Cuomo, for this tremendous step forward. We're immensely proud to have played a role in making our city's streets safer for everyone.

Join Us May 22nd to Bike to Work with the City Council's Progressive Caucus!

Next Wednesday, May 22nd, please join us to celebrate Bike Month as we team up with the New York City Council's Progressive Caucus, Transportation Alternatives, and other advocacy groups for our 6th Annual Bike to Work event.

BiketoWork2019.pngThere are three main feeder rides, one convening at the corner of Skillman Avenue and 43rd Street in Queens at 7:30 a.m., another meeting up on the plaza behind Brooklyn Borough Hall at 8:00 a.m., and a third gathering on the 14th Street steps at Union Square in Manhattan at 8:30 a.m. The rides will converge at City Hall for a rally at 9:00 a.m.

In addition, there are a couple of "rides to the rides." On Manhattan's Upper East Side, join Council Member Ben Kallos at his district office, at 244 East 93rd Street, between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, at 7:15 a.m., for a ride to Union Square.

And in Brooklyn, there will be a group riding from Grand Army Plaza to Borough Hall. Meet up and be ready to ride by 7:30 a.m.

Please join us, along with partner organizations Transportation Alternatives, Bike New York, Get Women Cycling, and Citi Bike, for this fun, casual ride, and the chance to bike with some of the City Council's leading voices for safer streets, including Antonio Reynoso, Brad Lander, Ben Kallos and Helen Rosenthal.

Please RSVP at http://tinyurl.com/BiketoWorkPC so we have a sense of how many riders to expect, and if you don't have your own wheels, you can request a Citi Bike with your RSVP.

Let's roll! See you on May 22nd!

Photo: Kevin P. Coughlin, NY Daily News

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No foolin'! Congestion pricing coming to NYC!

In the wee hours in Albany this morning, the New York State Senate and Assembly passed a $175 billion budget that lays the groundwork for a congestion-pricing effort for New York City.

While quite a few details need to be worked out over the coming months, beginning in 2021, drivers will pay a toll to enter Manhattan south of 60th Street, creating a significant revenue stream to help fix our transit system, and putting a dent in the crippling gridlock that plagues the city's central business district.

We're proud to have worked with so many incredible organizations and advocates to help advance congestion pricing, and we're immensely grateful to the State Senators and Assemblymembers we endorsed, and helped elect, who threw their legislative muscle behind this crucial effort.

As with the recent victory to significantly expand the number of speed cameras in New York City, the passage of congestion pricing is an important reminder that elections matter, as does your support for our work. Congestion pricing would have remained an aspiration if you hadn't helped us, with your contributions and your volunteering, to support the candidacies of several dynamic, progressive young candidates whose electoral victories in 2018 tipped the balance in the State Senate.

So thank you. We have much more work still to do to fix our transit system and make our streets safe for all New Yorkers, but for today, we can take a victory lap and be proud of what we have accomplished together.

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StreetsPAC's Testimony to City Council on Misuse of Placards and Illegal Parking

StreetsPAC gave the following testimony yesterday at the New York City Council Committee on Transportation's hearing on legislation aimed at curtailing the misuse of placards and illegal parking:

Illegal parking, and the misuse and abuse of parking placards, causes significant problems for New York City, so we’re grateful that the Council has introduced legislation to address these vexing issues, and is holding today’s hearing to discuss them. Coupled with recent initiatives announced by the Mayor, we’re hopeful that these efforts can begin to put a dent in the problem.

Illegal parking and placard abuse have numerous negative consequences. Obstruction of crosswalks, sidewalks and bike lanes puts the safety of our most vulnerable street users at risk, often gravely. Illegal parking in bus lanes disrupts commutes, and inconveniences dozens of passengers at a time. Blocked access to fire hydrants is a potential catastrophe every time it happens.

Furthermore, the prevalence of the misuse of placards, let alone their legal proliferation, incentivizes driving that adds to congestion. And we shouldn’t overlook the effect that placard abuse has in eroding the public’s faith and trust in government.

The “Placard Corruption” Twitter account has put a spotlight on the problem of placard abuse, and misusers of parking permits provide a seemingly never-ending supply of material. We support Intro 1393-2019, which would require the weekly evaluation of sites prone to misuse of permits and illegal parking, though we have reservations about having NYPD take the lead on data collection. Since evaluating the problem wouldn’t require immediate enforcement, we would urge that the work be done by another agency, given the degree to which placard misuse seems to be done by police officers.

We also support the intent behind Intro 1394-2019, which would prohibit the illegal parking of city vehicles except in emergencies. These vehicles, however, don’t park themselves, and we believe that the legislation needs to outline consequences for city employees who might park vehicles in violation of the rules.

The same is true for Intro 1395-2019, which would require 311 to accept complaints and photographic evidence regarding misuse of permits and illegal parking. Without explicit consequences for the city employees responsible for such actions, we’re unsure of how effective such prohibitions might be. Illegal parking has consequences for those who have to avoid or deal with it, and it should have consequences for those who perpetrate it.

We strongly support Intro 1412-2019, which would require the towing of any vehicle blocking a sidewalk, crosswalk, fire hydrant, bike lane or bus lane. Towing is a real consequence that would undoubtedly create a much stronger incentive for people to avoid illegal behavior, than would summonses alone. Given the significant potential for improving the safety of pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists, as well as for improving conditions for bus riders, we urge the expeditious passage of this legislation.

Lastly, we also strongly support Intro 1422-2019, which would standardize the process of applying for, and granting, city-issued parking permits, and increase transparency around the issuance of placards. The process outlined by this legislation would make the misuse of permits more difficult, and the civil penalties for misuse would create a real consequence for placard abusers. We urge quick passage and implementation of this legislation.

The ultimate solution to reducing the misuse of placards and their role in illegal parking is for the city to significantly reduce the number of parking permits that it issues. We hope that the Council will take up such an effort, and explore ways to incentivize city personnel to use public transit rather than drive. We’d all be better off as a result.

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What a Difference an Election Makes! Legislature Passes Major Speed-Camera Expansion

Yesterday, the New York State Senate and Assembly passed companion bills authorizing New York City to expand its school-zone speed-camera enforcement program to 750 cameras citywide, a roughly fivefold increase in the current program that will, according to city officials, allow them to cover virtually every school in New York City. Governor Cuomo is expected to sign the legislation into law shortly.

We made the trip up to Albany for the press conference prior to the votes yesterday at the invitation of State Senator Andrew Gounardes, who sponsored the Senate version of the bill. Last fall, we endorsed Gounardes in his race to unseat incumbent Senator Marty Golden, who had long been an obstacle to expansion of the speed-camera program. Thanks to your support, we were able to donate generously to Gounardes's campaign, and deploy some six dozen volunteers to help canvass voters in the 22nd State Senate district, who knocked on approximately 5,000 doors in a race that was decided by about 1,000 votes.

According to data collected by the New York City Department of Transportation, the city's speed-camera program, from its inception through the end of 2017, reduced school-zone speeding by 63% when cameras were in operation, and resulted in a 17% decline in injuries. Through 2016, fatalities in school zones with cameras dropped by more than half, from 18 to 8. More than 80% of vehicle owners who receive a school-zone speeding ticket wake up and don't get another. This major expansion of the speed-camera program has the potential to prevent many more unnecessary deaths.

In addition to the critical role Senator Gounardes played in passing this life-saving legislation, we want to recognize Assemblymember Deborah Glick, the primary sponsor of the Assembly version of the bill, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who brought the bills to their respective floors and supported their passage, and the many StreetsPAC-endorsed members of the Senate and Assembly who were co-sponsors and ardent backers of the bills.

We also want to salute the incredible members of Families for Safe Streets and their partners at Transportation Alternatives, who worked tirelessly to make the case for expansion of the speed-camera program. Amy Cohen spoke eloquently at yesterday's press conference about her son Sammy, who was killed by a van driver in 2013, and read the names of the nearly three dozen New Yorkers who've already died from traffic violence this year. Preston Liao, who lost his three-year-old sister Allison just days before Sammy was killed, was recognized by Gounardes at the podium for inspiring him to action with his "change saw" (pictured below).

Finally, the passage of this important, life-saving legislation is a reminder of how much local elections matter. Marty Golden and the then-Republican-controlled State Senate allowed the city's meager speed-camera program to lapse last year, for political reasons that are unfathomable. Helping to elect leaders like Andrew Gounardes and the other Senators and Assemblymembers whom we endorsed in 2018, who prioritize the safety of our streets and the efficacy of our public transit system, is something we can only do with your financial and volunteer support.

Will you please consider donating today to help us continue our critical work in 2019 and beyond? It only takes a minute to give right now by clicking here. Thank you.

Photo: Joseph Spector/Gannett

 

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StreetsPAC supports candidates for public office who will champion Safe, Complete and Livable Streets.