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's Testimony to DSNY on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Commercial Waste Zone Program

This morning, we presented the following testimony at the New York City Department of Sanitation's public hearing on the draft environmental impact statement for the city's proposed Commercial Waste Zone plan:

As advocates for safer streets, we strongly urge adoption of the Exclusive Zone Alternative for the city’s Commercial Waste Zone Program.

As the analysis conducted for the Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement makes clear, the Exclusive Zone Alternative will significantly reduce vehicle miles traveled as compared to the proposed action, reducing overall private-hauler VMT by 60% versus 50% for a non-exclusive zone program – a difference of nearly three million vehicle miles traveled annually.

Given the fact that drivers of commercial-waste vehicles have killed more than two-dozen people on city streets over the past five years, this is a significant, and potentially life-saving, difference.

The reduction in VMT will be even more pronounced in the densest parts of the city. An exclusive-zone plan would reduce VMT in the Midtown Manhattan central business district by 52% versus the proposed non-exclusive program.

The additional reduction in vehicle miles traveled from the Exclusive Zone Alternative will provide other important benefits besides 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, as well. Importantly, 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. Some of these savings can be passed along to customers, offsetting concerns about increased costs due to reduced competition – which the city can also 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 would create.

We urge adoption of an exclusive-zone plan for New York City’s commercial waste.

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If you would like to submit your own comments to the Department of Sanitation regarding the Commercial Waste Zone Draft EIS, they're holding a second public hearing later this week.

March 14, 2019
6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Second Floor Auditorium
125 Worth Street
New York, NY, 10013

You can also submit testimony via email until 5 p.m. on Monday, March 25, to cwzcomments@dsny.nyc.gov.

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Today: Vote Melissa Mark-Viverito for Public Advocate!

Good morning! Today is New York City's non-partisan special election for the citywide office of Public Advocate.

We urge you to cast your vote for former New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who has been a true champion for safer streets and better public transit throughout her career in public life.

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 Melissa's candidacy in her own words here.

Our full endorsement statement is below.

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Tuesday: Vote Melissa Mark-Viverito for Public Advocate!

Tomorrow – Tuesday, February 26, 2019 – is New York City's non-partisan special election for the citywide office of Public Advocate.

We urge you to cast your vote for former New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who has been a true champion for safer streets and better public transit throughout her career in public life.

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 Melissa's candidacy in her own words here.

Our full endorsement statement is below.

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Melissa Mark-Viverito for Public Advocate

New Yorkers preparing to cast their votes in the February 26th special election for Public Advocate are faced with something not all that common – a ballot that presents an embarrassment of riches in the quality of candidates, especially when it comes to the critical issues of making our streets safer and our public transportation better.

More than half of the candidates for Public Advocate took part in our endorsement process, including six of the seven candidates who have qualified for tonight's second and final debate.

Rafael Espinal is a rising star in the City Council who has embraced the plight of delivery workers and the legalization of electric bicycles. Dawn Smalls pairs an impressive resumé with an activist attorney's passion. Ydanis Rodriguez has compiled a sterling record in his five years chairing the Council's Committee on Transportation. Benjamin Yee has proposed compelling ideas about how to use the office to spread democracy.

Michael Blake is an ascendant figure in Albany with a strong record on transportation issues. Nomiki Konst has built an impressive career as a firebrand investigative journalist with a fierce independent streak. And Jumaane Williams has combined the roles of activist and elected official to pass more legislation (and get arrested more often for demonstrating) than any other member of the City Council.

Amidst all these compelling hopefuls, however, we believe one candidate stands tallest, and that's why we are endorsing Melissa Mark-Viverito for New York City Public Advocate in the special election on Tuesday, February 26th.

MMV400x400.jpgMs. Mark-Viverito served as Speaker of the City Council from 2014 to 2017, and under her leadership, the Council transformed from a body that often resisted safe-streets initiatives to one that instead pushed City Hall and the Department of Transportation to do more.

Prior to being elected Speaker, Ms. Mark-Viverito invested considerable political capital in supporting the creation of protected bike lanes and complete-streets treatments on First and Second Avenues, in the face of often vocal opposition.

And her support for passing congestion pricing to help solve the twin crises of insufficient transit funding and crippling gridlock dates back more than a decade. So it's no surprise that she chose "Fix the MTA" as her party designation for this special election.

We believe Ms. Mark-Viverito's experience in managing the Speaker's office will help her transition quickly and seamlessly into the role of Public Advocate, and we're confident that she has the gravitas to serve as a counterweight to the Mayor, when necessary.

As Public Advocate, she's committed to working with the City Council to address placard abuse, holding City Hall accountable for the expeditious rollout of the Fair Fares program, and ensuring that the planned expansion of the Citi Bike system happens equitably as well as speedily.

Ms. Mark-Viverito was among the very first group of candidates we endorsed after StreetsPAC's launch in 2013, and we are proud to support her again in the race for Public Advocate. We believe her combination of a strong record on street-safety and transit issues, and her experience leading the City Council, make her the best candidate for the job.

We urge you to vote for Melissa Mark-Viverito for Public Advocate on Tuesday, February 26th.

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StreetsPAC's Testimony to City Council on e-Bikes and e-Scooters

StreetsPAC today submitted the following testimony to the New York City Council's Committee on Transportation, in regard to its review of several pieces of legislation, including bills that would legalize certain types of electric bicycles and electric scooters:

We are pleased to offer our support for all of the legislation under consideration today.

We’re in the midst of a revolution in personal mobility, and we believe e-bikes and e-scooters have a significant role to play in helping New Yorkers to get around efficiently and safely, replacing automobile trips with more space-efficient and environmentally friendly travel modes.

Pedal-assist bikes make it easier for people of varying abilities, notably the elderly, to choose cycling as a means of getting about, and such vehicles extend the range for all people commuting by bicycle. Electric scooters can play a similar role, especially for shorter trips and last-mile connections to transit.

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StreetsPAC's Testimony to DSNY on Draft Scope of Work for a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Commercial Waste Zone Program

Earlier today, we presented the following testimony at the New York City Department of Sanitation's public forum on the draft scope of work for the draft environmental impact statement on the city's proposed Commercial Waste Zone plan:

StreetsPAC strongly supports New York City’s proposed Commercial Waste Zone plan. As advocates for safer streets, we’re deeply concerned by the frequency with which commercial waste haulers injure and kill pedestrians and cyclists – private carters have killed nearly three-dozen people since 2010. The current system leads commercial drivers to make dangerous choices behind the wheel; running red lights, reversing through intersections, driving in the wrong direction and speeding are endemic, and epidemic. The current free for all also leads to dangerous fatigue, with many drivers and crewmembers working long overnight shifts of up to 18 hours.

While we support the proposed plan, however, we think it can go further. We urge the city to study an exclusive single-hauler zone option in the Environmental Impact Study. While the proposed non-exclusive plan is estimated to reduce nightly vehicle miles traveled from 79,000 to 29,000, an exclusive-zone option might be able to reduce that number even more, which could further improve pedestrian and worker safety, and would likely yield additional benefits in reduced emissions, improved routing efficiency and shorter distances between collection points. Given the potential reduction in crashes that an exclusive-zone system could deliver, it should be included in the EIS.

In addition, we believe any new zoned plan should also require private haulers to make safety upgrades to all commercial-fleet vehicles. The requirement for installation of life-saving side guards should be accelerated, and it should be mandatory for all vehicles to be equipped with state-of-the-art safety technology, including road-safety analytic systems such as those offered by ZenDrive, 360-degree cameras, and GPS tracking. Drivers should undergo extensive Vision Zero safety training, and rear-riding steps should be removed to increase crew safety.

The long-term stability created by an exclusive-zone system will best enable private haulers to amortize these 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 would create. Again, we support the proposed semi-exclusive system, but strongly urge consideration of an exclusive, single-hauler option as the best possible alternative.

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StreetsPAC's Testimony to City Council on Fixing NYC's Mass Transit System

StreetsPAC submitted the following testimony today to the New York City Council's Committee on Transportation, in regard to its oversight hearing on fixing New York City's transit system:

We add our voice today to the chorus of calls for immediate and far-reaching action to fix New York City’s buses and subways.

As Monday morning’s subway meltdown demonstrated all too clearly, we have far too little to show for the almost year and a half since Governor Cuomo declared the subways in a “state of emergency” and the MTA announced the Subway Action Plan. New Yorkers continue to be saddled with miserable commutes. The drop in ridership as people seek alternatives to stalled trains and crawling buses means less fare-box revenue, and in turn, worsening congestion. Catch-up work leaves numerous lines out of commission every weekend.

The proposed Fast Forward plan holds promise, but until funding sources are laid out in detail, it’s hard to feel that there’s anything other than train traffic ahead. Despite lots of talk, we’ve yet to see any truly meaningful steps toward congestion pricing, which could begin to put a real dent in the MTA’s funding gap. We’re in a full-blown crisis, and it is existential.

Fixing this critical threat to New York City’s economic health demands decisive action. Governor Cuomo and the legislature must pass, and begin implementation of, a full-blown congestion-pricing plan first thing in 2019. The billion-dollars plus in annual revenue that such a plan would yield can be bonded in order to service some $20 billion in capital investment, which will go a long way to modernizing the subway system’s ancient signaling. It will also help speed up buses by reducing driving, especially into Manhattan’s core.

Making sure that a portion of the revenue generated by congestion pricing is invested immediately in projects that extend new service to transit deserts will help accommodate people who will choose to leave their cars at home. In turn, City Hall can take significant steps to help improve bus service, by ratcheting up the roll out of Select Bus Service, dedicating more exclusive street space to buses, making sure bus-only lanes are kept clear, and giving buses signal priority.

Most of all, fixing the MTA will require resolute political will. Some elected officials have said they oppose congestion pricing because it won’t completely solve the MTA’s funding problem on its own, which is a bit like declining chemotherapy because your cancer treatment also requires radiation therapy. No, congestion pricing alone won’t fix everything, but it’s a critical piece of a comprehensive solution to funding transit.

Governor Cuomo and the leaders of the Assembly and State Senate must act now to outline a plan that includes all the details of how the MTA’s budget needs will be met. We must be willing to do what it takes to fix our subways and buses – the future of New York City depends on it.

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StreetsPAC's Testimony to City Council on Curbs, Curb Extensions & the George Washington Bridge

StreetsPAC Executive Director Eric McClure presented the following testimony today to the New York City Council's Committee on Transportation, at its oversight hearing on curbs and sidewalks:

Thank you for the opportunity to share our thoughts on oversight of curbs and sidewalks. StreetsPAC would like to express its support for several of the measures under consideration today by the Committee.

Intro 0131-2018 & Intro 0953-2018 – Support

We support Intros 0131-2018 and 0953-2018, which together would place greater restrictions on the creation of curb cuts, and compel the restoration of illegally removed curbs.

There are likely thousands of illegal curb cuts citywide, many of which undoubtedly create unsafe conditions for pedestrians. We support requiring property owners to restore curbs where they’ve been illegally removed, as well as mandating community notification for planned curb cuts. Personally, as someone who tried in vain to oppose a neighbor’s curb cut – implemented on a block that already had two existing curb cuts, and for no other reason than the owner’s desire to have a private parking space – I urge the committee to lend its support to this legislation.

Intro 0237-2018 – Support

We also support Intro 0237-2018, which would require the city to implement curb extensions at certain dangerous intersections.

Curb extensions have been shown to significantly improve pedestrian safety, both by shortening the distance pedestrians must travel across an intersection, and by providing increased visibility through daylighting. Curb extensions are the type of treatment that should be a high priority under Vision Zero.

Requiring the implementation of curb extensions at a minimum of five intersections in each borough annually would set the city on a path to having a robust program for creating these important aspects of safety infrastructure.

Intro T2018-1956 – Support

We also support Intro T2018-1956, which would require the city to paint curbs adjacent to fire hydrants and bus stops to alert motorists that they can’t park, stand or stop there.

While drivers in New York City should be aware of the rules governing parking near hydrants and bus stops, it’s clear from their behavior that many are ignorant, or dismissive, of the law. As much as the additional delineation of curbs will help drivers avoid parking illegally, it will also help police and traffic enforcement agents identify illegal parking, and issue summonses accordingly. Too often, police and TEAs give motorists the benefit of the doubt, and since illegal parking creates safety hazards around hydrants and bus stops, we support any effort at more rigorous enforcement.

One caution, however – we would vigorously oppose allowing drivers to cite absence of paint or the wearing of painted curbs as an affirmative defense in contesting a summons. We would urge that such language be included in an amended bill. This legislation should in no way be construed as a way of alleviating driver responsibility for illegal parking.

Resolution 0103-2018 – Support

Lastly, we strongly support Resolution 0103-2018, which calls upon the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to widen the multi-use paths across the George Washington Bridge.

The planned renovations to the George Washington Bridge present a generational opportunity to increase access for pedestrians, runners, and cyclists, who are using the bridge in ever-increasing numbers. The GWB is the only walkable and bike-able connection between northern New Jersey and New York City, and now carries nearly 4,000 cyclists on weekends, on a path that is among the narrowest bridge crossings in New York City.

A widened path would also have tourism and resiliency benefits. Let’s not miss this crucial opportunity to bring George Washington Bridge access into the 21st century. We urge the committee, and the full Council, to pass this resolution without hesitation.

 

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StreetsPAC-Endorsed Candidates Sweep Election Day!

StreetsPAC-Endorsed Candidates All Won Their Races on Tuesday; Ballot Proposals Win Big, Too

Proving that safe streets and pro-transit positions aren't just good policy, but good politics as well, all 10 State Senate and Assembly candidates endorsed by StreetsPAC won their races in Tuesday's election, including Andrew Gounardes, who upset eight-term Republican State Senator Marty Golden in Brooklyn's 22nd Senate District. While that outcome has not been certified as of this morning, Andrew has claimed victory, and it's virtually certain that his winning margin will hold once all remaining ballots are counted.

In addition to our 10 candidate endorsements, we officially backed New York City Ballot Proposals 1 and 3, both of which passed overwhelmingly. Ballot Prop 1 will lead to some significant campaign-finance reforms, while Ballot Prop 3 will implement a number of positive changes for the city's Community Boards, including term limits.

Tuesday's outcome was by far StreetsPAC's best result in State Legislative races since we launched in 2013. To go 10-0 with candidate endorsements and 2-0 on the ballot proposals was unprecedented, but the most important development was our work to help elect Andrew Gounardes.

Andrew is currently ahead by a bit more than 1,000 votes, and some 70 StreetsPAC volunteers knocked on about 5,000 doors over the past two months. In addition, street safety was a central issue in the race – perhaps the most important issue – and the candidates' positions couldn't have been more divergent. It's not a stretch to think that our efforts, and our issues, made the difference in a close election.

Our field organizer, Blythe Austin, did a remarkable job of recruiting, organizing and training our dedicated and talented volunteers. More than 70 people came out to help over the course of the campaign, many of you among them. Quite a few people showed up to canvass on multiple occasions. For all of you who took part, and for Blythe, we are immensely and eternally grateful. This victory is your victory, and shows the power of this movement. Thank you!

Soon, we'll begin looking toward the special election for Public Advocate early next year, and elections for District Attorney in the Bronx, Queens and on Staten Island next fall, as well as to fundraising, in order to replenish and expand our resources for future efforts (you can help kickstart that effort by donating now).

For today, though, we can congratulate ourselves and be proud of what we’ve accomplished this election cycle. Thanks for being a part of it.

And one last time, here are the candidates whom we endorsed in Tuesday's general election. Our heartfelt congratulations to all!

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