StreetsPAC's Testimony to City Council on the Influx of Federal Infrastructure Funding

We testified today at the New York City Council's Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure oversight hearing on assessing the state of the city's infrastructure and laying the foundation for federal infrastructure funding, a broad and somewhat complicated topic (there are reportedly 34 separate funding streams for infrastructure projects). We focused on certain aspects of the city's transportation system; our full testimony follows below.

Thanks to an unprecedented flow of federal infrastructure funding, New York City has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to upgrade and expand its transportation system.

While there are many pots of federal money, quite a few of which are tied to competitive grants, StreetsPAC believes the city should be guided by a few overarching principles.

First, similarly to the Priority Investment Areas outlined in the New York City Streets Plan, funding should be prioritized in communities that have historically been underserved. Economically disadvantaged and predominantly Black and brown neighborhoods should receive priority when it comes to these transportation initiatives.

Secondly, investments in transportation infrastructure should emphasize safety and accessibility, especially the safety of vulnerable street users. The reversal in the progress of the city’s Vision Zero initiative has reached a critical juncture. We know that investments in complete streets, protected bike lanes, curb extensions, raised crosswalks and similar design treatments improve safety for everyone, and the influx of federal funds can both expand and speed up the implementation of these types of infrastructure. Similarly, we should take this opportunity to accelerate the pace of investment in making our transit system 100% accessible.

Thirdly, we believe the city should prioritize quick-build projects wherever federal funding will support that. Dedicated bus lanes, busways, protected bike lanes, and a host of traffic-calming installations can be implemented quickly, and often at relatively low cost. Bus and bike improvements can also help to plug gaps in transit deserts.

Relatedly, we believe the availability of federal funds for alternative transportation modes presents a golden opportunity to subsidize accelerated expansion of the city’s bike-share program. Bike share remains the only aspect of our transportation system that receives no subsidy, and we should seize this chance to expand bike share across the five boroughs and to New Yorkers of all means.

Finally, we want to amplify the call by Council Member Rivera and others to make a substantial investment in the city’s Greenway network. Greenways have the potential to extend open space into all corners of the city, and to serve as the backbone of a safe, separated, and resilient citywide bike network. Federal funds can jumpstart the city’s decades-old plan to build a robust, interconnected Greenway network. Let’s not let this opportunity go to waste.

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StreetsPAC's Testimony to City Council on 2022-2023 Transportation Budget

We testified today at the New York City Council's Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure hearing regarding the city's fiscal year 2023 transportation budget, and the importance of fully funding the New York City Streets Plan, a position shared by more than 60 of our partners in advocacy. Our full testimony follows below.

Fully funding the New York City Streets Plan is essential to improving transportation for all New Yorkers, increasing the safety and accessibility of city streets, speeding up commutes for millions of bus riders, creating more safe and welcoming public spaces, and beginning to address the equity gap in access to transit, cycling, and micro-mobility options.

That will require an investment of $170 million dedicated to the Streets Plan in fiscal year 2023, and we urge the City Council and Mayor Adams to make certain that those funds are allocated in the coming budget.

This investment in an expanded network of protected bike lanes, safety improvements to thousands of intersections, and redesigns of the city’s most dangerous streets, is essential for protecting New Yorkers from traffic violence. It becomes clearer every day that we can’t enforce our way to Vision Zero, especially with it so obvious that the NYPD has largely withdrawn from traffic enforcement. Achieving the benchmarks laid out in the Streets Plan will be critical to reducing deaths and injuries, as better street design is key to improving safety. 

Meeting the benchmarks for building bus lanes and busways and improving bus stops is a necessity for improving service for the millions of people who rely on the bus, as well as to reverse the ongoing decline in ridership. Better bus service is a fundamental equity issue, as buses disproportionately serve black and brown and lower-income New Yorkers, and expanding bus service is the fastest and most effective means of eliminating transit deserts. It’s a moral imperative that we prioritize speeding up buses, rather than leaving straphangers stuck behind road-hogging single-occupancy personal cars and empty double-parked vehicles.

Beyond the need to fully fund the Streets Plan, we also urge the Council and the Mayor to prioritize increased investment in the Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program. While the program is just ramping up, it’s already obvious that it must be expanded. The thresholds for triggering the program must be lowered to allow interventions with a greater number of dangerous drivers, as intended in the original legislation, not just the very worst of the worst, and that will require more funding. Because the city’s speed and red-light camera programs do not assign points to drivers’ licenses, the Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program is the only effective means of holding chronically reckless drivers to account.

While, as we noted, we can’t enforce our way to Vision Zero, we can employ technology to identify and intervene with dangerous drivers, and it is incumbent on the Council and the Mayor to make sure that we do all we can as a city to enable that.

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StreetsPAC's Testimony to City Council on Transportation Equity

We testified today at the New York City Council's Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure hearing regarding transportation equity. Our full testimony follows below.

This hearing, let alone our two minutes of testimony, will only begin to scratch the surface of the problem of inequity in New York City’s transportation system. It’s a crucial topic that requires much more attention and effort, but calling attention to it today is a good and welcome start.

New York City is plagued by inequality, and that grave imbalance extends from incomes and housing and education to the city’s streets. Black and brown New Yorkers, and African Americans and low-income communities especially, are disproportionately victimized by traffic violence. This is due in large part to the city’s failure to make equitable and adequate investments in life-saving infrastructure, in traffic-calming designs like road diets, curb extensions, refuge islands and protected bike lanes, a failing underscored in an excellent analysis last month in Streetsblog developed by reporter Julianne Cuba and How’s My Driving creator Brian Howald.

The New York City Streets Plan, however, is a promising step in beginning to address that inequity. Passed by the last Council and signed into law by then-Mayor de Blasio, the Streets Plan lays out important benchmarks for investment in the city’s transportation network and infrastructure, and it rightly prioritizes that investment in communities that have been poorly served in the past. It’s incumbent on this committee and the Council, and we in the advocacy world, to make certain that City Hall and DOT meet the benchmarks laid out in the Streets Plan – and to insist that it’s fully funded.

We must also continue to prioritize investment in automated enforcement strategies that remove human bias, like speed and red-light cameras, and lobby Albany to allow those devices to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. We don’t turn off ShotSpotter overnight or on weekends. We don’t turn off security cameras after hours. Far, far too many crashes that cause death or injury happen in places with speed cameras that are not operating due to curfew. The Council must join with the Mayor in lobbying Albany for home rule, for speed limits as well as camera systems.

Our colleagues in advocacy have spoken and will speak about buses in greater detail, but we as a city must make better bus service a top priority. Buses are lifelines for working-class New Yorkers who often don’t have other means to get around, but we neglect them by allowing single-occupancy private vehicles to hog road space. A lone double-parked SUV can ruin a commute for 50 people on a bus. We must build more busways and separated bus lanes, rapidly expand signal priority and all-door boarding, and put enforcement cameras on every bus in the city.

We also must make cycling attractive, affordable, and safe for many more New Yorkers. Biking has boomed during the pandemic, but there’s so much more we can do. Subsidizing accelerated expansion of Citi Bike to many more neighborhoods, rolled out in tandem with a robust network of safe, protected bike lanes, is a great place to start. The city’s bike-share system is immensely popular, but it has yet to reach many New Yorkers for whom it would be an attractive mobility option. As the only facet of our transportation system that doesn’t receive public funding, it’s high time that we boost the bike-share program with operating subsidies, and with the kind of safe bike-lane network that will attract and protect new cyclists. Let’s see a bill come out of the Council this year that puts that in motion.

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StreetsPAC's Testimony to City Council on Outdoor Dining

We testified today at the New York City Council's Committee on Consumer and Worker Protection and Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises joint hearing regarding the city's permanent outdoor dining program. Our full testimony follows below.

New York City’s Open Restaurants program is responsible for having saved hundreds, if not thousands, of the city’s restaurants, by and large small, family-owned businesses, which faced overwhelming challenges at the depth of the pandemic, along with tens of thousands of attendant restaurant jobs, and has proved overwhelmingly popular with diners, who have voted convincingly with their cash and credit cards to make the program permanent.

That isn’t to say that the program is perfect, nor that some of the criticism of the Open Restaurants program isn’t valid. There are legitimate concerns about noise on blocks that mix commercial activity with residences, many outdoor dining structures are flimsy or sited haphazardly, and more than a few pose a hazard to safe cycling. But these are fixable flaws.

Ideally, as a long-term goal, the city should expand the width of sidewalks in places in which outdoor dining has proved popular, allowing for expanded café space immediately adjacent to the storefronts of participating restaurants. In places where that’s not possible, restaurants should pay a fee for using street space, or the city should create communal spaces open to anyone, along the lines of the Streets Seats program. In the shorter term, however, there are a number of things we can and should do to improve the Open Restaurants program. These include:

  • Shifting from more fully built structures to movable tables, chairs, and umbrellas, like in the Meatpacking District or Bryant Park.

  • Situating seating immediately adjacent to the curb, with physically protected accommodations where possible for existing curbside bike lanes rerouted between restaurant setups and motor-vehicle lanes.

  • Imposing strict design guidelines that limit the heights of restaurant structures to allow for better visibility, and to ensure that sidewalks are fully and easily passable.

  • Establishing well enforced rules regulating hours of operation and noise levels, to control negative effects in places with adjacent residences.

  • Reducing speed limits on smaller streets with curbside dining, and implementing physical safety barriers on larger streets and avenues where speed-limit reductions are impractical. A group of more than three dozen elected officials, including Speaker Adams and Council Members Ayala, Brannan, Powers, and Rivera, wrote to then-Mayor de Blasio in September of 2020 asking for such measures, which have yet to be implemented.

Finally, we must view the Open Restaurants program in the larger context of how the city manages curb space. Open Restaurants, Open Streets, and other pandemic-era efforts to increase access to street space have demonstrated the public’s overwhelming interest in allowing curbside uses beyond the storage of private cars. The curb has tremendous value, and should be managed in a way that reflects that. To that end, we urge the creation of an office of public space management or the public realm to oversee such efforts.

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It's Election Day in New York City!

Good morning! Today is Election Day in New York City!

Polls open at 6 a.m., and will remain open until 9 p.m. You can locate your polling site, confirm your registration status, and view a sample ballot at www.vote.nyc.

StreetsPAC's board has spent the past eight months evaluating responses to our detailed candidate questionnaires, analyzing policy platforms, and conducting in-depth personal interviews with more than 100 candidates. We've endorsed 28 candidates across New York City, for Mayor; Comptroller; Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn Borough President; Manhattan District Attorney; and for City Council seats in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. You can learn more about each of our endorsees below, and the safe-streets and transportation policies they'll champion in office.

We urge you to vote for all the StreetsPAC-endorsed candidates on your ballot! Read on below for our full voter guide; you can click the links below to jump to our endorsements in a particular borough. Council races are listed in numerical order by district.

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StreetsPAC's General Election Voter Guide

Tomorrow is Election Day in New York City!

Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. You can locate your polling site, confirm your registration status, and view a sample ballot at www.vote.nyc.

StreetsPAC's board spent the past several months evaluating responses to our detailed candidate questionnaires, analyzing policy platforms, and conducting in-depth personal interviews with more than 100 candidates. We've endorsed 28 candidates across New York City, for Mayor; Comptroller; Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn Borough President; Manhattan District Attorney; and for City Council seats in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. You can get to know each of our endorsees below, along with the safe-streets and transportation policies they'll champion in office.

We urge you to get out and vote for all the StreetsPAC-endorsed candidates on your ballot! Read on for our full voter guide; you can click the links at the top to jump to our endorsements in a particular borough. Council races are listed in numerical order by district.

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StreetsPAC's General Election Voter Guide

New York City's 2021 general election is here!

Early voting begins this Saturday, October 23rd, and continues every day through the following Sunday, October 31st, in advance of Election Day, November 2nd. Polls will be open this weekend from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday, and times will vary by day during the remainder of early voting. You can locate your polling site, check early-voting hours, confirm your registration status, and view a sample ballot at www.vote.nyc.

Our board has spent the past several months evaluating responses to our detailed candidate questionnaires, analyzing policy platforms, and conducting in-depth personal interviews with more than 100 candidates. We've made dozens of general-election endorsements: for Mayor; Comptroller; Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn Borough President; Manhattan District Attorney; and City Council seats in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. You can learn more about each of our endorsees below, as well as the safe-streets and transportation issues they'll champion in office.

We urge you to get out and vote for all the StreetsPAC-endorsed candidates on your ballot! Read on for our full voter guide; you can click the links at the top to jump to our endorsements in a particular borough. Council races are listed in numerical order by district.

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Early Voting Continues; City Council Hearing on Vision Zero

Early Voting Continues through Sunday

Early voting for New York City's municipal election continues through Sunday, with polls open today until 8 p.m., Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m, Friday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Polls will then open again on Election Day, Tuesday, November 2nd, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

You can locate your polling site, confirm your registration status, and view a sample ballot at www.vote.nyc.

You can also see the complete roster of the 28 candidates StreetsPAC has endorsed in our voting guide, which you can find here. Here's a preview:

Testimony to City Council on Vision Zero, Illegal Parking, Reducing Reliance on Motor Vehicles, and Improving Street Safety

Yesterday, we testified at the New York City Council's joint Transportation and Public Safety oversight hearing on the topics above. We told the Council that Vision Zero doesn't need to be rethought so much as it needs to be implemented properly, with significantly greater emphasis on street design and less reliance on often-lacking police enforcement.

We also urged the speedy passage of Council Member Steve Levin's Int. 2159, which would enable civilian reporting of illegal parking, along with bills that would ban the sale or distribution of license plate covers and decriminalize jaywalking.

You can read our full testimony here.

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StreetsPAC's Testimony to City Council on Rethinking Vision Zero, Stopping Illegal Parking, Reducing Reliance on Vehicles and Improving Pedestrian and Cyclist Safety

We testified today at the New York City Council Committee on Transportation's oversight hearing today regarding the shortcomings of the city's Vision Zero efforts, the epidemic of illegal parking, and related topics, and also voiced our support for bills that would prohibit the sale of illegal license plate covers and decriminalize jaywalking. Our full testimony follows below.

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Brad Lander for Comptroller

BradLanderCropped.jpgBrad Lander, Comptroller (Open Seat) – Brad Lander has dedicated himself to making streets safer since first winning elective office in 2009. He was an early supporter of the Prospect Park West redesign, and his refusal to waver in the face of some very politically connected opposition to the bike path was instrumental in facing down the years-long legal effort to remove it. In 2016, he patiently listened to constituents complaining about Citi Bike's expansion into his Brooklyn district, while firmly letting them know that the bike-share system was here to stay in a statement that Streetsblog called "pitch-perfect."

Mr. Lander was a vocal proponent of Fourth Avenue's road diet, pushing the Department of Transportation to speed up completion of the protected bike lanes that now span the four miles from Atlantic Avenue to 64th Street. He's fought for better accessibility at subway stations, and to restore the B71 bus.

Most notably, Mr. Lander's biggest safe-streets legislative accomplishment grew from a terrible tragedy that occurred just a block from his district office in 2018. Following the devastating crash that killed two young children at Fifth Avenue and Ninth Street, Mr. Lander, in partnership with advocates, developed the Reckless Driver Accountability Act, working deftly and relentlessly to steer the bill through the City Council, overcoming a number of legal and procedural hurdles. What became the Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program will, once fully implemented, require the city's most persistent dangerous drivers to take a safe-driving class or have their vehicles impounded.

For good measure, Mr. Lander also made sure that DOT quickly redesigned Ninth Street following that deadly crash, adding protected bike lanes and pedestrian refuges.

Mr. Lander has put forth a number of detailed plans for how he would manage the Comptroller's office. He'll oversee the city's capital-projects tracker, which he legislated in the City Council, and is intended to bring transparency and accountability to the billions of dollars the city spends each year on infrastructure. He plans to use the Comptroller's powers to make the financial case for street redesigns, and to create an audit unit dedicated to transit and transportation. He will use audit and contract-registration powers to push for fleet reductions, and track implementation of the Better Bus Action Plan.

For both his track record, and his commitment to promoting progressive transportation policies as the city's next fiscal steward, we enthusiastically endorse Brad Lander to be New York City's next Comptroller.

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