Big Changes Coming to Chrystie Street; Streetfight Hits the Shelves; Peatónito Hits the Streets

Yesterday evening, the New York City Department of Transportation presented Manhattan Community Board 3's Transportation Committee with plans for a major redesign of Chrystie Street, a key route for the thousands of people who use the Manhattan Bridge bike path every day.

In February of 2015, StreetsPAC board member Dave 'Paco' Abraham pitched Manhattan CB3 on a concept for replacing Chrystie Street's paired (and frequently obstructed and badly pockmarked) Class II bike lanes with a parking-protected, two-way Class I bike path, running along the east side of Chrystie, adjacent to the linear Sara Roosevelt Park. The board's Transportation Committee endorsed the concept unanimously, and two weeks later, the full board, by a vote of 35-0, asked NYC DOT to study the idea, which had the backing of elected officials including State Senator Daniel Squadron, City Council Member Margaret Chinned Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

Then last fall, an anonymous group calling itself the "Transformation Dept." (NYC_DOTr on Twitter) created a pop-up protected path on Chrystie's northbound bike lane, using plastic safety cones and sunflowers. The temporary materials were enough to keep the lane clear of the vehicles that frequently obstruct it, and led to calls for the real NYC DOT to accelerate its efforts.

The waiting, at least as far as a plan goes, is now over.

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StreetsPAC Urges City Council, Mayor to Drop Central Park Pedicab Ban, Make Park Fully Car-Free

At a hearing today of the New York City Council's Committee on Transportation, StreetsPAC urged the Council and Mayor de Blasio to drop a provision in a proposed bill on reducing the number of horse-drawn carriages in the city that would ban pedicabs in Central Park below the 85th Street Transverse.

Rather than banning human-powered pedicabs, we strongly urged the Council and Administration to make Central Park fully, and permanently, car-free.  Motor vehicles were barred from the majority of Central Park's roadways in 2015, but are still permitted during certain hours between Central Park South and 72nd Streets.

Read our full testimony after the jump.

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StreetsPAC Testifies at City Council Oversight Hearing on Parking Systems

We delivered the following testimony today at the New York City Council's Committee on Transportation Oversight hearing on upgrading city parking systems for greater efficiency, safety, and reliability:

Implementing the right parking policies in New York City could be tremendously helpful in improving mobility, reducing congestion, making housing more affordable, lowering emissions, reducing dependency on automobiles, and moving us closer to achieving Vision Zero, among other benefits.

However, our views on parking aren’t keeping up with innovations in other areas of transportation policy, and we hope that today’s hearing is just the first of many devoted to tackling this thorny issue.  The City Council should be providing leadership on citywide parking policy when DOT isn’t acting aggressively enough.

Free and below-market-rate parking provides a huge subsidy to private vehicle owners at the expense of everyone else.  It encourages driving, and should be phased out, especially in the more densely populated areas of the city.

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StreetsPAC Testifies at City Council Oversight Hearing on Vision Zero

We delivered the following testimony today at the New York City Council's Committee on Transportation Oversight hearing evaluating the city's progress with Vision Zero:

When Mayor de Blasio, just two weeks into his term in January 2014, announced the formation of the interagency working group on Vision Zero, it marked the setting of an ambitious-yet-crucial mission for New York – to reduce traffic deaths to zero within 10 years.

To be sure, we’ve made some notable progress toward that goal.  Lowering the citywide speed limit to 25 miles per hour, activating the city’s full complement of speed cameras, passing a law that makes it a crime to violate the Right of Way of people on foot and on bikes, rendering the vast majority of the Central and Prospect Park drives car-free, and beginning the transformation of Queens’s notorious “Boulevard of Death” to a modern complete street are all important milestones.  Pedestrian deaths fell to a record low in 2014, and we just might reduce that number again this year.

While this is progress, we still must acknowledge that we have a long, long way to go on the road to Vision Zero.

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The 23rd Council District

On September 10th, registered Democratic voters in far eastern Queens will go to the polls to cast their votes in the 23rd Council District primary.  The winner will likely be a heavy favorite in the November special election to replace former Council Member Mark Weprin, who resigned earlier this year to join the Cuomo Administration.

The six candidates are a diverse bunch, and three seem to stand out as the leading contenders: Barry Grodenchik, a former Assemblyman who now works for Queens Borough President Melinda Katz; Rebecca Lynch, who recently left a senior post in Mayor de Blasio’s Community Affairs Unit; and Ali Najmi, an attorney and former aide to Weprin.

Despite the attractiveness of these candidates, however, StreetsPAC has decided against making an endorsement.  While Lynch and Najmi, especially, have spoken to the need to make transportation and street safety a priority if elected, none of the candidates were willing to pledge to oppose any and all attempts to weaken New York City’s right-of-way law, Section 19-190 of the Administrative Code, which has been under assault by the Transport Workers Union and its allies in the City Council and State Assembly.  We consider the right of way of vulnerable street users to be an essential, inalienable tenet of Vision Zero.  Furthermore, there’s precedent for strong street-safety cred in the 23rd Council District, since Mark Weprin was a co-sponsor of the Council legislation that created the right-of-way law (and an outspoken supporter of the Move NY plan, to boot).

Therefore, we will remain neutral in the race for the 23rd Council District, but we look forward to working closely with the eventual winner on addressing eastern Queens’s transportation needs and street-safety challenges – and on educating the future Council Member on the fundamental importance of the right-of-way law.

– The StreetsPAC Board

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StreetsPAC Wraps Up New York State Senate and Assembly Endorsements

StreetsPAC today announced three additional candidate endorsements for Tuesday’s general election, supporting the re-election campaigns of New York State Assemblymembers Dan Quart and Michaelle Solages, and the State Senate race of Adrienne Esposito, who’s running for an open seat on Long Island.

“We’re excited to make these three important endorsements before Tuesday’s election,” said David ‘Paco’ Abraham, a StreetsPAC board member.  “Dan Quart and Michaelle Solages are young, up-and-coming leaders in Albany, and they are firmly committed to making streets safer both in their districts and across the state.  And Adrienne Esposito is an experienced advocate who can help tip the balance towards smarter transportation policies in the Senate.”

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StreetsPAC Announces New Round of State Senate & Assembly Endorsements

StreetsPAC today announced a new round of New York State Senate and Assembly candidate endorsements for November’s general election, backing several incumbent New York City legislators who’ve been strong voices for safe streets at home and in Albany: State Senators Brad Hoylman and Gustavo Rivera, and Assemblymembers Joe Lentol and Linda Rosenthal.

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NextCity Article: PAC Builds Political Weight to Defend Bike Lanes, Transit

City Hall BikesRead how StreetsPAC became a pro-walker, pro-bicyclist, pro-safe-streets political powerhouse in Next City's Article: "PAC Builds Political Weight to Defend Bike Lanes, Transit" by Casey Tolan. Here's a taste:

Putting in bike lanes or reducing parking can be a politically dangerous move, especially in New York. But for the past year and a half, political action committee StreetsPAC has been fighting for pro-pedestrian, pro-biking and pro-transit candidates in NYC and Albany — and gaining ground.

In the 2013 city elections, 13 of StreetsPAC’s 18 endorsed candidates won in competitive primary elections (including Mayor Bill de Blasio). In state primaries last month, three out of five StreetsPAC-backed candidates won.

“Policy is good, but politics, especially the fear of not getting re-elected, is just as important,” says Glenn McAnanama, a founding board member of StreetsPAC.

Taking the safe streets movement from advocacy into electoral politics, StreetsPAC asks candidates to fill out a questionnaire about their stances on policies like complete street redesigns, speeding cameras and transit funding. Then, the group’s board, which is made up of local transportation advocates, sits down for an interview with the politicians. In a number of races, multiple candidates have filled out questionnaires and vied for an endorsement.

Endorsed candidates get a modest monetary contribution, get-out-the-vote support from StreetsPAC volunteers and — perhaps most importantly — a stamp of approval that tells voters the pol will fight for pedestrians, cyclists and straphangers.

>> Read More at Next City 

>> Meet the StreetsPAC candidates 

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StreetsPAC Announces Second Round of 2014 Endorsements in New York State Senate and Assembly Races

StreetsPAC today announced a second round of candidate endorsements in fall races for the New York State Senate and Assembly, backing the reelection bids of State Senator Tony Avella and Assembly Members Nily Rozic and Felix Ortiz, and the campaigns of Brooklyn State Senate challenger Dell Smitherman and Suffolk County Assembly challenger Jason Zove.

First-round endorsements for 2014 state races may be found here.

“It’s getting down to crunch time, so we’re pleased to make a second round of endorsements prior to next week’s primary,” said StreetsPAC board member Joanna Oltman Smith.  “Several of these candidates are facing tough primary races, and we’re confident our endorsements will help push them to victory.”

"The candidates we’re endorsing today are a diverse group, seeking to represent parts of Brooklyn, Queens and Suffolk County,” said StreetsPAC board member Sebastian Delmont.  “But whether it’s Felix Ortiz, with two decades’ experience in Albany, or Jason Zove, who’s only a few years removed from college, they share a dedication to safe and complete streets.”

“We really value the chance to meet with candidates, hear their stories and discuss how we can work together to improve the streets of their districts,” said StreetsPAC board member Hilda Cohen.  “Dell Smitherman told us about how he’d counted the 97 stairs between the Livonia Street L station and the Junius Street 3 station, which have no elevators.  It’s hard, though, when we’re faced with two strong candidates and have to make tough choices, as was the case in the 51st Assembly District race.  Ceasar Zuniga impressed us all, but Felix Ortiz’s experience carried the day.”

Here’s a round up of today’s StreetsPAC endorsees:

Tony Avella, Senate District 11, Northeast Queens (Incumbent) – Avella, first elected to the State Senate in 2010 after eight years in the City Council, is a member of the Senate’s Transportation Committee.  He supports increasing bus service in his Queens district, and would like to see real Bus Rapid Transit implemented on Northern Boulevard and other main thoroughfares.  He backs lifting time and day restrictions on speed cameras, and intends to introduce a bill that would allow home rule for deployment of speed and red-light cameras.  He also plans to push to have secure bicycle storage installed at Long Island Railroad stations in his district.

Felix Ortiz, Assembly District 51, Red Hook, Sunset Park (Incumbent) – Ortiz has represented his district in the Assembly for 20 years.  His bill banning the use of handheld cell phones while driving became the first such state law in the entire country in 2000.  Ortiz will continue his longstanding efforts to deter and punish distracted driving by introducing legislation to require disclosure of a driver’s cellphone records after a crash suspected to have resulted from distraction.  He will also advocate for the creation of a protected bike “highway” along Third Avenue, connecting his district to Downtown Brooklyn.

Nily Rozic, Assembly District 25, Flushing, Fresh Meadows (Incumbent) – Rozic, elected in 2012, is the youngest woman serving in the State Legislature.  She has successfully pushed for expanded neighborhood bus service, and commutes to her district office by bicycle.  Rozic is committed to extending and improving bike infrastructure in her district to make it easier for people to ride to nearby transit stations and to schools, advocating for real Bus Rapid Transit connecting Flushing and Jamaica, and ensuring that all police precincts in Queens are supplied with necessary enforcement equipment and trained in new traffic-safety laws.

Dell Smitherman, Senate District 19, East New York (Challenger) – Smitherman, until recently Political Coordinator of 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, is challenging indicted State Senator John Sampson for the right to represent this reconfigured East New York district.  Smitherman will work to give dangerous Linden Boulevard a complete-street treatment, and will advocate for the restoration of several bus routes in the district.  He’s committed to working to lift time and day restrictions on speed cameras, and improving accessibility at elevated train stations.

Jason Zove, Assembly District 8, Suffolk County (Challenger) – Zove, a former aide in the Suffolk County Legislature, is challenging six-term incumbent Mike Fitzpatrick this November.  Zove is committed to making Long Island’s towns and villages safer for pedestrians and cyclists, including widening sidewalks, implementing more crosswalks and expanding the bike-lane network.  He believes Long Island needs to increase north-south transit connections, and supports creation of dedicated bus lanes.  He’ll work to have secure bike storage installed at Long Island Railroad stations.

StreetsPAC will help elect its endorsed candidates with cash contributions and volunteer support.  It expects to make additional rounds of endorsements prior to November’s general election.

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StreetsPAC Announces first 2014 Endorsements in New York State Senate and Assembly Races

StreetsPAC today announced its first five candidate endorsements in 2014 races for the New York State Senate and Assembly.  The safe-streets political action committee has put its support behind the reelection efforts of Manhattan State Senator Adriano Espaillat and Suffolk County Assemblyman Edward Hennessey, Bay Ridge Senate challenger James Kemmerer, Suffolk County Assembly challenger Tom Schiliro, and Pete Sikora, who’s running a primary race for Assembly in Brownstone Brooklyn.
“So much of what happens on the streets of New York City is dictated by actions, or inaction, in Albany,” said Glenn McAnanama, a StreetsPAC board member.  “And more and more, people in places like Medford and Mattituck are interested in living in safely walkable and bikeable communities.  We’re excited to put StreetsPAC’s backing behind candidates who are committed to safe streets, whether they be on the Upper West Side or downtown Riverhead.”

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