City Hall, March 12th, 2008 – At today’s Stated Council meeting, the members of the City Council will vote on the most substantial reduction of its budget in the history of the modern Council. Council Members will also vote on the “Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety Act”, requiring the Department of Transportation to conduct safety analysis at crash sites to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety, as well as legislation to prevent blockage of traffic signs. Additionally, Speaker Quinn announced a major agreement with Mayor Bloomberg on the Council’s e-waste legislation.

The City Council will vote today to reduce its operating budget. At more than $2.3 million, this marks the most substantial reduction of the budget in the history of the modern Council. Speaker Quinn first announced plans for this reduction in her State of the City speech last month.

The Council’s reductions reflect a 4.3 percent reduction from the Fiscal Year 2008 budget. $1.1 million in reductions will come from the Council’s Personnel Services (PS) Budget. Additional reductions of more than $1.2 million will come from the Council’s Other Than Personnel Services (OTPS) Budget. Bulk mailings will be reduced, as well as printing, consultants and other contractual services.

The Council’s budget reductions will impact Central Staff’s operations. Council Member’s individual budgets will not be reduced.

“This year, the City Council will absorb the same cuts that other agencies do,” said Speaker Quinn. “Our actions today show that what other agencies bear, the City Council will bear. Literally to the penny, we are leading by example.”

“In light of belt tightening measures across all City agencies, the Council’s own voluntary reductions are the right thing to do,” said Finance Committee Chair David Weprin.

In an effort to combat recent incidents of pedestrians and bicyclists being killed in traffic accidents, the Council will vote to require the Department of Transportation (DOT) to study crash locations and make safety improvements where necessary. The Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety Act would require DOT to conduct three types of safety analysis at crash sites to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety:

Annual safety audits of crash locations involving pedestrians – Within 180 days of receiving State data on traffic accidents, DOT would be required to identify the 20 highest crash locations involving pedestrians for analysis. If determined necessary, DOT would make safety improvements or incorporate safety improvements into capital projects within the 180-day period. DOT will continue to work on locations until they no longer appear on the 20 highest crash locations list.
Inspecting patterns of crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists – Within 90 days of receiving State data, DOT would be required to inspect locations with five or more pedestrian and/or bicyclist injuries or fatalities during the prior 12 months. DOT would also inspect any crash location involving a fatality within 90 days of such crash. DOT would be required to act upon safety recommendations from inspections, if any, and to make the results of its inspections and recommendations available to the public upon request.
Comprehensive study of pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries – DOT would be required to conduct a comprehensive study of all traffic crashes involving a pedestrian fatality or serious injury for the most recent five years where State data is available. DOT would use this study to develop strategies for improving pedestrian safety.
“The Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety Act is a major step forward in keeping New Yorkers safe,” said Council Member Vincent Gentile, prime sponsor of the legislation. “By looking at our City’s most dangerous intersections, patterns at specific crash locations and assessing the previous five years of accident data we are in fact prioritizing pedestrians and bicyclists and putting them first. Fifty percent of accidents occur at ten percent of our City’s intersections, with this bill we are taking crash locations and turning them into viable learning experiences to further safeguard and protect our citizens. I would like to thank Speaker Quinn and Transportation Committee Chair Liu for their leadership and support on this issue.”

”If we are going to encourage people to walk and ride their bikes more under PlaNYC 2030 to help reduce congestion and pollution—two vital goals for this city to continue to prosper—we must do all we can to ensure the streets are safe,” said Transportation Committee Chair John Liu. “For the first time, there will be a requirement to give special attention to locations that have experienced a pattern of accidents and fatalities. This bill will be an important tool for ensuring pedestrian and bicyclist safety, and I urge my colleagues to vote favorably on it.”

The Council will also vote on legislation requiring the Department of Parks and Recreation to inspect any location where there has been a complaint received of trees or other vegetation covering a traffic sign or traffic signal, within four days of notification. If it is determined that the vegetation interferes with the sign being visible or legible to a motorist, the Parks Department must prune it within 10 days for a stop, yield, and do not enter signs or any traffic signal, and within 20 days for any other sign.

“Drivers can’t obey traffic signals if they can’t see them,” said Council Member Jessica Lappin, the prime sponsor of the legislation. “This bill requires the city to prune trees that block critical lights and signs to keep drivers and pedestrians safe.”

Finally, the Speaker announced that the Council has reached an agreement with Mayor Bloomberg on the electronic waste legislation passed by the Council in February. Both the Council and the Mayor have agreed on the importance of an e-waste program, and on the majority of elements in the original legislation. However, the Mayor has opposed the Council’s inclusion of enforceable collections standards for electronic manufacturers.

Rather than allow that disagreement to delay implementation of this essential program, the Council has agreed to reintroduce the issue as two separate pieces of legislation. The Council will vote today on a communication recalling the original legislation passed in February. They will then introduce two new pieces of legislation: The first will cover all other elements of the e-waste plan, including requiring manufacturers to finance a take-back system that is convenient for the citizens of the City of New York; the second will cover only the elements creating enforceable collections standards.

The Council will vote on both bills simultaneously at the next Stated Council Meeting. This will allow mayor Bloomberg to sign the first bill, creating and quickly implementing a comprehensive electronic-waste collection program for New York City.