City Hall – Today the New York City Council will vote on comprehensive traffic and pedestrian safety package comprised of 11 bills and 6 resolutions. The Council will also vote on a property tax abatement bill for owners facing drastic increases in property tax rates following repairs on properties severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Additionally, the Council will vote on two resolutions in support of veterans – one calling upon the President to sign legislation that would award the Borinqeneers the Congressional Gold Medal, and one in support of state legislation benefiting veterans who serve as state employees.
Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Package
As part of the 2014 Vision Zero Action Plan, the City Council will be voting on a sweeping package of bills and resolutions aimed at making streets safer for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians alike. The package will include:
• Int. No. 46-A, sponsored by Council Member Cabrera, requires the Department of Transportation to repair missing or damaged traffic signals within 24 hours of receiving notice that the signal is not operational or visible. This bill would allow the Department of Transportation to implement alternative measures to control traffic if the repair or replacement would take more than 24 hours; DOT could also make a determination within those 24 hours that the repair or replacement is not warranted.
• Int. No. 80-A, sponsored by Council Member Lancman, requires the Department of Transportation to conduct a review of safety guidelines of workers on bridges. The review would be conducted on or before January 1, 2015, and the findings would be required to be reported to the Council and posted to Department of Transportation’s website.
• Int. No. 140-A, Sponsored by Council Member Greenfield, requires the Department of Transportation to establish at least seven 20mph neighborhood slow zones in both 2014 and 2015 that would contain traffic calming measures, such as speed humps. The bill would also require the Department of Transportation to establish speed zones with speed limits of 15-20mph at 50 school locations annually.
• Int. No. 167-A, sponsored by Council Member Rodriguez, outlaws “stunt behavior” by motorists such as wheelies, donuts, burnouts, and revving. A first violation of the stunt behavior prohibition would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $600. A second or subsequent violation committed within ten years would result in up to 120 days in jail and/or a fine up to $1,000. The bill would also require motorcycle license plates to be clearly visible at all times with violations resulting in up to 15 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $250.
• Int. No. 171-A, sponsored by Council Member Rosenthal, would increase pedestrian safety by holding Taxi and Limousine Commission licensed drivers accountable for negligent driving. Upon issuance of a summons or filling of charges for one or more moving violations that resulted in critical injury or death, a Taxi and Limousine Commission licensed driver may be summarily suspended. The driver could receive a hearing on the summary suspension within 15 days, as currently required by the Taxi and Limousine Commission rules. Upon the conviction of one or more violations that were a cause of the critical injury or death, the driver’s Taxi and Limousine Commission license would be revoked.
• Int. No. 174-A, sponsored by Council Member Vacca, requires the Taxi and Limousine Commission to review and investigate vehicles and drivers involved in incidents resulting in death or critical injury, even in the absence of charges. Any crash involving a Taxi and Limousine Commission vehicle or driver would be reported by the NYPD to the Taxi and Limousine Commission prior to the completion of the crash investigation. The Taxi and Limousine Commission would be required to undertake a fitness review of the driver and take enforcement action if warranted.
• Int. No. 238-A, sponsored by Council Member Weprin, creates penalties for drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians or bicyclists who have the right of way. Under this legislation, any driver who fails to yield to a pedestrian or bicyclist would be subject to a fine of not more than $50 and/or imprisonment of not more than 15 days. if a driver causes contact with a pedestrian or bicyclist as result of failure to yield, or otherwise interfering with the right of way, and that contact results in physical injury to the pedestrian or bicyclist, the driver would be guilty of a misdemeanor. The misdemeanor would be punishable by a fine of not more than $250, and/or imprisonment for not more than thirty days, with an additional civil penalty of up to $250 permitted.
• Int. No. 272-A, sponsored by Council Member Rodriguez, allows the Taxi and Limousine Commission to aggregate points issued by the TLC and DMV for purposes of suspension and revocation, if those points are safety related. Under current rules, violation points issued against the driver by the TLC and the State Department of Motor Vehicles are kept separate. In addition, this bill would give drivers incentive to take safe driving courses by increasing from 2 to 3 the point reduction on their license if they take such a course.
• Int. No. 277-A, sponsored by Council Member Vacca, requires the Taxi and Limousine Commission to specific what type of vehicle is involved in every crash reported in its quarterly report to the Council regarding the number of crashes involving a TLC licensed vehicle. In addition, the Taxi and Limousine Commission would be required to specify the number of accidents resulting in critical injury or death.
• Intro No.43-A, sponsored by Council Member Wills, requires the Department of Transportation to include a study of accidents resulting from left turns to be included in the comprehensive study of pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries, which is due by preexisting law on November 30, 2015, and every 5 years thereafter. In a 2012 Department of Transportation study, left turn crashes were found to have outnumbered right turn crashes by 3 to 1 margin.
• Int. No. 168-A, sponsored by Council Member Rodriguez, requires that arterial streets, or streets that have a high volume of traffic, be included in the same comprehensive study of pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries. Arterial streets, which constitute only 15% of the total road network, are estimated to account for about 60% of pedestrian fatalities.
• Res. No. 6, sponsored by Council Member Crowley, calls upon the New York State Legislature to amend the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law to increase the criminal penalty for reckless driving when serious physical injury or death of a person results from the reckless driving.
• Res. No. 51, sponsored by Council Member Crowley, calls upon the New York State Legislature to remedy several deficiencies in the law regarding leaving the scene of an accident. The resolution supports A.1533/S.2503, which would amend the state’s Vehicle Traffic Law by increasing various penalties associated with the offense of leaving the scene of an accident without reporting the accident.
• Res. No. 68, sponsored by Council Member Weprin, calls upon the New York State Legislature to pass, and the Governor to sign, legislation increasing the penalty for driving on the sidewalk, from $150 to $250. Additionally this resolution calls for such an infraction to result in three points being added to the driver’s license.
• Res. No. 117, sponsored by Council Member Vacca, calls upon the New York State Legislature to pass, and the Governor to sign, legislation that would give New York City control over its own speed camera program.
• Res. No. 118, sponsored by Council Member Van Bramer, calls upon the New York State Legislature to pass, and the Governor to sign, legislation that would give New York City control over its own red light camera program.
• Res. No. 144, sponsored by Council Member Vacca, calls upon the New York State Legislature to pass, and the Governor to sign, legislation that would make it a misdemeanor for a driver to injure a pedestrian or bicyclist while failing to “exercise due care”. Injury of pedestrians and bicyclists while failing to exercise due care is currently a traffic violation per state law.
“This comprehensive package of reforms and new measures provides us with a meaningful plan of action to reduce traffic-related injuries and fatalities in New York City,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “I’m grateful to my colleagues in the council, the de Blasio Administration, and the countless activists, advocates, and ordinary citizens who came together to help make these new policies possible.”
“Our ambitious package of bills will help to promote a new culture of safe streets in New York City,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Chair of the Committee on Transportation. “With the leadership of Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, the thoughtfulness of my colleagues, the bravery and commitment of Families for Safer Streets and the tireless work of Transportation Alternatives, we are doing our part to support the Vision Zero goals set forth by Mayor de Blasio. Drivers must understand that they have a tremendous amount of responsibility whenever they get behind the wheel and must always be wary of the many others who use our streets. From removing unsafe drivers from our streets to strengthening penalties for reckless and dangerous behavior, we send a clear message today that traffic related deaths and injuries will no longer go unchecked. We must stem this terrible tide that leaves only tragedy in its wake. If we work together toward our common goal, it is certainly possible to bring traffic deaths to zero by 2024”.
“The first duty of local government is to save lives and bringing an end to the tragic traffic-related injuries that take place all too often on our city streets is an essential part of any effective traffic safety strategy,” Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson (D-Bronx, 16th CD), chair of the Council Public Safety Committee said. “I am proud to join so many of my colleagues in supporting this package of important Vision Zero-related legislation that includes such practical initiatives as creating penalties for motorists who fail to yield to pedestrians and bicyclists, expediting the repair of damaged traffic signals and creating a series of neighborhood slow zones. Passage of this legislation will send a clear message that saving lives is an essential priority in our City and will lay the groundwork for state legislative action as well.”
“If we could save just one life by deterring reckless driving with a City-run red light camera program then this program will have served its purpose,” said New York City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer. “The success of Vision Zero heavily relies on this much-needed program. Our City’s residents cannot continue to wait. That is why I am urging the state to give our City the ability to run its own red light camera program and help us protect the lives of countless New Yorkers.”
“The Vision Zero Plan is a comprehensive and effective way to address the public’s concern about street safety while raising awareness among motorists. As prime sponsor of the traffic signals repair bill included in the package, I am confident the plan will help dramatically reduce and, most importantly, prevent senseless fatalities,” said Council Member Fernando Cabrera.
“With the passage of these bills, the City Council has sent a clear message that traffic safety is a main priority and we will not tolerate loss of life due to needless accidents. It will take adjustments from everyone – pedestrians, cyclists and all drivers, professional and non-professional – to make our Vision Zero objective a reality. My legislation will allow us to take two steps towards that goal, by requiring that crash data involving TLC vehicles be reported and available to the public, and by ensuring that collisions involving a TLC-licensed driver that result in critical injury or death will always be investigated by the commission and never fall through the cracks. I am confident that with this package of laws, and with the leadership of Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Trottenberg, we will significantly reduce the number of collisions in New York City and be well on our way to reaching our goal of zero traffic fatalities,” said Council Member James Vacca, former Chair of the Transportation Committee, who sponsored four pieces of legislation in the package.
“Speed kills. The sad fact is that New York City is plagued with preventable traffic fatalities and the Council is taking the common sense steps to put an end to these senseless losses. I thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for her leadership on this issue. I am proud that today we are passing a bill I first introduced in 2011 to protect motorists, pedestrians and cyclists, which will create slow zones in residential streets and lower the speed limit at 50 schools per year,” said Council Member David G. Greenfield.
“This comprehensive legislative package will make our streets safer and save countless lives. Through stricter traffic regulations and enforcement, New Yorkers will think twice before breaking the rules. I want to thank Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for their leadership in seriously reducing traffic fatalities,” said Council Member Elizabeth Crowley.
“Vision Zero means making our roadways safe not just for those who walk, ride and drive on them, but for those who work on them, as well,” said Council Member Rory Lancman. “The Bridge Workzone Safety Act is a big step toward protecting those who already do the hazardous work of maintaining and repairing our bridges from the added danger of vehicular traffic.”
“I am proud of what we have accomplished today. The City took definitive steps within 6 months of young Cooper Stock being killed by a taxi and passed Cooper’s Law. This new law will require the suspension of the TLC license of any taxi driver that causes death or serious injury pending investigation and immediately revoke the TLC license if found guilty. It’s a great first step, but there is much more to do. I know that the families of victims want to make sure ALL drivers are held accountable to the same standard as Cooper’s Law. I will be introducing resolution calling on the state to do just that. Drivers who kill or critically injure someone as a result of violating our traffic laws should be removed from behind the wheel. If we are serious about changing the tone on our streets there need to be real consequences for serious violations, as Cooper’s Law will do, and I hope the state will follow the City’s lead in this effort,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal.
“With this legislation, it is my hope that streets will be safer for pedestrians and bicyclists, bringing our City one step closer to reaching Vision Zero’s goal of eliminating traffic fatalities,” said Council Member Mark Weprin.
Tax Abatement for Properties Repaired After Hurricane Sandy
Many property owners who suffered property damage during Hurricane Sandy, and subsequently conducted repairs have experienced a drastic increase in their assessed valuation. Even if the repair or rebuilding merely restored a building to its condition prior to the storm, the assessed valuation and therefore, the real property taxes, of some of these properties will be significantly higher in fiscal year 2015 than in fiscal year 2013. This legislation will provide relief in the form of a property tax abatement for owners of 1,684 repaired or restored buildings.
“The property tax abatement we voted on today will provide much-needed financial relief to many homeowners who have been devastated by Hurricane Sandy, and who continue to feel the harsh effects of the worst natural disaster to strike New York City, said Minority Leader Vincent Ignizio. “I want to thank the Governor, Mayor de Blasio and City Council Speaker Mark-Viverito for working with legislators from both sides of the aisle to address this problem after Sen. Lanza and I brought it to their attention early this year. We must all remember, however, that thousands of residents still face the prospect of exorbitant property tax hikes once they complete repairs on their damaged homes and we urge everyone to continue to work together on a permanent solution to this punitive ‘Sandy Tax.’”
Resolutions Supporting Veterans
The 65th Infantry Regiment was a United States Army unit based in Puerto Rico renowned for its service during World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. The Regiment, also known as the Borinqueneers, became one of the most decorated units that fought in the Korean War, all while facing discrimination, harassment, and even persecution by the country it was defending. The Council will vote Res. No. 103, sponsored by Council Speaker Mark-Viverito and Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo, which calls upon the President to sign legislation that would award the Borinqueneers the Congressional Gold Medal – the highest civilian honor awarded by Congress – for their service and sacrifices. The Congressional Gold Medal has previously been awarded to distinguished military units comprised of minorities such as the Tuskegee Airmen and the Navajo Wind Talkers.
Additionally, the Council will vote on Res. No. 200, sponsored by Council Member Ulrich, in support of state legislation which would amend state law to allow all veterans, no matter in what era they served, to participate in the military service buy-back program. Employees of New York State who have previous public service may receive credit for that service toward their retirement by purchasing credit, a process known as “buy back.” Under current state law, veterans can buy back military service, but only if their service occurred during certain listed periods of conflict. The state legislation would also benefit women veterans who are not currently eligible to buy back certain periods of service as women were only recently permitted to officially serve in combat zones.