If the concept of traffic calming seems a little fuzzy to you, look no further than the big snow falls of December, January and February. Heavy snows dramatically slowed NYC auto traffic, and narrowed roads and Avenues. Some side streets resembled traffic calming diagrams of "chokers" and "neckdowns" as cars and trucks took wider, and slower turns, and kept to one narrow center lane.
The snowy weather benefited pedestrians with fewer cars, slower speeds, and narrower streets. However, walls of snow raised by passing plows blocked most crosswalks and bus stops. Is there a message here?
Nature calmed and reduced auto traffic, the Departments of Sanitation and Transportation spent our tax money to raise walls to walkers. H'mm.
The Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) is redesigning Foley Square; currently a jumble of broken sidewalks, wide streets and bureaucratic car parking north of City Hall. Designers propose closing either Centre or Lafayette Streets to cars, closing Pearl St, and eliminating on street parking. Unfortunately, the DOT is pushing to keep all the streets open and parking in place. DoTs insistence on keeping space for autos is costing the City a chance to create a new jewel of urban design and enjoyment.
Cars on S.I. Ferry, More Chaffeured City Hall Staff. Though he is the Mayor of the least car-dependent city in the nation, Rudy Giuliani's sympathy for motorists is emerging. The Mayor appears receptive to the pleas of Guy Molinari, Staten Island Borough President to put cars back on the S.I. ferry. The ferry has not carried cars since a fire destroyed the ferry terminal three years ago.
In the midst of a $2.5 billion budget deficit, the Mayor has also added four new chauffeured limos for top City Hall aides. The move drew newspaper attention and prompted Crystine Lategano, the Mayor's spokesperson, to defensively ask a Daily News reporter, "Are you really going to run this stupid story?" 245 fire department driver/chauffeurs are keeping their jobs although they cost the City $8.5 million a year.
No Response Giuliani has not responded to a letter from Transportation Alternatives and hundreds of post cards from T.A. members asking him to send out the right message by riding public transit at least once a month and cut the City car fleet by 25%, a measure that would save tax payers millions and reduce pollution and waste.
Now DoT Chief On the positive side, the Mayor has appointed Elliot "Lee" Sander, the well?regarded former head of the State DoTs Transit Division, as the new Commissioner of the Department of Transportation. Sander has already butted heads with the Mayor on the S.I. ferry issue, and is sure to again, as the Mayor attempts to appease his auto?dependent supporters from Staten Island, Eastern Queens, and Brooklyn.
If You Want Some Answers Write: Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, City Hall New York, NY 10001
Research by Transportation Alternatives shows that the vast majority of drivers who kill and maim avoid any jail time. In 1992 only one motorist was sentenced to time for vehicular homicide in NYC, even as 282 pedestrians and 17 cyclists were killed by cars. State criminal justice records reveal that in 1992, only 16 drivers were sentenced to jail for vehicular assault though over 15,000 pedestrians and 3,500 cyclists were injured by cars. Especially appalling is the fact that of the walkers killed [in NYC], over 70 were killed while standing on the curb, sitting on a park bench, or crossing with the light in a marked crosswalk. T.A. inquiries to the police and prosecutors office were met with disinterest. One prosecutor explained that NY State law requires a high burden of proof in cases involving pedestrians hit by cars. Another noted that the New York City Police arrested only 22 motorists for vehicular homicide and 156 for vehicular assault and that more arrests would produce more convictions.
Ask our new Police Commissioner to enforce the city's traffic laws on city streets, and to make arrests of drivers who maim and kill as appropriate.
Write: William Bratton