New Council Mem Ydanis Rodriguez: Traffic Enforcement Is “Harassment”

About a week before the Tri-State Transportation Campaign issued a report revealing that eight pedestrians were killed on the streets of Washington Heights and Inwood between 2006 and 2008, newly-elected Upper Manhattan City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez attended a protest calling for justice. NYPD, it seems, is regularly ticketing drivers for blocking intersections on traffic-choked W. 181st Street, and Rodriguez wants it to stop.

community_tickets_WEB.jpgOn a sidewalk strained to capacity, Ydanis Rodriguez stands with drivers. Photo: MT

The December 28 rally, the Manhattan Times reports, was organized by Fundación Minerva Mirabal, and was heavily attended — to the extent that it was attended at all — by representatives of livery cab companies, whose ubiquitous black Town Cars are the uptown counterpart of the yellow cab. The Times explains the problem as Rodriguez and his co-complainants see it:

As vehicles stack up at lights, drivers, hoping the line will inch up before the light turns red, inevitably get stuck in the intersection and are ticketed.

"If you drive 125th Street there’s a team of one to two traffic agents moving traffic," Rodriguez said. Ticketing drivers instead of helping move traffic on the street amounts to harassment, he said.

Rodriguez has put calls into the head of traffic enforcement to hopefully find a solution to the problem.

One solution that must not have occurred to the council member is for drivers to obey the law. Clogged intersections are a major contributor to the gridlock that so offends Rodriguez, and crosswalk violations pose a significant safety risk to people on foot. For these reasons, city traffic law is fairly unambiguous when it comes to proper motorist protocol:

No operator shall enter an intersection and its crosswalks unless there is sufficient unobstructed space beyond the intersection and its crosswalks in the lane in which he/she is traveling to accommodate the vehicle, notwithstanding any traffic control signal indication to proceed.

But Rodriguez would apparently rather shift enforcement resources to "helping move traffic," which to us sounds like code for ushering drivers through intersections teeming with pedestrians. This in a district where roughly 80 percent of households don’t own a car. It must also be noted that, during his campaign, Rodriguez bragged of helping quash the effort to toll northern Manhattan’s "free" bridges, ensuring 181st Street’s status as a traffic magnet for the foreseeable future (while endangering his constituents’ access to adequate transit service).

A Rodriguez staffer indicated to Streetsblog that we’d get clarification on where Rodriguez stands when it comes to balancing motorist convenience and pedestrian safety, but his office ultimately did not respond to our questions. DOT’s planned revamp of 181, meanwhile, has been delayed by at least a year, according to the Times.

  • Harassment is what drivers who get stuck in the box do to pedestrians, not what cops do to drivers who block the box and violate traffic codes. Glad to see Rodriguez doesn’t have any sort of grasp on the city’s laws and regulations.

  • Only two of those Washington Heights-Inwood deaths took place in Council District 10, however. Perhaps Rodriguez’s constituents (like me) are so cowed by District 10’s crazy drivers that they never leave the house.

  • LN

    The best thing to do with 181st street is to close it off to cars completely and allow only busses, bikes and people, similar to Fulton St. in Brooklyn — very similar, since the same stores have branches in both locations and the same volume of shoppers every weekened.

  • The ability of New York’s voters to elect utter morons to public office never ceases to amaze me.

  • flp

    @eric while your statement has an element of truth to it, one must also consider who most of the well funded, high profile candidates are. sadly. washington heights and inwood are no exception to the “electing a moron” pattern because the stronger candidates probably have the backing of the livery industry behind them. here, that is a MAJOR industry. as a result, it is a little premature to lay the blame entirely on the voters, who in this case, tend to be politically and economically powerless for the most part unlike folks on the UWS, UES lower manhattan or certain nabes in brooklyn that may appear to be more progressive regarding traffic and transportation policy.

  • Angel

    flp is right.

    The livery cab crowd is to Washington Heights what the financial industry is to Obama. Ydanis is totally wrong on this one and had to take the hit as a “moron” because he knows where he bread is buttered.

    To those concerned about who we elect in this district: think of it more as who we don’t elect. Only 17% of the active registered voters cast a ballot in the last election. 17%!!! That’s a sad joke, that plays right into the hands of the amateur hour political machine the rules in this council district.

    Sparing ourselves representation by these “morons” seems an easy fix if we just go ahead an vote for someone else. Again, only 12,752 ballots cast out of 74,075 actively registered voters.

    I’ll be going to these CB12 meetings, hope to see y’all there.

  • Susan Donovan

    181st Street I know it well and as a pedestrian who lived in the area for two years just the mention of that street fills me with terror. Not only is everything blocked but people double and triple park. Do the drivers doing this even live in the neighborhood? Some may, but I bet most don’t —

  • Erin

    I used to live at Broadway and 176th St. The livery car honking was unbelievable. They didn’t usually lay on the loud, long honks, but they did beep beep beep beep at everything that moves. Probably every 3 seconds, a car drives by beeping at everything that moves. And the cars would double park on Broadway just like on 181st, leading to more honking and dangerous aggressive driving.

    Crossing the street in that neighborhood is harrowing. Jonathan might have been joking in Comment #2 above, but there is some truth in his jest: I really did feel oppressed there, and I didn’t walk around nearly as much as I do in less pedestrian hostile neighborhoods.

  • This is a bit off-point, but that constant honking by the liveries to solicit fares makes cycling extremely unpleasant, not only in the Heights but also on the Upper East and West Sides, where were they do it constantly during the morning rush. That’s what I call harassment!

  • J

    This is grandstanding, but offensive none the less. The 181st St plan will address some of the vehicle congestion through more loading zones. Sad, though in a district with so many pedestrians. The article is written pretty much exclusively from a driver’s perspective.

  • I definitely agree with Angel and flp above about the importance of the livery-cab business sector to Washington Heights politicians. It’s embarrassing, when I think about it, that the neighborhood’s most prominent economic activity is transportation away from the area.

  • James

    Can anyone shed some light on WHY the livery cab businesses are the dominant sector in Washington Heights & Inwood? There are other outer areas of the city whose residents also rely upon livery cabs to get around, yet those neighborhoods aren’t totally dominated by them the way Upper Manhattan is. And why has NYPD refused to go after their drivers for the constant honking? I lived on Broadway on the Riverdale/Kingsbridge line and my life there was characterized by what felt like one long livery cab honk. It basically ruined quality of life on that street.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Its an evil merger of exploitation of immigrant labor and free enterprise chaos of production invisible hand of the marketplace.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Sorry for the double post but it occurs to me that the Manhattan Institute must love liver cabs and the economic freedom they represent. After all, no pensions or Health and Welfare to weigh down the growth of the economy.

  • The December 28 rally, the Manhattan Times reports, was organized by Fundación Minerva Mirabal

    Minerva Mirabal is probably rolling over in her grave now.

  • From the wikipedia entry on the Mirabal sisters:

    Despite these setbacks, they persisted in fighting to try to end Trujillo’s dictatorship. After the sisters’ numerous imprisonments, Trujillo decided to get rid of the sisters. On November 25, 1960, he sent men to intercept the three women after the women had visited their husbands in prison. The unarmed sisters were led into a sugarcane field, then executed along with their driver, Rufino de la Cruz. Their car was later thrown off of a mountain known as La Cumbre, between the cities of Santiago and Puerto Plata, in order to make their deaths look like an accident.

    Perhaps the Rufino de la Cruz Foundation should sponsor such rallies in future.

  • eLK

    It seems Irresponsible Driving is a big voting block in Washington Heights. So too are dog owners that don’t pick up after themselves.

  • eLK, great point.

  • Chris

    The livery cab drivers are disrespectful of other drivers – particularly on Broadway, where they double (and sometimes triple) park. When you finally pull past them, you realize they are holding up traffic simply to have a conversation with other livery drivers through their car windows.

  • Sean

    Dominicans… nuff said.

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