Dov Hikind Demagogues Against Safer Streets

Via Gothamist, here’s Assembly Member Dov Hikind railing against the new pedestrian refuges on Fort Hamilton Parkway at a Brooklyn Community Board 12 meeting last week. Hikind apparently can’t comprehend a program to install street safety amenities that reduce crossing distances in parts of town where lots of seniors live. His 13-minute tirade followed City Council Member Brad Lander’s defense of the ped refuge installation by NYC DOT.

Hikind uses the same rationale about emergency response that Marcia Kramer has deployed in two separate CBS2 pieces on these refuges. See our post last month for a few reasons why the “slowing down ambulances and fire trucks” argument obscures the real public safety risks at work on our streets.

I’ll add that Hikind’s vow to “undo” the refuges is tantamount to a pledge to increase the risk of chronic disease for his constituents. While public health professionals, including NYC Health Commissioner Thomas Farley, are making the case that incorporating physical activity into our daily routines can help reduce the incidence of heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure, Hikind is doing his best to make streets in his district less safe and welcoming for walking.

This flare-up over the Borough Park pedestrian refuges comes at an interesting moment. The City Council just passed a bill requiring NYC DOT to post standards explaining why traffic calming projects are implemented. A write-up in the Post today gleefully calls it “a new weapon to fight bike lanes, pedestrian plazas and other traffic measures.”

The actual bill is more innocuous than that. Not everyone is going to see a new street treatment like a pedestrian refuge and get it right off the bat, and anything that helps people understand why their streets are changing could also help build public buy-in for those projects. (Though I can easily see someone at a community board meeting brandishing a print-out of these standards while shouting a non-reality-based screed against a new project.)

There will always be a hard core of opponents, however, who look at a ped refuge and just see an object in the roadway, something that forces them to pay more attention while driving and could potentially damage their property if they’re not sufficiently careful with their multi-ton vehicle. These are probably the same people who are most likely to call up their local representatives and complain about a new street design.

The question for New York City’s elected officials is this: Are they going to indulge their most change-averse constituents, amplify those who complain the loudest, and do their utmost to keep pedestrians, cyclists and motorists at risk from reckless driving and dangerous street designs? Or are they going to help their constituents understand why change is happening, inject reason into the public debate, and do what’s in their power to improve the safety and health of New Yorkers?

  • The measure of a good leader is how well he protects the most vulnerable of his constituents. The measure of a good politician is how well he protects the most powerful. Give Dov Hikind credit for being a good politician.

  • Barnard

    Doug, you’re right, which means that after Bloomberg is gone and Janette Sadik-Khan is no longer DOT Commissioner, NYC will be ruled by politicians who will want to remove all of the safety, health, livability, etc. improvements that have been implemented in recent years.

  • Streetsman

    Looking at wording of the bill, it appears that it won’t require DOT to explain anything that isn’t specifically intended to make people safer. If DOT or other agencies want to increase speeds or endanger lives, no explanation is necessary. Only “traffic calming” requires an explanation. Glad to see the council is looking out for our safety by making it harder to ensure. Maybe next they can pass a law requiring the fire department to hold a public hearing before they respond to a fire.

  • He’s never had to scrape one of his own loved ones off the pavement. Someone who has should tell him what it was like.

  • Joe R.

    Sadly, now it looks like “fifty is nifty” is more likely to happen than “twenty is plenty”.

  • Give him segregated sidewalks and he’ll be all for more walkable streets.

  • J

    I’m not sure what all the fuss is about. All this calls for is public guidelines for when and where traffic calming is appropriate. They already publish many of their standards online anyway.
    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/nycdot_highwaydesign_typicalmarkings.pdf

    Honestly, I don’t see this changing much in terms of actual implementation. If it appeases the crazies, so be it. They can dig through the guidelines and find out that DOT is very much following their own rules. If DOT isn’t, then the measures probably aren’t appropriate anyway.

  • J

    On further thought, perhaps we can get a similar bill passed requiring the publication of the safety impacts of removing traffic calming devices and bicycle facilities, narrowing sidewalks, and widening or adding vehicle lanes. The safety reports should include estimates of the increase in injuries and deaths that will result. That way, attempts to decrease street safety can be properly documented as a “War on Pedestrians and Cyclists” with real casualties, in contrast to the so-called “war on the car”, whose only effects are slightly slower commutes and increased driver safety.

  • So let me get this straight… Dov Hikind points out that a patient died in an ambulance that was stuck in traffic, and blames not the people in the cars blocking the ambulance, but the safety improvements to protect innocent people from those drivers that were blocking the ambulance? Is this not seeing the forest for the… cars?

    It’s not that there wasn’t already too many people driving cars in the first place. With or without the traffic calming there were already too many cars, and inviting more doesn’t keep people in ambulances alive.

  • david

    They used the same gripe on Grand st when they put in islands and a year later, no problems at all. I think this person is silly.

  • dJay

    Its all about the aesthetics. Put up a full uninterrupted green median, the street looks classy. Put up some “refuge islands” instead, the street looks mickey-mouse.

  • tom

    Happened by the site on Fort Hamilton Parkway yesterday. What DOT did was re-channel the four through-travel lanes into two through-travel lanes, one north and one south. Having significantly reduced the capacity for only these few blocks on an avenue that runs some miles from Windsor Terrace/Kensington to Bay Ridge/Fort Hamilton and is an important arterial road; DoT thought there would not be a problem. Traffic must move slower, including emergency vehicles.
    Even the DOT’s Street Design Manual(2009) says all agencies must be mindful of even infrequent use by these important vehicles on roadways, but next to a major trauma center! Shame, or should I say: shanda[sic].

  • Mike

    That’s utter disinformation from Tom: There were NOT four travel lanes before. There were two, one in each direction. The lanes were wide, but they were DEFINITELY not four. Check Google Maps.

    The ONLY part of Fort Hamilton that used to have four travel lanes was the part next to Green-Wood Cemetery.

  • The tell-tale sign that no traffic lanes were removed is that Marcia Kramer has only done two three-minute segments on this project, not an hour-long special.

  • tom

    Mike, you’re wrong. Part of the DOT game is to get to the rubber ruler, or just lie. Don’t buy into it. Go out further along Fort Hamilton Pkwy. and count the cars abreast at the stop light: one-two-three-four. Why do you think there are markings in the re-channeled intersections directing the traffic into single file if there hadn’t been FOUR de facto, real and usable travel lanes,(and two parking lanes and two wide sidewalks)?

    From Jan Gehl on down the narrative is to make things they don’t like just disappear. Like parking spots or travel lanes. Don’t let’s talk about it. Don’t admit to it. Talk around it. Control the narrative, especially the public discourse, at all times. Otherwise, the opposition will recognize what we’re about and organize against us.

    Also, Mike, I don’t deal in disinformation. I do read a lot of contradictory information and then look to see what is true; and I observe. Google this: Cycling in New York(Pucher, Thorwaldson, Buehler and Klein, Rutgers 2010) for an up-to-date analysis of the real state of NYC bicycling. It was cited here in Streetsblog, but sparingly. Read the whole paper.

  • Mike

    Tom, I’m looking on Google Maps again, and there just weren’t two moving lanes each way! There’s one moving lane each way, and a parking lane, for the entire stretch.

    You can also tell this because, at school crosswalks, DOT marks “SCHOOL XING” in each moving lane. On two-lane streets, they mark it twice. On Fort Hamilton, it’s marked once in each direction. e.g between 54th and 55th, and between 73rd and 75th. On actual two-moving-lanes-in-each-direction streets, it’s marked in each lane: see, for example, McDonald Ave northbound approaching Caton.

    Can you cite SPECIFIC locations where there are two moving lanes in each direction, or where there are four cars abreast at a stoplight and they’re not just parked?

    All available evidence points to the conclusion that you’re simply making this up.

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