Vacca and Lappin Press DOT, Not NYPD, for Data on Dangerous Intersections

New Yorkers who pay attention to street safety policy know that NYC DOT has been busy constructing sidewalk extensions, pedestrian islands, and speed humps, while NYPD has lagged behind on traffic enforcement and crash investigations. So it was perplexing to see City Council members James Vacca and Jessica Lappin on the steps of City Hall today calling for more safety data from DOT. The DOT is five months late with a legally-mandated report on the city’s 20 most dangerous intersections for pedestrians, and the council members are sending a letter to Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan demanding the report’s completion.

Jessica Lappin and James Vacca want a report from DOT, pronto. Meanwhile, the real laggards on street safety in city government -- NYPD -- got a pass from the council members until reporters pressed them to comment. Photo: Stephen Miller

The two laws requiring the report go by many names — 2008’s Local Law 11 is known as the NYC Pedestrian Safety Act, and 2011’s Local Law 12, known as the Saving Lives Through Better Information Act, has now been dubbed by Vacca and Lappin the TrafficStat Law. The laws require DOT to use pedestrian crash data from the state Department of Motor Vehicles to identify the 20 most dangerous intersections and release a report outlining actions it will take to improve safety at those locations.

DOT issued these reports in 2010 and 2011 but has not yet issued its 2012 report. “We’re sick of waiting,” Lappin said, citing the most recent Mayor’s Management Report, which showed an 11 percent increase in annual pedestrian fatalities, up from record lows.

In response, DOT spokesperson Seth Solomonow pointed to the agency’s record of implementing safety improvements. “Not a single project has been delayed by this report, which we expect to be complete in a matter of weeks,” he said in an email.

In 2010, the agency released a landmark pedestrian safety report that was mandated by Local Law 11. Following through on the action plan accompanying that report, the agency has pursued a number of safety projects on corridors with high injury rates, like Sunset Park’s Fourth Avenue and Harlem’s Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard.

While this particular complaint will likely be settled in a matter of weeks when DOT puts out the 2012 report, the systemic problems with NYPD’s street safety policies remain, and legislation aimed at addressing those deficiencies — the Crash Investigation Reform Act — is currently languishing in the council.

Local Law 12 also requires the NYPD to publish crash data on a monthly basis. When pressed, Lappin said she’d like to see NYPD step up its compliance with crash data laws.

“We don’t like the way they’re complying, but at least they’re putting information up,” Lappin said, noting that the data NYPD has been posting is not archived and is not easily searchable. “They are complying with the letter of the law,” she said. “We just don’t think they’re complying with the spirit of the law.”

Juan Martinez, general counsel for Transportation Alternatives, joined Vacca and Lappin to emphasize the long-term importance of complying with these laws. “We know that this administration is very committed to traffic safety. We don’t know that the next administration is going to have the same priority,” he said.

“We want to make people safer. The police department should want to make people safer. And certainly with this commissioner at DOT, this has been a priority for them,” Lappin said. “That’s why we’ve been surprised that it has been so difficult to get this information.”

  • Brad Aaron

    Eleven months since the council held its “landmark” hearing on pedestrian and cyclist safety and NYPD’s illegal crash investigation procedures. Thousands of New Yorkers have been wounded since then in collisions handled by officers authorized to do nothing more than fill in boxes on a form.

    And Jess Lappin and Jimmy Vacca are sick of waiting.

  • Guest

    Lappin and Vacca think lives can be saved by “Better Information.”  Maybe they can.  But they could actually be saved by “Better Action.”  And we need our City Council to act on pedestrian safety, not just be a rubber stamp for whatever pro-parking legislation is put on the agenda by a pandering politician.  Allowing people to park in front of curb cutouts?  The City Council is ON IT.  Grace periods for parking meters?  Check.  But redesign the intersection in Lappin’s district where Rubin Baum was killed in September?  Not now.  Do something to stop the growing roster of New Yorkers killed by private sanitation trucks?  More information, please.

    Lappin and Vacca may be waiting for DOT, but New Yorkers are waiting for our City Council.  Do something!  Other than just use DOT’s delay as a cynical opportunity to nail an agency that’s a popular political punching bag, that is.

  • moocow

    I was at that “landmark” hearing, and Lappin talked tough, I was excited to hear her take the NYPD to task. She’s been a disappointment since. Vacca is like one of those inflatable waving arm guys, whatever it takes to get column inches. 
    DOT has already done so much redesign to make up for NYPD’s complete failure in the simple task of protecting the public from drivers.

  • Jonathan Rabinowitz

    The other day when double-parking in school zones was all the rage, I called up CM Rivera’s office and spoke for about 20 minutes to Christina Capitella, his legislative staffer. She was very pleasant and certainly took the time to listen to my concerns, even though I live in another council district (although I do travel through CM Rivera’s district on my way to and from the job site).

    I also spoke to my own CM’s legislative aide and discussed my concerns with the double-parking bill.

    Brad, Stephen and Ben put the information out there, and it is up to us Streetsblog readers to go the next step and ensure that our city reps are aware that many New Yorkers share these concerns.I feel it’s more productive to spend 20 minutes calling CM Lappin’s office and complaining than it is to spend 20 minutes composing a snarky rant.

  • BizarreLoveTriangle

    Vacca is a rising power in the council and has a good shot at the speakership after the next election. One explanation for this stupid press conference is that Lappin wants to hitch her wagon to Vacca. The DOT-bashing shows that, even though she’s from Manhattan, she’s on board with the anti-livable streets reactionaries. In return for being Vacca’s accessory, she’ll get some sort of plum committee leadership assignment.

  • JK

     “This administration is very committed to traffic safety.” Really? Perhaps more accurately, “The DOT part of this administration is very committed. The NYPD part is totally unaccountable and apathetic and appears to have given up on enforcing the speed limit on city streets.”

  • moocow

    JRab, of course, you are correct.

  • jwnyc3

    Nice to know the Council occasionally responds when constituents reach out. I’ve left countless messages at Robert Jackson’s office trying to get some action on the motorcycle gangs that terrorize upper Manhattan all night, every night, from April through October. It’s an issue not only of safety but of health and quality of life. When you call the 34th, the cops tell you to move to another neighborhood. I’ve seen people openly weep at CB12 meetings, begging for relief from the sleep deprivation. Maybe the gangs are paying off the Council, or the cops. They’ve ruled the streets for years.

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