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.”

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