Today’s Headlines

  • Let’s Stop Pretending Community Boards Are Qualified to Decide Transportation Policy (Reclaim)
  • There’s an Accurate Way to Measure Subway Performance That the MTA Isn’t Using (TransitCenter)
  • If DOT and the MTA Get L Line Transitways Right, There Won’t Be a Need for Private Shuttle Buses (Voice)
  • Daily News Editorial Board: Still a Lot of Unanswered BQX Questions
  • De Blasio Shelves Street Fair Reform Plan (Politico)
  • Electeds Let DA Richard Brown Off the Hook for Going Easy on the Driver Who Killed Navraj Raju (TL)
  • Motorist Hits Two People, One of Them a Child, Outside School in Bed-Stuy (DNA)
  • Conflicting Reports of Person Injured by Driver in Murray Hill Yesterday (Post, DNA)
  • Driver Who Dragged Midtown Pedestrian for a Block and Left Scene Arrested (DNANewsAMNY, NY1)
  • TLC and NYPD to Resume Seizing Vehicles From Illegal Dollar Van Operators (Bklyn Paper)
  • MTA Ignores Pleas to Turn Streetlights Back On at Upper East Side Intersection (DNA)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

  • TLCis911aJoke

    From the dollar van article “drivers are not licensed with the Taxi and Limousine Commission, which ensures they … have a safe record”

    Joke, right?

  • If community boards have no place in the transportation policy discussion, then why the hell is Transportation Alternatives encouraging us supporters to join community boards then? There are more knowledgable transpo advocates on community boards than ever… and we’re going to neuter them all because a half dozen community boards in NYC have ridiculous members?

    – Cyclist, safe streets advocate, TA + Riders Alliance supporter, Assistant Treasurer of MCB6

  • The other thing about the “kill CBs” discussion is that there is never a suggestion as to where the policy discussions should get shifted to maximize impact & progress. Our elected officials are, on the average, no better at digesting relevant information & supporting radical change. Some electeds are great, and some just block every/any proposal that doesn’t enhance automobile privilege. StreetsPAC is a great idea but we can’t put a bunch of single-issue candidates into office at the city and state level. StreetsPAC isn’t going to change the “three men in a room” dynamic in Albany. There’s a pretty good case to be made, though, that more opportunities for grassroots activists to express support for safer & better transportation at the community & municipality level is net-positive for progress. That’s the value I see in the approach of pushing safe streets advocates to sit on community boards & not rail against them.

  • JudenChino

    DoT should just ram it all down our throats. Let the CMs be the “Community.” They use the CBs to be good cop and bad cop ala Tish James supporting the removal of a proposed bike lane on Clinton Ave. Tish James shouldn’t be weighing in. CBs shouldn’t be weighing in. We elect the CMs and they can speak for the Community. But bike networks, like road networks, aren’t things that just stop within the boundaries of any particular CB or CM zone. They’re citywide and shouldn’t be subject to the veto of local CM either.

    DoT are the experts and they’re the ones who should be the definitive and dispositive voice on road and safety enhancements including placement of bike lanes and the network.

    As for why should you be on the CB? Duh, so long as it’s a thing that’s used then we have to play ball. I’m grateful that you’re on MCB6. But ideally, we shouldn’t have to flood the CBs wth livable streets advocates. Another JSK is what we need, one with Mayoral backing.

  • Because you have to work within the system AND work to change it at the same time? Doesn’t seem that complicated.

  • iSkyscraper

    Couldn’t agree more. Community Boards should be limited to making requests of DOT to help things like stop signs and speed bumps get attention. They should never be placed in any sort of review position, even if just as a recommendation. They are simply not qualified and often a real deterrent to intelligent thinking.

  • bolwerk

    No place might be a bit harsh, but close to no place?

    A single train/tram/bus is rarely worth it if it doesn’t run through several CB territories. Many, maybe most in the case of Manhattan, of the beneficiaries of a particular transit route might live in another part of the city. This stuff should just be regarded as macro level planning.

    Parking, sidewalks, and bikes might be a slightly different question. But even then only so much, since a network of private separated bike lanes is desirable (IMHO) and things like parking obviously impact surface transit performance.

  • JudenChino

    The problem with parking is that they will fight tooth and nail to prevent any dilution of free curbside parking which, as a a foregone opportunity cost, means they’re automatically hostile to necessary pedestrian enhancements such as bulb-outs and daylighting of intersections. Daylighting should be undertaken by DoT as a matter of course — CBs oppose that because it’s one less parking spot. That’s dangerous and fucked up. And this is The City For Pedestrians.

  • bolwerk

    I was trying to be constructive in my answer, but I agree. Truthfully I am more in the “not sure community boards represent the interests of their communities” camp myself.

  • Abolish CBs = abolish system

    I mean, it’d be real nice if, just when I got to a position of influence in the city to push for safe streets, my peers demanded I be term-limited & my position eliminated

  • Joe R.

    They shouldn’t even do that. They should just call DOTs attention to dangerous intersections or other areas and then let DOT figure out the best solution, without micromanaging or having stipulations like “you can’t touch curbside parking”.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    So run for elected office like representatives in every other democracy in the world.

  • Read upthread – you may find your results are significantly diminished if you rely upon that. Can you disrupt council races where the candidates are party insiders with broad establishment support who raise hundreds of thousands of dollars years in advance & who enjoy 12-year incumbency in their positions? How many grassroots activists you see on the City Council right now?

  • Joe R.

    Ideally the system shouldn’t depend upon either elected officials or community boards. DOT should have a blanket mandate to make streets safer and/or apportion space between motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians as it deems fit. Do we have a committee of non-experts, elected or otherwise, when we design a bridge or a building? I don’t see why we need one when designing streets, either. Street design is an engineering problem best left to engineers with the requisite knowledge.

  • I agree!
    But this is a DOT problem. Not a CB problem.

    Proposals for DOT actions should include options all consistent with Vision Zero, not Option 1: VZ and Option 2: do nothing if you say no.

    There are many inside of DOT right now who are more “do nothing” advocates than the community boards they face.

    This is what I’ve directly observed going to meetings/hearings at multiple community boards across Manhattan!

    I am not correcting you on this just to troll the commenters of Streetsblog, I clearly have better things to do with my time than comment trolling.

  • Joe R.

    No arguing there are likely people at DOT who think the status quo is fine and/or perhaps started back when motor vehicle level of service trumped everything else. That’s exactly why we need fresh blood at local and state DOTs. DOTs certainly need to innovate more just so elected officials can see there’s more than one way to configure a street.

  • Guest

    Unfortunately, DOT doesn’t behave well here either. Too often, they make the community come with a specific request (which then can often be rejected on technical grounds), instead of taking the concern and developing a solution.

  • JudenChino

    There are many inside of DOT right now who are more “do nothing” advocates than the community boards they face.

    Oh, please share. I’ve always had the impression that DoT was full of bike commuting CAD STATA planning types that are knee capped by higher up bureaucracy. You are suggesting otherwise.

  • Some community boards don’t represent the interests of the broader communities

    Streetsblog has been great in shining a light on that

    It’s also inaccurate to claim that ALL BOARDS have this problem. Also, they handle far much more business than transportation issues. I’m very supportive of implementing constraints on the power of boards to override DOT on transportation strategy. But I also support DOT continuing to gather community feedback about implementation – even if that feedback sometimes ends up being corrupt. Because that’s not always the case.

  • I know otherwise. Not everyone at DOT was hired in the JSK days.

    But sure, argue with me about my life experiences. I imagined my memories of years of DOT interaction. Yeah, that’s it.

  • JudenChino

    I’m not arguing with you. I’m asking you to tell me about your experiences. I wasn’t being sarcastic. Further details would be appreciated.

  • ah ok

    Well, for starters, MCB6 has been a strong advocate for completing protected bike lanes on 1Av/2Av in our district for a long time. DOT is yielding extensions of already-implemented segments in bits and pieces. Still a huge gap on 2Av in Midtown that’s only getting half filled by Spring 2017. We want more.

    In other districts I have been to the meetings where the boards have asked DOT for more protected bike lanes, more traffic calming, better pedestrian refuges, LPIs and better signaling, Select Bus Service, etc. Without calling out names and incidents, I will tell you that not every response from DOT was “Gee, golly, really? You WANT that stuff! We’re so happy! We’ll do it within the next 12 months!”… often the answer is “we’ll see” or “we looked at that intersection and it won’t support that idea, we need to maintain LOS. We can’t have backups going up the avenue.”

    It’s a poorly understood concept that the Avenues are de-facto county highways and that DOT is committed to preserving that usage and the throughput it supports. Outside of rush hour, most avenues are far over-provisioned, it’s empty public space that only serves to enhance drag racing. DOT is unwilling to design roads for average loads, it’s entirely focused on peak-load and it knows very well that peak-load volume is mostly out-of-town drivers who could be nudged to use mass transit more. Living in Manhattan (and parts of the other boroughs) is essentially a commitment to living amongst Long Island’s, Westchester’s and New Jersey’s automobile access space. There’s nothing local about these quasi-highways at all. And they are DRASTICALLY different today from their original designs & original purposes. These decisions aren’t inherent to urban planning and use, they are a choice to confer privilege to suburbanites and stubborn car-owning urbanites (less than 15% of the local population)

  • kevd

    Because you don’t engage politically in the system you wish you had, you engage in the system as is exists.

  • This is my point exactly. We need more people engaged with community boards and fewer people holding the hardline position that the only useful reform is abolishment or disempowerment.

    Again, this is complicated by the fact that the DOT is interfacing with community boards the wrong way, and DOT’s error is something that needs to change in the near future. DOT should set goals for corridor performance, and then give the community boards implementation options that meet those goals. Allowing community boards to veto city design proposals is a grave misuse of the opportunity gained when having community board input available.

    Community boards are a little confused about this too, though – they were originally land-use review entities & they ARE indeed asked yes/no endorsement questions in regards to land use matters, business licensing (sidewalk cafes, liquor licenses), etc. That does not at all mean that the DOT and community boards need to communicate in that exact same manner.

  • bolwerk

    I’m not saying they’re completely evil and everyone on them is just a NIMBY ingrate, nor did I say ALL BOARDS are that bad, but the general thrust of CBs is troubling.

    My biggest problem with them is they’re automatically going to fail to include the people who need to be involved in the process the most. Stuck on transit two hours a day? You probably ain’t making it to the CB meeting.

  • Reggie

    If that is your position, then you don’t need community boards, all you need are district managers and district office staff.

  • Reggie

    What I find most interesting is, TA (through its membership magazine) makes its most nuanced comments ever about community boards, subtly praising some and pointing out the deficiencies of others, and many of the comments are, ‘Nahhhh, community boards are full of dummies who don’t get anything.’ I served on a community board and found neither my fellow members nor other boards elsewhere uniformly anything.

  • iSkyscraper

    With regard to Transportation, YES. Community board members are grossly mismatched to transportation engineering and analysis and cannot even convey representative community desires, so wrapped up are they in their little worlds.

  • Reggie

    Not the design of a bridge, but “non-experts” on community boards review the designs of buildings in historic districts throughout the city, among many other applications that they comment on. Joe, you seem to have forgotten how much criticism JSK took for being allegedly heavy-handed in imposing changes by fiat. Community by-in is incredibly valuable and Brian is making an argument for one way to achieve that.

  • 1) I’m addressing the larger audience, we’ve got a fair amount of support here for disbanding CBs (they don’t even have any real power to strip, all the power lies with the electeds & the agency heads – that they abide by any faulty CB resos is insane and, ultimately, something the city charter already had a power check to deal with by making everything *advisory*)

    2) The City Council and the state legislature are even MORE inaccessible. And they have actual policy power! The boards, again, should have no real power that are not extensions of the agencies’ or electeds’ processes to seek feedback from the community anyway.

    Note that not-having-an-appointed-body to structure this feedback means that most council members would respond to community policy proposals by counting up whoever writes to them the most shrill letters – that isn’t better than community boards in the long run

  • iSkyscraper

    Let’s also not forget the political meddling that comes with Community Boards. On the recent Sherman Plaza rezoning in Inwood, the community was, rightly or wrongly, nearly unanimous in their opposition to the project. This was documented through town hall meetings and other hearings and in an initial resolution against the project.

    The Community Board Chair, under pressure from the councilmember and boro president to push through a recommendation of support, then snuck in a reworded new resolution of support written by community board members who also had political ties, as New Business at the general meeting. Most members had no idea what was going on, could not understand the text changes (that were filled with errors), and so they rubber stamped the new resolution. This was then carted down to City Planning the next day, who were thrilled and expressed their joy at seeing the community participate in the process and express their opinion of support for the project. The actual will of the community had been completely manipulated and reversed by the CB process.

    Community Boards should be kept out of zoning, transportation, and any other technical matter where they both cannot understand the material and also are prone to manipulation by the politicians who appoint them.

  • Joe R.

    There’s a huge difference between community review of projects which only affect a local community versus those which have an impact on people outside the community. If we seek to get approval from every CB a bike route passes through what we end up with is exactly what we now have—a disjointed, mostly useless bike network. I certainly understand the need to review building designs as that is something which primarily affects the local community. And I might even understand the need for DOT to at least inform communities what it intends to do and why so nobody is taken by surprise (I think that was the bigger issue with JSK—nobody had any idea what she was planning next). However, the final designs at best shouldn’t be amenable to more than very minor tweaking by the CB. It might be stuff like OK, we’ll move bike parking or bike share stations here instead because the CB feels that will be a better location. It shouldn’t be things like we’re going to water down this entire plan to save 6 or 10 parking spots. It’s sort of like when you build a bridge and maybe the community gets a say over what color it’s painted, but not over most of the particulars of its design.

    The problem here isn’t community input but the fact that such input has often resulted in plans being watered down to the point of uselessness.

  • bolwerk

    Well, like it or not they’re listened to. If we keep community boards, I would actually much prefer they have real power. Constructive power. Not just the power to veto proposals.

    Personally, I just find them too problematic. That kind of direct democracy scheme may work in New England towns, but New Yorkers with their frenetic lives are probably ill-suited to participating in such things. When a community board considers voting against a bus improvement, I just imagine the poor schmucks who would probably benefit who might be stuck on that bus route at that moment. :-p

  • JamesR

    THANK YOU. Your last paragraph is so on the money re: DOT. I served on my Bronx CB for 4 years and worked hard to try to push a progressive transportation agenda to no avail. Any potential bike/ped improvements that I’d raise with DOT staff (no less than the borough commissioner in some cases) was met by “we’ll study that”. Into the black hole it goes.

    The narrative that DOT somehow wants to have our back and is just being hamstrung is a false one.

  • JamesR

    Having worked with NYSDOT in a professional capacity more than once, I can tell you that there is little to nothing progressive about them as an agency. They’re a siloed and recalcitrant bureaucracy like all the rest. City DOT at least looks like they’re trying some of the time, although it’s frequently half-assed.

  • Well, I’m not just on a Community Board but on the executive committee of one of them. I honestly don’t find it onerous to be well-informed about transportation issues facing the district and the city, and I find the few people we have to deal with who have warped, ill-informed views of these things are 1) extremely and obviously stubborn 2) extremely and obviously self-serving 3) easily ignored or marginalized.

    There is still potential for issues, though, but a lot of those issues come from the electeds not taking the community boards seriously. And some of the transportation issues are meddled with directly by elected officials. Which doesn’t bode well for a future without community boards if those electeds then are the sole representatives of the communities located in their very-big-districts.

    (The complacency and corruption in our local election system is a topic for another day… but no, you can’t address this by unseating an elected official. Incumbents and party insiders get huge sums of donations from other insiders and then win elections by massive margins. The only competitive council races are the ones where multiple “entitled” insiders run against each other for a vacant seat – and by entitled, I mean they have inside support after years of paying dues in the existing system that supported current and past officials and party leaders. Running against an incumbent on-the-issues, as past results would show, is an exercise in severe futility. That isn’t going to be a solution to community board woes anytime soon.)

  • bolwerk

    Being informed isn’t the problem I see. It’s actually making the meeting. Besides really wanting to do it, you have to actually have time in your life. It’s eating out of sometimes precious family time, work time, or leisure time for people.

    As for elections, well, that system isn’t much better. I’d much rather have free elections with proportional representation, at least when talking about the scale of 8 million people, but that’s not the American way. 🙁

  • Joe R.

    That’s exactly the problem—making the meeting. My work schedule is such that I literally can’t plan things a few days in advance, let alone be at a meeting at some predetermined place and time. Besides a consulting gig where I have literally no control over when I’m needed, I’m also caring my elderly mother. It’s little surprise most of those who can attend these meetings tend to be retired and with no outside responsibilities like caring for family members. Those who might be more representative of the community often just can’t attend meeting to voice their opinions. I think maybe we should have virtual meetings instead where people can post their opinions online whenever it’s convenient for them. Those opinions would have to be taken into consideration by the community boards.