Key Council Member: NYPD Transportation Bureau Chief Chan ‘Needs Improvement’

Public Safety Committee Chairman Donovan Richards. Photo: NYC Council
Public Safety Committee Chairman Donovan Richards. Photo: NYC Council

The chairman of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee slammed NYPD Transportation Bureau Chief Thomas Chan as a disappointment on road safety issues who “needs improvement.”

Council Member Donovan Richards made the comment after Chan testified before a joint hearing by the Public Safety and Transportation committees last week — a hearing at which Chan was unclear and often uninformed, as Streetsblog reported.

“He has always been responsive to the committee, but in the area of safety for cyclists, he needs improvement,” Richards told Streetsblog. “When you see nearly 30 cyclists have been killed in one year, it’s clear the NYPD has to get more serious.

“There are no shortage of issues we want the NYPD to be better at, and this is one of them,” Richards added.

Richards took aim at Chan for much of what he said at least week’s hearing, but mostly Chan’s assertion — which was backed up by no evidence — that he holds precinct commanders accountable when rank-and-file officers park in bike lanes, a practice as widespread as members of the general public breathing.

NYPD Transportation Bureau Chief Thomas Chan was ill prepared during and after a Council hearing on Thursday. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
NYPD Transportation Bureau Chief Thomas Chan was ill prepared during and after a Council hearing on Thursday. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

“This has to start at home,” Richards said. “That’s why I brought up the point of the police parking. If we are going to preach that we are serious about giving cyclists a safe roadway, we can’t park in their bike lanes. It’s counterproductive. It’s hypocrisy.”

Richards also took exception with:

  • Chan’s assertion that the increase in cycling is itself a major factor behind the increase in cyclist deaths this year: “No,” Richard said. “The tragedies we are seeing are a result of not having the infrastructure so people can cycle safely. [He] can blame cyclists, but that’s wrong. The answer is creating a safe space.”
  • Chan’s assertion that he is on top of the placard abuse mess: “We’re going to have to legislate this because I did not hear from Chan that there’s a strategic plan for figuring out police parking,” Richards said. “Every precinct is a ‘Wild Wild West.’ There should be a cohesive plan.”
  • Chan’s revelation that cyclists receive 22 percent of all red light tickets written by police officers: “That’s disproportionately high,” Richard said. “I’m concerned about uneven enforcement. Yes, we want everyone to follow the rules, but the lack of infrastructure makes cyclists do things. For instance, if a cyclist feels safer crossing at a red light, he or she will do that. They’re trying to get ahead of the traffic so they can be safe. We need to do more things to help them feel safe. But not ticketing in that way. Cyclists are not the big issue on red lights.”

In the end, Richards, who is running for Queens Borough President against other street safety leaders in the council such as Jimmy Van Bramer and Costa Constantinides, said he challenged Chan repeatedly during the hearing because of a growing fear of dread he has as he sees more and more of his southeastern Queens constituents start cycling.

“I’m really worried for them,” he said. “It’s dangerous without proper infrastructure. I would love to bike more, but I’m afraid. I have a son to make it home to.”

So does the mayor, but he doesn’t bike.

City Hall declined to comment for this story.

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