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Thursday’s Headlines: The City ‘Urgently’ Does What It Could Have Done Six Months Ago Edition

Every damn day. Photo: Melodie Bryant

The Sept. 15 Daily News wood.
Outrage and anger on the Daily News wood.
The Sept. 15 Daily News wood.

We don't usually break news in our daily headlines digest, but yesterday, as outrage and anger (NYDN) continued to surround the de Blasio administration over the killing of a 3-month-old baby girl by a driver with 35 speeding and red-light tickets this year, Department of Transportation Commissioner Hank Gutman put out a statement declaring that action is at hand, in the form of a long-awaited rollout of mandatory safe-driving classes for motorists who accrue 15 camera-issued speeding tickets or five red-light tickets in any 12 month period.

"Soon after I took office [in February], I publicly committed that we would start the Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program classes this fall — and that is exactly what will happen," Gutman said in a statement. "The Mayor and I agree that this program is vitally important to help save lives and get dangerous drivers off our streets, so we’re moving with urgency to get this program up and running as soon as possible."

Urgency? The statement was so vague that it felt like a classic smokescreen. And indeed: Upon further review, it turns out that after six months after it started searching for a non-profit to run the essential safe-driving courses, the DOT is going to exercise its right in the law to do the program itself.

"This program will be run in-house so we can get it up and running as soon as possible," agency spokesman Scott Gastel told us.

The confusion over the decision to move the program in-house is not a knock on DOT's education chief Kim Wiley-Schwartz, but it simply raises the question of why the agency put out an RFP in March only to decide to act this week — and only after the entire city has been horrified by the death of Apolline Mong-Guillemin by a driver who would certainly have been stopped by the very act that the city failed to implement? If the city was going to create the safe-driving courses itself, it could have done so already.

[Update: On Thursday morning, after we posted this story, the DOT offered Streetsblog reporter Julianne Cuba more information about its failure to find a contractor to run the program: "The city could not come to a mutual agreement with the vendor, National Center for Civic Innovation, and we have discontinued negotiations with them. We moved the program in-house to ensure that issues relating to the vendor would not delay the program beyond the original timeline as promised in the Commissioner’s testimony earlier this spring."]

The DOT's tardiness is only one piece of the confounding puzzle of failures on the part of the city. The main one? Driver Tyrik Mott, who cops say killed Baby Apolline, not only racked up all those camera-issued moving violations, but he also owes more than $3,500 in unpaid tickets — far more than the threshold for getting the boot from the Sheriff.

But his Honda was apparently never disabled, allowing him to continue to drive and continue to threaten his fellow New Yorkers.

Ironically, today in Staten Island, Mayor de Blasio will join NYPD officials at a photo op at the Fresh Kills dump to grind up illegal dirt bikes. Again, not knocking the mayor for wanting to highlight the NYPD's efforts to get dangerous vehicles off the road ... but, um, when are we going to see the NYPD grind up cars owned by people who have 91 camera-issued speeding and red-light tickets? (We would ask Hizzoner that very question, but the 1 p.m. appearance does not include a Q-and-A, according to the City Hall press office.)

Whew. In other news:

    • Last month, a woman sitting on a stoop was killed by a driver. On Wednesday, the NYPD provide details of the bizarre crime. (NYDN, NY Post)
    • Ida, meet Sandy. Sandy — Ida. (NY Post)
    • Wag of the finger to our old pal David Meyer at the NY Post. Even after we put the MTA's record-setting post-pandemic ridership numbers in context, he declined to make the larger point that the ongoing shortfall in transit use is causing carmageddon around town. On the plus side, ridership continues to rise. (amNY)
    • Hat tip to Gothamist for pointing out how bad the city is with tech. (Just you wait for our 311 exposé!)
    • The City offered a broad overview of next week’s congestion pricing hearings.
    • At long last, more people may get access to the MTA's Fair Fares program. (amNY)
    • A day after we did a broad overview, Gothamist also covered a new report on the plight of our city's delivery workers.
    • Dead birds in today's headlines? Well, it is a transit story, after all. (NY Post)

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