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Discipline for Recklessly Driving DOT Employee — But <i>What </i> Discipline?

12:01 AM EDT on April 6, 2023

Council Member Robert Holden caught this DOT driver operating his city-owned vehicle recklessly.

Gotcha!(?)

The Department of Transportation has told a Queens Council member that it has taken "action" against an employee whom the pol spotted driving recklessly and aggressively in Midtown last month — but the agency declined several opportunities to reveal "action" it took.

The saga started on March 20, when Council Member Robert Holden (D-Maspeth) entered Manhattan in a car via the Midtown Tunnel. While still on the off-ramp, Holden said he spotted the driver of a DOT-branded city car driving aggressively, including cutting off other drivers and driving the full length of 34th Street between Second and First avenues in the dedicated bus lane.

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

Shortly thereafter, Holden wrote to the DOT demanding some sort of discipline, and within a day received a letter from Commissioner Ydanis Rodriquez (right) claiming that "DOT has identified the employee in question and we are taking appropriate action."

An agency spokesperson declined to say whether that "action" consisted of any discipline.

"It is unacceptable for any DOT employee to drive recklessly in an agency vehicle," said the spokesperson. "We pride ourselves on our work promoting street safety, and all employees are expected to set the standard for safe driving. While the Agency can’t comment on disciplinary action taken against specific employees, disciplinary actions can include warnings, a suspension, or revoking of driving privileges."

Parsing that statement word for word, it's unclear if the employee was disciplined at all. When Streetsblog followed up to be briefed on the specifics of the punishment, the DOT declined to provide them, making it impossible to verify how aggressively the agency responded to the allegation.

The city car in question has been slapped five times by enforcement cameras since 2018 — twice for speeding in school zones, twice for running red lights, and one other time for driving in a bus lane. It is unclear if the same driver was behind the wheel in those instances.

For now, Holden was calmed.

“As an agency supposedly implementing safer driving practices, the DOT should expect nothing less than exemplary behavior from its personnel," he told Streetsblog. "The recent incident of reckless driving and misuse of the bus lane is unlawful and sets a poor example for the public. I commend the DOT for taking swift corrective action and reaffirming their commitment to upholding traffic regulations and promoting responsible driving habits.”

It is worth noting that Holden's car has been slapped with four camera-issued tickets since Nov. 22, 2021, the most recent on Nov. 8 at 80th Street and 62nd Avenue near Juniper Valley Park in his district (Holden does share the car with his wife). He has also opposed Citi Bike's effort to repurpose curbside space for bike docks in his district, as Streetsblog reported, and voted against the Streets Master Plan in 2019.

But he has been a strong advocate for ensuring that the NYPD not only follow up on service requests about illegal parking made to 311, but also not harass people who make the complaints. And he has frequently sought safety improvements for notorious intersections in his neighborhood.

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