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Wednesday’s Headlines: We Beat the DOT Edition

We beat the DOT in court after it rejected our FOIL request. Plus more news.

12:01 AM EST on November 29, 2023

Here’s a page from our successful FOIL request.

How Streetsblog covered its lawsuit against the city.Photo: Streetsblog

You may remember that we sued the city Department of Transportation earlier this year after it rejected our Freedom of Information Law request for the license plate numbers of all drivers who had taken the safety course at the heart of the now-expired Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program.

Our purpose was obvious: only by reviewing the plate numbers of people who took the course could we determine if the 90-minute refresher had, in fact, reformed drivers who had previously received 15 speed-camera tickets in 12 months.

When the DOT refused to give us the plate numbers, we sued — and our court papers filed by Heather Murray of the Cornell Law School First Amendment Clinic rang with righteous indignation: "This is a dispute about access to records that shed light on an important public issue: whether the Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program ... is effective in reducing future traffic violations. ... DOT failed to articulate particularized and specific justification for denying [Streetsblog] access to the license plate numbers."

Well, last week, just as the turkey was being basted and the bourbon being drizzled on the pecan pie, the DOT realized its own goose was cooked and forked over the numbers in an out-of-court settlement. Sure, now we can't take it all the way to the Supreme Court, but our lawyer was happy that DOT did the right thing "without protracted litigation.

"There is no basis to withhold this information under FOIL’s privacy exemption," Murray added. "The city already admits as much, since it routinely releases license plate numbers of speed camera violators. But given that this information is indisputably public, Streetsblog shouldn’t have had to sue. We hope going forward that DOT will release information like this promptly upon request.”

We've already started digging into the numbers and will have a full report soon.

Part of BIGMON's driving record since taking the DVAP course has been spotty.How's My Driving NY

Until then, check this out. On April 27, 2022, the owner of the car with the license plate BIGMON, took the city's safety course after racking up 49 camera-issued speeding tickets in the previous 12 months, according to city records. After taking the safety course, BIGMON did indeed reform his ways ... for just a few days beyond the required six months of ticketless driving.

Within days, he'd gotten his first ticket — a camera-issued red-light summons on Nov. 3. Since then, he's gotten 12 camera-issued speeding tickets and another two red-light tickets. Is he reformed? Not very likely. But is he speeding less? It seems so.

In other news:

  • Mayor Adams's embattled 25-year-old fundraiser Brianna Suggs is out (and has retained her own lawyer) after the FBI raided her home Nov. 2 in search of evidence tying the Adams campaign to potential illegal bribes from the Turkish government. (NY Times, NY Post, Gothamist)
  • ... and Deputy Mayor Phil Banks is "tired of traveling back to Florida every weekend," and wants out. (Twitter via Gerson Borrero)
  • Yet another reason for car-free streets around Rockefeller Center. (Gothamist)
  • The Daily News spoke with the family of the senior citizen killed by a dump truck driver in Brooklyn on Monday.
  • The City of Buffalo will to take on debt to pay the nearly $50 million settlement awarded to a woman struck in traffic by a police officer. (Investigative Post)
  • Corona Plaza food market will return with new, "diminished" footprint. (NY Times)
  • London's mayor has faced death threats for his push to reduce car use. (Politico Europe)
  • A Bronx community board may endorse Bob Holden's awful e-bike registration bill. (Bronx Times)
  • For Bloomberg, Streetsblog contributor John Surico dove into the growing push to daylight every intersection in New York City. You can add your name Open Plans's call for universal daylighting here.
  • And, finally, yesterday was Giving Tuesday but it's not too late to donate — click here. Any donation at all will earn you a place on the next day's Honor Roll of donors, joining the hallowed halls of previous benefactors, including those who contributed on Tuesday: Thanks, Chris! Thanks, Douglas! Thanks, Dan! Thanks, Ross! Thanks, Ka! Thanks, Zeke! Thanks, Frank! Thanks, Amanda! Thanks, Jeff! Thanks, Andrew! Thanks, Ellen! Thanks, Brent! Thanks, Alexander! Thanks, Max! Thanks, Joseph! Thanks, Scott! Thanks, Travis! Thanks, Joe! Thanks, Lisa! Thanks, Charlie! Thanks, another Andrew! Thanks, Jon! Thanks, Maxwell!

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