Funds Secured via Attorney General for New York’s Settlement with VW Support Implementation of Governor’s Climate Mandate by Expanding Electric Vehicle Use and Bolstering Efforts to Reduce NOx and Greenhouse Gas Emissions
‘Clean Transportation NY’ Plan for Settlement Funds Invests Resources to Reduce Pollution and Bolster Clean Transportation
Supports Transition to Electric Public Transit and Reduction of Air Pollution in Urban Areas
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced New York will utilize the $127.7 million received from the 2016 Volkswagen settlement to dramatically increase the number of electric vehicles and other clean vehicles in the state. Covered vehicles include new buses, trucks, locomotives, ferries, tug boats, and cargo handling equipment, as well as the availability of electric vehicle charging equipment statewide. At the Governor’s direction, the state Department of Environmental Conservation in concert with the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority, New York Power Authority, state Department of Transportation, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and others, developed Clean Transportation NY – New York’s plan to strategically invest settlement resources for maximum benefit and to build on New York’s national leadership on clean energy and climate change. The funds were secured through the Attorney General’s settlement with Volkswagen in close collaboration with DEC. The state’s strategically leveraged investment of settlement funds is anticipated to result in at least $300 million of clean vehicles and infrastructure on New York’s roadways.
“Combatting climate change and air pollution and protecting our environment is critical to the very future of this great state,” Governor Cuomo said. “As Washington continues to roll back protections, New York is more committed than ever to supporting cleaner, greener transportation technologies. By strategically investing these settlement funds, we can take real action to improve community health and sustainability, while providing incentives to address one of the largest causes of harmful pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.”
“This settlement funding provides an opportunity for New York to once again lead the way and advance our clean energy economy,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “While the federal government is attacking scientists, denying the reality of climate change, and trying to revive the coal industry, we know here in New York that clean energy will fuel our economy going forward. Investing in electric vehicles and green technology will cut dangerous emissions, improve air quality, and strengthen the health and wellness of communities across New York.”
New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood said, “Our office secured an unprecedented settlement with Volkswagen for its flagrant violations of emissions standards. Now, the VW settlement funds are being put to work to expand the use of electric vehicles across New York. We have aggressively and successfully fought back against those who harm New Yorkers’ health and environment – and we will continue to do so.”
In October 2016, a federal judge approved a national settlement plan to address Volkswagen’s installation and use of devices in approximately 580,000 Volkswagen, Audi, and Porsche vehicles that circumvented federal emissions standards for nitrogen oxides (NOx), one of the main contributors to smog and respiratory problems. The companies installed emissions control defeat device software in cars from model years 2009 through 2016, which allowed NOx emissions up to 40 times the certification standard.
With the support of the Attorney General’s Office, New York received $127.7 million as part of this legal settlement. The state will invest these resources in projects to mitigate the impacts of VW’s air violations. Under Clean Transportation NY, the state will use these funds to maximize the reduction of emissions of NOx and other harmful pollutants, including greenhouse gases, particulate matter, and mobile source air toxics while also spurring investment in clean transportation infrastructure.
As part of its aggressive efforts to fight climate change, the state plans to use more than 60 percent of the funding to accelerate the adoption of electrified transportation by reducing the cost of electric buses and trucks, particularly transit buses, and providing funding for electric vehicle charging infrastructure. In addition, New York will replace or re-power older, high-polluting diesel-powered trucks, school buses, and equipment with cleaner vehicles and equipment. The state will prioritize replacement of older, dirty vehicles and equipment with emission-free electric versions and will fund replacement with other new, much lower-emitting technologies that would provide substantially greater emission reductions for the funding available.
New York’s actions are designed to both mitigate the impacts of the excess NOx emissions from VW vehicles and provide incentives to transition to newer, cleaner vehicles for public transit, individual use, and freight transport. NOx emission reductions achieved by the plan will exceed the emissions from the faulty VW vehicles and will be equivalent to removing 65,000 automobiles from the road, which will improve air quality statewide. The Clean Transportation NY plan strategies are also designed to reduce NOx emissions in areas disproportionately impacted by diesel pollution, including environmental justice (EJ) communities. The plan is designed both to stimulate the transition to electric equipment, trucks, and buses and maximize NOx emission reductions, particularly in EJ communities, by replacing old, dirty vehicles like garbage trucks and drayage trucks with cleaner, lower-emitting new vehicles.
Additional Clean Transportation NY investments will fund electric vehicle charging infrastructure to support and encourage the growth of all-electric ground support equipment at airports and light-duty, on-road all-electric vehicles throughout the state. The mitigation plan will also bolster the state’s Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) program, which requires vehicle manufacturers to research, develop, and market electric vehicles that will have zero tailpipe emissions. Governor Cuomo’s aggressive actions to support electric vehicle sales and infrastructure have already increased the number of electric vehicles sold in New York 67 percent from 2016 to 2017.
After finalizing the plan, DEC will work with state authorities and others to implement it. That implementation process will prioritize electrification in most investment categories. For example, DEC will work with a New York authority with a decided emphasis on replacing old diesel-powered school buses with new, all-electric school buses. This solicitation will recognize the promise of cooperative and community ownership models, without excluding other public and private proposals. Implementation processes will also prioritize investments in EJ areas and other areas disproportionately burdened by diesel emissions.
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Seggos said, “Governor Cuomo’s ongoing commitment to fight climate change has made New York a national leader in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and making clean vehicles a viable option for businesses, residents, and municipalities. These settlement funds will allow us to speed-up the transition to a clean transportation system, which will make the air we breathe healthier for all New Yorkers, including those in environmental justice communities.”
Richard Kauffman, Chairman of Energy and Finance for New York State, said, “Under Governor Cuomo, New York has already made significant progress in reducing our carbon footprint from the energy sector and power plants. By putting these VW settlement monies to good use, New York has significant opportunities to expand the growth and usage of cleaner modes of transportation across the state to ensure we meet our nation-leading emissions reduction goals to combat climate change.”
State Department of Transportation Acting Commissioner Paul A. Karas said, “Governor Cuomo is leading the way on curbing climate change and this new plan will go even further by expanding the use of clean-fueled vehicles and improving air quality. We are proud to partner with our sister agencies to implement this ambitious plan, making wise use of settlement funds to transform our transportation system so that communities across the state can have clean air and prosper.”
Alicia Barton, President and CEO, NYSERDA, said, “As the state continues to prioritize improving infrastructure for and access to electric vehicles, consumers across the state can be confident with their choice to make the switch to cleaner, greener vehicles in the fight against climate change. This investment by Governor Cuomo furthers his already resolute commitment to reducing carbon emissions within the transportation sector while bringing cost-saving and environmental benefits to all New Yorkers.”
Gil C. Quiniones, President and CEO of the New York Power Authority, which served an advisory role on the spending plan, said, “Making it easier for New Yorkers to drive clean is a priority for New York to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and continue leading the fight against climate change. NYPA will be a key partner in implementing specific EV infrastructure projects involving transit buses, school buses, airport baggage vehicles and their charging equipment. And the first phase of our new EVolve NY initiative will further support the adoption of electric vehicles by directing another $40 million into expanding fast charging infrastructure along key corridors, creating New York City airport charging hubs, and establishing EV model communities.”
Christine Weydig, Director of Office of Environmental and Energy Programs at The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey said, “New York state is taking a big step to address pollution from nitrogen oxides. These funds will assist the region in significantly reducing these emissions and provide a cleaner transportation system. The Port Authority is has also committed to decreasing emissions from agency, tenant, and customer operations by 80 percent by 2050.”
Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Chair of the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee, said, “The increase of zero emissions vehicles on the road is one of the tracts we can take to combat the greater problem of climate change. I am pleased to see New York using monies from the Volkswagen settlement to add these clean electric vehicles to the New York’s roadways and I look forward to an open and transparent process on how the funds will be allocated. The addition of clean buses, trucks, and other heavy vehicles will help to achieve the State’s clean energy goals.”
New York Public Transit Association President Bill Carpenter said, “We thank Governor Cuomo for recognizing the importance of investing in public transit and for dedicating a portion of the VW settlement funding to help transit systems invest in their future. Public transit systems across the state are committed to purchasing electric buses and are excited about the opportunity that this funding provides to accelerate the implementation of electric vehicle technology.”
Capital District Transportation Authority CEO Carm Basile said, “There is a lot of excitement surrounding electric vehicle technology and CDTA wants to be at the forefront of this work. We want to applaud the Governor for his forward-thinking and steadfast work on the Clean Transportation NY initiative. This thoughtful process will deliver solutions that are good for the environment, good for our communities, and good for the people and business that rely on us.”
Roger Downs, Conservation Director, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter said, “Volkswagen’s illegal installation of “defeat devices”, which were designed to cheat on automobile emissions tests, put more New Yorkers already struggling with poor air quality at risk for serious smog related respiratory ailments. The Sierra Club is gratified that the State of New York will not only be spending the settlement funds in communities that have suffered the worst concentrations of tailpipe pollution, but will also emphasize investment in all-electric, zero emission technologies, which is the future for every car, truck and bus in the Empire State.”
Marcia Bystryn, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters, said, “The announcement to invest our state’s $127 million VW Settlement in clean transportation is a significant step forward towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We are proud that our members’ advocacy for the electrification of school buses has been heard by the administration and is one of the priorities in Governor Cuomo’s plans. We are especially excited that the investments will be prioritized for environmental justice communities that have traditionally been overburdened by pollution, which leads to health risks including asthma. As our Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign has shown, children who ride diesel school buses remain one of the most vulnerable populations to diesel pollution and stand to gain the greatest benefits if we eliminate these sources of pollution through electric school buses. We look forward to working with the administration and stakeholders to ensure that electrification of our state’s school bus fleet remains a top priority as this plan is implemented.”
Luke Tonachel, Director, Clean Vehicles and Fuels Project, Natural Resources Defense Council said, “The transportation sector is New York State’s largest source of pollution that threatens our health and climate. Electrifying our cars, buses and freight vehicles is a key strategy for cleaning our air and safeguarding all New Yorkers and we are encouraged that the State is planning for increased investments in clean, electric vehicles.”
New York City Environmental Justice Alliance Executive Director Eddie Bautista said, “Too often, New York’s communities of color bear the brunt of diesel pollution and the State is correct to prioritize investing VW settlement resources to take dirty diesel vehicles off the streets and out of our neighborhoods. Moving forward, we will work with DEC and other state agencies and authorities to maximize New York’s clean transportation investments and the benefits to our communities that will result from emission-free electric trucks and buses.”
Maritza Silva-Farrell, Executive Director of ALIGN said, “We applaud Governor Cuomo’s announcement today to invest the Volkswagen settlement funds towards transitioning to electric public transit. Investing in clean transportation for the state is a step forward in the fight against climate change, while also incentivizing worker owned cooperative models. It will create jobs, reduce emissions, and prioritize the communities who have borne the largest burden of pollution and health issues. We look forward to working with the Department of Environmental Conservation to implement this plan.”
George Miranda, Teamsters Joint Council 16 President said, “We applaud NYS Governor Cuomo in utilizing the VW settlement to accelerate smart clean growth in the industries with the most need and leading with progressive policies in communities that deserve environmental justice.”
Hector Figueroa, 32BJ SEIU President said, “Today’s announcement is a win-win-win. Strategically investing funds from the VW settlement will reduce climate change inducing pollution, help to make our transportation sector more energy efficient, and support our state’s growing clean energy industries while creating good jobs. All New Yorkers stand to benefit from these smart, green investments.”
NOx is a group of highly reactive gases containing nitrogen and oxygen produced during combustion. NOx is a primary component in ground-level ozone which can cause asthma and other respiratory and cardiological problems, as well as contribute to acid rain, and damage forests, crops, and waterways. In addition, NOx is associated with the deposition of excess nutrients to waterbodies, which contributes to algal blooms, damage to fish and shellfish, and other negative environmental impacts.
New York has reduced ozone levels across the state, including in the New York Metropolitan Area ozone nonattainment area. The state has also reduced NOx emissions in the electricity sector, achieving reductions of 89 percent from fossil fuel power plants since 2000. However, emissions from “mobile sources,” which include motor vehicles, airplanes, locomotives, and other engine-driven equipment, account for approximately 67 percent of all NOx emissions in New York.
During the process of developing the plan to utilize VW settlement funds, DEC solicited comments and suggestions from both private and public partners. In addition to working with state agencies and authorities, these outreach efforts included six public events throughout the state to seek comments. More than 150 people attended the public events. DEC also held more than 60 meetings, presentations, or conference calls with stakeholder groups. These stakeholders included environmental groups, transportation groups, medium- and heavy-duty vehicle manufacturers, energy suppliers, and EJ organizations.
DEC welcomes further stakeholder input on the plan prior to submitting it to the federal trustee in September and as the plan is implemented. More information on Clean Transportation NY and the VW settlement is available on the DEC website: http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/109784.html.
New York went an entire weekend without a shooting or homicide for the first time in 25 years
New York City had its first weekend without a shooting or a homicide in 25 years, the New York Police Department announced Monday.
“We went Friday, Saturday, Sunday without any shootings and homicides,” NYPD Chief James O’Neill told reporters. “That’s the first time in decades, and that’s something not just the NYPD, but all New Yorkers can be proud of.”
The last Friday-Saturday-Sunday time period during which no shootings occurred across all five of New York City’s Burroughs happened in 1993.
In 2017, New York City saw fewer than 300 killings for the entire year, the New York Post reported at the end of December, marking the fewest of those crimes in nearly 70 years.
There were 292 murders in the New York City in 2017, down from the 334 murders that occurred in 2016.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio lauded the department for that in January: “No one believed it was possible to get under 300 murders,” he said, referring to the 2017 numbers. “The NYPD reached the goal that no one thought possible.”
For 2018, the number of murders in the nation’s largest city is on the rise, The Wall Street Journal reported in June.
New York City saw 147 murders between January 1 and June 30, 2018, an 8% increase from the number of murders during the same time period last year, The Journal wrote, citing data compiled by the city.
Is New York City ready for the e-scooter revolution?
The micromobility revolution that has permeated cities across the U.S. has yet to arrive in New York City, but—having conquered the West Coast through a combination of rule-breaking and eventual cooperation—electric scooter companies are now looking to make their mark in the five boroughs.
As The Verge has pointed out, there’s money to be made there; Bird, one of the leading scooter companies, has reportedly been valued at $2 billion in recent months. And New York City, with its more than 8 million residents—more than half of whom regularly use public transportation—could be a “tremendous scooter city,” according to Gil Kazimirov, the general manager of Lime, the micromobility start-up.
But before that money can pour in, there’s a skeptical populace to win over, some of whom see e-scooters on the same plane as Thanos. There are also laws that must be changed and streets that need to be made safer for the more rugged version of the push-assist scooters that Bird wants to bring to New York.
Those first two necessities are what Bird, the company most prominently trying to enter New York’s market, seem to be focusing on at the moment. The start-up, which is based in Santa Monica, has been courting politicians on both sides of the aisle, though neither Eric Ulrich (a Republican who’s pushed for unfettered competition among bike share companies) nor Robert Cornegy (a Democrat who participated in Bird’s recent Bed-Stuy demo) would comment about their feelings on e-scooters. Bird even snagged one of the city’s most prominent street safety advocates, making clear that it’s approaching New York City expansion in a responsible fashion not usually embraced by “break shit, apologize later” disruptonauts.
Bird has also tried to win over skeptics with demonstrations of how its service works—there was one in Bed-Stuy in September, and one earlier this month that was meant to show how e-scooters could be a key component of the looming L train shutdown. Bird donated scooters for a mass ride from the Myrtle-Wyckoff station to the Grand Street stop, which will be a departure point for a series of Brooklyn-to-Manhattan SBS routes. The demo offered not just a look at how the scooters work but also a proof of concept of how they could help get people around if trains are packed to the brim.
The group ride seemed to win over Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who liked his scooter enough to throw it in his SUV and show up with it at another press conference that morning in Brooklyn Heights. Before the Bird ride started, Adams told the assembled crowd in the Myrtle-Wyckoff stop’s pedestrian plaza—itself a symbol of reclaiming the streets from cars—that “too many car riders are making decisions for millions of New Yorkers who are not in vehicles. Selfishly, they think that they have to drive alone.” While Adams doesn’t have the power to vote for the impending bill to legalize e-scooters, he did at least give rhetorical support to their legalization.
That effort is being spearheaded in part by City Council member Rafael Espinal, who announced his support for scooters in a Daily News op-ed earlier this year, and is currently working with Transportation Committee chair Ydanis Rodriguez to introduce a bill legalizing them. Espinal’s interest in the scooter issue is driven not only by their potential usefulness during the L train shutdown, but also as a way to include his district (he represents parts of Bushwick, Brownsville, and Cypress Hills) in a transportation system that Citi Bike has yet to meaningfully reach.
“What I’d like to see is an expansion of modes of transportation—not only in Manhattan, but in the outer-outer-boroughs,” Espinal tells Curbed. “We have Citi Bike, but it hasn’t made its way out to East New York and other neighborhoods on the outskirts of the outer boroughs. We have to make sure this transportation is available to everyone.”
But while scooter companies can stage events and work with elected officials, the issue of safety—and aggressively redesigning the city’s streets—is what will no doubt determine how widely adopted scooters become in New York. While their top speed of 15 miles per hour make them inherently riskier than bikes, a Washington Post article about the rise in scooter-related emergency room visits notes that the number of bike lanes in Washington, D.C. was one of the reasons the city didn’t see the same rate of increases in injuries as other American cities.
Bird itself has put a huge emphasis on bike lanes, telling Curbed that “protected, well-maintained bike lanes are part of our vision for a safe future for all road users—be they on foot, bikes, or scooters.” The company has also pledged $1 per scooter per day in each city it operates in to help cities pay for more protected bike lanes, but at least in New York, opposition to bike lanes has had less to do with price and more to do with parking spots. And on that front, radical thinking seems to be in short supply.
Cornegy, whose district mostly encompasses Bed-Stuy, told Streetsblog that he would “stand up for more protected bike lanes” when he was at Bird’s Bed-Stuy event, but he was also a high-profile opponent of the Classon Avenue bike lane, which was installed in response to a cyclist’s death in 2016.
The city’s addition of bike infrastructure has not stopped opposition from community boards; new bike lanes and other improvements are still at the mercy of the right combination of political pressure. Even Adams—who’s called for something as ambitious as a Flatbush Avenue bike lane next to Prospect Park—was ambivalent about the relationship between community boards and the need to quickly shift space away from cars.
“We should never count out the voices of people,” Adams said after the Brooklyn Heights press conference. “[Community boards’] advisory status helps as we carve out bike lanes, because bike lanes are personalized to those communities. It doesn’t mean a community board should be able to have veto power if it’s unreasonable. Allow community boards to have their space to voice their concerns; but at the same time, don’t allow anybody in government to get in the way and stop progress.”
Espinal says that when it comes to New York’s existing network, “the city can be doing more to make sure that bike lanes are acceptable and not being blocked,” though said he’d rather see the results of a scooter pilot program before committing to any type of radical street redesigns.
But Curbed’s urbanism editor Alissa Walker, who’s written previously about how micromobility give cities a huge opportunity to move away from being so car-centric, said that instead of reacting once scooters are being used, street design “needs to be a part of the conversation at the same time.” Without being comfortable on the streets, people either won’t ride scooters, Walker says, or wind up taking to the sidewalks—which simply wouldn’t work in New York City.
One idea the city can embrace is instituting the Vision Zero Design Standard, a series of pedestrian, cycling, and mass transit improvements that are implemented whenever a road needs to be fixed. “It traditionally takes longer to build protected bike lanes than it does to, say, empty a truckload of scooters onto the street,” says Transportation Alternatives’ Joseph Cutrufo. “The best way to accommodate more people on bikes and scooters is to make safer street redesigns part of regular repaving projects. This way, every time a street is repaved, we have the opportunity to make our streets more accommodating for New Yorkers on two wheels, and, more to the point, to save lives.” While Cutrofo says the idea has been endorsed by a majority of members on the City Council, it hasn’t been instituted in any street repavings yet.
As a scooter agnostic/skeptic, Bird’s demonstration earlier this month certainly worked on me: The mass of riders didn’t seem to have any huge problems with Bushwick’s streets that are barely habitable to bikes in some stretches, especially the heavily-trucked and pockmarked stretch of Knickerbocker and Morgan Avenues north of Flushing Avenue. If you squinted, you could see a vision of the future where people used the scooters in peace, although they had some good fortune in clear bike lanes and a dearth of double-parked cars on side streets.
And while some might worry about scooter companies “imposing their will” on the city, the fact remains that car companies have already imposed their will on New York in a way that e-scooters could never possibly match. Besides, if you’re out on the street, you can already see the scooters are there. The same afternoon as the Bird demonstration, I saw a scooter rider salmoning on Ann Street, just blocks from City Hall. Later, I came across an e-scooter rider named Mike while I was walking down Flatbush Avenue.
“It’s convenient, you can slip between cars,” Mike said when asked what he liked about his push-assist scooter that he bought online. He also sees larger benefits for the city if it embraces the scooter revolution. “I feel like you can definitely help the environment, and even start new businesses. Cars suck, and you could open a bunch of mom and pop shops to service the scooters and sell scooters, and just help with the transportation system.”
NYC DRIVER ALLEGEDLY BEAT JEWISH MAN WALKING TO SYNAGOGUE IN ROAD RAGE INCIDENT
A taxi driver in New York reportedly beat a 62-year-old Hasidic Jewish man on Sunday as he walked to synagogue in Brooklyn, police said.
Lipa Schwartz, 62, was walking in broad daylight on his way to synagogue in Borough Park when he was allegedly brutally attacked by a cab driver. Farrukh Afzal, 37, was driving toward 46th Street and 13th Avenue in Borough Park around 7:30 a.m. before he slammed on his brakes and jumped out of his car. He then proceeded to beat Schwartz, police said.
Surveillance video captured Afzal over the victim in the middle of the intersection while pummeling Schwartz in the head. The victim suffered a split lip, a cut ear and other injuries, according to the blog BoroPark24, which first reported the incident.
“I feared for my life,” Schwartz told the blog. “I knew it was either fight my way out of this or I might be dead.”
In an interview with WABC, Schwartz said he asked Afzal, “What did I do to you that you tried to murder me? Tell me.” Afzal did not respond.
Schwartz told WABC that he did not know why Afzal attacked him, but said he believed it was because he was Jewish. Authorities initially said hate crime charges could be filed, but the investigation led detectives to conclude the attack occurred due to a road rage incident.
Afzal’s lawyer claimed Schwartz punched the vehicle’s window as he crossed the street, prompting his client to fear for his life, the New York Post reported. The two men reportedly began yelling at each other after Afzal honked at Schwartz for walking too slowly, prosecutors said. Schwartz then punched Afzal’s car window, prompting Afzal to jump out of his car and allegedly commit the assault.
The attacker was not licensed by New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC). The TLC did not immediately respond to Newsweek’s request for comment.
However, in a statement to WABC, the TLC said, “The driver is not licensed by the TLC, and has been summoned by the TLC in the past for unlicensed operation of an unlicensed vehicle and being an unlicensed operator.”
Afzal, from Staten Island, was arraigned on charges of second-degree attempted assault, third-degree assault, menacing and harassment. None of the charges included a hate crime component, WABC reported. He was being held in lieu of $15,000 bail.
Police said Afzal had eight prior arrests.
New York went an entire weekend without a shooting or homicide for the first time in 25 years
Is New York City ready for the e-scooter revolution?
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