Speed cameras in New York City will very soon be no longer, despite a concerted push by transit advocates and a wide swath of city and state officials—including Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and various City Council members—to get the state legislature to pass a bill allowing for their use in school zones. Legislators have until 5:30 p.m. to act, but it seems unlikely, given Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan’s unwillingness to convene a special session to discuss the proposed bill.
“Despite months of notice, weeks of promises, and extraordinary advocacy by family members who lost loved ones to reckless driving, the State Senate failed to extend NYC’s life-saving school-zone speed camera program,” City Council member Brad Lander said in a statement. “As a result, the City of New York will no longer be able to issue $50 tickets to drivers who speed near schools. There is strong evidence that more drivers will speed, more crashes will take place, and more of our kids will be killed.”
A little history: The current speed cameras are the byproduct of a pilot program, enacted by New York City’s Department of Transportation in 2013 and implemented in 2014, that brought the traffic-calming measure to 140 school zones across the city. Under the pilot program, speed cameras are only activated during on weekdays during the school year (with a one-hour buffer on either side of the school day), and during a similar window for “school activities.” (The DOT notes that this makes the program less effective, since “in New York City approximately 85 percent of fatal and serious injury crashes occur at times other than school hours on school days.”)
But even with those restrictions, the numbers don’t lie; speed cameras have reduced the number of crashes in the city since they were implemented. A DOT report from June 2017 noted that between 2014 and 2016, “injury crashes have dropped over 14 percent after the camera is activated, during all hours of the day, despite the fact that the cameras are deactivated during most of the year.” As a result, transit advocates were pushing for the state legislature to pass a bill that would not only double the amount of school zones covered by cameras, but extend their use until 2022.
Still, even with the proof of success, and broad public support for speed cameras—Transportation Alternatives cited a recent poll that found 88 percent of New Yorkers surveyed are in favor of the cameras—roadblocks in Albany, namely from a small group of state senators, kept the legislation from being renewed.
“Our first obligation as elected officials is to ensure public safety, and there’s indisputable evidence showing speed cameras save children’s lives,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. “The Senate Republicans’ refusal to return to Albany and pass this legislation is a complete dereliction of that duty.
As we previously reported, state Sen. Simcha Felder was one of those roadblocks; even though a bill that would have doubled the number of speed cameras in school zone had support on both sides of the aisle, he “didn’t allow the bill to get out of the Cities committee, using it as a bargaining chip to try to advance his own legislation that would have put an armed police officer in front of every New York City school.”
Flanagan, meanwhile, has blamed Cuomo and Democrats in the state legislature for their “unwillingness to engage senators with a larger vision for street safety to protect children.” Republican state Sen. Andrew Lanza has proposed a bill that would have ended the use of the cameras after six months and replaced them with speed bumps and red lights in every school zone; Felder and state Sen. Marty Golden, who has flip-flopped on his support for speed cameras, are co-sponsors.
“Imagine a government allowing drunk driving laws to lapse,” Paul Steely White, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives, said in a statement. “It would be unthinkable to intentionally make our streets more dangerous, but that is exactly what the Republican leadership in the Senate has decided to do, except the offense they’ve decided to legalize is even more deadly.”
Transportation Alternatives will host an event tonight at M.S. 51 in Brooklyn that it says will be an opportunity to “take a breath and regroup,” and for people to “learn how to get involved, and what you should be doing every day to make yourself heard.” It begins at 6:30 p.m.
Cars significantly more dangerous than guns in New York, new data shows
New York is the safest big city in the country — unless you’re near a car..
Motor vehicles are significantly deadlier than guns in New York, new NYPD data shows.
Crashes involving cars, vans, trucks and buses killed 111 people on city streets during the first six months of 2019, public data shows.
During the same period, 61 people died in shootings, the NYPD says. Those shootings account for 45% of the city’s 135 homicides during 2019′s first half. Police say the city is on a path to have the lowest number of murders since 1950, and that gun deaths over the full year will be 25% down from 2018.
Motor vehicles are also deadlier than guns in car-loving major metros like Los Angeles, Houston and San Diego, data shows.
But in New York, where only one in four residents commute via motor vehicle, data shows that the city has done a much better job of curbing gun violence in recent years than traffic deaths.
For decades, bullets killed more New Yorkers than traffic crashes. Just a decadea go — in 2009 — bullets killed 367 New Yorkers, and motor vehicle crashes killed 324.
But that dynamic flipped in 2012 when the city saw a 22% drop in gun-related homicides. That year, 241 people were killed by bullets, and 278 in traffic crashes.
Since then, 2015 was the only year in which more New Yorkers killed each other with guns than motor vehicles — but it was close: 236 people were killed by guns, and 234 by traffic crashes.
Mayor de Blasio’s administration has presided over historic lows for both homicides and traffic deaths.
Still, as fatal crashes have risen this year — including 15 cyclist deaths to date — street safety advocates have pressured de Blasio to treat car-related deaths as a public health crisis.
Some argue that the mayor’s Vision Zero program, which aims to curb traffic fatalities, is falling flat.
“The safety improvements we’ve seen during the first five years of Vision Zero, while impressive, were achieved without disrupting the car-dominant status quo on our streets,” said Joe Cutrufo, spokesman for street safety group Transportation Alternatives.
“Decades of bad decisions have left us with a stubborn and unfortunate car culture that yields four traffic deaths every single week,” Cutrufo said. “Enough is enough. We can have safer streets if we want them, but it’s going to require bold leadership and the resolve to put the automobile in its proper place.”
De Blasio has repeatedly defended his record on improving traffic safety and curbing crime, but many critics have chided him for kowtowing to community groups who do not want to give up parking spots for street redesigns.
“One death – no matter the cause – is always one too many,” said de Blasio spokeswoman Freddi Goldstein. “As the mayor has said repeatedly, we won’t stop until we have reached Vision Zero on our streets.”
ConEd Faces Heat After Times Square Goes Dark
It lasted all of five hours — and hit just the spot on New York’s power system to take out the lights in Times Square, force the evacuation of Madison Square Garden in the middle of a Jennifer Lopez concert and bring parts of the city’s subway system to a screeching halt.
The Saturday evening blackout on Consolidated Edison Inc.’s grid — extending from about Fifth Avenue to the Hudson River and from the 40s to 72nd Street — was so widespread that it took out much of Midtown, Hell’s Kitchen, Rockefeller Center and the lower reaches of Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Now ConEd, already under fire because of other mechanical breakdowns in recent years, is facing renewed calls to overhaul its network.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio cut short a presidential campaign trip to Iowa and Governor Andrew Cuomo went on television to demand answers from “Mr. ConEd” himself.
Cuomo, expressing frustration over what he described as repeated failures on ConEd’s system, said in an interview with ABC News that he was sending his “top power team” to investigate the incident. He noted that Saturday’s outage took hours to resolve when the utility had said it would take one to two. It struck at 6.47 p.m. Saturday, lasted until about midnight and affected almost 73,000 customers.
“If they don’t give me an answer quickly, I’m going to go to ConEd headquarters,” he said. “If I don’t get a firm answer forthwith, I’ll go speak to Mr. ConEd myself.”
De Blasio, meanwhile, called on city agencies to “get to the bottom” of the incident.
“We’re going to look at this very carefully, not only depend on Con Edison, but we’re going to make sure there’s a very careful review of what happened,” the mayor said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday from Chicago. “We don’t ever want to see it happen again.”
The power failure struck on the anniversary of the historic 1977 blackout that led to widespread looting and other crimes across New York City. And it peeled back disparities between old technology and new: halted subways meant a $2.75 fare ballooned to a $57 Uber primed to surge pricing.
Judge approves new Weinstein legal team led by #MeToo critic
A judge gave Harvey Weinstein the green light Thursday to shake up his defense team yet again — this time a mere two months before the disgraced movie mogul whose case inspired the #MeToo movement is due to stand trial in New York on sexual assault charges.
One lawyer had already bolted amid public backlash. Now Jose Baez, known for representing high-profile clients such as Casey Anthony, is out after saying he and Weinstein just can’t get along. Donna Rotunno, a #MeToo critic specializing in defending men accused of sexual misconduct, and Damon Cheronis are in.
The judge, James Burke, approved the swap after questioning Weinstein to ensure it was what he wanted and getting the new lawyers to promise they won’t seek to delay the trial from its scheduled Sept. 9 start.
Baez signaled last month that he wanted to leave the case, telling Burke in a letter that Weinstein had tarnished their relationship by communicating only through other lawyers and by failing to abide by a fee agreement.
Weinstein engaged in behavior that made representing him “unreasonably difficult to carry out effectively” and insisted on taking actions “with which I have fundamental disagreements,” Baez wrote.
Bounding out of the courtroom Thursday after getting sprung from the case, Baez said: “I feel like I won the lottery. Just kidding.”
Weinstein responded through his spokesman, saying: “With a lawyer like Donna Rotunno, I feel like I’m the one who won the lottery.”
Rotunno has espoused a philosophy that the #MeToo movement, spurred by revelations about Weinstein’s alleged behavior, is overblown and that women are “responsible for the choices they make.”
“I chose to represent Harvey Weinstein because I think these are the types of cases that lawyers that do what I do live for,” Rotunno said outside the courthouse after the hearing.
“It gives us an opportunity to have a forum to speak what we believe, and I believe that the facts and evidence in this case are actually very favorable to Mr. Weinstein.”
Gloria Allred, who represents one of the accusers in the criminal case, offered a different perspective, saying: “I agree that women are responsible for their own choices, but when will Mr. Weinstein be held responsible for his?”
Rotunno and Cheronis practice in Chicago.
They join three New York City lawyers: Arthur Aidala, whose clients have included rapper 50 Cent and former Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz; Diana Fabi Samson; and Barry Kamins, who as a judge oversaw New York City’s criminal courts.
The lawyers and prosecutors said they’ll work out a schedule for exchanging witness lists and for prosecutors to turn over evidence, such as emails from Weinstein’s movie studio that pertain to potential witnesses.
Baez is the latest defection from what was once seen as a modern version of O.J. Simpson’s “dream team” of attorneys. Harvard law professor Ronald Sullivan left in May amid backlash about his involvement.
Sullivan’s involvement in the case drew protests from some students and faculty members on the Cambridge, Massachusetts, campus. Buildings were defaced with graffiti that included the slogans “Down w Sullivan!”, “Your Silence is Violence” and “Whose Side Are You On?”
Thursday’s hearing on the lawyer switch played out in open court, but two conversations among the judge and lawyers happened in secrecy.
After approving Baez’s request to withdraw from the case, Burke called him to the bench for a one-on-one chat that lasted about five minutes with no court reporter to transcribe the conversation.
Later, he called all the lawyers to the bench for a 10-minute discussion of how they’ll proceed when it comes time for jury selection. Again, there was no court reporter to make a record of the conversation.
Aidala appeared perturbed by what he called the judge’s “extended private conversation” with Baez. He asked whether he could also approach the bench, but Burke waved him off.
Weinstein, 67, is charged with raping a woman in 2013 and performing a forcible sex act on a different woman in 2006. He denies the allegations, has pleaded not guilty and is free on $1 million bail.
Baez and Sullivan started representing Weinstein in January, when the former movie producer overhauled his legal team for the first time. That happened after his original lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, lost a hard-fought bid to get the case thrown out.
Pamela Robillard Mackey, who represented Kobe Bryant in his 2003 Colorado sexual assault case, and ex-Manhattan prosecutor Duncan Levin were also hired in January and have since left.
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