In a city where parking spots can be as hard to come by as “Hamilton” tickets, residents are at odds over a new arrangement that’s taking away hundreds of public spaces and doling them out to companies that rent out cars by the hour.
In the past few weeks, New York City began repurposing 230 curbside spaces for the exclusive use of Enterprise CarShare and Zipcar. Street signs warn interlopers against parking in them; violators are ticketed and towed. Another 55 spots in city-owned parking lots and 24 at public housing complexes also are being set aside for the companies.
The two-year pilot program is pitting proponents of car sharing, who see it as an efficient alternative to car ownership, against car owners, who fear fewer spaces will force them to circle the block even more.
“Parking is not an easy thing to find. Period,” said Jerry Armer, whose Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, neighborhood has seen 18 on-street spaces gobbled up for car sharing.
In his neighborhood, at certain times of the day, it isn’t unusual to have to circle for 30 minutes for an open spot, only to wind up a half-mile (0.8 kilometers) from home. New Yorkers also deal with the scourge of alternate-side-of-the-street parking, which involves having to move your car once or twice a week to make way for street cleaners.
The pilot program has elicited some grumbles over the price these for-profit companies are paying for exclusive use of these hard-to-get spots: almost nothing.
Zipcar and Enterprise are each paying a one-time $765 fee for the curbside spots and $1,000 to $1,200 per year for each space in the city-owned lots. Residents of city-owned public housing also will receive discounts on car sharing services.
Armer, a longtime member of a community board that acts as a liaison between residents and the city, said anxious neighbors have been peppering him with questions and complaints since the program was announced.
New York’s foray into publicly endorsed car sharing comes as it grapples with increased traffic on its roads and the looming closure, for long-term repairs, of a subway line that shuttles 225,000 people between Manhattan and Brooklyn each day.
Mayor Bill de Blasio pitched the city’s program last month as a way to ease congestion and cut pollution while expanding transportation options in a city where 56 percent of households do not own a car, according to a 2014 University of Michigan study, by far the most of any big city in the U.S.
“If this works, we’re going to take it citywide in a very aggressive way,” said de Blasio, sitting under a banner that read, “More sharing, fewer cars.”
Other cities have already embraced the concept.
San Diego has been dedicating parking spaces to car sharing for six years, Dallas has been doing the same in publicly operated parking lots for nearly four years and parts of downtown in Austin, Texas, are lined with car share-only zones.
A University of California study in 2010 found that there were nine to 13 fewer vehicles on the road for each car share vehicle in circulation because customers were more likely to refrain from purchasing a second vehicle or replacing an existing vehicle.
New York’s launch has had a few speed bumps. Some cars parked in on-street car share spaces were towed soon after the signs went up, despite a two-week grace period. The city’s Department of Transportation said it was working to dismiss those tickets.
“It was really quite abusive in a way. People felt very violated the way that it was done,” said Amy Breedlove, president of the Cobble Hill Association. “They came in, jackhammered and put up a sign, and then the next thing traffic enforcement is in and they’re booting and towing.”
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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