Kate Hinds appears in the following:
Tuesday, July 05, 2011
A year after New York's MTA discontinued two Brooklyn-to-Manhattan express bus lines, the agency has brought them back.
The resurrected X37 and X38, which operate between the Bay Ridge/Sea Gate/Bensonhurst neighborhoods and Midtown Manhattan, began running again today after being eliminated in June 2010 as part of the MTA's attempt to close an $800 million budget gap.
Deirdre Parker, a spokesperson for the MTA, said that the agency had tried to fill gaps in service by creating two bus lines (the X27B and the X28B), but "it didn't really perform as we had anticipated." She said: "There was crowding, traffic delays, it was like a loading imbalance, where you'd have one bus that was too crowded and another that was almost empty."
There was also a lawsuit, brought by a local politicians and litigated by a former NYC Taxi and Limousine commissioner, which accused the MTA of violating the Americans With Disabilities Act by cutting the bus lines. Now that the lines are restored, the suit has been dropped.
State Senator Martin Golden, who had been battling the MTA for the return of the bus lines, released a statement today that said: “I thank the Metropolitan Transit Authority for listening and the plaintiffs for their advocacy on behalf of the many who need better transportation services. But the fight continues as Southwest Brooklyn still needs more of the service we lost returned to operation including weekend express bus service.”
Josephine Beckmann, district manager for Brooklyn's Community Board 10, said residents are thrilled to have the bus lines back. "We're delighted, we're ecstatic," she said.
Tuesday, July 05, 2011
In order to grant corporate tax incentives to resurrect New Jersey's moribund Xanadu shopping complex, Governor Chris Christie needed the Democratically-controlled state legislature to follow through with legislation (pdf). The bill would grant at least $200 million in tax credits to a company to finish the stalled project -- now to be rebranded as American Dream Meadowlands.
And as WNYC's Bob Hennelly reports, that is not all that the bill does.
Democrats used the opportunity to radically alter the state's Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit Act, which offers significant tax credits to developers undertaking residential construction near mass-transit in urban centers like Camden and Newark.
Under the current program, developers had to commit to set aside 20 percent of developments for affordable housing units for low and moderate income households. In return, they would get a state tax credit equivalent to 20 percent of the cost of their investment.
Under the new legislation, developers are now going to be able to get a 35 percent tax credit for their construction costs, and they will no longer be required to provide affordable housing.
Read Bob Hennelly's report here.
TN MOVING STORIES: Los Angeles To Cut Dozens of Bus Routes, Why NYC Women Don't Bike More, and Oil Spill in Montana
Sunday, July 03, 2011
Los Angeles's bus system gets millions of low-income workers to their jobs -- so why is the city cutting bus lines? (New York Times)
Why don't more women bike in NYC? Safety, safety, safety. (New York Times)
A Haaretz editorial characterizes the state of public transportation in Tel Aviv "shameful" and calls for reform.
A ruptured oil pipeline in Montana has spilled 1,000 barrels of oil into the Yellowstone River. (The Takeaway)
After five years and $12 million, Newark's proposed Triangle Park remains a parking lot -- not the pedestrian-friendly park space it was meant to be. (Star-Ledger)
Chicago's Metra might have double-charged customers who purchased tickets with credit cards last week. (Chicago Tribune)
Friday, July 01, 2011
New York City doesn't want a judge to grant a two-month adjournment to the group suing the city to remove a bike lane in Brooklyn.
As Streetsblog reported Thursday, Jim Walden -- the attorney representing Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes/Seniors for Safety -- wrote to Justice Bunyan earlier this week (a pdf of that letter can be found here) asking him to push back the next court date in the case until September.
Walden, who included a copy of a front-page New York Times article in his letter, told the judge that the Times story "highlights precisely the issue we raised at the hearing on June 22: namely, that the city presents new programs and initiatives as 'pilots' or 'trials' in order to avoid compliance with required legal processes and public reviews and to blunt criticism of the projects -- only to make the projects permanent without any further review."
Walden told the judge that he had submitted new Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests to the city's Department of Transportation, as well as Council Member Brad Lander, and that he needed time to receive and review these documents.
(You can read TN's coverage of Walden's previous FOIL request to Lander here.)
The City of New York Law Department attorney Mark Muschenheim responded with his own letter (pdf) to the judge, accusing Walden of making "an end run around the general discovery prohibition in summary proceedings." Muschenheim urged Justice Bunyan to reject the request and hold the next court hearing, as scheduled, on July 20.
According to the city's letter, Walden "mistakenly assert(s) that this article has some bearing on the statute of limitations issue in this proceeding. The article discusses generally the use of pilot projects by various City agencies. Significantly, the article makes no mention of the Prospect Park West Traffic Calming Project (“PPW Project”) that is the subject of the instant dispute." The letter goes on to reiterate the city's position that the PPW bike lane was never considered, or described, as a trial or pilot project -- and that FOIL requests are no basis to delay the next hearing.
No word on when -- or if -- the judge might issue a decision.
TN MOVING STORIES: Cuomo to Allow Hydrofracking, American Airlines Deep in Red, and Transit Agencies Want Tweets About Hot Subway Cars
Friday, July 01, 2011
New York Governor Cuomo announced a plan to allow -- and regulate -- the controversial natural gas drilling technique known as hydrofracking. (WNYC)
Ray LaHood is siding with Virginia's above-ground station idea for the Dulles Metrorail extension. (Washington Post)
Latinos, African-Americans and Asian-Americans buy more Toyotas than any other car brand. (NPR)
American Airlines has lost money eight out of the last ten years. (AP via St. Louis Today)
California is recycling roads to repair them. (Good)
Federal transportation officials shut down a Pennsylvania bus company involved in a fatal crash after finding the two drivers involved never took required drug tests and falsified records. (AP)
The transit agencies in Boston and Washington DC want customers to tweet them about subway cars with broken A/C. (Transit Wire)
The Port Authority of NY and NJ is studying traffic near the Port Newark/Elizabeth Marine Terminal to prepare to accommodate a 50 percent increase in shipping container traffic over the coming decade. (The Star-Ledger)
More on the opening of the Beijing-to-Shanghai high-speed rail line in the Los Angeles Times.
Brookline wants to join Boston's bike share program. (Boston Globe)
Thursday, June 30, 2011
For one weekend in July, a key highway in Los Angeles will be closed for 53 hours straight while workers demolish a bridge. It's part of a massive project to widen Highway 405 and add a high-occupancy vehicle lane, and the city is doing everything it can to make sure residents "plan ahead, avoid the area, or stay home."
To avoid "carmageddon," the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is trying to e-publicize the closure any way it can. Of course there's a website. There are also live chats. And a downloadable countdown widget clock, as well as an embeddable graphic banner.
Oh, and the LAPD has asked Lady Gaga to tweet about it.
But there is an old-school component to the publicity: Erik Estrada -- of CHiPs fame -- made a video.
Thursday, June 30, 2011
In Ray LaHood's latest "On the Go" -- the video series in which the US Department of Transportation Secretary answers questions from the public -- he fields questions from Streetsblog readers. Watch below to see him talk about urban livability, driving responsibly, the expansion of streetcars in New Orleans, and the DOT's collaboration with HUD and EPA.
TN MOVING STORIES: Michigan Gov Warns Against Tough Fuel Economy Standards, Turtles Overrun Runway at JFK, and Banning Babies in First Class
Thursday, June 30, 2011
15 governors, including Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, sent a letter to regulators urging the federal government not to increase fuel economy standards "too quickly." (Detroit Free Press)
Ray LaHood visited a GM plant in Flint. (FastLane)
The final route in Detroit's $500 million light rail project was announced. (Detroit News)
Higher transit fares and bridge tolls go into effect in the Bay Area tomorrow. (San Francisco Chronicle)
Hyundai -- once an automotive afterthought -- is now zooming forward. (Wall Street Journal)
One airline banned babies in first class. (Sydney Morning Herald)
Boaters must now steer clear of part of New York City's Verrazano Bridge where a diver found a cache of unexploded ammunition. (New York Daily News)
Sit, stay buckle: automakers and law enforcement agencies are urging pet owners to secure dogs in cars. (Wall Street Journal)
Turtles overran the tarmac at JFK Airport, causing flight delays. (WNYC)
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) says that in the last nine years, the number of passengers taking bicycles on board the trains has risen almost 65% --despite the fact that bikes are banned during "peak commute times." So the agency is updating its Bicycle Access and Parking Plan (pdf), and it says it wants feedback from riders about what would make them more likely to bike to BART. The online survey asks questions about how people feel about bike parking at their stations, how they get bikes from the street level to the train platforms, and what they'd like to see improved. According to the agency's website, BART says the survey data will be used to "identify the best investments to encourage bicycling to particular station types."
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Some free food for thought was emblazoned on a tip jar at a restaurant at Prince Street and Sixth Ave. in Soho on Wednesday.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Bob Lutz, a former GM executive who championed the Volt, was interviewed this morning on the Brian Lehrer Show about his new book, Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business. In the book, he argues the auto industry needs to focus more on quality and customer service and less on stock price. Below are some highlights from today's Brian Lehrer Show interview.
Regarding the auto industry meltdown: "Management with more of a focus on the customer and excellence would have prevented it."
On US automakers versus Japanese automakers: "The playing field now is absolutely level."
Does he envision an America with all electric cars? "I don't, because range is always going to be a factor."
Did you flip over an Opel during a J turn? "Yes I did...there was an argument with the engineers who claimed the car couldn't be flipped because we'd had some reports of the cars flipping over in the United States. I went out and performed the test and promptly put it on its roof."
You can listen to the interview below.
TN MOVING STORIES: False Alarms Plague NY MTA Elevators, NJ Transit Increases Security, and Mimes To Promote Quiet Cars On Boston T
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Florida Governor Rick Scott sent his top transportation adviser to Central Florida to warn local officials that they'll be on the hook if SunRail fails. (St. Petersburg Times)
The monitoring systems on New York MTA elevators are plagued by false alarms. (New York Daily News)
São Paolo, Brazil, is building an 11-mile long monorail to link its airport to its subway system -- but it may not be completed in time for the 2014 World Cup. (Smart Planet)
The Miami Herald asks officials not to penalize riders because of the scandal at Miami-Dade Transit.
According to a recent poll, NJ governor Christie's support is dropping among voters because of decisions like canceling the ARC tunnel and flying in a state helicopter to attend his son's baseball game. (Bloomberg)
NJ Transit is increasing security and developing an intelligence unit with the FBI. (AP via the Star-Ledger)
A key House Democrat says privatizing Amtrak would drain railroad workers' pensions. (The Hill)
More on Boston's "quiet car" program, including the revelation that the MBTA will be using mimes to promote it. (WBUR)
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Tuesday marked the final day of school for the city's public school students.
TN MOVING STORIES: Florida's Commuter Rail Fate To Be Decided This Week, and Less NYkers Driving Over MTA-Tolled Bridges
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Florida Congressman John Mica has been pushing SunRail for years -- but is he dedicated to commuter rail, or to earmarks for CSX? (New York Times)
Meanwhile: Florida Governor Rick Scott says he'll decide the fate of the SunRail project this week. (The Hill)
And: Scott has the lowest approval rating of any governor in the nation, in part because of unpopular decisions like killing that state's high-speed rail project. (New York Times)
How feasible is President Obama's gas mileage goal of 56.2 miles per gallon by 2025? (The Takeaway)
Boston's MBTA is expanding its "quiet car" program. (MyFox Boston)
German researchers say that a handful of cars "talking" to each other can reduce traffic congestion. (Autopia)
Maryland's proposed Red Line in Baltimore has received federal approval to move to the next phase of development -- meaning federal funding is likely to eventually come. (Baltimore Sun)
Zurich is piloting climate- and traffic-resistant sensors for vehicles, and designing ways to use mobile phones to access the data collected by the sensors. (Treehugger.com)
Less motorists are driving over the New York MTA's toll bridges. (New York Post)
TN MOVING STORIES: China Opens New Fast Rail Line, Virginia's Transportation Woes, and NY's MTA Slow to Pick Up Subway Garbage
Monday, June 27, 2011
New York's MTA fails to pick up garbage in about 100 subway stations on an average night. (New York Daily News)
The truck company involved in a deadly Amtrak crash in Nevada last week had been repeatedly cited for safety violations. (AP via Chicago Sun Times)
European cities are making driving miserable in order to curtail car use -- and boost public transit. (New York Times)
New York Times columnist Joe Nocera has been won over by the Chevy Volt. (Link)
Tolls are up on New York's MTA-owned bridges, but 20% of them score below the agency's midpoint in its ratings system. (New York Post)
China opens its Beijing-Shanghai high speed rail link to the public this week, barely three years after construction began. The trains will travel the 820 miles in just under 5 hours. (Telegraph)
Why is it so hard to get a transportation project off the ground in Virginia? “I don’t think Richmond gets northern Virginia and I don’t think traditional transportation engineers understand or even support the new science of land use and transportation,” says one urban planner. (AP via Washington Post)
Philadelphia -- which has seen a 151% increase in bike commuting in the last decade -- is gaining a reputation as a bike-friendly, transit-using, walkable city. (Philadelphia Daily News)
Friday, June 24, 2011
A same-sex marriage display appears in the window of the Levis Store on 14th Street near Union Square.
TN MOVING STORIES: House Legislation Floats Federal Ban on Cell Phones While Driving, and NJ Transit and Amtrak Suspend Service 3X This Week
Friday, June 24, 2011
A NY Congresswoman introduced legislation that aims to institute a federal ban on cell phone use while driving. (Detroit Free Press)
This week, power problems forced NJ Transit and Amtrak to suspend service three times on three consecutive days. (Star-Ledger)
The Chicago area's Regional Transit Authority says it may have to start cutting service next month if the state doesn't pay it the $400 million it owes. (Chicago Tribune)
On the Brian Lehrer Show today, a correspondent from NPR's "Planet Money" will explain the impact of President Obama's decision to release 30 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. (WNYC)
Are lower sales the auto industry's 'new normal'? "So why does it matter if you sell 17 million cars, rather than 12 million? Jobs." (NPR)
New York's MTA says it's on track for a December 2013 opening of the #7 subway extension. (NY1)
Richard Florida writes that commuting to work by bike makes you healthier and happier. (The Atlantic)
Tesla is ceasing production of the Roadster. (Fast Company)
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Wednesday was the first day of formal court hearings in Brooklyn's Prospect Park West bike lane case (see our coverage here for more information). And as we reported, the judge adjourned the case for a month to give the group suing the city time to review the documents from a Freedom of Information Law request it made.
We are also looking at those documents. Here's the background:
Soon after Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes/Seniors for Safety (NBBL) filed a lawsuit earlier this year seeking the removal of the Prospect Park West bike lane, the group's attorney, Jim Walden, submitted a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request seeking all records AND /emails between New York City Council member Brad Lander and/or his staff and a group of known bike-lane supporters.
In a statement today, Walden said: “We are pleased that Justice Bunyan has given us adequate time to review the FOIL documents - all 691 pages of them – that Councilmember Lander provided the night before today’s hearing. We are confident that we will find even more evidence that will help our case, given the close relationship between Councilmember Lander, DOT, and bike lane lobbyists."
Lander also provided Transportation Nation with copies of the emails.
It's no secret that the Brooklyn councilman is a longtime supporter of the PPW bike lane. He's filed an amicus brief in support of the New York City Department of Transportation (the agency being sued over the lane's installation), and he held a rally outside a Brooklyn courthouse Wednesday morning, just before the hearing. And an initial read of hundreds of pages of email correspondence between Lander and others, including members of Brooklyn's Community Board 6 and various bike advocates, provides a glimpse into Lander's strategy to advocate for the lane: facilitate public displays of support for the lane, make the case that Prospect Park West is now safer for everyone, and keep hammering home the message that both the data -- and the majority of Park Slope residents -- support the lane.
Below, some excerpts of the correspondence.
Following a New York Times profile of embattled city DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, Lander moved to quickly mobilize support both at the grassroots level and in City Hall.
3/6/11 email from Brad Lander to Aaron Naparstek (founder of Streetsblog and bike lane advocate) and Paul Steely White (executive director of Transportation Alternatives, also a bike lane supporter):
"Yesterday’s article obviously makes it even more imperative that we (a) win the April CB6 vote on PPW by a large margin, and (b) get the pedestrian islands poured quickly. So we’re planning to treat the next 5 weeks like a mini-political campaign. Looking forward to working with you guys on this. I'm sharing this separately with a very small number of other mutual friends. Please keep it within this very tight circle, and be mindful of what it will look like in court. : - )"
3/7/11 email from Brad Lander to Howard Wolfson (NYC deputy mayor):
"There is very strong majority support for the PPW bike lane in Park Slope….We did an online survey (CM Levin*, CB6, and me), to which over 3,000 people responded. 70% of Park Slopers (including PPW residents, who were evenly split) favor keeping the lane. The calls, letters, emails, hearing & rally turnout, comments on the street, facebook pages, etc all run strongly (about 2 to 1) in favor of the lane. I know this may be different than in other neighborhoods around the city; but, well, it is Park Slope...Assuming that the Community Board votes in favor next month, I'm asking City Hall support DOT (and the community board, and the councilman, and majority sentiment in the neighborhood) on this one."
*NYC Council member Stephen Levin
When the bike lane isn’t plowed, no one is happy – not even bike lane opponents.
1/23/11 email from Aaron Naparstek to Brad Lander:
“I’ve been asking around trying to figure out who is responsible for the PPW bike lane not being plowed for the second time in the last few weeks. I assumed it was Steisel* talking to some old friends in Sanitation. Tupper** – very off the record – says Marty*** has insisted that the PPW bike lane be the last street in Brooklyn that gets plowed and, for some reason, Sanitation is complying. Apparently not even Norman is happy with this. Tupper first asked Steisel if the lack of plowing was his doing. He said that the lack of plowing has actually made it harder for him to access his car and he doesn’t like it either.”
*Norman Steisel, former Deputy Mayor, former Sanitation Commissioner and member of Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes
** probably Tupper Thomas, the former head of the Prospect Park Alliance
*** Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn Borough President
Even if a few parking spaces are returned, the bike lane still probably won’t please the borough president:
2/7/11 email from Brad Lander to David Woloch (deputy commissioner of external affairs for the NYC Department of Transportation):
“I’m waiting for a response from Carlo* on whether Boro Hall will take part in my ‘let’s find a few parking space’ exercise. I was clear with him that the goal is to have it included in the CB6 resolution in favor of pouring concrete, but that Marty would of course be free to fulminate against the lanes until the end of time (or his term, whichever comes first).”
* probably Carlo Scissura, Marty Markowitz's chief of staff
About that survey: bike lane opponents were concerned about who would participate.
10/18/10 email from Lois Carswell (member of Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes) to Craig Hammerman (district manager of Brooklyn's Community Board 6); cc: Brad Lander
“But the larger concern is that anyone, anywhere can participate and receive consideration. The bike lobby is extremely well financed and organized. At the push of a button they can elicit hundreds if not thousands of responses from people who have never – and will never – cross the Brooklyn Bridge. This is something that is basically impossible to check. It is one thing to say that park users who do not like in Park Slope deserve to be heard, but to allow well organized bikers from anywhere in the city who have no intention of ever casting their eyes on Prospect Park West to influence the survey’s outcome is just plain wrong. None of these people have to live with the dangerous, congested conditions and the defacement of a magnificent boulevard that installation of the bike lane has caused. Responses of Park Slope residents—especially those in the Prospect Park West corridor—should be heavily weighted. The others should be heavily discounted, even though they might support the overarching agenda of a bureaucracy which does not have to live with the consequences of its actions.”
Sometimes Lander wanted to keep the more vocal bike lane supporters out of the spotlight:
3/8/11 email from Brad Lander to Aaron Naparstek and Paul Steely White (leading up to a press conference on the steps of City Hall):
“Can I make a somewhat sensitive request: For today, I think, it would be better to minimize the ‘radical bike extremists’ part of this story…so while it would indeed be great to have a few people at the presser, I’d like to keep the speaking to Park Slope leaders who have not already been tagged in this light…and I also think it makes sense (though I recognize this will read like a megalomaniac politician) to try to have people who reach out to TA*, Aaron, Streetsblog instead talk to me, Michael Cairl**, etc. (Sorry! I hope you know this is for the cause.”)
* Transportation Alternatives
** Michael Cairl is the president of the Park Slope Civic Council
Lander felt that opponents weren't just reacting to the bike lanes.
12/12/10 email from Brad Lander to Aaron Naparstek:
“On the one hand, there is a strong outer borough populist strain, which is what I think is strongest in the opposition, and lumps bikes, Bloomberg, Park Slope/UWS*, congestion pricing all in one big lump. SO it doesn’t help us much with this crowd that there is support in Park Slope for PPW. (And this is why I think it is hard to make Marty feel any pain on this: for him, culturally, this is an extension of the Atlantic Yards debate.)”
* Upper West Side of Manhattan
1/22/11 email from Brad Lander to Aaron Naparstek:
“Backlash is definitely more organic than that. Jimmy Oddo & Eric Ulrich & Lew Fidler & Dov Hikind & Jimmy Vacca* are all acting on their own here, none influenced by PPW. I think CQ** is very unlikely to get involved. It’s not only the physical manifestation of Bloomberg (though it is very much that), but it also links the things they hate about Bloomberg with the things they hate about Park/Slope/Upper West Side/liberals.”
* all are members of the New York City Council
** Christine Quinn, the Council speaker
It's not easy being one of the only elected officials who vocally supports the bike lane.
Despite his position as a bike lane standard bearer, at one point Lander seemed to be a bit piqued when he felt Transportation Alternatives had misrepresented his position on the bike lane as being lukewarm -- as shown in this 7/15/10 email from Brad Lander to Paul Steely White:
"We're very glad to get the pro-bike calls on the bike lanes, so that we will be able to report accurately that the calls are running strongly in favor of the bike lanes. But I wouldn't mind also getting a bit of credit with the TA crowd for being the only elected official who's been willing to stand up in support of this. Yes, I've tried to cover my flank a bit by asking for the data from the study period, and have tried to engage the NIMFY's* in an open spirit...but in every communication I've been straightforward about my support...so I certainly have not been winning any love from them! And as the only elected official I know of who's been willing to clearly express support...I'm taking plenty of their fire."
* Not In My Front Yard
And remember: other eyes may be reading.
3/9/11 email from Brad Lander to Eric McClure (founder of Park Slope Neighbors and a bike lane supporter), Aaron Naparstek, Benjamin Fried (editor of Streetsblog), Paul Steely White, Michael Freedman-Schnapp and Rachel Goodman (latter two are staffers in Lander's office):
"One thing it made us fairly certain of: this email chain will be subpoenaed!"
3/11/11 email from Brad Lander to Paul Steely White:
"I'm optimistic, but not taking anything for granted. I've been talking with CB6 (and transportation committee members, and will keep doing so, over the next week until the committee vote, and over the next month until the CB6 vote...NBBL may, of course, also reach out to CB6 members, but I think all are very clear that the 'alternative' is no 'compromise' but in fact the elimination of the bike lane. We are working with CB6 on the 'find a few more parking spots' plan, which I think (rightly) has a much better chance of being seen as an appropriate additional modification to address some of the PPW resident concerns....
PS: Hello Jim Walden!”
TN MOVING STORIES: DC Metro Drivers Concerned About Safety, MARTA Hikes Fares, and Saab is Circling the Drain
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Metro drivers in D.C. are concerned about their safety. (WAMU)
Now that the Prius is facing stiff competition from other hybrids, Toyota is trying to figure out how to stay ahead of the pack. (NPR)
NYC's outer-borough taxi plan may need some serious tweaking to pass the state Senate. (WNYC)
Atlanta's transit system, MARTA, raises fares substantially; the cost of a monthly pass has risen over 80% in two years. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Lawmakers held hearings on rail and transit security, and admitted rail will never be as secure as air travel. (The Hill)
Swedish automaker Saab, beset by financial problems, may not last much longer. (Marketplace)
Transit riders in Corpus Christi, Texas, will soon be able to pay via a magnetic fare card, and their buses will have internet connection. (AP via Houston Chronicle)
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
The courtroom, on the fourth floor of the Kings County Supreme Court in downtown Brooklyn, was standing room only. After the case was called, half a dozen attorneys approached the bar -- two for the plaintiff, two for City Council Member Brad Lander, who filed an amicus brief in support of the bike lane, and two on behalf of New York City. They all spoke quietly to Justice Bert Bunyan, who interjected questions from time to time.
Most of the conversation was inaudible -- and after about ten minutes, it was over when the judge adjourned the case. The next court date in the case is July 20th.
Jim Walden, the attorney suing the city on behalf of Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes/Seniors for Safety, had asked for additional time to review documents given to him that morning by City Council member Brad Lander. Walden requested Lander's emails with the city DOT and bike lane advocates under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) , and he said this morning he had been given 671 documents.
Lander, a longtime bike lane supporter, held a pro-bike lane rally on the steps of the courthouse before today's proceedings. He was not in the courtroom.
Afterward, in a courthouse hallway, Walden said: "the city is hiding something and they do not want us to find it. And we're not going to give up until we do."
Walden contends the city is withholding all the documents related to a study on the safety of the lane. The city, as well as Council Member Brad Lander, maintains that the bike lane was requested through Park Slope's community board, that the process of considering and installing it was transparent, that the lane has made the street safer for everyone, and that city's Department of Transportation had a "rational basis" for installing the bike lane and that the agency always said the lane was permanent and never considered a trial. But all of that is beside the point, the city says, because the lawsuit was filed too late.
This case was filed under Article 78 proceedings, which has a four-month statute of limitations. The bike lane was installed in June 2010; the lawsuit seeking the lane's removal was filed eight months later.
Walden isn't convinced.
"Somebody had the bright idea to say crashes went down 16 percent when they really went up," he said. " Someone had the bright idea to say injuries went down 21 percent when they really went up. ... someone made that decision, and they're holding back the documents and keeping them secret. That is fundamentally inconsistent with the city's obligations."
Last month, city attorney Mark Muschenheim told Transportation Nation "we've already provided much of what they wanted through FOIL." A spokesman for the city DOT also said today that they've already produced "thousands" of documents.
When asked why he had FOILed Lander's emails, Walden said: "We believe clearly, given his own public statements, that the DOT told him in no uncertain terms it was a trial program, it was a trial bike lane. The city is now claiming that it was never a trial. It's the great bait-and-switch from the City of New York. They called it a trial so people wouldn't sue right away, they said they were going to conduct a study. Now in their papers they say the study never mattered. No matter what the study said, we were going to have a final decision to have the bike lane. So a thousand people could die, apparently, (and) according to the city's paper, that wouldn't matter. So we certainly hope the documents -- I can't say they'll put the lie to the city's position, because it's already clear that it's based on lies, but it will further buttress the notion that the city's playing games in the litigation."
Mark Muschenheim, the attorney who is arguing the case on behalf of the city, said in an emailed statement: "The petitioners have been unable to refute the key legal issues in the case. Their lawsuit was brought after the statute of limitations had expired. Even if it weren’t filed too late, the bike path was clearly a reasonable and rational response by the city to community concerns, the sole legal standard for this case. In addition to enhancing Brooklyn's bike lane network, the installation of the bike path successfully addressed excessive speeding on Prospect Park West, as well as the high numbers of cyclists riding on the Prospect Park West sidewalks. The plan was revised several times with the input of the local community -- and it was, from the beginning, a permanent project to address these concerns."
The city also included in its email an affidavit from Joshua Benson, the director of the NYC DOT's bicycle and pedestrian programs. In it Benson said he attended an April 2010 Community Board 6 meeting and that "I distinctly recall one of the representatives stating that the PPW Project would be a trial project, and I immediately corrected this publicly by stating that the PPW Project was not a trial project, but that after its installation it would be monitored with adjustments made as deemed appropriate. In fact, I do not recall anyone at DOT stating that the PPW Project was a trial or pilot project, unlike other DOT projects that are so identified."
On his way to the elevator, Walden asked a city attorney if Lander was going to be in court on July 20th -- "because if he's not, I want to know because we're going to subpoena him. "