New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

StreetsBlog

StreetsBlog A Beautiful Day on the Queensboro Bridge — Will It Lead to More Space for Oppressed Pedestrians? by Streetsblog

A Beautiful Day on the Queensboro Bridge — Will It Lead to More Space for Oppressed Pedestrians?

Don’t care how, they want it now.

Two City Council Members, two state Senators, a Borough President and the head of the city’s foremost bike and pedestrian advocacy group met with Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg on Monday — and got what participants said was a firm quasi-commitment that the city would take back a lane on the Queensboro Bridge from car drivers and finally give it back to pedestrians, who currently share a single crowded lane with cyclists going in both directions.

“Everyone wants this project to happen, including Polly Trottenberg,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, who walked the bridge with his Council colleague Ben Kallos, plus state Senators Jessica Ramos and Michael Gianaris, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Danny Harris and Trottenberg. “And everyone knows these are disastrous budgetary times, but the money is not the issue. It’s a small amount of money relatively speaking.”

StreetsBlog Hundreds of Activists Rally for More Space on the Queensboro Bridge — And DOT Agrees! by Gersh Kuntzman

Hundreds of Activists Rally for More Space on the Queensboro Bridge — And DOT Agrees!

undreds of protesters took over the south outer roadway of the Queensboro Bridge to demand a dedicated lane for pedestrians so that walkers in both directions don’t have to share a single path with two-way cyclists — and the Department of Transportation said it agrees with the demand.

But … it still can’t happen until 2022.

At the rally, politicians including Council Members Jimmy Van Bramer and Ben Kallos — whose districts are connected by the fabled span — and State Senators Jessica Ramos and Mike Gianaris made the same demands that activists and pols have been making for years: That booming bike and pedestrian use of the bridge — coupled with declining driving — made it essential to convert the southernmost car lane (which is conveniently already separated from other car lanes on the bridge) into a pedestrian-only lane. Cyclists would then split the north outer roadway.

 

“We don’t need the money to do this,” said Van Bramer, who, with Kallos, has promised to fund the security fencing that the DOT says it must construct. “We need the political will.”

In a statement, the DOT agreed with Van Bramer.

“We couldn’t agree more: adding bike and pedestrian capacity to our bridges is a great idea,” said agency spokesman Brian Zumhagen. “We’re completing urgent safety upgrades to the Queensboro Bridge, a 100-plus-year-old structure, and we need extra lane capacity to get it done. We also have to evaluate every project in the context of our historic budget crisis. But conversations are ongoing on moving this project forward, and we’re grateful for the community’s enthusiasm for it.”

That full-throated endorsement is more of a sore-throated kind: the repair work on the Queensboro Bridge won’t be finished until 2022, as DOT has said. But the agency has also been caught making other excuses that have contradicted previous explanations for why the additional space could not be made, as Streetsblog has reported.

As a result, the bridge configuration will remain nine lanes for automobile traffic, one-half lane for pedestrians and one-half lane for cyclists. That formula was mocked in one protester’s sign (right).

After the speeches, scores of pedestrians walked over the bridge, enjoying, for the first time since the roadway was seized from pedestrians for cars in the 1990s, spectacular views of Manhattan and booming Long Island City.

Meanwhile, on the north outer roadway, conditions continued to be dangerous and unnerving for all users. The roadway — a single car lane — has since 2000 been serving as the lone route for cyclists and pedestrians. But the narrow pathway has become a victim of the city’s own Vision Zero strategy of encouraging cycling and walking, former city transportation official Jon Orcutt ruefully pointed out.

“The bike boom is a fulfillment of years of city policy, but when it happened during the coronavirus, the city wasn’t ready” with more safety infrastructure, said Orcutt, who was one of two members of the so-called QB6 — six protesters who got arrested in 1990 at a similar rally to create more space on the bridge — on hand on Sunday. Charles Komanoff also attended and spoke about how basic transport is an essential equity issue.

At the time Komanoff and Orcutt were arrested, the rallying cry was “Just One Lane,” Orcutt reminded. “Now, it’s ‘One More Lane!'”

Here’s a mega slideshow of the best images from the day:

StreetsBlog STREETSBLOG GETS ACTION: DOT Chief Accepts Council Offer of Queensboro Bridge Fix Cash by Dave Colon

STREETSBLOG GETS ACTION: DOT Chief Accepts Council Offer of Queensboro Bridge Fix Cash

She said yes.

DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said on Thursday that she welcomes a recent City Council offer — revealed last week in Streetsblog — to cover the cost of turning the South Outer Roadway on the Queensboro Bridge into a badly needed pedestrian lane on the jammed up bridge. The project has long been stalled due to a variety of DOT excuses.

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Council Members Ben Kallos of Manhattan and Jimmy Van Bramer of Queens recently told Streetsblog they were willing to use their discretionary budgets to cover the cost of the eight-foot high security fencing that the DOT said is needed to convert the South Outer Roadway into a pedestrian walkway, freeing up the bridge’s northernmost lane for cyclists, who currently share the space with walkers. DOT had said the fencing is a “multi-million dollar” project, but Streetsblog estimated the cost would be around $450,000, based on a similar project on the George Washington Bridge.

StreetsBlog OUT OF EXCUSES: Council Members Offer DOT Money for QBB Security Fence by Gersh Kuntzman

OUT OF EXCUSES: Council Members Offer DOT Money for QBB Security Fence

All she has to do is ask.

Two members of the City Council — whose districts flank the Queensboro Bridge — have promised to allocate capital money that they control to install a security fence on the south outer roadway, a missing piece of infrastructure that Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg says is preventing her agency from doubling the amount of pedestrian and cycling space on the fabled span.

“I’m all in,” said Queens Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer.

“We could do this now,” added his Manhattan colleague Ben Kallos.

StreetsBlog Shake Shack Steals Public Space in Tribeca as More Lawmakers Demand Open Streets for Restaurant Revival by Gersh Kuntzman

Shake Shack Steals Public Space in Tribeca as More Lawmakers Demand Open Streets for Restaurant Revival

Council Member Ben Kallos of the Upper East Side joined the fight on Sunday, firing off a letter to the mayor demanding the removal of parking so that restaurants in his district could operate safely. Kallos said his concern came after watching crowds gather outside restaurants in his neighborhood during the warm weekend.

“I have long thought about the fact that on a given street with 5,000 to 10,000 people living on it, there are 50 parking spots — which means that 50 people prevent 5,000 to 10,000 people from having complete streets with bike lanes, bus lanes and micromobility,” Kallos told Streetsblog on Monday. “But now people are engaging in risky behavior, so let’s create safe spaces to reduce the risk of behavior they’re going to engage in anyway.”

Kallos likened it to the city’s distribution of free condoms.

StreetsBlog Council To Mayor: Bus Service Needs Improvements, Not Cuts by Julianne Cuba

Council To Mayor: Bus Service Needs Improvements, Not Cuts

City lawmakers are demanding Mayor de Blasio rethink his decision to nix funding for his own better bus initiative — a move that will hurt the thousands of frontline workers now relying on buses to get to work.

Hizzoner last month revealed that he would cut $2.7 million through June of this year, and an additional $5.7 million through June 2021 from the Department of Transportation’s budget for funding dedicated to improving the beleaguered bus network.

Advocates initially slammed the mayor, warning that the cuts would negatively impact bus riders — especially essential workers in low-income communities and communities of color, during the coronavirus crisis, now and in the future.

And on Monday, 13 pols joined them — specifically calling on de Blasio to restore funding for the Better Bus Initiative, install temporary bus lanes during the pandemic to improve bus speeds and ensure frequent service, and ensure that bus improvement projects slated for 2020 and 2021 remain on schedule.

“While the city is in a challenging fiscal crisis caused by the coronavirus … bus service has powered the city’s emergency response, providing critical service to frontline workers — brave doctors and nurses, EMTs, grocery workers, transit employees, and delivery drivers — 75 percent of whom are people of color,” the Council Members wrote in a May 11 letter to the mayor.  “We cannot shortchange the New Yorkers who helped save this city nor overlook the role public transit plays in our economy.”

The 13 pols include Manhattan Council Members Ydanis Rodriguez, Mark Levine, Ben Kallos, Carlina Rivera, Margaret Chin, and Keith Powers; Brooklyn Council Members Carlos Menchaca, and Alan Maisel; Queens Council Members Daneek Miller, Donovan Richards, Costa Constantinides, and Barry Grodenchik; and Bronx Council Member Vanessa Gibson.

StreetsBlog UPDATE: Mayor’s First Seven Miles of ‘Open Streets’ Start Saturday! by Gersh Kuntzman

UPDATE: Mayor’s First Seven Miles of ‘Open Streets’ Start Saturday!

The inclusion of the roadway along Carl Schurz Park in Upper Manhattan is particularly ironic, given that the mayor’s home — Gracie Mansion — is inside that park. The mayor was confronted last weekend by a Brooklynite who was angered that the mayor is regularly driven 11 miles from the mansion to Prospect Park so he can recreate. Perhaps he will now use East End Avenue.

Even if he doesn’t, the area’s council member, Ben Kallos, shared his support.

“East End Avenue is a perfect street to open exclusively to pedestrians,” said Kallos, who lobbied the mayor for the inclusion of that roadway. “Once the street is open to pedestrians, this will relieve the pressure off our local parks and give everyone the space they need to the practice social distancing outdoors correctly.”

The announcement could be seen as a small start, but it does come as the Department of Transportation has repeatedly said it is straining to fulfill its mission during the COVID-19 crisis, with a staff scattered by the virus.

StreetsBlog Don’t Let Coronavirus Prevent NYC from Buying Small Snowplows (…Wait, Wut?) by Gersh Kuntzman

Don’t Let Coronavirus Prevent NYC from Buying Small Snowplows (…Wait, Wut?)

If it wasn’t for the damn coronavirus pandemic, the Upper East Side would be well on its way to obtaining the city’s first narrow snowplow to keep protected bike lanes clear during winter.

But residents and cyclists in Council Member Ben Kallos’s district still have a chance to get the much-needed equipment. All they have to do is email the lawmaker or tweet at him.

Allow us to explain what the hell we’re talking about…

Earlier this year, Kallos created a ballot of projects he would consider funding under the Council’s participatory budgeting scheme — which allows district residents to tell local representatives how they think a portion of a pol’s discretionary funding should be allocated.

First on Kallos’s list (see list, right)? “Mechanical cleaner and plow for bike lanes.”

Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you don’t think much of participatory budgeting…), the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Council to shut down this year’s reality show, “How Should We Spend a Tiny Portion of Our Extra Cash?”

But Kallos is pushing ahead.

StreetsBlog Roosevelt Island — Home of ‘Four Freedoms’ Park — May Get Four Citi Bike Stations by Gersh Kuntzman

Roosevelt Island — Home of ‘Four Freedoms’ Park — May Get Four Citi Bike Stations

Roosevelt Island — named for the president who elucidated “four freedoms” for all Americans — is poised to finally allow Citi Bike to add four stations, adding a new way for its 14,000 residents to get around, get some exercise or get off the island on the 36th Avenue bridge.

At a meeting on Thursday night, the island’s board of directors — Roosevelt Island is, officially, a fiefdom of the state, where many city rules don’t apply and even the city Department of Transportation doesn’t have hegemony over the roads — is expected to approve a preliminary agreement allowing Citi Bike’s parent company Lyft to start negotiating the terms of the island’s surrender to reality.

As first reported by the blog Roosevelt Islander, the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation board will likely nitpick locations for the four docks — one will obviously serve the tramway terminus and the island’s lone subway stop — but it seems the board is, well, on board.

StreetsBlog Streetfilms: Yes, the Bike/Ped Situation on the Queensboro Bridge Is That Bad! by Gersh Kuntzman

Streetfilms: Yes, the Bike/Ped Situation on the Queensboro Bridge Is That Bad!

We covered last week’s renewed call for pedestrian and bike safety fixes on the dangerous Queensboro Bridge, but you have to see Clarence Eckerson’s latest Streetfilms video to really understand the situation.