We’re walking here! City lawmakers blast DOT official over sidewalk parking, lack of safe spaces

Photo: Pamela Drew via Flickr Creative Commons

City Council members vented frustrations at a city Department of Transportation official on Monday about how their constituents have little space to walk in their communities due to cars parked on sidewalks, and various safety measures that have not yet been put in place.

Assistant Commissioner of Street Improvement Programs at DOT Sean Quinn got an earful from City Council Members Ydanis Rodriguez, I. Daneek Miller, Bob Holden and others as they vexed about NYPD vehicles and Open Restaurants blocking pedestrian space.

Holden told Quinn that a new solution is needed to preventing cars from parking on sidewalks and blocking crosswalks mainly by NYPD.

“We see car parking around precincts where police vehicles, their own personal vehicles park on the sidewalks, in cross walks, parking everywhere,” Holden said. “How can we prevent them from doing that other than just enforcement? Can we do improvements on these corners especially around precincts that will stop them from parking? They’re not going to enforce their own laws. Obviously we’re not seeing the enforcement around precincts, especially some of mine, where police vehicles are parked everywhere, blocking crosswalks.”

Holden also said ripples in the asphalt of crosswalks pose a danger to pedestrians, especially the elderly, and are particularly difficult to resolve with the DOT.

For Miller, his southeast Queens district does not see the investment other parts of the city get with medians in crosswalks and other safety projects, and spoke out against DOT’s Merrick Boulevard bus lane proposal, which he believes is undermined by body shops which leave vehicles on the sidewalk.

“[DOT] also painted the bus lanes everywhere along this two mile corridor, except for the locations where the problem began… The commonality among these hotspots, they are body shops and on this main thoroughfare they park in the bus stops, they park on the street. We have at least 100 cars that park on this street that never move belonging to these body shops,” Miller said. “We’ve been having this problem for more than a year, none of which has been mitigated.”

Holden and Miller both expressed frustration that slow or unsatisfactory responses from DOT have been attributed to the pandemic when they argued that the lack of services in their districts predate COVID-19.

Quinn sought to defend the agency’s record.

“We have in relation to our citywide safety projects, we analyze the number of projects implemented in New York City’s highest poverty and non-white neighborhoods based on census track demographics and we found that not only do these neighborhoods have received a proportionate share of projects but also have some of the highest drops in pedestrian fatalities,” Quinn said. “So while we do have more to do in terms of reaching all corners of the city, our data-driven approach so far has taken us to neighborhoods all over the city. We’re really working to bring down our injuries and fatalities everywhere we possibly can.”

According to Rodriguez, who chairs the Council’s Transportation Committee, a primary problem for resolving issues surrounding sidewalks is due to other agencies have interfering interest and coordination is easier said than done.

“I have many examples of cases at St. Nicholas Avenue and 180th Street, and other places, that there is limited space for pedestrians to walk, but it’s not that the DOT would not like to ensure that we address the problem there,” Rodriguez said.