Worn out street striping. Photo by Allan Rosen

Worn out street striping. Photo by Allan Rosen

THE COMMUTE: The NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) claims that safety is their first priority. Nonsense. Why are there always large sections of the Belt Parkway with malfunctioning street lights for three months or more? As soon as one section is repaired, another section is in the dark. This has been a problem long before Superstorm Sandy. Pitch blackness is especially hazardous at entrances and exits of highways if you are new to a particular highway. If it is coupled with poor signage, it is a recipe for disaster for unfamiliar drivers who can make a sudden or erratic decision leading to an accident.

After Sandy, the problem only worsened. City Councilman Alan Maisel recently wrote to the new DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, complaining that lights on the Belt Parkway in Plumb Beach have been out for 15 months. He cited unfulfilled promises made to his predecessor, former City Councilman Lew Fidler, that the problem would be repaired by now. The lights were still out as of last week. If elected officials can’t get results, what chance does an ordinary citizen have? It is inexcusable for large sections of highway to be in the dark, especially during winter months, when there is less daylight, for so long a period of time.

Potholes

Maisel’s letter also references the danger of driving in the dark when the road is filled with so many potholes. After a recent snowstorm, the media reported six cars littering the side of the Belt Parkway near Plumb Beach, all with damaged wheels and flat tires, within a few hours. The DOT has done a tremendous job in repairing potholes around the city, usually within 24 hours. Their crews were working non-stop. In areas where roads literally looked like the lunar surface, rather than filling individual potholes, which only lasts until the next snowstorm, to their credit, entire sections were resurfaced, which normally is not done during winter months. A few weeks ago I entered the BQE at Queens Boulevard going only five miles per hour (mph) because of the poor condition of the entrance ramp. It is dangerous to accelerate to highway speed after you merge with traffic.

The Belt Parkway was especially hard hit, because in recent years resurfacing has been neglected due to a huge sections of the road still scheduled for reconstruction. However, a larger question needs to be asked: Why are so many roads in such bad shape, and with so many potholes? Of course the unusually snowy winter has something to with it, but that is not the entire story, as DOT would like you to believe.

Highways are usually resurfaced where required at least every five years. The resurfacing cycle should be every five to 10 years. However, on city streets, the resurfacing cycle is more like every 20 to 40 years. That is the real reason why local roads have so many potholes. Just look at the roads that were resurfaced within the past three years, such as Shore Boulevard. Not a single pothole in spite of the all the snow and ice this winter. The older the road, the more likely it is to develop potholes. If our roads were resurfaced on a shorter cycle, we wouldn’t have a pothole crisis nearly every winter.

Filling potholes is an emergency measure and it is a very inefficient way to perform road repair. In the long run, it probably costs more to devote so many resources to fill potholes on an emergency basis than it would cost to resurface the roads more often, and there would be far fewer potholes.

Lane Striping

Another safety problem is how the city waits until lane and directional striping is virtually non-existent before it re-stripes its roads. Utilities are required to restore road striping after digging up and re-patching a street. Often, the only striping you see is the few feet re-striped by a utility, as the above picture shows, with the rest of the striping long worn out. Another example of city hypocrisy.

The Mayor’s Driver Broke Vehicular Laws

Surely you saw the recent Channel 2 news story showing Mayor Bill de Blasio’s driver blowing through stop signs and speeding, only one day after the mayor restated his Vision Zero Plan to reduce traffic fatalities that, were the driver cited, it would have resulted in the suspension of his license. The mayor, when questioned, referred questions to Police Commissioner William Bratton, who said that the car was moving at the same speed as other traffic, which is what security is trained to do. Does that mean if everyone is doing 65 mph when the limit is 55 mph, it is okay to speed? Or is speeding permissible only when the mayor’s caravan is doing it? Bratton also stated that nothing on the video caused him concern. So blowing through stop signs is also allowed when the mayor is doing it. De Blasio stated that his driver would not be disciplined. The only reasonable excuse for the driver’s actions would be if the mayor’s life were in danger. That was not the case.

Even if de Blasio was not watching the road and was unaware of what was happening, his driver should have known better and he should have been disciplined. But, how could he be if de Blasio was the one who directed him to hurry to get him to a meeting? If that were the case, the mayor should be ashamed of himself for being such a hypocrite.

Illegal Parking

Although alternate side of the street parking was suspended for the entire month of January due to the snow, parking tickets were nevertheless issued for cars who angle parked instead of parking parallel along a wide swath of street on the border of Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. They angle parked due to the scarcity of parking spaces available since there were huge piles of snow everywhere. There was no safety hazard. Residents stated that angle parking should be allowed on that street at all times because it was excessively wide for the amount of traffic it carried. Why was giving these residents summonses hypocritical? Because police officers illegally park their private cars at an angle or at 90 degrees outside every police station and on the sidewalk in the city every single day and are immune to summonses. The same is true outside many fire stations.

Double Parking

De Blasio recently announced a crackdown on double parking. Yes, there should be one when double parking interferes with moving traffic. However, some have complained they were cited for merely waiting to park when they saw a car in the process of pulling out. Fines for double parking should only be given when the flow of traffic is being impeded. Maximizing revenue should not be the goal.

Why is enforcing double parking hypocritical? Because, in many instances, it is the police who double park in order to give citations for double parking. If they cannot be bothered to find a legal parking space, why should anyone else?

Government Officials Using Placards For Private Business

This has been going on for as long as I can remember. Every so often an investigative reporter does an exposé, and whoever is mayor at the time announces a crackdown or a limitation of the number of placards issued, but their unauthorized use continues. Just count the number of private cars on “official business” near the beach in Manhattan Beach on a hot summer weekend, when no summer weekend parking is allowed. Parking laws apparently do not apply to city officials, nor do driving laws apply to the mayor’s immediate staff.

Next week: In Part 2, how the MTA is not innocent either.

The Commute is a weekly feature highlighting news and information about the city’s mass transit system and transportation infrastructure. It is written by Allan Rosen, a Manhattan Beach resident and former Director of MTA/NYC Transit Bus Planning (1981).

Disclaimer: The above is an opinion column and may not represent the thoughts or position of Sheepshead Bites. Based upon their expertise in their respective fields, our columnists are responsible for fact-checking their own work, and their submissions are edited only for length, grammar and clarity. If you would like to submit an opinion piece or become a regularly featured contributor, please e-mail nberke [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com.

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  • MyBrooklyn

    City would rather extort money from people by installing speed cameras, red cameras and license plate scanners in return we get bad roads that brake our cars, less free parking spaces and etc,,,,whatever who cares herd is busy obeying laws without demanding anything in return…

  • guest

    Very accurate and truthful article Mr. Rosen. Ordinary drivers are always given the shaft and made out to be the scum of the earth. 9 times out of 10 you get the feeling the NYPD feel they are above the laws we are told to abide by.

    • MyBrooklyn

      NYPD scum is above the law…I was pulled over for my rear tinted windows and issued tickets and harassed…after I informed the pig when I pass by their precinct I see many private cars that pigs ride to get to “work” have all 4 windows tinted…his respond was I am his concern and not anyone else

      • Allan Rosen

        I do not think it is fair to call the entire NYPD scum because of the actions of some. I have had some very positive experiences with the NYPD. Just like it is not fair to say the entire MTA or DOT does not care. Because some care very much and do what they can within their job limitations.

    • Allan Rosen

      Thank you.

      Not to stereotype, but this is absolutely true. I once saw a police car race with its siren on only to pull into a Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot just to purchase some donuts.

    • Brian Howald

      Ordinary drivers are given the shaft? Scum of the earth?

      In my neighborhood, drivers routinely park in crosswalks, fail to stop at intersections for pedestrians (despite state law mandating that drivers yield to pedestrians at all non-signalized crossings), and speed on a short stretch of street that houses over 10,000 people. When drivers respect the right of way, and frankly, the right not to be killed, of pedestrians, I’ll shed a tear for car drivers treated unfairly, but as long as we live in a city that allows 150 pedestrians to be killed by reckless driving while filing few charges against the perpetrators, and in a country that doesn’t care about the transportation needs of those who don’t drive, you’re not getting any sympathy from me.

      • Allan Rosen

        I don’t believe the government cares any more about the transportation needs of those who drive than it cares about the transportation needs of those who don’t drive. No one is defending the actions of a minority of motorists who drive recklessly. I don’t think Guest was considering them “ordinary drivers”. To paint all drivers as reckless and not giving pedestrians the right of way is also wrong. While the latter is still a major problem, I find increasingly more drivers giving pedestrians the right of way in recent years. I have also noticed an improvement in the driving habits of taxi drivers, which in the past used to be horrible by cutting off other drivers and pedestrians.

        • fdtutf

          From Brian Howald’s post: “In my neighborhood, drivers routinely park in crosswalks, fail to stop at intersections for pedestrians (despite state law mandating that drivers yield to pedestrians at all non-signalized crossings), and speed on a short stretch of street that houses over 10,000 people.” That doesn’t sound like a minority to me.

          • Allan Rosen

            I still doubt that it is over 50% of the drivers who do that. Even if as much as 30% do what he says, the impact would be very noticeable and would seem like many more are guilty than who really are.

            Remember, an entire neighborhood can be affected by a rash of robberies. Then it turns out that one group of individuals are responsible for all of them. Until they are caught, it would appear that many more are involved.

        • Brian Howald

          Allan, I don’t think most drivers are malicious towards pedestrians, but drivers are so accustomed to illegal behavior that they don’t even realize that it is illegal.

          In New York State, drivers must yield to pedestrians at all unsignalized crossings (marked or unmarked crosswalks). Try crossing Kent Ave. in Brooklyn at an intersection without a crosswalk and drivers will honk at you and refuse to slow down, not because they want to mow you down, but because drivers have been allowed to run roughshod over the rights of pedestrians for so long, well-intentioned drivers haven’t a clue that they are legally required to stop at all such intersections.

          How else do we ensure reasonable driving times in a place where there are so many people and pedestrians have right of way at all times (except against the light)? By only paying lip service to the idea of pedestrian right of way, i.e. never enforcing it, to allow cars to drive at speeds unattainable if they must stop every other block for people crossing.

          As for your comment that the government that the government cares or ignores the needs of drivers and pedestrians equally, that’s debatable for the City of New York, and laughable for any other local or state government as well as for the federal government. Routinely allowing pedestrians and cyclists to be killed by reckless drivers without filing charges, by a department (in this case the NYPD) made up largely, if not almost entirely of car drivers, says something in a city where the majority of people do not commute by car: that those who drive are inherently unconsciously biased against placing responsibility for dangerous driving on dangerous drivers.

          Additionally, I find taxi drivers to be some of the best drivers regarding yielding the right of way, if only because they drive slowly and attentively to pedestrians in the street while on the lookout for a fare. The worst, in my experience are black cars and private drivers.

          • Allan Rosen

            I hear you. All I can say is let’s hope things change for the better under the new mayor and police commissioner.

  • user21936

    Only an idiot like Allan Rosen would object to a symptom and give a pass to the disease. You can’t defend double parkers and call the NYPD hypocrites when the NYPD wouldn’t need to double park if there were no double parkers.

    • Allan Rosen

      Only an idiot woud consider it acceptable to break the same law you are enforcing in order to enforce it. Would you approve the police robbing people in order to catch a robber or how about murdering someone in order to catch a murderer? Would that be acceptable? Do you support giving tickets to someone who stops momentarily in order to park when they see someone about to pull out? Because that is what they are doing.

      Why can’t the police first find a legal parking space? Why are they above the law? The double parkers will still be there when they return. And for your information, police also double park to give parking tickets to cars parked along the curb even if no one is double parked. Yes they are hypocrites and you are the idiot if you can’t see that.

      • Andrew

        Has anybody ever suggested that the police officers who illegally park their personal cars are in any way correct? Those evil folks at Streetsblog have been discussing the problem for years.

        • Allan Rosen

          But since the City as never done anything about it or even ever suggested it is wrong or a problem during the past 60 or more years, they are just as wrong. The police feel they have a right to a personal parking spot in spite of being allowed to ride mass transit for free while in uniform.

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  • LLQBTT

    Excellent point about resurfacing the streets on a more frequent basis. It seems that street repair and maintenance really sank under Bloomberg. I think that the streets were in much better shape under Rudy. Mayor Bill, as a (former) driver should recognize this and get DOT on a more aggressive schedule.

    • Allan Rosen

      The worst was under Mayor Wagner. During his twelve years street resurfacing was non-existent! Only occasionally you would see an isoated block ripped up for sewer reconstruction, but never just for resurfacing. All that was done under his administration was throwing a layer of asphalt over the trolley tracks to cover them up. Under Lindsay, you saw a lot of resurfacing. Not too much under Beame because of the budget crisis. Things got better under Koch and following administrations, but they never were resurfaced on a regular more frequent basis. I really can’t say if any administration did more resurfacing than others.

      • Allan Rosen

        Also, under Wagner, a layer of asphalt was used to cover up the cobblestones and red brick pavement, but there was no such thing as milling streets and making the surface smooth, so every street in the city was always bumpy. The bus rides were all extremely bumpy and the windows on the buses always rattled all the time.

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