February 18, 2014
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RUSH TRANSCRIPT: MAYOR DE BLASIO RELEASES ‘VISION ZERO’ ACTION PLAN,
LAUNCHING CITYWIDE EFFORT TO PREVENT TRAFFIC FATALITIES
Mayor Bill de Blasio: I’d like to acknowledge my colleagues, Commissioner Bill Bratton, Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Commissioner Mary Bassett, Commissioner Stacy Cumberbatch, TLC’s Chief Operating Officer Conan Freud, and we have a number of elected officials here as well, including Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who has been a longstanding champion on issues of street safety. I want to make sure I’m right about the other elected officials who are here, so I’ll call out and people can correct me. I saw Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh as I was coming in. I believe Council Member Helen Rosenthal is here. Oh, there I go, I got my camera angle here. There we go, Helen Rosenthal, Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal, Senator Brad Hoylman, Council Member Mark Levine, Council Member Ben Kallos. Who else is here? Councilmember – help me – is that you Costa? I don’t have my glasses on. Costa – Constantinides, did I say it right? Councilmember Vanessa Gibson, David Greenfield – Councilmember David Greenfield, who has been a leader on the issues of speed limit, and we thank you for that Councilmember – Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez. Who am I missing? Am I missing anyone? Okay. Excellent, thank you.
I want to thank Principal Robert O’Brien of P.S. 75 for hosting us here today. And I want to emphasize, we wanted to be here today both because of the location of the school and the history this school has experienced, but also because of the many, many people we seek to protect in this town every day, we have a special feeling and a special imperative for protecting our children. And we wanted to be here to emphasize that. Every school day, many of the children who come to school here at P.S. 75 walk through an intersection where three pedestrians were struck and killed in the course of the last month. A student at this very school was struck nearby two years ago. And he survived, but he carries those injuries to this day. Principal O’Brien doesn’t accept that reality as an educator, as someone who looks out for his kids. The people of this community don’t accept that reality as parents, as neighbors. And as mayor, I am here to say that we in City Hall don’t accept this reality either. We don’t accept a status quo in this town that leads to so many people losing their lives who we could have saved. The tragedies we saw right in this neighborhood in the last month are part of a broader citywide epidemic. More than 20 lives have been lost in our streets so far this year. The statistics are sobering. Being struck by a car is the leading cause of injury-related death for children younger than 15. It’s the second leading cause of injury-related death for our senior citizens. We had – and we talked about this the last time we gathered on this topic. – last year in New York City, 333 homicides. And according to the most recent statistics for last year, 286 traffic fatalities. Those two numbers are shockingly similar.
Last week, Commissioner Bratton and Commissioner Trottenberg and I met with some of the families – families who – family members who lost children, who lost loved ones in these crashes. Some of them are here today. We want to thank them for all they have done – they have been extraordinary in their advocacy on behalf of the people of this city – for their courage, for their strength. They could have chosen to turn away. Instead, they have devoted themselves to protecting others, so no other family has to experience what they experience. And I think that is the way to understand this challenge. It could happen to any of us at any time. As a parent, I know that, particularly in this crowded, dense, city, the danger is lurking at all times for our children. And that’s why we have to act. We have to act aggressively, and we won’t wait to act. Because we have to protect our children, and we have to protect all New Yorkers now. Last month, we pledged that we would convene all pertinent city agencies to act, and our working group was charged with taking our commitment to reducing and then eliminating traffic fatalities, and putting it into practice. And they’ve come back – I think – with an extraordinary result. I really want to thank all of the agencies represented here today. They’ve been asked to do a lot in a very brief period of time, and they’ve come back with a document that is clearly comprehensive and bold and serious and focused. They’ve done their job, and they’ve done it well. And it’s a clear roadmap for taking us forward. Now, some people hear the phrase “Vision Zero.” and they ask what’s really possible. They ask if these are new ideas, speculative ideas. Well, we want to emphasize today that these are tried and tested ideas. They’re ideas that work. They’ve been working in other parts of the country. They’ve been working around the world. Vision Zero’s strategy is clear. It combines enforcement, education, and engineering to systematically confront the factors that lead to crashes. That involves everything from poorly designed streets to dangerous and reckless behavior. The fatality rate – here’s the proof that’s so important to focus on – the fatality rates in jurisdictions that have adopted Vision Zero policies – placing including Minnesota and Washington state – these fatality rates have fallen over 25 percent faster than the national average over the last decade or more.
New York City’s Vision Zero action plan comprises 63 specific initiatives that will be managed by a variety of offices and agencies, including City Hall, including the NYPD, Department of Transportation, Taxi and Limousine Commission, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the Department of Citywide Administration Services. These initiatives include more enforcement against speeding, with more precinct-level personnel and added personnel at the Highway Division of the NYPD. It includes developing borough-specific street safety plans to redesign dangerous corridors and intersections. Our plan includes expanding neighborhood slow zones in residential neighborhoods. There’s also a number of initiatives that we will work with our colleagues in the state government to achieve. We will work with our state leaders to increase our ability to deploy more speed and red-light enforcement cameras. And because of the recent success we’ve had on this front in Albany – and we want to thank Governor Cuomo for his strong support – the city is now in a position to deploy red-light cameras at 150 locations and speed cameras at 20 locations. And since the speed enforcement cameras were activated last month, they have issued nearly 4,000 speeding tickets already. We’re going to make the case for greater authority that will empower us to place cameras wherever they are needed to protect our people. And we expect there will be a receptive audience in Albany to this initiative. We’re reducing – in this process, the goal is to reduce – citywide speed limits – the default speed limit – meaning the speed limit wherever there is not a specific posting otherwise. The default speed limit would become 25 miles per hour as opposed to the current 35 – excuse me, 30 miles per hour. So, again, going from 30 miles per hour as the default speed limit, to 25 miles per hour, citywide. This is a new approach that we believe will truly save lives. Reducing the citywide speed limit has received tremendous support already in the City Council, and we believe it’s the most holistic way to approach the problem with our partners in Albany.
The likelihood of a fatal crash – and this statistic is very powerful – the likelihood of a fatal crash drops significantly for speeds below 30 miles per hour. To get those speeds down – it will be the difference between losing a life and saving a life. The default speed limits on streets filled with pedestrians shouldn’t be at a level that could be fatal to pedestrians. They have to be at a level that would be the maximum chance of saving pedestrian lives.
Part of our plan is also stiffer penalties on TLC drivers who drive dangerously. As with every field of endeavor in this city, we know a vast majority of folks who drive taxis and car service cars drive responsibly, but some do not. We have to recognize that TLC drivers play a particular role in our city. They set the tone on our streets. We’re going to work with the drivers. We’re going to work with the fleet owners, the dispatchers and the TLC on common sense reforms to protect passengers, drivers and pedestrians alike. Now making our interagency Vision Zero task force permanent at City Hall is a crucial part of this plan that will guarantee that there is constant oversight of the implementation of the action plan and coordination of further efforts. As you’ve heard throughout this process, this is a collaborative agenda. It requires tremendous coordination and collaboration between the agencies. And I again want to thank all of the agencies represented, not just for what they’re doing in terms of the plans, the implementation within their own agencies, but there’s been a tremendous spirit of collaboration and willingness to find ways to help each other in this work. I want to commend them all for that. Collaboration also involves a close working relationship with the City Council and with our partners in Albany. And, of course, collaboration requires constant connection to the grassroots and collaborations with community leaders and activists and everyday citizens who want us to get this right and want to be part of the solution.
This entire plan involves a number of physical and material measures, but it’s about much more than speed bumps and the issuing of violations. It’s also about all of us taking greater responsibility every time we get behind the wheel, and every time we step out on the street. Our lives are literally in each other’s hands. Our children’s lives are in each other’s hands. And today, we begin the work of living up to that responsibility. Let me just say a couple of words in Spanish, and then I’d like to bring up Commissioner Bratton, followed by Commissioner Trottenberg. No se trata de aumentar multas. Se trata de ser mas responsables cuando estamos conduciendo, o caminando por la calle. Tenemos la responsabilidad de cuidarnos mutuamente. Hoy comenzamos a cumplir con esa responsabilidad. With that, let me welcome Commissioner Bratton.
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton: Thank you, sir. Good morning. Mr. Mayor, thank you for the opportunity to have the New York City Police Department participate in the collaboration – and this is a true collaboration around this issue of improving traffic safety in the city. This morning, I transferred and appointed to the head of the transportation bureau of the New York City Police Department Chief Tommy Chan. He’s coming over from Community Services. He has been working this past month on the task force that has produced this report that’s being made available to you today. Chief Chan will be coordinating our efforts going forward. And some of those efforts are identified in the plan. There’s an old saying in policing that you can expect what you inspect. And in this area, we have been doing a lot of inspection, taking a look at what we’ve been doing and what might we do better. And I’m very comfortable moving forward that the initiatives that are outlined in the mayor’s document, that they will move the city a great way toward the Vision Zero goal that is envisioned in the plan. The police department will actively participate in this initiative. As the mayor referenced that we are significantly increasing the resources of the department to enforce, as well as investigate incidents that occur around this issue. In particular, we’re significantly increasing the staffing in our highway division, as well as the investigative capabilities of the department so that we will be able to investigate all collisions with injuries so that we get a much clearer picture of what were the causes of accidents. We’re also focusing our department efforts on two key areas. Over the last five years, it’s apparent that 70 percent of incidents involving pedestrian fatalities involved the issue of speed or failure to yield. And that – the department’s efforts going forward will focus very significantly on those types of violations, speeding violations and failure to yield to pedestrians at intersections. We will be enforcing many rules and regulations, but that is the one that we feel – coupled with the technology that’s being acquired, increased red light cameras, etcetera, that we can have the quickest and most significant impact in reducing particularly pedestrian fatalities. This is a great plan. It’s come together very quickly and its come together very quickly because a lot of very smart people who have a lot of expertise have joined together to share that expertise, to share their ideas. And so that end that our TrafficStat – you’re very familiar with our CompStat initiative at the NYPD, but we also have a number of other stats, including TrafficStat. TrafficStat – [inaudible] to immediately open that up to many of the entities that we involved in this plan so that we can share our information so that as we go about inspecting, we can insure that what we are inspecting leads to the goal that the mayor is striving toward and that is – effectively – significantly reduced fatalities and injuries as we move toward a goal of Vision Zero. Thank you.
Mayor: Thank you very much. Commissioner Trottenberg.
DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg: Thank you for the step, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor: You’re welcome.
Commissioner Trottenberg: And thank you for your leadership and passion in making our streets safer. It’s an honor to be part of an administration that has made transportation safety and Vision Zero such a top priority, and something that we care about so urgently. I’m honored to have a leader like Commissioner Bratton as a partner in Vision Zero, and my other agency partners. And I want to say thank you – obviously you see some of the men and women here today who are on the front lines from the NYPD, and a couple folks here from DOT. They help make our streets safe through enforcement, through education, through outreach to local businesses, and I want to say thank you to them. I also want to express my sympathies, as the mayor did, to the New Yorkers, including some of the people with us here today, who have lost loved ones, family members, friends and neighbors. We’ve heard their powerful and tragic stories and grieved with them. They’re going to help us make Vision Zero a reality.
We’re on the Upper West Side today, and I want to start out by taking a moment to announce that later this week, DOT is going to be installing a speed board on 96th Street, something this community has requested. At DOT, we’ve been able to see, as the mayor has seen, through tried and true methods, that pedestrian-oriented projects and street designs can save lives. Over the past few years, our street design safety projects throughout the five boroughs have been able to reduce fatalities at specific streets and intersections anywhere from 20 to 88 percent. Again, just a couple of examples, the Queens side of the Pulaski Bridge, DOT installed some new crosswalks and signals, expanded pedestrian islands, simplified vehicle movements for a complicated intersection, which made it easier for pedestrians to navigate. Injuries dropped a staggering 63 percent in just three years thanks to those redesigns. In the South Bronx on Macombs Road, DOT reduced the number of lanes, filled out a large pedestrian island, and extended a median. The result – crashes and injuries fell by 41 percent in three years. So as the mayor says, we do know how to do this. We need to take the good work we’re doing and make it citywide. And DOT’s traffic safety engineers are nationally and internationally recognized as leading innovators in street and safe-street design. We have terrific safety projects and educational outreach, and they are starting the process of transforming transportation culture, but there is still a lot to do and we feel a sense of urgency. Today, through Vision Zero, we’re going to challenge ourselves to do more, to take our safety efforts to the next level, working closely with our partners throughout the city. This year, DOT will implement 50 new safety projects at corners and intersections citywide, including adding crosswalks and restricting left turns right in this neighborhood at 96th and Broadway.
These projects will also include innovative and aggressive new strategies to reduce speed on 25 large arterial roadways throughout the city. As many of you know, these broad and busy streets were originally designed for the fast movement of cars and trucks, not for safe pedestrian and cyclist movement, and they present a great safety challenge throughout the city. We will also create neighborhood slow zones, install more speed humps, enhance street lighting at 1,000 intersections and improve speed markings. We will continue our safety ad campaign, [inaudible] safety education outreach at 500 schools a year. We will work with vulnerable groups, like seniors and the disability community, to make sure we’re implementing the kind of street safety improvements that best meet their needs. And as the mayor said, we look forward to working with our elected officials – here and in Albany – so many of them are here today, and with advocates and families, to push for legislation that will reduce New York City’s speed limits and give us greater say over the placement and number of speed cameras and red light cameras. These tools are essential for achieving the Vision Zero program.
Vision Zero’s power, in the end, will come from all our collective efforts: government at all levels, advocates and community leaders, the companies that do business on our streets, and all the New Yorkers who walk, or drive, or ride. Together, under Mayor de Blasio’s leadership, we aim to make New York City the safest city in the world.
Mayor: Thank you very much. Two more quick points before we take your questions. I want to first say, I’m at a point in my career – I spent eight years as a council member – and I think I can say, looking at my colleagues from both city and state government, that those who are closest to their constituents understand best the needs of their constituents. They hear all the time from their constituents what their concerns are. I think they’re in the best position to help us achieve these goals, because they realize how urgent this is to the people we represent and how the people are demanding very tangible, local solutions that they think [inaudible]. That’s what we intend to do with this plan. That’s why it’s such a comprehensive plan. That’s why it was put together with all the agencies involved. Now, my second point is one of urgency. We truly feel this is something that is definitional to the work we do. [LOUD BEEP] I think we’re all supposed to go to gym now? That’s right. Yeah, it would be good for all us. This is definition to the work we do. This mission, in terms of our core responsibilities in government, is the health and safety of our people and understanding that we have to act right now to protect lives. And some of the measures you’re hearing here are going to be literally saving lives in the weeks to come. That’s why it is so important to us to set this goal the way we have, to involve all the agencies, to work in partnership with our colleagues in state government and the City Council, because there is nothing we’re doing that can be more urgent than getting this right. So we’ve put a very bold plan before you and we want the public to know we’re holding ourselves to this standard and we intent to achieve these goals. With that being said, on topic first – we welcome your questions. Yes.
Question: The last time we were out in Queens –
Mayor: Sorry, we won’t take that question. Next question.
Question: Commissioner Bratton, when you were asked about pedestrians, perhaps cracking down on jaywalking and you wouldn’t rule it out. Can you talk about what role pedestrian enforcement will have [inaudible]?
Mayor: Let me start, and then I’ll pass to Commissioner Bratton. You’re going to see this plan in detail, I think if I’m right, Commissioner Trottenberg, Commissioner Bratton, I think it’s 53 items in this plan, if I’m remembering correctly. You’re going to see a very comprehensive plan of the things we think will make an impact citywide. We do not include jaywalking enforcement among those items. We do, however – I want to say this very clearly – we do allow local precinct commanders to make a decision about what they think is necessary in any given situation. So, I want to be very clear, and I hope everyone will accurately portray this. The anti-jaywalking measures are not part of the overall plan, but at the same time we absolutely respect the right of each precinct commander in NYPD to make decisions that they think are appropriate within their precinct.
Commissioner Bratton: I’ll go back to the figure I previously referenced. The idea that over a five-year period in the city, in 70 percent of pedestrian fatalities it was determined that the speed of the vehicle and inappropriate turning was a significant positive factor in the accident and in the fatality. So with our resources, we’re going to put the focus where we can have the most impact most quickly. And that is on dealing with the vehicular component of this. At the same time, as the mayor has indicated, the [inaudible] here in the city. If there is, [inaudible] based on the precinct commander. But even an individual officer dealing with the situation needs to take action. And they have the power to do that, our officers are given great discretion. But that is not a priority of this plan.
Question: What role will pedestrian plazas play in Vision Zero and do you still feel that the jury’s out on the Times Square pedestrian plaza?
Mayor: On Times Square, we haven’t actually done that assessment. I look forward to that. In the general role of the plazas in the plan, let me turn to Commissioner Trottenberg.
Commissioner Trottenberg: Pedestrian plazas, some of you know, can actually make huge safety improvements. And in some of the projects that I’ve referenced, carving out an area for pedestrians to gather safely and be out of the roadway has definitely helped reduce crash and fatality rates. So they have an important role to play and I’m happy to say that we are getting terrific input from neighborhoods all over the city that are interested in looking at pedestrian plazas, for safety purposes and amenity purposes. Obviously as this plan moves forward, we’ll be looking at those in each of the five boroughs.
Mayor: I want to note that another thing we’re trying to achieve here – and there’s items in this plan that are really about educating the public – but this very discussion we’re having now is part of changing reality in our town. We want this issue in front of everyone’s minds, and I want to amplify what Commissioner Bratton just said. The central problem is related to our vehicles. We want everyone who gets behind the wheel of a vehicle to think carefully about the situation they’re in, in the densest city in the nation. We want pedestrians to think carefully. This is very much about raising consciousness and changing behaviors. There’s a lot, again, of very, very material actions in here. But we hope that every time someone reads one of your stories, they’re also asking themselves the question: are they handling their vehicle as responsibly as they could? And we think as that discussion deepens, it’s going to have a very practical type of [inaudible].
Question: [inaudible] traffic [inaudible]. Can you elaborate? What else is going to happen [inaudible]?
Commissioner Bratton: Sure, that’s actually part of a much larger effort to open up a lot more of the department, make it open to the public and to the media. I believe that [inaudible], takes charge, takes on additional responsibilities. [inaudible] any of our colleagues in the participating agencies into traffic stops, see what we do. The department also has very significant computer capabilities that we’re able to basically share with our colleagues, to get our information out to them. They work on their portion. So that will be part of the responsibilities [inaudible].
Mayor: Another thing I’d like to add, you know, I mentioned the sense that collaboration extends to all the different agencies involved, and also down to the grassroots. And that means we’re going to work with local community boards, that means we’re going to work with civic associations, that means we’re going to work with block associations. Again, in the public education efforts, in the targeting of problems that have to be addressed, we have put forward a comprehensive plan because we want the people of this city to participate, and we want all the organized leadership at the grassroots level to participate, so I want to emphasize that.
On topic, still, let’s come over here.
Question: There’s been an effort before at the City Council level to reduce the speed limit. Do you think the city does have the authority to do that, or are you going to need approval from Albany, and then also, on the cameras, how many do you think would be a better number than we’re allowed right now?
Mayor: Well, on the cameras, and again, I’ll start and Commissioner Trottenberg may want to add. What we think is important is that this is an evolving situation and we have to constantly update the numbers of cameras according to what we’re experiencing. You know, there are a lot of intersections that we can’t reach under the current limitations. In terms of the dynamics – we believe that a certain level of authority is needed from Albany, and we expect a very positive discussion, working with our colleagues in the City Council, working with our colleagues in Albany, to get us that authority so we can move forward. I think this is an area where there’s a growing consensus. Again, I refer to what all of us are hearing from the ground in our neighborhoods, and I think people are hearing it all over the city, all over the state, that we’ve got to do more to protect people. So I think this is an area where we’re going to find a lot of agreement involved.
Question: 500 people [inaudible]. But I don’t see anything in here [inaudible], wrong way and one-way streets [inaudible]. And I’m just wondering whether they connect or [inaudible]?
Mayor: Well this is, again, I’ll call up Commissioner Trottenberg to add, but this is a living, breathing plan. So this is the first iteration. We’ll be adding as needed as we go along. But I think the public education elements of this plan relate to drivers, relate to pedestrians, and relate to bicyclists. We want everyone to coexist within the law. And so I think that’s something that will also be affected by this plan. You want to add?
Commissioner Trottenberg: I think the mayor put it well when he said there is an issue of personal responsibility here. We are going to work with and call upon all users of the roadway to obey the traffic laws, and I think the mayor put it eloquently, we all have each other’s safety in our own hands, so I think as the commissioner has said, there will be precinct-level enforcement that will be targeted to what the particular needs are in a given precinct. And I don’t know if you want to comment specifically on bicycles, but I think we’re going to look all over the city and see what are the problems in each area, and what we need to do to improve enforcement and safety.
Commissioner Bratton: On that issue, sir, that would be one of the ones that would be, that’s up to precinct-level or borough-level responsibility. Chief Chan will certainly help assist in that, in terms of the overall tracking of statistics. But certain precincts have more or less as an issue than other precincts around the city, versus the issue of pedestrian fatalities etcetera is a citywide situation. But the bike issues are oftentimes very concentrated in certain neighborhoods and precincts, part of the delivery services, as well as the now growing use of the Citi Bike program. So that is one that will be very much, at this stage, to the discretion of the various precinct commanders, who can then work with Chief Chan if they feel they need additional assistance from the highway units that he commands.
Question: I think there is a concern that the NYPD has been focused on fighting violent crimes. They’ve been doing a good job. And the shift in emphasis to Vision Zero policing means that there’s a lot new to learn. I’m wondering if, in addition to hiring people who will be in [inaudible] highway unit and beefing up that unit, whether there is going to be in-service training or education for the officers in the precincts. Because even when it comes to something like the jaywalking enforcement that happened a block away from here, the officers were writing summonses based on state laws that don’t even apply in New York City. So I think that there is some basic education that needs to be done in this shift and I’m wondering if that’s part of this [inaudible] plan?
Mayor: So, a couple of points. One – and then I’ll turn to Commissioner Bratton – the – I think the NYPD has done an extraordinary job at fighting crime, keeping the crime level low. And I think the NYPD is an incredibly professional, agile organization. And, as the commissioner said, the use of technology is increasing all the time to strengthen the work of the NYPD. Training – this is a commissioner who believes profoundly in creating a culture of constant training and improvement of practice. And I think he’s also a commissioner who cares deeply about this issue and has sent a signal from the very beginning that this is an issue of today that has to be acted on. So I think you’re going to see a lot of emphasis within the NYPD on focusing on this while maintaining our efforts to fight crime. I fundamentally believe we can do both well simultaneously. I think, on the other part of your question, that this is why it’s so important to look at the whole picture locally and to train our officers to confront any of the challenges to safety. And I think, again, in an atmosphere where this is being put on the agenda as a central problem, I think precinct commanders will quickly update their approaches and will train their officers appropriately and they’ll supervise appropriately to achieve those goals. So this is really declaring this is a higher priority, a holistic priority. And I think the NYPD is more than ready to address it.
Commissioner Bratton: So the mayor set the stage beautifully for my response that we can’t do everything, everywhere, all the time. We just don’t have those resources. So there is prioritization from time to time. Back in 1994, we developed seven strategies to deal with the issues in the city back in 1994. One of those seven strategies was traffic. Here, again, in 2014, that issue is once again one that requires prioritization. So it will be dealt with within the department in a variety of ways. One, the significant enhancement of the transportation bureau and new leadership there. But also, a theme within the department that echoes what the mayor is doing citywide, better collaboration. So within the department, the recent assignments of personnel as my deputy commissioners, including a new deputy commissioner of training. His goal is going to be to ensure that prioritizations are in fact being met with education and training for our personnel. We are responsible for those huge numbers of laws, ordinances, regulations. It’s impossible to keep up with all of them as they change, as they’re done away with and new ones are added. So when we do these prioritizations, [inaudible] provide to our offices, resources – the education and training. And that’s where the collaboration will begin so that – as Chief Chan is doing his thing, as precinct commanders are doing their thing, [inaudible] this plan. The department’s training in education and to providing the appropriate training and education in service [inaudible].
Mayor: I just want to – two updates, I apologize – I failed to acknowledge George Miranda, the president of Teamsters Joint Council 16. Welcome George. And your members include people who do work in this field, including? Truck drivers. Thank you. And, wanted just to make clear, we’re going to take more questions on this topic. I wanted to clarify – members of the media only, please, because we have a lot we need to cover with members of the media.
Questions: The DOT shut off the speed camera on Staten Island that had been placed outside of the confines of state law [inaudible]. What do you say to drivers who feel that that shows that [inaudible] about revenues and about safety. And do you think that having placed the camera outside the state law, there’s the chance [inaudible] state legislature giving you power to [inaudible] more broadly [inaudible]?
Mayor: No. I think that was a simple error that’s been rectified. I think it’s abundantly clear this is about safety. Look at the numbers already – the number of tickets that’ve been issued. Anyone who knows this town knows there’s a speeding problem and we have to address it. And it’s obviously directly linked to the number of fatalities. So, again, I speak first as a parent. We have to make clear that speeding won’t be tolerated, that it has real and horrible results. And I think the folks in this city have come to the conclusion that this issue – this broader challenge – has to be addressed and they understand that we need to use every tool at our disposal. So, no, I don’t think that that is going to have a negative impact. Yes.
Question: [inaudible] do you hope to get the state approval to reduce the speed limit to 25 miles per hour and also increase these red-light cameras [inaudible]?
Mayor: We’re going to work for this entire agenda to be implemented as quickly as possible. So, our goal is to do everything we can this year. I don’t want to get into handicapping because the discussions are just beginning now. Again, looking to my colleagues from the state government here and they are constantly talking to their City Council colleagues as well. This is a problem that we understand deeply, we will deeply, but more importantly the people of this city feel deeply. And they’re demanding action. And I think that will positively affect discussions in Albany. So I’m hoping for quick action.
Mayor: I don’t handicap chances. I’m confident that there will be a very positive dialogue because I think this is an issue that people are increasingly focused on. So I’m hoping for a good and fast result. Dave.
Question: [inaudible] may have to do with the commissioner. When you talk about personnel changes, the highway department, also traffic enforcement agents at the corners, how many people are we talking about? What kind of change? And the reason why I ask is, for example, up at Columbus Circle. From there to 57, it is a free-for-all every rush hour. Sometimes, [inaudible] people, police officers at the intersection directing traffic. Other times, there’s nobody. So I think that, in that neighborhood, it’s a big problem. How many personnel overall are we talking about in the city who are going to be now stepping up to enforcement?
Mayor: Well, I guess what I would say it I think part of this – don’t, don’t mistake the fact that this is an ever-changing situation. And, sometimes, you need – I won’t pretend to be a policing professional – I’ve got the ultimate policing professional right here. But I’ll just make a common sense point. Sometimes you need prolonged enforcement. Sometimes short term enforcement changes the behavior effectively. Sometimes things change in a neighborhood that cause for a greater problem that has to be addressed. Not static, is my central point. So we’re going to be moving with the situation and speeding up as needed. But let me let the commissioner fill out the answer.
Commissioner Bratton: Every source is [inaudible] two ways if you will. [inaudible]. So, for example, the highway division is increasing fairly significantly. The number of offices assigned to that function. We’ve also increased both training and equipping of the collision investigation entity so that we are now in a position to investigate every collision involving serious injury – something that we did not have the capacity or the people to do. Additionally, in terms of our traffic agents that you see at the many intersections, some of those are of necessity permanently assigned to particular chokepoints but others we move around depending on events of any particular day – whether it be a snow emergency or something having to do with the United Nations. We don’t have the resources to be everywhere all the time. So that there is permanent assignment of some personnel to meet a need but then there is mobility of others to meet changing needs.
Question: At least the highway permanent members, how much are those going to need [inaudible] for example?
Commissioner Bratton: The number we’re going up to is 263. I think the number had fallen to as low as about 190 in that [inaudible]. So a very significant increase of personnel in the Highway Division. Those are the highway officers that we see. And I think the low number may have been as low as 190 [inaudible] maybe [inaudible].
Mayor: Last question, on topic. This side. Yes.
Question: [inaudible] is it common practice to [inaudible] driver [inaudible] electronic device, or is [inaudible]?
Mayor: Is it a common practice to [inaudible]?
Question: [inaudible] driving or the victim using an electronic device, or [inaudible]?
Commissioner Bratton: Well, it’s a combination of electronic devices, those who use radar device to detect speed cameras, for example, excuse me, radar guns. But I think you’re referring more specifically to the [inaudible]. That is a capability that we have, and in fact we have witnesses who say that is going on, or the ability to effectively do our investigation, and make the determination, was that person on that device at that particular time of the incident. So, one of the things about that changing rule is as we become all more sophisticated as the use of technology, similarly the police are able to use that technology to create an effect. I can honestly say I think there are very few cases I get briefed on in my morning crime report that don’t involve the use of technology in the resolution of that case.
Mayor: I do think, you know, this is an area where the state’s been very strong and you’ll see it reflected in the proposals here. The fact is, a lot of these incidents do involve folks who are texting, or on cellphones illegally. And we’re going to take that very seriously. I think the overall concept here is that there’s going to be more consequences for bad behavior that could endanger human life. And that is certainly a form of bad behavior that has become much more prevalent in the loss of life. So again, our hope here is that this will not only be a series of physical, material measures, but it will also lead to a different discussion, a different societal discussion, in which it’s recognized that texting while driving, for example, can have very profoundly negative consequences, and that will lead to consequences for the person who has exhibited that bad behavior. Okay, we have covered this topic. Other topics.
Question: My question is for the police commissioner. What are your thoughts on the propriety of the mayor contacting a member of the police department about a political supporter who was arrested? Are you concerned that this type of inquiry unduly influences members of the department in terms of their decision making, and two, do you think it creates a perception problem of the double standard to the public?
Commissioner Bratton: I have no problem with it whatsoever. None, whatsoever. And he can call anybody he wants anytime he wants. I call my people anytime I want. I call his people anytime I want. I need a free flow of communication in government I have no issue, whatsoever with him calling anybody in my staff or his people calling people in my staff.
Question: – unduly influences the decision-making of members of the police department –
Commissioner Bratton: They do not, no.
Question: [inaudible] the perception of a double-standard in the public?
Commissioner Bratton: That may be a perception, but it’s not mine.
Question: Commissioner Bratton, did you feel that you were notified in time – learning about it in the next morning rather than learning about it when [inaudible].
Commissioner Bratton: There’s nothing about this incident that required my involvement. In policing we give a great deal of discretion. That’s certainly something I’m known for. I’m known as the great delegator. So if I have a precinct commander that cannot resolve an issue of this type on his or her own, I’d be [inaudible] that precinct commander’s capabilities. I’m very comfortable with the action taken by the precinct commander. It was nothing I needed to be notified of immediately. A decision had been made. It was an appropriate decision from my perspective. So in terms of the timing of it, that I didn’t need to be notified at 1:30 in the morning, it could wait until 6:30 in the morning as far as I’m concerned.
Question: Just to follow up, could you explain why the decision was appropriate. [inaudible]. Was it because of the prominence of this person or because of the nature of the [inaudible]
Commissioner Bratton: This was an individual that evidently the precinct commander knows quite well. They have interacted very frequently on issues involving the community the precinct commander has responsibility for. And the precinct commander obviously felt that there was no great risk that this individual was going to flee the country based on the offense that had been committed, and that he had no concern that the individual would, in fact, show up at court to address the issues that had been identified by the arresting officers. This is a discretion that is given to our precinct commanders. So, I think it was used appropriately here. I have no problem with it.
Question: This is for the mayor. I heard you recently resolved a labor contract [inaudible] Department of Environmental Protection, I believe, that involved giving back pay. Does it indicate that you are inclined to agree to give back pay to other unions? How will it affect your negotiations with the other unions?
Mayor: It doesn’t indicate anything, honestly, because the contract in question was actually very different than all the other contracts we’re talking about. It referred to the years 2005, 2006 and 2007. It was a very unusual situation that had gone unresolved, even earlier than the contracts covering the 300,000 city workers in general. As you remember in the budget presentation the other day, we talked about the contracts that go back to ’08, ’09, ’10. This was a separate, very small unit. I think 100, 200 folks, that had a very unusual situation. So we do not consider this any kind of precedent. This is a stand-alone action. And in terms of the general approach – and I think I’ve said it more times than I could count. You know, we’re going to allow any idea to be put on the table by our colleagues in municipal labor. We’re also very clear that we have a profound fiscal challenge ahead, and we need to find very substantial cost saving. But that all will be done in private negotiations and respectful negotiations.
Question: [inaudible] for the police commissioner. I’m curious if in your previous – you’ve been in [inaudible] have you ever had previous situations where you’ve known of a mayor personally calling to find out if a person’s been arrested? Any situations like that, have you received a call or [inaudible].
Commissioner Bratton: If I understand correctly, you’re asking do I know of previous instances where a mayor may have called to inquire about an arrest. That is true during my time and my 40 years. No, I don’t see that as an exception.
Mayor: All right, thanks everyone.