Lawmakers are taking aim at Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as the City Council on Tuesday authorized plans to take the city to court over a new homeless shelter policy and passed legislation that intends to slow the installation of pedestrian plazas. NY1’s Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
In recent years, the city's Department of Transportation has come under criticism for pushing forward with new bike paths and pedestrian plazas without regard for the impact on traffic or on small businesses. Now, the visually-impaired say their needs, too, have been overlooked.
"You think you’re on a sidewalk. You think you’re safe. You’ve actually started to go through a plaza. And then, where exactly does that street start? Well, that’s a very critical kind of thing to know," said Karen Gourgey of Pedestrians for Accessible and Safe Streets.
The City Council is taking steps to rein in the transportation department, approving legislation Tuesday that requires the DOT to consult city agencies, including the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities and the fire and police departments, before undertaking new projects. The DOT will also have to provide data showing the traffic impact of new projects.
"This legislation today basically tells New Yorkers that the days where the Department of Transportation could unilaterally reconstruct and reconfigure our streetscapes—those days are gone," said City Council Member James Vacca.
City Council also authorized a lawsuit first announced Monday by Council Speaker Christine Quinn. It challenges a new Bloomberg administration policy that requires single adults entering homeless shelters to show they have no other housing alternative.
"This is a cruel, mean-spirited, punitive policy that we are going to do everything in our power to stop,” said Quinn.
Also Tuesday, City Council approved a rezoning of the Brooklyn Navy Yard that will make way for a supermarket and other new development. It also approved an extension of the city's hotel occupancy tax at the increased rate of about 5.1 percent.
The extension of the hotel tax comes on the same day City Comptroller John Liu issued an audit that found some $9 million in uncollected taxes over the last decade—money city officials say they will pursue.
City Council officials say extending the higher hotel tax will bring the cash-strapped city some $86 million in increased revenue over the next two years.