Uptown Electeds Ask Cuomo to Dedicate State Funds to Safer Streets

State Senator Adriano Espaillat, Assembly Member Gabriela Rosa, and Council Members Mark Levine and Ydanis Rodriguez are calling for state funds to
State Senator Adriano Espaillat, Assembly Member Gabriela Rosa, and Council Members Mark Levine and Ydanis Rodriguez are calling for the state to create a dedicated fund for bicycle and pedestrian projects.

A group of uptown elected officials, including City Council Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez, sent a letter today to Governor Andrew Cuomo asking him to include dedicated funds for bicycle and pedestrian projects in his executive budget [PDF]. The request echoes a call from street safety advocates and comes as the de Blasio administration must marshal resources to implement its Vision Zero agenda, set to be released in days.

Although the governor has already delivered his budget to the legislature, changes can still be made as the State Senate and Assembly produce their own legislation over the next couple months.

The letter is signed by Rodriguez, fellow Council Member Mark Levine, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, and Assembly Member Gabriela Rosa. The letter comes on the same day transportation advocates from across the state traveled to Albany to speak with legislators about bike-pedestrian issues.

“With disproportionally high rates of childhood asthma and pedestrian fatalities compared to the citywide average, Upper Manhattan residents are eager for a renewed focus on reducing traffic accidents and deaths, yet feel left behind,” the letter reads. “More affluent neighborhoods through New York City have already benefitted from these changes more substantively.”

By establishing a dedicated bike-pedestrian fund in the state budget and targeting those funds for neighborhoods that have yet to receive major improvements, the lawmakers say, the governor could have a real impact on street safety. “We can no longer spend only pennies on the dollar,” the letter says, “while 27% of the fatalities resulting from car crashes are either pedestrians or bicyclists.”

In recent weeks, Cuomo has made a pair of announcements about bike-pedestrian funds even as the actual money available for these projects has fallen.

Last month, Governor Cuomo announced that the state DOT will distribute $67 million in federal funds to bicycle and pedestrian projects statewide. Yesterday, the governor announced that the state DOT is accepting applications for $50 million in bike-pedestrian funds available through MAP-21, the latest federal transportation bill.

That federal bill cut bike-pedestrian funding to New York state by $12 million a year, or 30 percent. In their letter today, the elected officials asked Cuomo to make up for this cut and expand the state’s commitment to bike-pedestrian projects. While the letter doesn’t include a specific amount, a coalition of more than 50 advocacy groups and local governments under the banner New Yorkers for Active Transportation has asked the governor to devote $20 million annually over five years.

“We’re asking for this $100 million investment over five years with a $20 million budget line now,” said Tri-State Transportation Campaign Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool. She noted that while funds would be open to towns and cities across the state, “it certainly could help New York City meet Vision Zero goals.”

“The reduction in federal funding for these projects is a setback towards making New York City safer for cyclists and pedestrians,” Espaillat said in a statement. “State government should step in to fill this void before the budget process has concluded.”

Rodriguez said that dedicated state funding can help expand bike lanes, pedestrian plazas, and slow zones to neighborhoods that have been asking for them. “This funding will literally save lives,” he said in a statement. “It will bolster Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan by providing the resources necessary to take the action New York City so many are looking for.”

“We need to work together with the State to achieve the goals of Vision Zero and make our streets safer,” Levine said in a statement. “With additional investment from the governor, we could expand the bike share program throughout the city and ensure all residents have equal access to alternative, safe transportation.”