Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Squeeze Play

© 2020 Luke T. Bush


In a previous post I discussed how the bike lanes on City Hall Place were blocked by concrete barriers put in to section off outdoor restaurant seating.

As you can see from the above image the bike lane in front of the Pepper comes to a sudden dead end.

In this photo someone did the right thing, having the concrete barriers placed to leave the bike lane open in front of 30 City Hall Place. As you can see in the background Irises' outdoor seating blocks the bike lane, creating a potential squeeze play for cyclists and traffic.

I hope no one gets hurt. It can still be dicey when the bike lanes are open. Now the chances are increased for an accident.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Aside Bicyclists -- They Gotta Eat!

© 2020 Luke T Bush

Images from The Pepper Facebook page announcing the reopening of outdoor seating.


Outdoor restaurant seating has returned to downtown Plattsburgh City – but if you want to use the bike lanes on City Hall Place you're screwed.

Previously the concrete barriers used to block off the outdoor seating areas on both sides of the street left the bike lanes open. But this year – probably due to Covid-19 restrictions – the barriers are also blocking off the bike lanes.

As you can see from the accompanying picture posted on Facebook bicyclists are now forced to share the street with traffic. The narrower free space means that cyclists will have to be extra careful when traveling in either direction. Also it means that drivers will have to wait for a slower moving cyclists when vehicular traffic occupies both lanes – unless they want to force cycylists into the concrete barriers.

In the winter unshoveled sidewalks force pedestrians to walk in the street. This has resulted in one fatality. With the busy traffic on City Hall Place whom will be sued if someone loses life or limb?

And there's the matter of the law. Here are some excerpts pertaining to cyclists from the NYS Vehicle & Traffic site 

Highway Laws That Apply To A Bicyclist Access

Entitled to Free Use Of Highways - Highway Laws Section 316

§ 331. Consideration of complete street design.

  1. For all state, county and local transportation projects that are undertaken by the department or receive both federal and state funding and are subject to department of transportation oversight, the department or agency with jurisdiction over such projects shall consider the convenient access and mobility on the road network by all users of all ages, including motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transportation users through the use of complete street design features in the planning, design, construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation, but not including resurfacing, maintenance, or pavement recycling of such projects.

  1. Complete street design features are roadway design features that accommodate and facilitate convenient access and mobility by all users, including current and projected users, particularly pedestrians, bicyclists and individuals of all ages and abilities. These features may include, but need not be limited to: sidewalks, paved shoulders suitable for use by bicyclists, lane striping, bicycle lanes, share the road signage, crosswalks, road diets, pedestrian control signalization, bus pull outs, curb cuts, raised crosswalks and ramps and traffic calming measures; and recognize that the needs of users of the road network vary according to a rural, urban and suburban context.

  1. This section shall not apply if it has been determined and set forth in publicly available documents that one of the following exists:

i. by bicyclists and pedestrians is prohibited by law, such as within interstate highway corridors; or

ii. the cost would be disproportionate to the need as determined by factors including, but not limited to, the following: land use context; current and projected traffic volumes; and population density; or

iii. demonstrated lack of need as determined by factors, including, but not limited to, land use, current and projected traffic volumes, including population density, or demonstrates lack of community support; or

iv. use of the design features would have an adverse impact on, or be contrary to, public safety.

e. Nothing in this section shall be construed to require the department or agency with jurisdiction over a project to expend monies in accordance with subdivision (a) of this section that exceed the amount of state and federal funding for complete street design features.

And here's the relevant info from the NYS Complete Streets site:

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed the Complete Streets Act (Chapter 398, Laws of New York  ) on August 15, 2011, requiring state, county and local agencies to consider the convenience and mobility of all users when developing transportation projects that receive state and federal funding. The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) is working to ensure that its policies and procedures meet the new standards. The initiative presents an opportunity to expand upon existing programs and collaborate with bicyclists, pedestrians, people with disabilities and others to identify best practices and designs for transportation facilities.

Sounds to me outdoor seating doesn't take preference over bike lanes.

I wonder how al fresco diners will react if an unfortunate cyclist is hit by a car and flies over the barrier into their table. For some the sight of blood will ruin their appetites.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Flashback To 2009: A One Woman Protest

© 2020 Luke T. Bush

Video screencap, jail cell pile up.

A video posted on Facebook and featured in the local news triggered a memory: an encounter back in August 2009.

Recently Zachary Butchino posted an edited copy of a video recorded on Plattsburgh Police Department surveillance cameras inside the station. Back in 2017 Zachery was arrested for assault and taken to the station. He claims that excessive force was used to restrain him. He states he was drunk and suffering from a mental health episode at the time related to PTSD and anxiety

The video shows four officers cramming into the Zachary's cell and after they leave he is suffering a bloody nose.

WCAX-TV News interviewed Police Chief Levi Ritter. (Levi was not chief at the time of the Butchino altercation and was not involved in it.) He said an officer noticed on camera that Butchino was trying to kill himself with his t-shirt. The officers were moving him to another cell and wanted him to remove his drawstring belt. When he didn't comply they piled on.

There's a Facebook video by Zachery that includes the surveillance camera footage and text comments detailing his side of the story. Also added captions appear to be quoting the police officers: “Do you wanna give him the secret handshake?” and “I think it would be pretty funny on youtube.”

Zachery released his edited copy of the video because he wanted to bring awareness of excessive force by police and the need for more training for officers in handling a mental health situation.

Across the country Black Lives Matter protests against cops who committed indefensible killings of black people has brought the issue of policing to the forefront, some advocating defunding or abolishing the police. The acronym ACAB (all cops are bastards) was painted on the Macdonough Monument base. Not a good time to be a cop.

During the WCAX-TV News interview Levi didn't condone all of the actions the officers had taken against Butchino. He indicated that changes would be made.

Back in August 2009 I posted an article about a mother protesting one night what she claimed was mistreatment of her son by PPD officers.

Protester Andrea Provost.

Andrea Provost two carried protests signs, one with the image of a bootprint. She claimed a PPD cop stepped on her son's face, the mark lasting for two days. She also said the police backed off when they noticed witnesses. She asked for anyone who had seen what had happened to please come forward.

Andrea also alleged the police had threatened her son, saying they were going to beat him up if they had the opportunity.

The last thing I heard about her was she was demonstrating one day and the police asked her to stop. No more one woman protests.

As I said back in 2009: What was the real story?

Changes are being made.

The New York State Senate and Assembly repealed a section of the law that had kept police disciplinary records blocked from the public.  Access to those records will allow citizens to learn more details about investigations.

Also Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the “New Yorker's Right to Monitor Act” that allows a citizen to record police activity. The act also prohibits police confiscation from an individual of any such recordings and the recording equipment.

As a photographer who has been hassled in the past for taking photographs one less reason to be confronted is welcome.

Thursday, June 04, 2020

Legal Challenge Announced Against Durkee Street Parking Lot Proposal

© 2020 Luke T. Bush


The argument: the proposal by Prime Plattsburgh LCC to renovate the Durkee Street parking lot doesn't fit the character of downtown Plattsburgh. It's an unneeded renovation that will cost taxpayers and also doesn't replace all of the parking lost by the construction. Citizens opposed to the project want good, not bad, development.

The opposing view: Mayor Colin Read and some city councilors regard the project as a good use of DRI (Downtown Revitalization Initiative) grant money, the future upscale apartment complex drawing more people downtown.

Today at noon the PCC – Plattsburgh Citizens Commission – held a press event on the front steps of City Hall. Downtown businessman and attorney Frank Zappala explained that a legal complaint had been filed, challenging the Prime project on the basis the city has no right to approve such construction on waterfront property. The Durkee Street parking lot sits next to the Saranac River.

Attorney Frank Zapalla

Frank added he didn't know how long the response would take since the courts were just opening up after the coronavirus pandemic had shut down the system. In the meantime, he continued, the complaint meant that all work related to the Prime Project would be stopped.

While covering the event I heard two people talking behind me. Even though I was at the required six foot social distance I could plainly hear what was said.

One speaker was city councilor Mike Kelly, a big proponent of the Prime proposal. Apparently he was having a bad day. Mike – his tone evincing disgust – asked the other person if he agreed with the PCC stance. The other person said he was there just to listen to the viewpoint of the Stop Prime group.

Mike continued to express his displeasure, asking what PCC proposed to replace the Prime project. Well, Mike, how about the original proposal that preceded the creation of the present bloated behemoth?  Mike also commented that only relatively few people were against the project while PCC members held a banner that almost spanned the entire width of the front steps, 500 signatures of the 2000 plus people who opposed the project.

The councilor used two words to describe all of the PCC members but since this is a family blog I won't quote him.

Other attendees have stated he called them “idiots.” One person replied that Mike was an idiot since he wanted to have citizens pay most of Prime's taxes, a reference to the PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) agreement with Prime Plattsburgh LLC.

People have complained that the city doesn't listen to their concerns regarding the Prime project. If the city councilor's attitude is typical it's no wonder why PCC members gathered in front of City Hall to carry on their opposition.