NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and the 75 Mile Street Opening Bill – Will He Veto It?
Today, during his daily COVID-19 Response Press Conference, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio would be asked about the opening of streets to pedestrian traffic. It’s a subject he’s been asked about many times in the past weeks since it would provide greater space to New Yorkers for better social distancing.
A bill for the opening of 75 miles of streets for pedestrian use would be introduced this day by the NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Council Member Carlina Rivera. Today, the Speaker would share some words about this bill.
The Mayor has been extremely steadfast in his opposition to the opening of streets. His given reasons mainly revolved around the NYPD’s inability to supervise because of its shortage in personnel. A shortage caused by confirmed infections or quarantines of the force’s members.
It should be mentioned that he did have a short-lived pilot open streets program which he ended in early April after only two or three weeks. He was asked about that on April 6. His response can be found farther down on the page. As can a question posed to him this very morning.
So, the question arises. Will the Mayor veto the bill? If so, what will happen then?
We’ve borrowed an outline from the NYC Council’s page concerning legislation to learn about how this process works.
The Legislative Process
Step 1: Bill introduction
Council Members work with the Legislation Division to craft a bill that is introduced at stated meetings, where it is assigned to the appropriate Committee.
Step 2: Public hearings
The Committee will hold a public hearing on a bill to obtain feedback from the public and other government entities who may be affected by the bill. This may result in amendments to the bill.
Step 3: Voting
The Committee votes on the bill. If the bill passes the Committee by majority vote, the bill is then sent to the full Council where it will be considered and voted on at a Stated Meeting. The bill must again pass by majority vote.
Step 4: Mayoral decision
After a bill is passed by the Council, it is presented to the Mayor, who has 30 days to either sign the bill into law, veto the bill or take no action. If the Mayor vetoes the bill, it is sent back to the Council. If this happens, the Council can override the Mayor’s veto with a 2/3 vote. If the Mayor doesn’t sign or veto the bill within 30 days, it becomes law.
Step 5: Bill becomes law
Once a bill is signed by the Mayor (or its veto has been overridden by Council), it’s then added to the New York City Charter or Administrative Code.
We’ve provided the following quotes so as to give you a better understanding of the Mayor’s thinking. We, ourselves, have been in favor of opening the street for some time now. As I’ve mentioned too many times, through online posts and articles, the mayor and even the Governor are indirectly encouraging people to get out. If you’re going to do that then they need more space. I’ve witnessed bicyclists, runners and walkers practically atop each other on paths that were way too narrow for them to adhere to social distancing. Even the Mayor’s mentioned (the Governor as well) how the upcoming warmer weather might spell trouble. Err yeah, it will!
The Mayor once introduced a pilot open streets program which opened up a number of streets within each borough. This did not last long and when asked about it on April 6 the mayor responded, “Yeah. Again, I consistently talk with Commissioner Shea and other commissioners who are looking at social distancing and compliance. Consistent reports we’re getting is that we see a very good consistent effort from New Yorkers. There’s obviously some areas we’re concerned about, but the overall reality is that people are observing this. But we do need to keep the enforcement efforts strong. The problem with the additional street closures is you have to attach enforcement to them. If don’t attach enforcement to them, we’re very concerned they become new gathering points and we do not want to seem to be solving one problem by creating a new one. So, right now, keeping the NYPD and other enforcement entities focused where they are, is what we believe is the best strategy. Remember, they do have fewer personnel themselves than usual. And that’s why we’re sticking with what we got. We’ll certainly assess as we go along.”
Today he would be asked to differentiate between NYC and other Locales which have successfully carried out such street closures for pedestrians. Places such as Oakland and Denver as well as other localities.
“I think I’ve been specific about it, so everyone has their own judgment here. But I think I’ve been pretty damn specific and I’ll say it again. The models that have been looked at around the country, the Oakland model as I understand it was assessed by NYPD and Department of Transportation was here are streets that are delineated as pedestrian. They are not blocked off physically– this is what I’ve been briefed on – they were not locked off physically and there is not an enforcement apparatus in place. So it’s something of an honor system, if you will.”
“And the notion isn’t, to be fair in California, I mean, a very obvious specific thing in California, drivers stop at intersections even if there’s no light or stop sign. They stop when people are trying to cross the street even in the middle of the street, a lot of time. This is a very different culture. In fact, a number of you have rightfully raised the concern about speeding lately, which we’re trying to address, but I’m not comfortable with streets being delineated as for pedestrians and just hoping and praying cars don’t go on them and pedestrians are going to be safe. I think there’s too much danger that drivers might still go on those streets and put pedestrians in a danger. And then the alternative you could say, okay, well block off all the streets, put in lots of enforcement. Well we can’t do that right now. NYPD is still not at the headcount, the sort of troop strength, we want them to be given the number of people out sick and they have a bunch of additional responsibilities in terms of enforcing social distancing, which are more fundamental to the strategy then would be opening up the streets.”
“So I think it’s very specific why the model that, you know, the leading model was Oakland. I do not think that model fits our circumstances specifically. Obviously, we are much more densely populated and we have a very different driving culture. But on top of that, the enforcement piece, which I think is just absolutely necessary if you’re going to ensure safety in New York City in anything, it cannot be devoted to open streets. It has to be devoted to all the other places where we have to protect against social distancing. And I’ve delineated them, the supermarkets, grocery stores, pharmacies, parks, subways, buses, that’s where we’re putting our energy and that’s where I think we should put our energy. So again, I’ll happily talk with Speaker Johnson and we’ll work on it with the Council and see what we think makes sense going forward, and over time that situation could evolve. But, right now, I think those are very specific reasons why it doesn’t make sense for us.”