tv Eyewitness News Upclose ABC August 2, 2015 11:00am-11:30am EDT
week. >> this is "eyewitness news upclose with diana williams." >> $100 million to try and make queens boulevard, the so-called boulevard of death, make it safer and attempt to transform it into what some hope will become the boulevard of life. this morning we take a closer look at new york mayor de blasio's vision zero plan to try to decrease traffic fatalities. so, how's it gone so far, and what's next, and could it be that pedestrian deaths are at an all-time low? we get some answers from new york city's transportation commissioner, polly trottenberg. but first, the month of july a nightmare for commuters on new jersey transit. repeated delays so bad even the agency itself called them unacceptable. so what about a long-term fix, like maybe a new tunnel under the hudson to make the service more reliable? our guest this morning, the u.s. senator from new jersey,
robert menendez. good morning, everyone. welcome to "upclose." i'm bill ritter in for diana williams. one-century-old tunnel with just two tracks. you don't have to have an engineering degree to know that that is a formula for a headache. and that's exactly what amtrak and new jersey transit rely on every day to transport hundreds of thousands of passengers. the u.s. transportation commissioner anthony foxx expected to meet with new jersey governor christie and new york governor cuomo to discuss alternatives. one plan is the so-called gateway project to build a new tunnel that would run parallel to the current one. it was once bodyslammed, if you remember, back in 2010 by governor christie, who didn't want new jerseyites to pay their share of it. so why is it any different this time? could it be that because one of them is running for president, governor christie? this is a huge issue. joining us this morning from washington, d.c., to talk about this and other things pertaining to the government and the economy, u.s. senator robert menendez of new jersey. senator, thank you for joining us. >> good to be with you, bill. >> the senate this past week
voted on a transportation bill that did not include construction of this new tunnel. you voted against it. what happened? >> well, this was an attempt to have a national highway of mass transit bill and say that it was a six-year bill, which i would applaud, except that it only had three years worth of funding. so as it's written, it's $58 billion short. as it relates to the president's request to congress for highways and mass transit, it's $135 billion short. it doesn't deal with some of the critical challenges as we have in the region, a region that produces 20% of gdp of the entire nation, about $3.5 trillion to our national economy, and it woefully -- not only is it woefully underfunded, but the way they try to fund it is to put a tax on individuals
who acquire mortgages, to sell our oil supplies under the strategic petroleum reserve at a fire sale, to take monies from things that are totally non-transportation. so, it's a nonstarter according to the house of representatives. i'm looking for a better bill, and that's what i'm working forward so that we can end some of the challenges that we have. >> if this bill had included construction of the new tunnel under the hudson for new jersey transit amtrak, would you have voted for it? >> well, you know, then i certainly would have had to look at the deal. even though it may have had other imperfections, i would have certainly looked at it. look, we have 105-year-old tunnel. 40,000 people ride through the tunnel every hour. so when you get a 20-minute delay, it's not 40,000 people alone. it's 40,000 times 20. it's an enormous consequence. and we cannot continue to live with century-old tunnels with the highest ridership we have ever seen. the combination of a brittle
system that is ready to break and that was further damaged by sandy with peak ridership in terms of all-time number of transit riders is a deadly combination, and we need to change that. that's why i had worked previously with the late senator frank lautenberg to get monies from the federal government for a commitment to a new trans hudson tunnel. unfortunately, it was canceled. we would have been five years into that tunnel today as we speak. but i'm looking forward to how do we make gateway, which is our new vision of a trans hudson tunnel, a reality. >> a lot of people angry, new jersey commuters angry. they've had five days where, you know, out of eight days where there were huge delays. and you're right. every 20-minute delay -- there was one on thursday -- that affects a lot of people. a lot of commuters, especially with a 9% fare hike, voted and approved earlier this month, looking to elected leaders who have been in the senate and congress for a long time, like yourself, and say, "hey, why don't you fix it?" and i know you've been a
proponent of this, but nothing has been done, and you have, as you said yourself, a region which is contributing a huge percentage to the gross domestic product, commuters from new jersey getting into new york, which is a huge engine for this economy. why haven't you been able to do something about this? >> well, first of all, i had done something about it, and the governor of new jersey canceled it. so, you know, he had his reasons for it, but, you know, we had the largest federal commitment to a mass transit project in the history of the country. and a government accountability office in 2012 reviewed that decision and said that the federal government was ready to pay. at that time, the estimate was $10 billion to $12 billion, 50% of the entire cost. now it's being projected at at least $14 billion. so, the bottom line is, is we had done something about it. it was canceled. we went back to work. we didn't say, "well, we tried" and that was it.
that's where gateway has initiated from, and we've gotten some of the funding for it, but we need a combination of a federal perspective that makes big investments in mass transit. you know, as the republicans in congress are looking to the side where amtrak gets $1 billion or cuts it from $1.3 billion to $1 billion, china is gonna spend $128 billion this year alone in rail projects. we need to have a commitment to that, and then we need new york and new jersey to join in along with the port authority to make the other half of this happen. >> if governor cuomo and governor christie work together, it will be a turnaround for governor christie. he didn't want -- he vetoed the project in 2010 because he thought new jerseyites were paying too much of the -- shouldering too much of the burden of this. now he says he's for it. he really didn't like it because it didn't go to penn station. now that this plan will go to penn station and have a parallel tunnel, he's all in favor of it. is that gonna work?
is that enough of a change, you think, for it to happen? >> well, listen, i applaud the governor's willingness to be supportive now of a new tunnel. the old tunnel would have increased passenger amounts by over 80,000, you know, per -- i think it was -- i don't know if it was per hour or per day -- of rides. so it would have dramatically increased the amount of traffic available to us for this new century. but i'm looking forward, and so if governor christie and governor cuomo are serious and want to get engaged, we're certainly gonna do everything with my colleagues from the region to make sure that the federal government is in the same strong position it was willing to be in five years ago when we got the greatest federal commitment to a mass transit project in the history of the country. now, we have a republican majority in the house and the senate who have different fiscal ideas about what investments we make in infrastructure.
we're gonna have to make the case to them. this is not yet -- not just simply about the new york, new jersey, connecticut region. this is, as i said earlier, about the national gross domestic product and how we are a big driver of the nation's economy. >> well, a lot of your constituents anxiously awaiting what happens. let's move on to some other topics. i want to talk about iran. you have been an outspoken critic of the nuclear agreement that the u.s. reached this month, secretary kerry reaching with the iranians. why are you so against this, and what do you think's gonna happen when this debate flares up and a vote happens in september? >> well, bill, i haven't formally come out against the agreement, but i have expressed a series of criticisms of agreement. this agreement, as we started these negotiations a few years ago, i thought that our goal was to stop iran's nuclear program, not to preserve it. and the agreement largely preserves, although it may delay, but it largely preserves iran's nuclear infrastructure.
it gives it enormous sanctions relief -- between $100 billion and $150 billion -- by one year from this time if the agreement fully goes through. it lifts elements of the arms embargo, which, for a country that is the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world, engaged with the houthis in yemen, engaged with hezbollah, and lebanon engaged, supporting assad in syria, and mischief in iraq, we can ill afford at a time that they're gonna be flush with money that they are also gonna get greater access to conventional weapons and missile technology. and lastly, we were told anytime, anywhere inspections, and we're not getting that here at all. as a matter of fact, it's a real concern that our ability to inspect the site where they were weaponizing, the iranians were weaponizing their activities, is largely going to be limited in a way where the entity that's accused -- iran -- is gonna be doing some of the inspections
themselves and then handing it over to the iaea. well, that's like the fox watching the chicken coop. >> well, the president and secretary kerry have made it clear that if this doesn't work, then the sanctions will be reinstated. isn't this a better way, though, than risking the threat of war? 'cause that's the pathway we're headed on, at least giving it a shot. >> you know, it's interesting because that's secretary kerry's mantra, which i totally reject. "it's either this or war." which means when i've asked before, if you can't get an agreement, does that mean war? and the answer was no, then. so it's not simply the proposition, "it's either this or war." and secondly, we had witnesses yesterday before -- or earlier this week, i should say, before the senate foreign relations committee, who are supportive of the agreement, and yet when i asked them, "but is it this or war," they rejected that proposition, including nick burns, a former assistant secretary of state, under various administrations. so it's not "this or war." and the reality is, i think that
we can achieve a better deal. i think there is a way to pursue iran through the interim agreement that existed before this final agreement, to leverage our sanctions ability, to look at selling oil to countries if we have to. i'm not a supporter of lifting the ban on selling crude oil from the united states, but i'll consider it strategically to keep countries in abeyance of the sanctions regime until we get a better deal with iran, because if i have to meet an enemy, at the end of the day, if this only delays and iran's gonna have a stronger economy, better defense mechanisms, i'd rather meet that challenge now at its weakest point than when it's at its strongest. >> just have a couple seconds left, senator. a quick question -- i know you don't want to talk about the deep in the weeds of your legal proceedings and your indictment, but has it affected you? has it affected how your colleagues relate to you and react to you and your "power" in the u.s. senate to be an indicted u.s. senator?
and how has it affected you? >> well, it hasn't affected me, and i fully expect to be exonerated. i filed a series of motion exposing the government's cases and its abuses, and i expect to win. as it relates to my work, it hasn't softened my voice and my engagement in the senate foreign relations committee on iran, about democracy and human rights in cuba, about human trafficking in malaysia. it hasn't stopped me from the finance committee advocating for working class, middle class families on the transportation issues we've just talked about as a senior member, democratic member on the mass transit subject. we're fully engaged in making a difference. >> all right, senator bob menendez, we appreciate you taking time. all right, thank you, senator. when we come back, we head to the streets of new york city. the latest phase of mayor de blasio's vision zero plan to try to reduce traffic fatalities. is it working? apparently it is. new york city's transportation commissioner joins us when we
come back. >> actions are being taken to save lives here on queens boulevard that should have happened long ago. no longer will anyone's life be threatened simply by virtue of walking or biking or driving on this street. >> mayor de blasio unveiling a $100 million safety plan for queens boulevard, a street so dangerous, so lethal, it's come to be called the boulevard of death. the safety campaign part of the mayor's quarter-billion-dollar vision zero plan to try to reduce traffic fatalities. joining us this morning to talk about that and more, new york city's transportation commissioner, polly trottenberg. commissioner, thank you for joining us.
>> thank you for having me. >> before we get into this, you listened to senator menendez's interview. you were involved when the first tunnel was scrapped by governor christie. are we gonna get this tunnel? because it affects you, affects the city. >> absolutely. it affects the city, the two states, and the whole northeast quarter. i was, at that time, actually, an official at usdot when the governor decided to cancel the arc project. i think, as senator menendez says, moving forward, we now have a chance to resurrect that project, the gateway project. the federal government sounds like they're ready to come back to the table. the two governors are ready to talk, so we have a real opportunity here. >> i don't want to be too cynical, but, you know, we did take a long time to build this building that, you know, is not filled downtown. we don't seriously take our infrastructure rehabilitation as serious as we should. and it has never made sense to me. i've lived here 23 years. i just don't understand it, why we don't get going, why do we have 100-year-old tunnel with
80-year-old cables. and if something happens, if a light bulb needs changing, everything shuts down. >> it's a great question, and particularly in this city and this region, we have incredible infrastructure -- our subways, our train systems, our bridges -- but a lot of them are incredibly old. and in new york city dot's inventory, we have the four east river bridges. they're all over 100 years old. they're very expensive to maintain, and it's a tough sell with the public. we need a lot of funds just to keep up the existing infrastructure, and the public often wants to see new things built. >> maybe if the city wins the lottery, we could afford some of this stuff, right? >> [ chuckles ] >> let's move from the underground to the streets. queens boulevard -- let's start with there first. this is so important, and it has been delayed so long. a lot of people say, "why has it taken so long?" but i'm not gonna ask you that. i'm gonna say, "what do you have in mind to make this a safe street?" >> well, it is a very exciting project, one of really our signature projects under the mayor's vision zero initiative. and as you've played in your clip, we're investing $100 million to really transform
what is this very scary 10- to 12-lane-wide highway that runs through very residential neighborhoods in queens. we're gonna make pedestrian crossing safer. we're gonna put in for the first time a protected bike lane. we're gonna do all kinds of redesigns to make the street feel safer and more inviting, make it a neighborhood amenity as opposed to just a terrible barrier. >> if it wasn't safe for pedestrians -- 185 new yorkers have been killed on queens boulevard since 1990 -- what's gonna make it safe for bicycles? >> well, again, we're gonna be putting in a protected bike lane, so that means -- >> protected with? >> protected with -- we're gonna have a buffer there. that will mean that cyclists won't be competing in regular traffic, so that will feel a lot safer to them. >> like they do in the streets of manhattan? >> well, in some cases, in manhattan. in first and second avenue and eighth and ninth, we have those protected bike lanes, and cyclists love them. they are much safer, so we're gonna do that on queens boulevard, and we think that's gonna be great for safety and wonderful for cyclists. >> time frame with all of this before it happens? >> time frame is we're gonna be doing first what's called the operational project, and that
will be completed by probably the end of october, and then we'll come back with the $100 million in big capital investment, and that will take a couple more years and really build it out in concrete. >> when the mayor first was elected and he took office, several pedestrians were hit and killed on the streets of new york city. he came out with vision zero. and lo and behold -- and it wasn't as touted as i thought it would be -- last year was the lowest number of pedestrian fatalities since record-keeping began in new york city in 1910. how did this happen after the big hullabaloo with all these people getting killed? >> and, you know, you mentioned, yes, we announced vision zero two januaries ago. there had been a spade of tragic fatalities, one in your neighborhood on the upper west -- a few in your neighborhood on the upper west side. we really sprung to action in that year, dot and the nypd and the taxi and limousine commission. we did a lot of roadway in education. we were able up in albany to get the city's default speed limit
lowered from 30 to 25 and to get the ability to deploy more speed cameras. plus we just engaged in a lot of public awareness, and i think that definitely helped us. but this is gonna be a multi-year effort. to really achieve something like vision zero, you need real culture change, you need to continue to re-engineer the streets. we're gonna have a lot of years of doing this work. >> how do we look for 2015 so far? >> well, so far we're doing better than we were this time last year. we're actually down 15 fatalities. but, again, the numbers do jump around. >> a lot of people, when you switched the speed limit from 30 to 25, didn't know that in the city almost all streets the default speed limit was 30 miles an hour. more people know it's 25, but i think very few people go 25. >> it very much depends on the time and place in new york city. if you were here in the congested part of manhattan during the work day, you are lucky to be going -- you'll be lucky to be going 15 miles an hour, let alone 25. but particularly in other parts of the city and on roadways like queens boulevard that were really designed more like highways, people can get up to very high speeds there, and that's where we really want to
make sure people are driving safely. >> and some of this is not just drivers, but some of it is pedestrians using safer walking techniques -- don't go against a red light, don't jaywalk. that's important. >> absolutely. look, i mean, vision zero was something we say everyone needs to have a role in -- motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists. we're all on these crowded roadways together in new york city. everybody needs to pay attention. but i would just say one thing i've seen. yes, we all need to pay attention when we're walking. but, drivers, if you're going at a safer speed, chances are even if you do happen to be involved in a crash where someone wasn't paying attention, less likely for there to be a fatality. >> well, i have a 6-year-old, and we stop when the signal says don't walk. >> good for you. >> while everyone else is going with us. it's a very difficult thing, but it's a safe thing. all right, polly trottenberg, the commissioner of transportation here in new york city, thank you for joining us. >> thanks for having me. >> great seeing you. just ahead, the big field of republican candidates gearing up for their first debate. it's gonna happen this week. so, how do they deal with donald trump, who has, some say, turned the gop campaign into a soap opera? and what about the
call 1-800-royal-caribbean or your travel agent today. >> let's talk politics. the week that it was with our political analyst jeanne zaino, political science professor at iona college and nyu, and political scientist -- scientist -- political analyst hank sheinkopf. but you are sort of a scientist. >> i'm a phd. >> there you go. that's sort of a science. let's talk about what's coming up this week with the gop candidates. it's sort of bifurcated, right? you have 10 candidates and then another panel of b-league. christie almost not gonna make it. >> yeah, christie is on the cusp, as they say, and john kasich on the cusp, so we're gonna have to see -- i think fox has announced that by the 4th of august, they're gonna
announce who's in the top 10 and who has to sit at the kid's table for the debate, and those will be the six, maybe seven, if you count the former virginia governor who are gonna be there. it's gonna be interesting if kasich doesn't make it. it's taking place in ohio, so hopefully, you know, kasich may sit. it's gonna be a big embarrassment. >> do they really have a choice, though, hank? because at 17 people or 16 people, it's unyielding. it's impossible. >> well, they don't have a choice, number one. number two, all this is going to do is give more credibility to donald trump, who's running the smartest campaign of all the people running. why? he's standing out as the populist in a crowded field and forcing people to pay attention to him. how do the others get any attention, is the question. >> you've run campaigns before. >> sure. >> does he have professional campaigners, campaign experts running this, or is this just seat of the pants? >> no, there are professional people running this operation, but donald trump is also a professional gatherer of attention for himself. that's his job. his job is his brand -- the trump brand. and he's using it very well, and he's adding to it on a daily basis, and he's running the kind of campaign that you need to do in a crowded field like this.
>> jeanne, the quinnipiac poll this last week showed him with 20%, number one among the gop candidates, but it also showed that other gop voters, 30% would no way, no how vote for him. that's not a good ratio. >> it's not, but everybody's negatives are bad except for bernie sanders across the board, and i think there was a really interesting poll out in florida where he is beating both jeb bush and marco rubio in their home state, where they are very popular with the republican base. so his numbers, i think, are real, and it's fascinating to me that here's a billionaire who's able to come out as a populist. i mean, you think about that. voters believe him. they aspire to be like him. they like his truth telling, the fact that he's not a politician. and so, that is gonna resonate with a certain component of the republican base, and in a field this crowded, you only need 20%, 24%. >> it is often the case that when there is a vacant office, no matter whether it be president, governor, mayor, any places, the vacancy's occurring that people opt for insurgents. trump is the insurgent. >> mike huckabee -- did he try to out-trump trump this week by
saying that the iran deal meant that israelis were gonna be marched to the ovens? >> what he's doing is responding to his own constituency, which are evangelical christians, who, frankly, are very, very pro-israel and pro-zionist in their behavior patterns and their voting. >> but certainly i think the rhetoric we're hearing from many of these candidates is an attempt to vie to get into this debate. they have to get their name out there. and it's very, very difficult to do, so you got lindsey graham throwing his cellphone out windows. you have, you know, rand paul, he's out there with the wood chipper to the tax code. i mean, it's these crazy things going on to get attention. >> the anti-establishment insurgents on both sides are getting the most attention, traction very quickly. everybody's center populist right, center populist left if they want to compete trump and sanders. and you look at it, and it's constant. it's been constant since the start. >> let's talk a little bit about politics in new york, new york in the city and the state, the political soap opera that is the cuomo/de blasio feud. kind of a weird week for the mayor. he wasn't at the laguardia announcement. laguardia is in new york city
the last time i looked. he's missed some things. jeanne, what's your take on it? >> yeah, he missed them because he said he only goes when he's gonna speak, and the governor backed him up on that. apparently they had a phone call late last week. there is maybe a d\tente coming. we don't know yet. but it has been very tense, and it's amazing that the news that the mayor and the governor spoke is actually news, and it's news because their relationship has been so tense right throughout. >> has he misread the situation? i know when he blasted cuomo, you were on the show, both of you, and you said he was brilliant 'cause a lot of democrats supported him. but he's also divided some democrats, mr. de blasio has. >> i don't think it matters. ultimately what will happen is the governor will win the battle because he has the power. people forget that. what will happen is de blasio will remove himself from battles he cannot manage, which is his great ability as a politician. and ultimately someone will say, "by the way, when they poll, is it important to you that the governor and the mayor don't get along?", and they'll yawn and say, "oh, by the way, it's what always happens in new york politics." >> does it hurt new yorkers? we have about 30 seconds left. does it hurt new yorkers when
this doesn't happen, when they don't get along? >> yeah, i mean, i think it does to a certain extent, and i think a big question's gonna be who controls the state senate. i mean, if democrats could take the state senate, the mayor may get more than we think. >> interesting. >> we'll see. count the governor in. why? 'cause the constitution of the state of new york gives him the power. >> he has the power. okay. hank and jeanne, thanks again. see you soon. and that'll do it for this edition of "upclose." if you missed any of today's program, no problem. you can catch it again on our website, 7online.com, abc7ny. thank you all for watching. i'm bill ritter in for diana williams. on behalf of all of us here at channel 7, enjoy the rest of
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