Posts by Lisa Belkin

  • ‘Vision Zero,’ one year on: NYC’s quest to reduce preventable traffic deaths

    Lisa Belkin at Yahoo News 1 mth ago

    It has been one year since New York Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged a new way of thinking about traffic in the city. On Jan. 15, 2014, he stood not far from the Queens crosswalk where an 8-year-old boy had been killed by an unlicensed truck driver a month earlier and spoke of the “epidemic of traffic fatalities.”

     “The time to start change is now,” he declared.

     The plan he announced that day is called Vision Zero, and is based on a Swedish system of the same name that considers pedestrian deaths not as “accidents” but as a failure of street design. Now that it has been the operating philosophy of New York for a year, those who advocated it in the first place — families of traffic victims, advocates for pedestrian safety — are taking stock. They summarize this first year as one where much was accomplished, much was learned, and much remains left to be done.

    The NYPD did not return requests for comment.

      “It’s time to do things because they slow everything down,” Cohen insists.

     “You can fix the street,” she says, “but not the scars.”




  • Giving away ‘Anatoly Z.’

    Lisa Belkin at Yahoo News 2 mths ago


    Over the next hour, Peck asks the usual questions. Today the caller is a Tennessee kindergarten teacher who adopted a former student out of foster care about a year ago only to realize she cannot handle the girl’s emotional and psychological wounds. But the conversation was much the same on other days with other callers: the mother in the Midwest who brought four boys from Poland who she thought were biological brothers and came to realize that one was not related to the other three at all and that he needed a home where he could get individual attention; or the mother of a 5-year-old in Virginia, born in the Congo, who killed the family pet and threatened to stab his adoptive siblings; or the mother in Ohio whose 7-year-old would not stop masturbating in public and was acting sexually aggressive toward her older brother.

    It’s her mission, she says, to make the process open, nonjudgmental and safe, rather than confused, shameful and marginally regulated, as it has been for decades.

    “To shame the parents and push it underground when it happens is no help to these families, or these children,” she says.


    The violence, and worse, would come later.




  • What the Cosby uproar says about how far we've come

    Lisa Belkin at Yahoo News 3 mths ago

    Why did it take 30 years? That’s the question Barbara Bowman, one of the 15 women to level sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby, asked in her essayin the Washington Post this week.

    And it is a pivotal question, because the answers speak loudly to what has changed in our culture — and what has not — when a powerful man is accused of rape.

    The question is: Why now? What is it about this particular moment that has given this old news not only attention, but explosive, insistent, unrelenting traction?

    But why did Burris’ comments go viral? Why did the Cosby rape meme take hold? What led so many to Share and Like and Comment in outrage when the very same charges had failed to resonate before?

    Simply put, the facts haven’t changed — or at least not by much. But we have.

    It is the way of history. Good people used to think one thing and then come to think something else. Often dismissed as political correctness, it is actually simple progress. And it is slow.

  • In the abortion wars, a new ground zero

    Lisa Belkin at Yahoo News 4 mths ago

    On this Friday, as with every Friday lately, the police officer was the first to arrive. Just before 9 a.m. he parked his black-and-white cruiser in front of the ornate doorway at 443 Congress Street here in Portland, Maine, then planted his 6-foot-6 frame by the front door.

    Next, the clinic volunteers appeared. On this particular morning there were three, all wearing neon pink vests with photocopied sheets of paper taped to the front that said, "Planned Parenthood of Northern New England GREETER." They walked back and forth along the cobbled brick sidewalk, on the lookout for patients who might like company entering the building.

    A few minutes later, the protesters came — putting coins in the parking meters, pulling their anti-abortion placards from their cars, finding their places for the morning. Most went across the street; a few stood on the corner of Congress and Elm.

    But one small cluster chose a spot directly across from the clinic door.

    But this summer the Supreme Court declared one such zone in Massachusetts unconstitutional, and over the months local authorities in most other states have lifted almost all of them.




    Turns out it's none of those.

  • Is it a crime to raise a killer?

    Lisa Belkin at Yahoo News 5 mths ago

    Anthony Pasquale stops to visit his daughter at the Cedar Green Cemetery every morning, then returns once or twice more during the day. He sits on the small white bench and faces the polished granite headstone, etched with a hologram of Autumn on one side and the things she loved on the other — bicycles, soccer balls, cheerleading, skateboards.

    From where he sits he can see the middle school, where his 12-year-old girl was a student, and next to that the high school, where the 15-year-old boy who killed her was one, too. When school is in session, Pasquale has even glimpsed a classmate peering out of the ground-floor science-lab windows, which look directly onto Autumn’s grave.

    That’s how things work in a small town like Clayton, New Jersey, where everyone knows everyone else, where lives and stories intertwine. “Because it’s a small town — that’s why we live here,“ says Anthony Pasquale. But it was also why Autumn died.

    “She trusted him because she thought everyone was raised the way she was,” he says of her attacker. “That everyone could be trusted. That all parents taught kids right from wrong.”

    “Be careful, and I love you,” Anthony would remember saying.

    “Yeupp,” Justin answered.

  • New and sweeping traffic laws are a start, advocates say

    Lisa Belkin at Yahoo News 8 mths ago

    A slate of new traffic laws signed into law by the New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio yesterday represents the most sweeping change in memory to the streets of the city, pedestrian advocates say.

    “It was a momentous day. The word 'historic' applies,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, which has long been advocating for all of the new measures, which include a reduced speed limit city wide, more serious penalties for failing to yield to a pedestrian, and a stricter policy toward taxi drivers who kill or injure pedestrians. “It’s a raft of legislation, the sum total of which is a change in the culture in New York.

    The legislation is in keeping with the mayor’s support of Vision Zero – a Swedish combination of law and street design aimed at sharply reducing traffic deaths. Those who had been championing that cause well before this mayor was elected said they were still somewhat stunned that their message had been so clearly heard.

    Arguments over technology and funding are looming, White warns, with the state authorizing only 140 speed cameras for all of New York City. “Clearly we will need more than that,” he said. 



  • Violence against women: What is — and is not — different this time around

    Lisa Belkin at Yahoo News 9 mths ago

    The 25-year-old gunman entered the crowded classroom early that morning, armed with a rifle and a hunting knife. Before the 60 students could really register what was happening, he’d ordered the men to leave, then opened fire on the women, shouting, “You’re all a bunch of feminists, and I hate feminists!” By the time he turned the gun on himself, he’d left 14 dead and 10 more injured.

    This wasn’t the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 2014, but rather the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal 25 years earlier. The shooter wasn’t Elliot Rodger, who felt spurned romantically by women, but Marc Lepine, who had been rejected from the engineering school and believed women had taken his rightful place. “I have decided to send the feminists, who have always ruined my life, to their Maker,” Lepine’s suicide note read.

    These two reactions raise two sets of questions. First, are things different now? Are men more violent, women more vulnerable, society more likely to accept both those things? Is Martinez right? Are these horrors that were unimaginable in some better, safer, more civil past?

    “There can be tipping points,” she says. “Maybe this will turn out that way.” 

  • New York City Council passes Cooper's Law in push to eliminate traffic deaths

    Lisa Belkin at Yahoo News 9 mths ago

    Taxi drivers who kill or seriously injure pedestrians will have their licenses suspended immediately and revoked permanently if they are found to have broken any traffic laws, according to a bill passed on Thursday by the New York City Council.   Called Cooper’s Law for 9-year-old Cooper Stock, who was killed by a taxi while crossing the corner of 97th Street and West End Avenue in January, it is one of several pieces of legislation the council approved that support Mayor de Blasio’s goal of eliminating pedestrian traffic deaths by 2024. Other changes passed on Thursday include increasing the penalty when a car “fails to yield” to a pedestrian who has the right of way, and banning such things as “wheelies” and “invitations to race” on motorcycles.   The mayor has said he intends to adopt the Swedish philosophy and policies known as Vision Zero, which has sharply reduced pedestrian deaths in Sweden since 1997.   Cooper’s Law was proposed by Helen Rosenthal, who represents the Upper West Side on the council, at the urging of Dana Lerner, Cooper’s mother. The driver who killed Cooper faced a $300 fine and three points on his personal license, but no penalty from the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission, a fact that Lerner calls “unacceptable.” Under the new law, a driver would not be permitted to drive customers until an investigation had cleared him of breaking traffic laws. And unlike current law, under which a driver must have two violations to be charged with a crime, simple “failure to yield” will be enough for a permanent revocation of a hack license.   “That’s a good beginning,” Lerner told Yahoo News after the bill passed by a vote of 46 to 1 with two abstentions. “But it’s just a beginning. So many other changes are needed. This needs to apply to all drivers, not just taxis. Also, somebody has to be the watchdog to make sure that these things are indeed monitored and enforced.”   Koffi Komlani, the man who hit and killed Cooper, has not worked as a driver since the accident, according to the TLC. He was informed by that agency that his license will not be renewed when it expires next week.

  • Cab driver who struck NYC 9-year-old to lose his taxi license

    Lisa Belkin at Yahoo News 9 mths ago

    The cab driver who struck and killed 9-year-old Cooper Stock on the Upper West Side of Manhattan earlier this year will lose his professional license, New York's Taxi and Limousine Commission said.   Koffi Komlani’s license "will expire as of July 5 and … we have notified him of our intention to decline its renewal,” TLC spokesman Allan Fromberg said in an email to Yahoo News on Friday.

    Related: Did Cooper Stock really have to die?

  • No charges against NYC cab driver in 9-year-old's traffic death

    Lisa Belkin at Yahoo News 9 mths ago

    No charges will be filed against the cab driver who hit and killed 9-year-old Cooper Stock, whose death has become a rallying point for traffic reform in New York City.

    The boy's parents, Dr. Richard Stock and Dana Lerner, say they were told this news during a meeting at the Manhattan District Attorney’s office Wednesday morning, Dana Lerner said.

    The circumstances of Cooper’s death – and those of other pedestrians who might have lived had traffic laws and street plans been different – was the subject of a report thismorning by Yahoo News: Did Cooper Stock really have to die?

    New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. has proposed several legislative changes that would simplify that legal threshold. Among them is holding "vehicular homicides ... to the same standard as all homicides."