Kavanagh’s “Block the Box” Bill Passes Both Houses of the State Legislature

Legislation Promises to be a Major Tool in Reducing NYC Congestion
June 19, 2008

Albany – The New York State Assembly voted to pass Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh’s “Block the Box” legislation (A.10071/ S.6811) today. The bill, which was passed in the Senate on Monday and has the support of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Borough President Scott Stringer, is a major piece of legislation in the fight against congestion in New York City.

“We all understand that the traffic congestion that clogs our streets and pollutes our air will require a broad effort on many fronts,” said Kavanagh, who represents a large section of Manhattan’s highly-congested east side. “This bill offers a significant, practical weapon against a major aspect of the problem: gridlock that often turns our streets into parking lots – with every engine running and no one getting anywhere.”

Assemblymember Kavanagh introduced the legislation in February of this year to create a more effective mechanism for preventing vehicles from blocking intersections in New York City, commonly known as “blocking the box.” Presently, blocking the box is classified as a moving violation for which only police officers and a small number of traffic enforcement agents can issue tickets.

The proposed bill would classify blocking the box as a parking violation, which would enable all 2,800 of the City’s traffic enforcement agents to issue tickets for this offense. Moreover, because the new tickets would not be moving violations, traffic enforcement agents would issue them without substantially extending the amount of time a vehicle remains in the intersection, simply scanning the windshield registration sticker and dispensing the ticket without having to obtain and record the driver’s license.

“My thanks go out to Speaker Shelly Silver and his Assembly colleagues for quickly passing a bill today that will dramatically improve our ability to enforce the City's "don't block the box" law,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. “Now that this bill has passed both houses of the State Legislature, I urge Governor Paterson to sign this bill that will ease congestion and increase the number of enforcement agents by 723%, without any additional burden on the taxpayers.”

“Blocking the box” is a prime cause of gridlock, and it consequently adds significantly to pollution in New York City. In addition to decreasing congestion and pollution, this legislation would increase safety at street crossings for all pedestrians, especially children, seniors, and the mobility impaired.

"Just two years ago we counted more than 3,000 cars 'blocking the box' over 9-hours at 10 different intersections in Manhattan. Not one of those drivers got a ticket for breaking the law," said Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer. "We asked for a law to make that practice expensive and hopefully, extinct. This is a great, common sense measure that will put money in City coffers while encouraging drivers to be more courteous and simply follow the law. I applaud the legislature to come together to get this done."

"The new legislation will help us enforce a matter of common sense and common civility – Don't Block the Box! Observe that simple rule and New York will have less congestion, safer streets and cleaner air," said NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.

“New York City is faced with crippling traffic congestion which harms our environment and endangers our health,” said Joshua Nachowitz, State Policy Director for the League of Conservation Voters. “This legislation is simple approach to this issue which will keep New York City moving while beginning to clean our air and help control greenhouse gas emissions.”

The bill will next go to Governor David Paterson to be signed before becoming law.