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Assemblyman Sean Ryan has started an online petition asking the state Department of Transportation to reconsider its plans for improvements to the Scajaquada Expressway. For many years, activists have urged the DOT to downgrade the Scajaquada to a bicyclist- and pedestrian-friendly boulevard that slows traffic, and complements and connects the park that it bisects.

Far from re-imagining the 198, the DOT’s current plans essentially amount to planting trees on a grassy meridian.

“Despite previous input from the public, the DOT’s plan does not incorporate the pedestrian friendly changes, and parkway designs that the community has been talking about for many years,” Ryan said in a press release.

The petition (which can be accessed at under the heading “Important Links”) makes 13 requests for the DOT to consider:

1) All proven traffic calming techniques should be applied to the project area to establish a 30mph design speed and create a safe and more accessible urban boulevard.

2) Additional opportunities for public access crossing the Scajaquada via bicycle and pedestrian are needed.

3) Adequate crosswalks with the appropriate safe crossing treatments.

4) The Parkside and Scajaquada intersection should be greatly improved to provide a safer pedestrian crossing for the neighborhood and students from Medaille College that use it, current alternatives do not adequately address this issue.

5) Roadway design and landscape restoration should be employed to minimize the intrusion of vehicle travel through the historic landscape of Delaware Park to the greatest extent possible.

6) The Main Street intersection at the Scajaquada needs to be improved for pedestrians, bicycles and vehicles. Improved access to and exit from the Route 198 corridor at Main Street is a critical part of improvements within the entire corridor. All pedestrian crossings do not meet the state standard for safety.

7) Create a complete street that accommodates all roadway users; this includes vehicles, commuting bicyclists, recreational bicyclists, recreational joggers and walkers.

8) On-street bike lanes and pedestrian walkways are desired connecting to the city-wide network.

9) Gateways should be established within each end of the corridor honoring the historical significance of this area by creating a welcoming and inspiring user experience.

10) Storm water runoff should be treated naturally throughout the entire Scajaquada corridor.

11) Improved ingress/egress from Delaware Park and other facilities is necessary.

12) Establish a long-term maintenance plan with all stakeholders and agencies.

13) Coordination with NFTA to leverage additional investment as a way to encourage alternative modes of transportation and integrate the corridor into the existing metro system.

• State Senator Mark Grisanti has started an online petition, too; his is in opposition to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to make a free college education available to inmates in the state’s prison system. Cuomo argues that it costs the state $60,000 a year to house an inmate and just $5,000 a year to give him a college education. A study done at Bard College says that earning a college degree while in prison reduces recidivism rates from about 40 percent to about four percent. If that education reduces recidivism, as the Bard study suggests, the state may save money by reducing the prison population over the long run.

In a statement, Grisanti said he’d received “numerous phone calls, emails, and Facebook messages related to this initiative, and the overwhelming percentage of them are negative,” and his online petition was signed by more than 1,000 people in a matter of hours. Grisanti argues that the state should increase tuition assistance available to students outside prisons before giving free educations to those within them.

That’s an emotionally powerful argument to make, but we were struck by this response to it posted b a commenter at AV Daily:

I found Mark Grisanti’s dissent to Cuomo’s plan (that we shouldn’t use taxpayer resources for criminals when so many non-criminals are struggling or unable to pay for college) to be entirely disingenuous. As if the money for this initiative would otherwise be used to lessen the tuition burden at SUNY.

Where was Grisanti looking out for people who can’t afford college when Cuomo cut $2 million from the SUNY budget this year? Where was Grisanti when SUNY decided to close this budget gap and even increase their bottom line with tuition increases? Where was Grisanti looking out for wise use of college resources when UB announced a plan to spend $25 million on a field house and “football headquarters” last week?

When he’s not being a senator, Grisanti is a criminal defense lawyer, so maybe for him recidivism just seems like good business. Might just as well call Cuomo’s initiative the New York State Lawyer Unemployment Act.

(Thank you, thank you, you’re too kind—we’re here all week.)

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