NYC DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall Resigns

weinshall.jpgCommissioner Iris Weinshall is leaving New York City’s Department of Transportation for a job as Vice Chancellor for Facilities Planning, Construction and Management at the City University of New York. The Department of Transportation press office says that Weinshall will stay on for another ten weeks. Her last day on the job will be Friday, April 13. Here are press releases from Weinshall and Mayor Michael Bloomberg:

Press release from DOT:

"It has been an honor and a privilege to spend more than 2 decades serving the city of New York. During the last seven years we have taken great strides towards making our streets safer for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists, rehabilitating our historic and iconic bridges, bringing our famed Staten Island Ferry into the 21st century and balancing the many demands on the public space we all share.

I would like to thank the 4,500 men and women who work tirelessly to keep this city moving, and I would like to thank my friend and mentor Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his innovative spirit and unwavering support. I look forward to the challenges that lie ahead and to continuing to serve the city and the people of New York in my new role at CUNY."

Press release from City Hall:

"When I became Mayor, the people of New York were already very fortunate to have an innovative thinker like Iris Weinshall leading the Department of Transportation, and I was fortunate that she agreed to stay on and serve for what has now been an extraordinary seven year tenure. Iris tried new ways to solve problems that had plagued New York City for decades, and she worked with local communities to mitigate dangerous conditions, resulting in the lowest pedestrian fatality rate in recorded history and infrastructure changes and improvements in all five boroughs.

"Iris is a tested leader and our loss is CUNY’s gain. Whether through the challenges the City faced during and after September 11th, two blackouts or a transit strike that threatened to paralyze us, Iris Weinshall brought her leadership skills to bear and saw the Department through these difficult times. New York is a better place for her efforts.


"Iris always embraced the idea of planning now for the future, overseeing a $5 billion capital plan. As a result, the City has two new ferry terminals and three new ferry boats, vastly improved and safer bridges and tunnels, and improvements in traffic flow including the innovative Thru Streets program that have yielded less congestion. She has also led the City to take additional steps to better protect cyclists and pedestrians. Iris oversaw a revamping of technology at the Department, increasing its efficiency and effectiveness. She fought in Albany to win legislative approval to have more red light cameras installed on City streets and was a key member of planning and coordinating for some of New York City’s premiere signature events, including the Thanksgiving Day Parade and the New York Marathon.

"As Iris undertakes her new challenges as Vice Chancellor for Facilities Planning, Construction and Management at CUNY, I know she will continue to serve the people of this City and the students of CUNY with the same vigor, determination and most importantly, innovative leadership that she brought to the Department of Transportation. On behalf of all New Yorkers, I thank Iris for her dedication and professionalism, and I am personally appreciative of her friendship over the years and have enjoyed our warm relationship. I wish her well in her new position."

  • alex

    Its too bad, I am sure her family (Chuck et al.) could have benefitted from some quality time – as seems to be the case with most “resignations”. So, who is on deck, and where do they stand on congestion pricing, traffic calming, and pedestrian/cyclists safety?

  • AD

    Like Alex said: Who will be the new New York City Transportation Commissioner? Does anyone have any guesses?

  • Primeggia da Man

    I want Mike!

  • Great news! I’m too thrilled for words!

  • I Robot

    DOT First Deputy Commissioner Judy Bergtraum is like Iris but only more so.

  • steve

    It’s customary to praise people in situations like this, but is her foremost quality really her “innovative leadership”? It wasn’t necessary to say *that*. Makes me wonder what qualities her replacement will have. With this Mayor, we may end up looking on the Weinshall regime fondly . . .

  • not retarded

    Do any of your ignoramuses realize how bad this is? Weinshall took the DOT from being a corrupt, poorly organized bureaucracy and turned it into a relatively efficient machine. She brought the DOT to a place where it no longer had to worry about getting potholes replaced (because under her DOT did it efficiently), she made sure the bridges weren’t falling apart (something other DOT commissioners, including Lee Sander, did nothing about), and she made it so DOT and the administration had the time to focus on more progressive measures. Has anyone who has ever posted on this blog ever run an organization that has thousands of employees and over 8 million constituents? She was moving things in the right direction. Now, I fear, we’ll get someone who can’t perform DOT’s basic tasks (and thus have no time for the more progressive stuff) or you’ll get someone who’s so out of touch with political realities that they won’t get anything done. The end of Weinshall’s time at DOT bodes ill for New York. It bodes ill for cyclists, pedestrians, and mass transit advocates.

  • JK

    Yes, things could get worse, they always can. But things could also get better, and they would not have if Weinshall stayed.

    Her testimony at City Council last Friday was a clear indication that it was time for her to go. It was simply not credible to tell council that there is no traffic problem — and not credible to say that DOT has the traffic info it needs, when it obviously does not. (Incidentally, they could have come up with a counter-proposal to Intro 199 months ago and avoided being put at a disadvantage.)The council hearing was just the latest evidence that DOT is tuning out public concerns, lagging badly behind great global cities like London and Paris and out of step with City Hall’s sustainability initiative. The only surprise here is that Iris stuck around so long.

    Granted, DOT had big problems after Giuliani tried to dismantle the agency (remember DIM?)fired four commissioners in six years and had a succession of nut jobs, no-shows and sex perverts attempting to run the show. But as Tom Frieden has shown at DOH, NYC can have world class city agencies that innovate, experiment, take risks and seek answers to thorny problems through open minded and intelligent inquiry.

    Here’s a toast to Iris. She deserves lots of credit for professionalizing the agency and getting through 9/11, and the SI Ferry crash — and actually doing something on Queens Boulevard. It was no doubt exhausting weathering so many crises, and contributed to her delegating so much authority to her traffic engineers. But she had her chances.

    Now it’s the mayor’s turn to show us he wants to see some real progress. I hope it’s an outsider.

  • not retarded

    Her testimony at the City Council hearing showed that she had actually run a city agency. What kind of data do you want the City to collect? Occupancy data for every car? On a biannual basis? Yes, that won’t take millions upon millions of dollars and thousands of people. Think realistically. Think rationally. Imagine that you actually had a job that required you to be responsible for things and didn’t just get to complain about how it’s not exactly what you wanted. Remember that post on this blog how other cities collect so much data? The one example was from a one time study of a city in 1996. Yes, my friends, other cities are doing so much more than New York. Whether or not Weinshall is commissioner or someone else, the advocacy community needs to realize that you’re not going to get anywhere unless you think realistically. What do you think performance targets are going to accomplish? There should be NO fatalities on NYC roadways (Weinshall often said that one is one too many). But if DOT sets a zero fatality target and doesn’t meet it, what then?

  • JK

    Oh, BTW, Not Retarded, it’s dubious that Iris was the only DOT commish who cared about bridges.The big money for the bridge contracts she oversaw was funded before she came on-board. That said, DOT’s giant bridge rebuildings have been remarkably smooth and clean compared to the massive cost overruns the MTA is racking up on its big ticket items. DOT Bridges seems to know how to write good incentive contracts.

  • Maria

    Mr. Not:

    NYC can find another decent admninistrator to run DOT and make sure the pot holes are filled. Administrators are a dime a dozen. The limited, hard to find commodity is a forward-thinking, progressive, visionary transportation planner who is willing to go to bat for difficult but important ideas. What NYC needs, as JK points out, is a Commissioner Tom Frieden for transportation. That’s the challenge. Iris was always very far from meeting that challenge.

    As for Intro. 199 and DOT’s embarrassing performance before City Council last Thursday, take a look at the data that Transport for London is collecting annually. There was a link somewhere on the blog here. Or Google “Congestion Charging: Four Years On.” Or Three, or Two Years On. You get the idea.

    London is setting meaningful targets and then monitoring their transpo agency’s performance in hitting those targets. The targets include numerous measures of air quality, noise maps, traffic congestion, bus speeds, number of cyclists, and lots of other valuable inputs. NYC is still just counting cars on an ad hoc basis. We don’t even differentiate between a single-passenger SUV and a 50-passenger bus. Frankly, it’s pathetic.

    Glancing at London’s data collection will give you a sense of why DOT’s testimony was such a disappointment on Thursday. The agency easily could have said: “You know, City Council, we would like to collect more and better data like London. We’re always looking to improve our ops. We’re glad you brought this up. Why don’t you go ahead and allocate the funds to help us make that happen. We need $X million from you…”

    But that’s not what DOT did. It’s not what DOT ever did under Iris Weinshall. Iris may have been a decent administrator but first and foremost she was always incredibly thin-skinned and defensive. Under Iris, the DOT response to outside pressure or ideas has always been intensely defensive. It’s as if a new idea is an attack. This is not a way to bring in the best ideas, to innovate, to run an important city agency at a time when new ideas are essential.

    I am 100% certain that Dan Doctoroff will manage to find a far more qualified and progressive replacement for Iris. I am sure that this person will do a better job of making NYC’s streets have less traffic congestion and better conditions for bikers and walkers and bus riders. I’m SURE of it. And, yeah, I’m sure that this person will be keep DOT running smoothly enough to keep the pot holes filled — especially now that global warming gives us so many extra weeks per year to fill ’em.

    P.S.

    The good repair of our bridges have more to do with the city being flush with cash during the dot-com and real estate booms than with Iris’s management. Puh-lease.

  • Kevin

    This was obviously some time in the making, but was Robert Sullivan’s article the straw that broke the camel’s back?

  • moocow

    To quote the comments from the Smolka retirement story:

    Buh-Bye!

  • gecko

    cool

  • P

    Not Retarded:
    Is that you, Chuck?

  • Efficiency Nut

    “Not retarded” has never worked in politics and doesn’t understand the value of averaging, polling etc. Driver/ped/cyclist intercept surveys are like what Quinnipiac does when they tell us how people feel and behave around elections. It’s great shorthand and has a statistical reliability of +- a few % points. To get vehicle capacities along a route, one need not count every single person in every car. We already know that up to 40-60% of drivers entering the CBD are SOV. It won’t be that difficult to gather similar data for Jamaica and Flushing, Downtown Brooklyn (prolly already have that one from the big EIS they did recently around some big project with A and Y in the name).

    In Schaller’s last study, they estimated the cost of gathering all that “overwhelming” data to run around $300k per year. Given that Iris testified that DOT is increasing its data collection budget from $600k per 2 years to over $3M in the same time, you could find a way to get all your data.

    Regardless, the problem the whole time has been political will. If Dr. No don’t want it to get done, the whole agency won’t do it. Iris was not the one that needed her uppance come. Clear away Primeggia and replace him with a traffic engineer schooled sometime in the past 2 decades and you might get better results. Get someone as professional as what DOHMH has done, and we might actually see movement towards better streets. I’m just mad skeptical that anyone is listening and will hire that hypothetical administrator.

  • JK

    The Nut cuts to the nut of the matter. But we could be a little more optimistic. We havent seen something like the Sustainability initiative before. It’s clearly been developed at a high level as the framework for policy changes, many of them transportation. The next DOT commissioner is not going to be married to a US Senator. (Dont do it Bill.)The new commish will not be able to ignore City Hall as much, or give Primeggia the political protection he enjoyed under Weinshall.

    I think at a minimum we’ll see some high visibility projects rolled out shortly: big pedestrian street expansion in Times Square, three month car-free summer trial in Central Park and some other random pedestrianizations around the city — plus, some non-commercial parking congestion pricing.

  • someguy

    JK, agreed. It’s worth noting that significant projects and policies generally have multi-year gestation periods at DOT, though. So some of the things coming out shortly can still be attributed to IW, and any changes under the future commish could take a while to see the light of day.

  • I don’t know much about the DOT’s past, so I’ll take all-of-your-words-for-it that Weinshall cleaned up the system from something that was worse. But to a casual observer like me, it also seems like things have been stagnating, and that a new perspective and initiative is exactly what’s needed now.

    Just because she’s gone doesn’t mean they’re doomed to find someone inevitably worse. So now let’s all hope the city uses this opportunity to find someone who really can help turn NYC into a world-class liveable city.

    I’ll remain optimistic at this time until we see any negative evidence about who will be the next DOT commissioner.

  • Steve

    Here’s some anecdotal evidence that under Bloomberg/Weinshall, DOT has done a much better job or fixing potholes:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/43954081@N00/365986663/

    I’m inclined to give credit where it is due. The progress on the bridges and potholes is impressive. It’s also nice that there have been no DOT corruption scandals for a while. Sometimes we forget that the DOT was involved in one of the greatest scandals in NYC history–the 1980s PVB/Datacom scam, and was the site of continued corruption involving ticket-fixing into the 1990s. So looking at things from a historical perspective, Weinshall should be proud. It will really be a shame if there is backsliding on potholes or currption under her successor.

    But she clearly is NOT an innovator and in my view has been a significant obstacle to rethinking street priorities in favor of pedestrian and non-motor vehicle uses. The 200 miles of bikes announced last fall were in the pipeline for many years and if I am not mistaken, have some kind of federal funding and/or mandate behind them. Thru-streets and Times Square shuffles do not qualify her as an innovator in my book.

  • Happy Camper

    DING DONG! THE WITCH IS GONE

    Munchkins
    Ding Dong! The witch is gone. Which old Witch? The Wicked Witch!
    Ding Dong! The Wicked Witch is gone.
    March on – sleepy feet, rub your legs, get out of your home.
    Bike on, the Wicked Witch is gone. She’s gone where the cars go,
    Below – below – below. Yo-ho, let’s get out and sing and ring the bells out.
    Ding Dong’ the merry-oh, sing it high, sing it low.
    Let them know
    The Wicked Witch is gone!
    Mayor
    As Mayor of the Munchkin City, In the County of the Land of Oz, I welcome you most regally.
    Barrister
    But we’ve got to verify it legally, to see
    Mayor
    To see?
    Barrister
    If she
    Mayor
    If she?
    Barrister
    Is morally, ethic’lly
    Biker No. 1
    Spiritually, physically
    Biker No. 2
    Positively, absolutely
    Munchkins
    Undeniably and reliably gone
    Doctor
    As Doctor I must aver, I thoroughly examined her.
    And she’s not only merely gone, she’s really most sincerely gone.
    Mayor
    Then this is a day of Independence For all the Munchkins and their descendants
    Barrister
    If any.
    Mayor
    Yes, let the joyous news be told The wicked Old Witch at last is gone!

  • Good riddance to bad rubbish…

  • am retarded

    Are you all kidding me!
    The Staten Island Ferry incident should have been reason enough for the Commissioner and First Deputy Commissioners replacement. Let alone the fact the these two so called “Administrators” removed a team of Safety Officers at the Unions beckoning and compromised the safety of DOT workers as well as the public. These Safety Officers could have been used as a tool to monitor the Ferry’s day to day activity and maybe could have picked off the non-compliance of safety procedures that endured.
    Additionally, two employees lives were lost in the Street Maintenance division that possibly could have been saved if Safety Officers were in place. There’s a lot of blood on their hands!
    Look at the big picture…It was time for her to go and a lot of people with in DOT are very happy! I’m sure another “Administrator” will step in and do a fantastic job.
    …retard this

  • anon

    Thought NYC DOT was on the edges of the Brian McLaughlin/street light fixers scam ?

  • MD

    Leaving aside the issue of her legacy, I’m assuming she was pushed out because they were looking for someone with some real vision. That’s why I’m delighted about this.

  • someguy

    MD – I doubt it. She served over 8 years as commissioner, which is near-record length. If she was going to be pushed out, there were plenty of prior opportunities, such as the Staten Island Ferry crash. She’s done a decent job on the administrative and operations sides of DOT, just not the policy side, which was what DOT needed after what preceded her, and the administration respected that. It was a well known fact that she had been looking for other career opportunities for the past year or more. I’m sure the Bloomberg administration wanted to allow her a graceful exit on her own terms.

    I think the bottom line is that she did her job well given the circumstances of when she started, but a lot has changed since then, and it is time for someone more interested in policy innovation. It is true that it is a lot easier to criticize someone from a blog than walk in their shoes, so some of us (Happy Camper) should chill out and spread some positive vibes!

  • Happy Camper

    Hi someguy,

    You are right , these are not positive vibes, these are ecstatic vibes.

  • retard

    The bottom line is that she was given the job because of who she was married to. Past Commissioners…except for Lynn…were not bad. They…as well as Weinshall…all had skeletons in their closets. None of them even had a PE that should be a requirement before they assign another political pansy! The last real Commissioner with vision and talent was Riccio.
    I hear he’s still around…bring him back!

  • MD

    I thought I heard last summer that Doctoroff had been given some kind of authority over DOT. I took that as a sign that the mayor’s people were unhappy with the way things were going there.

  • A. Dotmolsky

    “The bottom line is that she was given the job because of who she was married to. Past Commissioners…except for Lynn…were not bad.”

    1. Sander, Lynn, Malchow (acting), and Chapman were Weinshall’s predecessors. Lynn topped the list on surreality and psychopathology grounds, but the rest were pretty darn awful. Weinshall towers above them all on any measure of competence, integrity, or, yes, vision, even factoring in all her flaws.

    2. It actually was a good thing that she came to the agency with a bit of an independent power base. She was able to get some stuff done in the budget, and she helped the careers of a few people who had been screwed over for years. There’s a guy named John Murray, who is in charge of the task force at OMB that oversees DOT. He has essentially controlled DOT since the Koch days, having more effect on DOT than any of its commissioners. Weinshall was the only commissioner ever to have the juice to make a dent in the crazy things that Murray does to DOT’s budgets and hiring plans. It will be a very bad thing if he is allowed to step into the vacuum.

    3. Dick Malchow had a PE. Anthony Ameruso had a PE. ‘Nuff said about that “qualification”.

    4. It would be interesting to see what Lou Riccio could do in a less crushing fiscal environment than when he was commissioner under Dinkins. He did have a lot of ideas, and unlike someone like Sander, he’s a very smart guy who is anything but an empty suit. Lots of people would be glad to see him again. Rumours of his return have been flying around for years.

  • am retarded

    Weinshall was a bureaucrat with no background in transportation heading up the only city agency with direct control over the capital of the world’s transportation system, not to mention most of its public space? Her decisions and positions are primarily shaped and influenced by her Deputy Commissioners, who are cranky, sheltered engineers or arrogant policy aces high on their own power yet all but unaccountable to the public? Which by the way…she put in place and got rid of people who came through the system and had any alliance with former FDC Anthony Fasulo. Molsky…you sound like you have good inside info on DOT. You should be the first to admit she was a wrong fit! Come on…admit it

    Bring back Lou Riccio!

    This tread is dead…am retarded

  • Lou is that you?

    Lou you must have too much time on your hands these days.

  • The Grim Reaper

    Good riddance to the criminal Ms. Weinshall; forever to be known as the ferry killer.

  • Georgemooney

    Why would Bloomberg protect someone who knew all about the “problems” at the si ferry and refused to help me as a whistleblower who came to ask for help and wound up broken and bleeding on the dock at 200am in the middle of the night waiting for an ambulance,while Capt and crew did nothing.?If not for the passengers getting off another vessel…  The guilty were protected and I was crucified and threatened. I am still in fear for my life. Iris weinschal SCHUMER gets a raise and doesnt  bear any resposibility for the deaths of ELEVEN  people after I told her about the drug problems there and how they were avoiding the tests for the upper echelon and still are.
     

  • Zdislav David Lasevski

    February 11, 2013
     
    Ms. Iris Weinshall is a visionary person. In 2006, I sent her a proposal to widen the roadway of the BQE and the Prospect Expressway so that the HOV lane would run on the top in the morning and, at the same time, the entrance to the Prospect Expressway will remain always open. She recognized the potential of that suggestion and acted on it. I received a letter, signed by her on July 18, 2006, replying that nobody had made such a proposal, and she moved it to the regional director. My proposal was completed a few weeks ago and it has allowed morning traffic on the BQE West Bound to move freely to the Prospect Expressway. I also made a proposal to convert Furman Street to “two way” and that has been done.
    Since Ms. Iris Weinshall’s departure, from the DOT I have made many other suggestions but so far nobody has acted on them. One was to build a tunnel below Grand Street and Metropolitan Avenue which will stretch for 6.3 miles connecting BQE by the Williamsburg Bridge and the intersection of the Van Wyck Expressway, Grand Central Parkway, Jackie Robinson Parkway, and Union Turnpike. That tunnel will connect Manhattan with major airports in the time frame of 15 minutes. I also suggested opening the third lane by the Brooklyn Bridge so in the morning the traffic will not be standing all the way back to almost Verrazano Bridge. Additional proposal was to change the traffic arrangement by the Williamsburg Bridge exit at Delancey Avenue so traffic could flow directly to the FDR Drive. Furthermore, I suggested opening separate exit form the LIE East Bound direct to the Van Wyck Expressway so if the traffic is backed up on the Grand Central Parkway, some of the cars can divert to the Van Wyck Expressway. There are many other proposals which were made by me and I am not going to mention all of them. Honestly I think the DOT is doing a great job for New York City; however, director with a good head on the shoulder and with a strong backing definitely can achieve miracle for this city.  
    I strongly believe that if Iris Weinshall had remained as a commissioner, at least some of those suggestions would have been implemented by now.
     
     
    Zdislav David Lasevski
    Nivie Electronics

  • Ian Turner

     @135114314cec0bc9f1d9dcad106b52b4:disqus : During Weinshall’s DOT tenure NYC averaged 347 road fatalities per year. Under Sadik-Khan, the number has been 269. This was accomplished at a time of smaller budgets and significant opposition from the city’s political class.And I’m assuming you are not aware of this gem:http://www.streetsblog.org/2012/12/20/the-nbbl-files-weinshall-and-steisel-manufactured-anti-bike-coverage/

  • Raiseallin5000

    The reason there are less deaths under  Sadik-Khan is because of the stop sign’s from both directions on each street in all the borough’s. The performance of a commissioner does not count by how many deaths per year occur it counts by the accomplishments.

  • Anonymous

     @46f00d085356ea3cee940c18e6c90dfe:disqus And lowering the number of deaths doesn’t count as an accomplishment?

    Meanwhile, please point us to the study showing that even a significant percentage of the decline in road fatalities is due to the change in stop signage.

  • Zdislav David Lasevski

    Ms. Iris Weinshall is a visionary person. In 2006, I sent her a proposal to widen the roadway of the BQE and the Prospect Expressway so that the HOV lane would run on the top in the morning and, at the same time, the entrance to the Prospect Expressway will remain always open. She recognized the potential of that suggestion and acted on it. I received a letter, signed by her on July 18, 2006,

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