Please note: This was an April Fool’s Day post…
Dr. Thomas Frieden accepting his new job as DOT commissioner this morning in Central Park.
In a major restructuring of the Bloomberg Administration, outgoing Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall will be replaced by Public Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden. Bloomberg’s surprise announcement came at a rare Sunday morning press conference, where the mayor also rolled out a major piece of his 2030 Sustainability plan for reducing congestion.
After thanking Weinshall for her efforts, Bloomberg set forth his vision for New York’s new Transportation Commissioner. "Today begins a new day, when we look at our streets differently, when we see the inextricable link between public health and and the public realm, when we choose clean air and quality of life over congestion. What I started on Friday with my veto of the pedicab cap will continue through the end of my administration. We will free this city from the negative consequences of automobile congestion."
"Driving a single-passenger private motor vehicle in New York City is about to go the way of smoking in restaurants," Commissioner Frieden said. "I accepted this job because I realized that the best way to achieve many of our public health goals is to reduce New Yorkers’ automobile dependence."
Bloomberg went on to announce his support for congestion pricing and said that he would begin taking street space away from private motor vehicles throughout the city to help accelerate his long-stalled Bus Rapid Transit project. Bloomberg named Vision42 founder George Haikalis as DOT Deputy Commissioner and boldly announced that by the end of his term 42nd Street would be transformed into a car-free light rail pedestrian boulevard.
He then introduced Dr. Thomas Frieden as the new DOT chief. "Tom is the natural choice. He has been a remarkable innovator as New York City’s Health Commissioner, but he can do more for public health as DOT commissioner than he can in his current position," the mayor said.
Vision 42: One of the many innovative projects now embraced by the Bloomberg Administration
"As we move more people out of automobiles and encourage more people to bike and walk around the city," Dr. Frieden said, "our city’s residents will get fitter and healthier. We’ll reduce obesity and diabetes rates. Moreover, we will start eliminating the ground-level pollution that causes asthma, lung cancer and other respiratory ailments that plague so many New Yorkers, our children and seniors in particular."
Frieden also pointed to the fact that much of the traffic congestion and pollution was from automobiles merely driving through the city as something he intends to address. "Automobile congestion is not only making our residents sick, it is stymieing New York City’s economic development and holding us back from being the greatest city in the world."
The move stunned Livable Streets advocates. Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives, was initially very excited about the announcement, but quickly realized the full impact of City Hall suddenly buying in to his entire agenda. "I’m not really sure what TA’s mission would be moving forward. I mean, if Frieden’s running the show, what are we going to complain about?" He was last seen scratching his head and mumbling something about updating his resume and trying to get a job in the new DOT.
Ken Coughlin, chairman of the Car Free Central Park campaign, reportedly received a call in advance of Frieden’s appointment from Dan Doctoroff. "He told me that he’s been a big supporter of Car Free Central Park from day one, but just has been waiting for the right moment to announce his support for a total ban on automobiles from entering the park." Coughlin then did three cartwheels in front of City Hall and high-fived several people around him.
Streetsblog will be following this story as it unfolds. Stay tuned and happy April Fools Day.