The 2008 Streetsie Awards, Part 2

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Biggest Setback: After being approved by an unprecedented civic coalition, the mayor and New York City Council, congestion pricing — the one policy measure that simultaneously reduces traffic congestion while raising money for mass transit and livable streets — died in an Albany backroom without even a vote.

Lobbyists of the Year: Walter McCaffrey and the Committee to Keep NYC Congestion Tax Free (below). It turns out New York City government is controlled by a handful of Queens Democrats, suburban state legislators and the Automobile Club of New York.

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How Not to Lobby a State Legislator: Brooklyn State Senator Martin Malave Dilan’s car is towed during a congestion pricing meeting with city officials.

Most Sociopathic Elected Official: Bronx State Senator Jeff Klein nearly crushes a cyclist with his black Mercedes and then tells him, "Get your hands off my car, you f*#king a55hole." Unfortunately for Sen. Klein, this particular cyclist happens to run a pretty robust media operation.

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Most Disappointing Elected Officials: During the congestion pricing debate, three State Assemblymembers stood out for their enormous potential to exert leadership and their utter inability or unwillingness to do so. Deborah Glick, Joan Millman and Hakeem Jeffries all represent districts that would have overwhelmingly benefited from New York City’s congestion pricing plan. Yet, Glick could only find reasons to oppose it. Millman decided she supported it — two hours after the proposal was killed by her Democratic Assembly colleagues. And Jeffries had the gall to demand increased subway service on the G line three weeks after helping to eliminate the revenue source that might have paid for it. If only New York City were represented in the state Assembly by an aggressive, attentive, self-aggrandizing politician like…

Elected Official of the Year: You’ve got to hand it to Westchester Assemblyman Richard Brodsky — he works hard for his constituents and supporters. Unfortunately for New York City’s traffic-choked neighborhoods, beleaguered transit riders and asthmatic kids, his constituents are the metropolitan region’s wealthiest car commuters and his supporters own a bunch of parking garages in Manhattan. While New York City’s legislators rolled over and played dead, Richard Brodsky worked his butt off to make sure that New York City’s congestion pricing plan — a plan approved by the Mayor, City Council and a state commission — died a quiet death in the Assemly’s Democratic conference. Brodsky did incredible damage to New York City in 2008 but he also showed us what effective representation in Albany might look like.

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Worst Elected Official: Rochester Assemblyman and transportation committee chairman David Gantt continued his decade-long effort to deny New York City the ability to deploy automated traffic enforcement systems on its streets. He loosened up a little bit though. This year he introduced legislation that would allow counties outside of New York City to use red light cameras — as long as they purchased the technology from a Swedish firm represented by one of his cronies. Shocking? Not really. Just another day in Albany.

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Most Opinions Fewest Solutions Award: From now on, this will be called the Anthony Weiner Award.

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Most Moronic Idea From Albany: State Senators Jeff Klein and Eric Adams put on their serious, fighting-for-the-people faces and proposed suspending tolls on New York City bridges and tunnels and giving drivers a $200 gas tax rebate ahead of Memorial Day weekend. Not planning to burn lots of gasoline for your summer holiday? These two have nothing for you.

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  • fdr

    I know it’s heresy to criticize Janette Sadik-Khan, but how about a runner up “How Not to Lobby a State Legislator” award for being caught speeding while driving to Albany to lobby for congestion pricing. And she never did issue an apology, did she?
    By the way, Streetsblog got a heads up in Gridlock Sam’s column today. Tis the season for congratulating each other.

  • k. geis

    I can’t criticize anyone for speeding on the thruway. The road’s design speed is 75 mph, if I recall correctly, and that was back in the fifties. Most non-econoboxen can do 75-80 safely from exit 15 all the way to Albany.

    While America needs graduated drivers’ licenses based on vehicle class and driver ability, I’d settle for a simple speed limit hike on the interstates themselves. Fifty-five is absurd, and 65 isn’t much better.

    The problem is that, while driving a car, just like while riding a bike, everyone is a criminal, guilty of so many minor violations at once that the cops can stop you for any reason at all and concoct a rationale post-facto.

    Design the laws so the only people breaking them are being reckless; then be absolutely draconian with the reckless citizens.

    It’s doubly absurd that JSK’s _professional driver_ in a TLC behicle would be ticketed for unsafe driving for simply doing what all traffic on the thruway does all the time.

    But then, I’ve been ticketed on the thruway _while being passed by a semitrailer_, and the cop wanted to hear nothing of it.

  • Larry Littlefield

    All the state legislators have effectively represented their constituents — people who won’t be living in New York State in 10 to 15 years, and don’t want anything worthwhile left when they are gone.

    Think of this — do you really think Westchester will be a better place to live and earn a living IN THE FUTURE because of Brodsky’s representation IN ITS TOTALITY, not just on this one issue?

    The only reason people like Brodsky seem to be anti-NYC, rather than anti-NY State, is that NYC is the one part of the state the suckers are still moving to.

  • k. geis,
    keep in mind the 55 mph limit was instituted to save gas during the oil crisis decades ago, not to limit people’s inner most ‘need for speed.’ However there’s the added bonus that slower speeds are much, much less likely to end in fatalities when accidents do occur. 55 can still kill a driver should a crash occur, but the odds are much higher than 75 will result in the more serious damage of the two.

  • Davis

    The jsk speeding on the thruway issue was nothing but a distraction from a potential discussion of real issues and policy.

    Its easy and, for the most part, safe to drive 70 on the thruway. I wonder how many state legislators drive above the speed limit on their way up to albany?

    Then again, during that week in april when the legislature was supposed to be discussing and debating pricing I could have cared less.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Let’s think about this for a minute.

    All of the positive mentions yesterday were for citizen initiatives, or projects undertaken by government bureaucrats toiling away and presumably hoping that actually doing something won’t cost them their jobs.

    All the negative mentions were for New York State elected officials.

    If there was to be a positive mention, it would probably be for Mayor Bloomberg, who came in from outside the NY political culture a few years ago, and elected officials from other cities and states. Speaker Quinn would probably get a mixed review, which for this city is pretty good.

    That correlates pretty well with my opinion of our insulated, self-perpetuating political class, particularly at the state level. Remember, there was a time when NY was thought to have one of the best state governments in the country.

  • The distinction between Brodsky and Gantt is an important one. Brodsky is a talented public official who exercised real leadership — unfortunately in the wrong direction. Gantt is just an obstacle to progress with no redeeming qualities that I know of. The question for the livable-streets movement in 2009 is: Where is our Richard Brodsky? The most logical place for him/her to emerge from would be an outer-borough neighborhood with a high percentage of non-drivers. These areas need someone who’s willing to step up and defend the best interests of the majority of his/her constituents.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “The most logical place for him/her to emerge from would be an outer-borough neighborhood with a high percentage of non-drivers.”

    Unfortunately, that neighborhood is represented by Jim Brennan, who shot his wad a long time ago and has been going along with the crap that is Albany every since.

  • Komanoff

    Glad to see fdr’s criticism of Sadik-Khan’s dangerous driving (via her driver-surrogate) and of her failure to apologize or even acknowledge it. It’s not just a question of speeding. Her vehicle had sirens blasting and flashers blazing — exactly as did NJ Gov. Corzine’s in his year-earlier near-fatal crash on the Garden State Pkwy — which his driver’s flashing and siren-using precipitated by causing a panic reaction by a civilian driver.

    I am a huge fan and ardent supporter of JSK. But reckless driving behavior should always be called out. I was disappointed last spring when Streetsblog wouldn’t address it, and I’m disappointed by the comments here that don’t seem concerned that JSK’s driver put others at risk.

  • Remember, there was a time when NY was thought to have one of the best state governments in the country.

    By, Larry, you must be _really_ old to remember that! That’s something that I can’t even relate to, much less remember! 🙂

  • Insert my obligatory objection that no one knows if there were “sirens blasting”, just that the driver was charged with violating the “lights and sirens” law as well as the speed limit, and that every news source that breathlessly reported the ticketing has failed to follow up or offer any detail. (Perhaps we should institute a separate “lights” law, to avoid this terrible confusion—siren blasting drama hangs in the balance!) How much the situation was “exactly” like Corzine’s near-fatal crash we don’t know, but I’d be willing to bet that Corzine is still brazenly violating lights and sirens law without consequence (so long as his driver can avoid plowing into someone) and that JSK is rightfully scared straight (at least when travelling outside her area of influence).

    The source of the problem is government executive power operating above the rule of law, from the president down. Our country doesn’t just permit this corruption, we revere it. But if people want to drag JSK through the mud forever because she didn’t have enough pull to get out of the ticket, even though the driver didn’t crash unlike every other l&s violation we become aware of, I guess that’s okay too. Maybe some dang day Streetsblog will make a phone call to a DOT contact and get the (likely boring) details and an apologetic comment from JSK so everybody can get on with their streetslives.

  • rex

    The “Weiner Award”, I love it. Anthony should give up politics, and fritter his days away writing comments on blogs like I do. Or perhaps a talk radio show?

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Remember, there was a time when NY was thought to have one of the best state governments in the country. Larry, you must be _really_ old to remember that! That’s something that I can’t even relate to, much less remember!”

    I’m 47 and I can’t remember it, I’ve only read about it. It was a brief era from the dawn of the Progressive era to the start of the era we are in, with higher taxes than the Progressives ever proposed, inferior services, and special deals worth of Tammany Hall.

  • fdr

    “But if people want to drag JSK through the mud forever…”
    First, it isn’t “forever”. The purpose of this thread is to review the events of the past year.
    Second, dragging through the mud implies either it didn’t happen or it involves some sordid hidden fact that shouldn’t be brought to public light. That hardly applies here.
    It seems Sadik-Khan’s fan club, with the notable exception of the esteemed Mr. Komanoff, will gladly give her a pass because they love her so much. If it had been Weiner or Brodsky we’d never hear the end of it.

  • Komanoff

    Hi Doc B —

    I hope you’re not holding your breath about S’blog getting the “likely boring” details about Janette’s Thruway incident, seeing as how, according to the Daily News back in April, “Her spokesman refused to say where on the highway the city-owned hybrid was pulled over, how fast the car was traveling and why the driver, a city employee, was speeding and using lights and sirens.”

    As for Corzine and his driver: your snarky take on the latter (“so long as his driver can avoid plowing into someone”) distorts that incident beyond recognition. The facts are: the driver’s siren-light combo freaked out a second driver, who hastily veered onto the right shoulder, oversteered, and came back onto the roadway, forcing a third vehicle (which had lane-shifted from the left to the right lane to leave room for Corzine’s car) to move left, striking Corzine’s car. It’s all in a June 29, 2007 Star-Ledger story that evidently is no longer on the Web but which I can send you as a Word doc — though I’m confident you can find the same essentials elsewhere. Everything I’ve read about the incident convinces me that Corzine’s driver performed brilliantly in avoiding an even worse crash and then took the fall for the Governor’s Type-A, entitlement-fueled behavior.

    I don’t understand why you choose to conflate JSK’s endangering moment with lawless executive power in general. Can’t it be judged on its own? Nor do I get why she passed up a superb oppt’y to turn the incident into a teachable moment for all, starting with an apology.

  • For the most part, we’re all appreciative of JSK’s contributions to the civility of our streets, and at the same time disappointed over the speeding incident. So how strongly should we criticize her, and for how long? Where do we draw the line?

    For me, the crucial thing is whether the incident is part of a pattern of behavior. If it’s an isolated incident, time to forgive and forget. If it happens repeatedly, JSK would earn harsher and more prolonged criticism.

    For the time being, it seems to be a single incident. So let’s not hamper JSK’s future productivity by dwelling on it. Unless it happens again.

  • Sammy Hagar

    Nor do I get why she passed up a superb oppt’y to turn the incident into a teachable moment for all, starting with an apology.

    Obviously, it would not have been useful or productive for Janette to take time out of her lobbying trip to Albany for congestion pricing to call a press conference and apologize for her driver’s speeding ticket.

    The NYC press doesn’t need a lot of help in covering stupid stuff. They already do that just fine on their own. During the pricing debate it was already nearly impossible to get the press to actually focus on the issues and policies at hand. And that, of course, was State Assembly members’ goal in making hay of the speeding issue to begin with — to redirect attention from a real discussion of congestion pricing. If Janette had followed this advice of yours, the only result would have been to turn the speeding-DOT-commissioner story into THE story of the week rather than a one day blip in the Daily News.

    As for the idea that this is a “teachable” moment — what? There’s absolutely no reason to believe that some mea culpa from NYC’s DOT commissioner on behalf of her driver would actually do anything to promote safer driving in the NYC metro region. If safer driving is your goal, there are lots of better ways to achieve it — like, for example, speeding up to Albany to get congestion pricing passed.

  • fdr

    OK, JSK fans, apparently it wasn’t her fault. It was her driver’s. Over whom apparently she has no control? He didn’t apologize either.

  • fdr, I don’t know where you get your idea of what mud dragging highly specifically implies, but for me it is what you are doing. I have no problem admitting that I would enjoy dragging Weiner or Brodsky through the mud if either were similarly busted; do you admit that your own nine-month slog is motivated by disaffection for the party involved?

    K, I suggest that Streetsblog follow up to get itself off the hook. And as there is no present congestion pricing debate to distract from, I don’t see why the DOT would not provide some detail. If not, whatever, they could say no comment again and keep telling themselves that is genius politics. (I am breathing regardless, thx for checking.) As for conflating the incident with lawless executive power in general, you made that mess when you brought Corzine into it. The JSK ticket could be judged on its own, sure, when someone is not saying it is exactly like some other violation, which was exposed by a near near-fatal crash but not ticketed.

    There are not enough known facts to support anything but bickering, as I’m doing. Happy new year guys.

  • fdr

    Yup, I’ll admit disaffection, but not your description of a nine-month slog. I repeat, the purpose of this thread is to review the events of the past 12 months. Isn’t that when the Sadik-Khan incident took place? I was adding to the nomination of Milave Dilan’s car being towed, which took place in early February. So are you calling Aaron’s nomination of him an eleven-month slog?

  • Yes.

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