The 2008 Streetsie Awards, Part 4

streetsie_mini.jpg

Worst City Agency: The NYPD. If they’re in a good mood, they’ll summons you for no apparent reason. If they’re in a bad mood, they’ll body slam you off your bike. They drive recklessly through city parks in their off-duty hours and park their vehicles in bus lanes, bike lanes — pretty much wherever they want. If you’re hit by a car while walking or biking in New York City? Don’t waste their time. If you’re still breathing, they’re not interested. If you’re dead, they’ll probably just call it an "accident." Maybe they’ll even blame you after taking witness testimony from no one else but the driver of the vehicle that killed you.

NIMBY of the Year: All in all, it was a tough year for the not-in-my-backyard crowd. Despite their occasional protests, New York City’s streets and neighborhoods continued to improve for pedestrians, cyclists and bus. Still, there were some standouts:

Manhattan Community Board 4 member Allen Roskoff wins an honorable mention for arguing that Chelsea’s gay community would no longer "feel at home" on 8th Avenue because of DOT’s new, separated
bike path plan.

In Windsor Terrace, Randy Peers, Alvin Berk and Assemblyman Jim Brennan earn special commendation for trying to argue that routing motor vehicle traffic through Prospect Park is actually good for the environment.

City Council candidate Isaac Abraham and some members of South Williamsburg’s Hasidic community also win an honorable mention for their contention that the new bike lanes on Kent Avenue — installed with overwhelming Community Board approval following a painstakingly inclusive, decade-long community-driven process to create a Brooklyn waterfront greenway — would bring too many scantily clad women through the neighborhood. Abraham showed the kind of leadership he’d bring to the Council when he urged his fellow motorists to harrass and endanger Williamsburg cyclists.

But the hands-down winner of our coveted NIMBY of the Year award is Sean Sweeney of the SoHo Alliance. With bike, bus and public space improvements proliferating throughout Lower Manhattan, Sweeney had a busy year trying to maintain his neighborhood’s traffic-choked status quo. Though his protests of the Prince and Grand St. bike lanes have gone nowhere (thusfar), he managed to kill "the Department of Tyranny’s" proposal for a car-free Prince Street weekend trial project, in part, by raising the ominous specter of neighborhood streets overrun by mimes. Well played, sir! You may disagree with Sweeney but you’ve got to respect him for being a hardworking neighborhood activist. He’s also sporting enough to mix it up in the Streetsblog comments section. For all of that and, I’m sure, much more in 2009, Sean Sweeney (below) is our NIMBY of the Year.

sweeney_large.jpg

Rarest Sighting: The NYPD ticketing bus lane violators on Broadway. As for the 34th Street bus lane? No such luck.

Best Transportation Policy Reporting: PBS’s Blueprint America series. If only more transportation journalism received funding from the Rockefeller Foundation instead of the auto industry.

Saddest Excuse for Journalism: When it came to the two biggest
transportation stories of the year — congestion pricing and the MTA’s
canyon of a budget gap — New Yorkers were not particularly well served
by their local media. Of all the reporters that accepted Richard Brodsky’s populist claptrap as gospel or zeroed in on $30,000 in travel perks for the MTA Board as the agency stared down a $1,200,000,000 deficit, Fox 5 reporter John Deutzman stands out. Deutzman is the brave soul who ambushed MTA chief Lee Sander
while he was getting a shoe shine at Grand Central and peppered him
with questions about his personal commuting habits. Just when you
thought the level of discourse about MTA finances had already reached
rock bottom.

Most Memorable MTA Moment: MTA Board member David Mack,
a well-to-do Long Island real estate developer, essentially says that
mass transit is an "inconvenience" fit for "common people" — with a
New York Times reporter in the room.

Most Disappointing City Agency: Amanda Burden and the Department of City Planning win for their laissez faire attitude on Brooklyn’s "New Fourth Avenue and their near total lack of attention to parking policy, particularly in Hell’s Kitchen.

parking.jpg

Most Schizophrenic Bloomberg Administration Moment: Three months after his transportation agency rolled out its Sustainable Streets plan, Mayor Bloomberg endorsed a big box store and 2,300-car garage for Manhattan’s west side.

Best Policy Paper That You Probably Didn’t See Because They Released it at the End of August: Suburbanizing the City,
Transportation Alternatives report studying the impact of off-street
parking requirements on traffic congestion. Conclusion: "If New York
City maintains current parking policies, the traffic generated by the
addition of new off-street spaces will likely exceed a billion miles
per year by 2030."

Best City Agency Strategic Plan: It’s got to be the Department of Transportation’s Sustainable Streets  because, as far as we know, no other city agency has a strategic plan.

Most Disappointing City Council Member: Until a few weeks ago, Bill de Blasio was a shoo-in for this category thanks to his refusal to back congestion pricing despite its promise of less traffic and cleaner air for his predominantly car-free constituents. But Alan Gerson made a last-minute surge, taking the lead when word surfaced that he would introduce a bill to give "Council and Community input into street reconfigurations." Gerson had been known to at least show up for a photo-op in support of bike and pedestrian improvements, but has now apparently cast his lot with a livable streets backlash driven by Lower Manhattan’s NIMBY contingent.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Best City Agency Strategic Plan: It’s got to be the Department of Transportation’s Sustainable Streets because, as far as we know, no other city agency has a strategic plan.”

    FYI, the 1989 City Charter requires that the Department of City Planning coordinate the production of a strategic plan for the whole city, the “Strategic Policy Statement,” and that the City Planning Commission oversee one for physical city issues, the “Planning and Zoning Report,” every few years. I know this because back in the day I was assigned to collect data and write a couple of sections of both.

    Only one Planning and Zoning report was written before it faded away, but I worked on two SPS. The main work of the SPS consisted of trying to figure out what the Mayor’s stategic plan actually was, based on speeches and trying to get information from direct appointees, buttressed by the data at hand. But I managed to sneak some ideas into the sections I worked on.

    There was one interesting moment for the Planning and Zoning Report. The head of DCP at the time had decided he didn’t want to try to work with the Commission to produce another one. Then on the day it was due, then City Comptroller Alan Hevesi, now drawing a huge tax-free pension while in jail, called to ask where it was. This of course led to a frenzy of activity for those further down in the bureaucracy like myself, pulling together information to be used in case it was needed, followed by a “never mind” — the typical sequence.

    I saw the dust fall onto these documents as they spooled out of the laser printer, so if (as is likely) the are no longer produced it is probably no loss. Government is apparently about deals, favors and interests, not about plans. And what matters, I finally came to understand, is the budget, with most of the big decisions made by the state.

  • fdr

    Alan Hevesi did not go to jail. He copped a plea. The deal was that he resign and pay a fine. No jail time.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Alan Hevesi did not go to jail. He copped a plea. The deal was that he resign and pay a fine. No jail time.”

    All well and good given the magnitude of what he did compared with the magnitude of what has come out since, in business and government. He was only guilty of the near-ubiquitous sense of entitlement of the political and executive classes.

    Hopefully somebody will eventually go to jail.

  • christine

    Bravo, this a perfect way to start the year…

  • TrinitySquared

    Thank (name your choice of religiosity here), for Sean Sweeney and the Soho Alliance.

    I don’t like cops from Mineola patroling the streets in Soho anymore than some snot-nosed activist from Williamsburg dictating where bike lanes should be put in my neighborhood.

    The moniker NIMBY has all sorts of connotations, and the least of which is racist. Congrats to the genius bar of Streetsie.

    Keep it up Sean! It is OUR neighborhood and our backyard. BITE US!

  • Peter

    good list.

    the link to “Hell’s Kitchen parking boom” is broken.

  • J. Mork

    I managed to sneak some ideas into the sections I worked on.

    My word! Isn’t that illegal?

  • anonymouse

    I personally find the phrase “the driver of the vehicle that killed you” somewhat disturbing. It’s like saying “the shooter of the bullet that killed you”. Cars don’t kill people, people kill people, whether through malice, negligence, or accident, but it is still ultimately the responsibility of the driver. Maybe if that were made clearer to everyone in general, conditions on the road (and the politics around it) would improve.

  • Paul Nagle

    Streetsblog gets the award for most disappointing reporting. Gerson currently has a bill in draft concerning the DOT and street design. The bill would require greater Council and community input on any major street reconfigurations, which could include but is not at all limited to protected bike lanes. Gerson has always been a bike advocate and rides himself. But the surest way to ignite community opposition to expanding bike lanes is to implement them without giving communities a chance for input on the details. The Chatham Square redesign incident (which had nothing to do with bike lanes), and which was a major impetus for this bill was a rallying point for Community Boards 1 and 3, which both rejected it. The Council will not be able to reverse DOT decisions, but advocating for community input is the Council Member’s job. – Paul Nagle, Director of Communications for CM Alan J. Gerson

  • The bill would require greater Council and community input on any major street reconfigurations

    And how does this bill ensure that the entire community will have input, not just the cranks and professional NIMBYs?

  • SoHo resident

    The writers (or is it writer?) of this blog have shown their true colors today. This is not the way to build consensus and good will with people that are inherently interested in supporting livable streets. Good job at alienate your own constituents. Meh.

  • This is not the way to build consensus and good will with people that are inherently interested in supporting livable streets.

    And the way to build consensus and good will with cyclists is by immediately screaming “get this bike lane off my street!” and ignoring any changes that would make the bike lane work?

  • agree on Traffic

  • Paul,

    The job of council members is to advocate for the public interest even when that interest is in conflict with the narrow, often conservative, views of entrenched stakeholders. That’s called leadership. Having the council abdicate their responsibility by demanding and then deferring to “community involvement” is disappointing. Bike lanes, better streets and better public spaces are city wide issues that demand actual leadership not the limited vision of community boards. That community boards feel left out of the process reflects the obvious fact that they’re invovlement in these issues has not been helpful to the planning process by demanding, counter to the interests of the city and the goals of DOT, more space for cars. If the council wishes to side with those community boards it should say so rather than simply passing the buck.

  • OK, so Alan Gerson’s late-December proposal seems to be out in left field, and we’re going to have to do a little work to put it back in its doghouse – not that the details are really clear yet, anyway.

    But where there are councilmembers who are opposed to Livable Streets changes at all levels (just think of all the villains of the congestion pricing debate), Alan has been generally favorable to changes that de-emphasize vehicle travel and instead lead to safer and more pleasant pedestrian and community spaces. He’s very rarely in the “enemy camp,” even if it wasn’t until the very end that he formally got on board with CP.

    In the big picture, Alan might have disappointed us with an 11th-hour swing-and-a-miss, but I’d argue that the majority of the other members are more serious impediments to a more livable city.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Thompson, Avella Pledge to Dump Sadik-Khan If Elected

|
Tony Avella and Bill Thompson. Photo: Daily News. I didn’t get to watch last night’s Democratic mayoral debate between Bill Thompson and Tony Avella, so I missed the high drama that ensued when the candidates were asked if they’ll retain Janette Sadik-Khan as transportation commissioner. Good thing Brian Lehrer played excerpts on his show this […]

¡Arriba Sevilla!

|
I was in Seville last week for the first time since February 2007, and in the intervening year there’s been something of a transportation revolution in the city. It’s most visibly evident in the Sevici bike-share bikes (bicis in Spanish) that are everywhere. The system launched in April 2007, and ultimately there will be 250 […]

Day Two: Ten Things for Governor Spitzer to Fix

|
Eliot Spitzer’s campaign for governor promised, "Day One: Everything Changes." Well, it’s Day Two and it’s time to govern. Much of New York City’s transportation policy rests in the hands of Albany legislators and agency officials. Here are ten things that the new governor can do to make New York City’s streets more livable and […]