Can Livable Streets Activism Revive the Public Advocate’s Office?

From a livable streets perspective, the race for public advocate is that rare contest with no clear-cut villains. 

After the quiet tenure of Betsy Gotbaum, the next public advocate will probably seek a higher profile simply to justify the continued existence of the office. Almost any topic is fair game for the public advocate to focus on, so there’s plenty of headline-grabbing potential for a crusading elected official who cares about traffic safety, sustainable transportation, and the allocation of scarce street space. Lax traffic enforcement and the ongoing abuse of government parking placards, for instance, immediately leap to mind as worthy targets of a public advocate investigation. Someone with a better flair for PR than Gotbaum could force some action on these and other issues.

Here’s a brief rundown on the contenders:

Norman Siegel is running for this office for the third time. A former director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, he’s won over many New York City bike activists by advocating on behalf of cyclists’ rights, and he thinks the NYPD needs better training in their treatment of cyclists. His responses to the TA candidate survey reveal an enthusiasm for car-free parks and congestion-busting parking policies. Notably, the civil rights attorney told TA that automated enforcement cameras to deter speeding and red light running pass muster from a privacy perspective.

Western Queens Council rep Eric Gioia
gained some significant livable streets cred when he voted "yes" on
congestion pricing last year, a position he has embraced. Gioia told TA
that the city should "revisit" congestion pricing, and he’s given some
thought to the city’s long-term development, citing the need to
"situate growth in mixed use areas, with easy access to mass
transportation." That’s a refreshing insight to see from a citywide
candidate and hints at a potential public advocate exposé of the city’s unsustainable parking policies and traffic-inducing development patterns.

Mark Green pretty much defined the public advocate position, serving two terms before his 2001 mayoral bid flamed out and the Gotbaum era began. He’s out to prove that another go-round won’t just be a retread. Based on his TA survey response, he’s up-to-speed on some of the more pressing and current transportation topics facing New York City. The need for congestion pricing, a robust BRT network, and open data on traffic crashes are all on Green’s radar.

Council member Bill de Blasio redeemed his "no" vote on congestion pricing, sort of, by endorsing Shelly Silver’s compromise bridge toll plan this spring. But it came too late and too quietly to make much of a difference during Albany’s closed door talks on transit funding. While he’s no bike lane hater, the best you can say about his transportation positions is that he’s still in favor of bridge tolls pegged to the subway fare, and he’d like to see a car-free trial in Prospect Park.

There you have it. The polls open at 6 a.m. on Tuesday.

  • Thanks for the summary Ben! After reading this, I think de Blasio went from 3rd to 4th on my list going below Green. I hope one of my top two make the run-off…

  • I have spent the last several months working my heart out so that NYC will have the civil rights attorney Norman Siegel as there next Public Advocate. This job is to defend the people against the government, and that is exactly what Norman has been doing throughout his life.

    If everyone asks 10 friends to vote then we have a very strong chance of winning this low turn-out election, because all of our friends votes will REALLY COUNT!!!

    Check out these videos that show what a powerful peoples advocate Norman Siegel has been. We must take 10 minutes from our day this Tuesday, September 15th, to vote Norman Siegel into office for Public Advocate.

    This link has videos and info on Norman advocating for us, including our right to congregate. The city tried to impose a law that no more than 50 people, in this case cyclists, could congregate with out getting permission and a parade permit. Norman Siegel fought back for us!

    Additionally, see more video and info of Norman Siegel advocating for the people on important subjects such as rent regulations, stop and frisk policies, rent laws, Gowanus Canal, Atlantic Yards, etc…see below.

    Thanks to the organizations supporting Norman in Tuesday’s primary, which include; New York Community Council, Park River Independent Democrats, Village Reform Democratic Club, The Grand Council of Guardians, New York Metro Area Postal Union, Audubon Democrats, Three Parks Independent Democrats, Broadway Democrats, Village Independent Democrats, Brooklyn Democrats for Change Club, Democracy for New York City, Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats. Norman has also received the support of newspapers including The New York Amsterdam News and The Brooklyn Papers, who called him “the only bulldog of the bunch.”

    Thank you so much,

  • typo on with there–should have been their


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