Last week a group of 12 City Council members announced that they’re forming a new bloc, called the progressive caucus, "dedicated to creating a more just and equal New York City." The Times notes that the caucus signifies an unusual development, in that the members came together around shared ideology, not racial or sexual identity.
Streetsblog readers will notice that the caucus is led by two members who’ve been enthusiastic supporters of sustainable transportation initiatives that promise to improve life for New York’s transit-dependent majority, many of whom cannot afford to own a car. Melissa Mark-Viverito and Brad Lander have both taken vocal stands in favor of congestion pricing and Bus Rapid Transit, citing the numerous benefits of better transit for poor and middle class New Yorkers.
It remains to be seen how the bloc as a whole, which includes members from all five boroughs, will address transportation. The caucus is still working out the details of its policy agenda. "I certainly anticipate that in the weeks and months to come they’ll be forming subcommittees related to specific issues," said Rachel Goodman, Lander’s chief of staff.
For now, there is a broadly worded plank in the caucus’s statement of principles [PDF] that links transportation to sustainability and environmental justice. It calls for "a more sustainable and environmentally just city, that takes the lead in preserving the environment for generations to come, improving the health of current residents, insuring a sound transportation system, and working toward a more equitable distribution of burdens and benefits." Viverito also told the Times that the caucus thinks Mayor Bloomberg has performed well on environmental initiatives.
The other ten members of the caucus are Margaret Chin, Daniel Dromm, Julissa Ferreras, Letitia James, Rosie Mendez, Annabel Palma, Ydanis Rodriguez, Deborah Rose, Jimmy Van Bramer, and Jumaane Williams. All together they control nearly a quarter of the 51 votes on the council.
With transit funding and better bus service on the line in Albany these days, it will be interesting to see whether the caucus takes positions on issues that play out at the state level. "I’m sure there will be situations where they choose to weigh in," Goodman told Streetsblog. "That said, I think they’ll be pretty focused on the legislative matters before the city."