Council Mem James Oddo: Require Enviro Review for All New Bike Lanes

Last week’s release of “before” and “after” stats on the Prospect Park West bike lane tells an increasingly familiar story: A DOT redesign has increased cycling while making the street safer for pedestrians and drivers. Since safer streets make it easier for New Yorkers to get around without a car, and since biking and walking are emissions-free modes, it’s safe to say that this is good news for the environment.

James Oddo
Staten Island Republican James Oddo. Photo: ##http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2010/09/city_council_moves_to_ease_reg.html##SI Advance##

Well, City Council Member James Oddo begs to differ.

The Post reports that Oddo and fellow Staten Island rep Vincent Ignizio want to require time-consuming environmental reviews for future NYC bike projects:

Staten Island Councilman James Oddo, the Republican minority leader, said plans for new bike lanes should undergo the city’s lengthy environmental-assessment process, or the city should allow other, more minor traffic changes to bypass the review.

Oddo and Councilman Vincent Ignizio (R-SI) penned a letter last week demanding an explanation from Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, an avid cyclist and bike-lane proponent, of why the lanes don’t require the scrutiny.

“The creation of bike lanes and the removal of vehicle travel lanes represent a major reordering of Department of Transportation priorities that may affect the environment and appear to qualify” for a formal environmental review, the letter reads.

Oddo was part of the team that successfully lobbied to kill the Father Capodanno bike lane late last year. The city erased that decades-old cycling route — in what you might call a “major reordering” of the street — without any public hearing or environmental review. Now, under the guise of environmental review, Oddo and Ignizio want to throw more monkey wrenches at bike projects.

We’ll have more on Oddo’s ideas about environmental review in a future post. What’s more notable than this single proposal is the pattern that’s emerging: Several City Council members seem intent on making their body a stagnant backwater for transportation policy, whose main purpose is to restrain New York from making streets safer.

In other American cities — places that are less transit-friendly or walkable than NYC — council members have spoken up for progressive transportation policies like setting parking meter rates according to parking demand. San Francisco’s David Chiu recently said that expanding his city’s bike network was his number one transportation priority.

NYC has some bright representatives when it comes to transportation and street safety, but overall, our City Council members need to brush up on the issues, spend less time pandering with frivolous parking giveaways, and get serious about transportation policy that will actually help their constituents.

  • Kristen

    No wonder the DOT completed so many lanes ahead of schedule. They had to know stupid politicians like this would try this kind of stuff.

  • Peter

    TA needs to get out in front of this, and FAST.

    If this gets any kind of traction, it’s going to be hell trying to dig it out of the minds of councilcritters and anyone who happens to have an anti-bike agenda.

  • Marcia Kramer’s Eyebrow

    Great! Republicans forcing the city to do more regulations and spending. I thought they were against this kind of stuff?

    If this passes, then so should environmental reviews of re-paving any street. After all, smoother streets encourage more and faster driving.

  • This sounds a lot like that injunction in San Fransisco.

  • Moser

    San Francisco was a lawsuit under existing law, this would be a change to the law.

  • AlexB

    Those things cost so much money to do, we would never get another bike lane built. Or, we could plan a huge network of bike lanes, use the environmental assessment to show how awesome they are for the city, and get bike lanes on every street.

  • Cyclists! Unite and act now before it is too late!

    Call for the RESIGNATION of any NYC politicians who make the argument for more bureaucracy, litigation, ineffective enforcement, or other wastes of taxpayer dollars to discourage safer streets for bikes and pedestrians!

    Flood their phones, jam their faxes, picket their offices and make their public appearances into a reminder that their political theater is going to cost money the city can’t afford to spend, and lives that we refuse to sacrificed to the automobile.

    It is time for CRITICAL MASS to ride again. Rise up! Push back!

  • J

    This is absolute crap, and they know it. It has nothing to do with the environment and everything to do with general anti-bike sentiment.

    If this passes, we must also require scrutiny of not doing anything: measure the impact of NOT implementing congestion pricing, the impact of not increasing parking meters, the impact of not installing speed cameras. This is sick that they’d require environmental reviews for life-saving, environmentally beneficial projects. History will show them to be obstructionist regressives, if anyone has any doubt already.

  • Ed Gerson

    It is not clear exactly what Oddo is proposing, or exactly how the City Council can do what he is suggesting. It appears he wants to change CEQRA. New York City’s Environmental Quality Review process (CEQRA,)was established in the City Charter. The Charter gives the mayor the power to administer CEQRA, which is now done by the Mayor’s Office of Environmental Coordination. CEQRA is a process which calls for different levels of scrutiny for different actions. The DOT already appears to do most, if not all of the data collection that the first couple levels of CEQRA require; including collecting traffic data, crash information and level of service measurements. Changing CEQRA for this irrational purpose would be strongly opposed by all professional planning organizations, environmental groups, and environmental regulators.

  • Bugg

    What is so bad about this? Will not bike lanes pass such studies with flying colors? Are you suggesting real empirical data about traffic flow, congestion, exhaust,bike use,etc. would somehow not agree with more bike lanes? Everything else already does get that kind of scrutiny and review by community boards. Ms. Kahn has by her own hubris made enemies of many New Yorkers who otherwise would be inclined to think well of bike lanes. If advocacy of bike continues to consist of scornful dragooning communities with fiats from The Kahn rather than explaining and discussing the facts and issues, we are going to see fewer bike lanes in the future.Instead of assuming the total goodness of bike lanes, you would be well-advised to sell such ideas with hard data rather than moral preening and vitriol for your opponents.

  • Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    Wondering if changing parking regulations and adding left hand turn lanes, etc etc will be subject to enviro regulations too? It’s only fair then. When will it end? How much money does this guy want us to spend? Crazy.

  • Danny G

    You can also retroactively measure the environmental impact of any street that was ever widened and use it as justification to restore sidewalks to Fifth Avenue, the Park to Park Avenue, rebuild the buildings that used to stand in the southern half of Houston Street, return Broadway to it’s pre-Dutch walking trail roots, and even return two-way traffic to all one-way streets. What’s so special about the present day that it be used as a baseline?

  • Time to check Oddo’s campaign contributions. Exxon? GM? The House of Saud? Norman Steisel? Given that his district is probably less under “assault” from cyclists and other green, healthy forms of transportation than any Councilmember’s, one has to wonder what’s motivating him.

  • Bugg

    Again will you talk to and engage your opponents constructively, or will demonize them?

    As to Cappadanno, there is a boardwalk/promenade along the beach just east and past the VZ which is fine and dandy for bikes which goes for a good chunk of Cappadanno’s length. Staten Island for better or worse will always be more car-centric than any other boro. If your idea of progress consists of The Khan from on high telling the evil car people how it will be, those people are going to push back. Mom told you you can get more with sugar than vinegar. Mom was right.

  • Eric, the motivation is to push back at the mayor for the ineffective job of snow removal last month. The best way to do that is to grumble about his perceived favorite appointees. Bicycle lanes stand for the mayor.

    Oddo’s office is at 718-980-1017. You can call and complain directly; I just did.

  • Danny G

    Eric,

    Bugg’s got a point. Better you hear it here on the blog than at a public meeting.

  • Chris

    Bugg, who is demonizing whom by calling the DOT commissioner, “The Khan” ?

  • Geck

    Bugg,
    It is patently obvious that bike lanes are good for the environment. It is equally obvious that requiring minor adjustments to streets go through a comprehensive environmental review process is obstructionist. Sorry, Oddo’s proposal is evil. All bike lane proposals are presented to community boards for review, so lay off the crap about them coming from on high.

  • Ace

    He also serves parts of Brooklyn, here’s his finest hour:

  • Danny G

    I’d assume Bugg’s playing a bit of Devil’s Advocate. Of course he or she is laying bait about “The Khan”. They’re even spelling it wrong for effect or to seem more “authentic” or “middle class”. My only advice would be to not take such bait, and keep the ball in the court of facts (i.e. emphasize the existing protocol of DOT CB outreach and CEQRA).

  • “Ms. Kahn has by her own hubris made enemies of many New Yorkers who otherwise would be inclined to think well of bike lanes.”

    You mean the New York Post, Marcia Kramer, Marty Markowtiz, and others who simply adored bike lanes before JSK came along? Anything that takes space away from drivers is going to be met with opposition from some, especially that crowd, no matter who sells it and for whatever reason. You could place a wish-granting-genie who gives ponies to children on the street and this crew would be against them because they’d lose two parking spaces.

    …you would be well-advised to sell such ideas with hard data rather than moral preening…

    Yes, that strategy has clearly worked so well on Prospect Park West, many years, many hearings, and many studies into the process. Have you noticed how Marty just jumped the microphone to extol the virtues of the DOT and its research? He can’t stop talking about their hard data and how reliable it is.

  • Bugg

    The perception in the media and elsewhere is Khan,who refuses to do any media interviews after the snow debacle, has rammed through bike lanes with very limited community input. Now that may or may not be the truth, but it’s a perception. It’s not patently obvious that bike lanes are always and forever a good thing. If that is the way you wish to make progress, you will make no progress at all. Engage people, politely, with hard data and a sunny disposition.

  • Bugg, you’re right that that is the perception. No argument here.

    However, if you had been at the DOT presentation at CB6 last week you would have seen a civil, polite, calm presentation of hard facts. I think both sides behaved themselves quite well, in fact.

    That didn’t prevent Marty Markowitz from getting on CBS2 a day or two later to claim that cyclists had been tipped off by the DOT on count days and it didn’t stop the NY Post from quoting Norman Steisel, a former sanitation head, on the subject of transportation, in two articles since the meeting.

    It may not be obvious to some that bike lanes are a good idea. I totally agree. But the notion that all one side has to do is present facts in a calm, thoughtful and protracted manner in order to turn around the opposition is ludicrous.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Changing CEQRA for this irrational purpose would be strongly opposed by all professional planning organizations, environmental groups, and environmental regulators.”

    As I’ve noted here, “environmental review” has long since devolved into a cost inflating form of legalized theft. The goal here is a $6 million review for every $20,000 bike lane expenditure.

    You can count on certain people in City Planning who created the environmental review manual to fight it.

    But don’t count on the American Planning Association or Municipal Art Society. Lots of consultants at the top in those organizations, and they’d love to be able to tell Transportation Alternatives and Streetsblog that they have to raise $hundreds of thousands to give to them for every mile of bike lane.

    If Oddo is so opposed to bike lanes and similar improvements, I say cut his district out.

  • Shemp

    There’s all of two miles of lanes in his district now and nothing new.

  • Larry,

    As a member of the APA, I’m not buying that argument. I think that most planners would rather be paid to actually PLAN then to litigate. We would get paid either way. Most of us get into planning because we would like to create a better world, not to collect an ill-gotten and inflated paycheck.

    Anyway, I think you really don’t have much to worry about. $6 gas ($7 in NYC) will shut these guys up really quick. You watch. In a year or two when gas skyrockets again, these politicians will be doing nothing but singing the praises of bicycle infrastructure and how they’ve been supporters all along.

    You watch!

  • Larry Littlefield

    “As a member of the APA, I’m not buying that argument. I think that most planners would rather be paid to actually PLAN then to litigate.”

    As someone who served as Treasurer of the NY metro chapter (albeit long ago) I can tell you that those running the organization has no conception of the damage of the cost and delays of protracted review processes — even if the rank and file did.

    Maybe a more realistic view has filtered up. But many of those who had the time to attend the meetings, during the work day, worked for consulting firms. And I’m sure that many would still hold today that having a detailed environmental review process for any change is an appropriate thing to do.

    “What is so bad about this? Will not bike lanes pass such studies with flying colors? Are you suggesting real empirical data about traffic flow, congestion, exhaust,bike use,etc. would somehow not agree with more bike lanes?”

    The author could be a troll. Or it could be a consultant. And environmental reviews do not have empirical data — since that requires “before” and “after.” They have models based on the “worst case” that are routinely litigated. Back at City Planning, I recall arguing with consultants (and even applicants) trying to prevent them from exaggerated assumptions because they were worried about lawsuits (they got sued anyway). I’m sure such a model could have shown that the PPW bike lane would have caused the deaths of thousands.

  • Steven F

    Oddo brackets both sides of the Narrows.
    The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge was supposed to have two bike/pedestrian paths but Moses took them out during the last year of construction. Nearly 50 years and the bridge is still not finished.

    But Oddo fights for Staten Island residents to get big MTA discounts on their Easy Pass bridge tolls – only good if they drive their cars, no bikes allowed.

    Unfortunately, we need this guy if we want to get the bike/ped access on the VNB. Or do we?

  • dirtycrumbs

    I used to think you were right Andy but I don’t know anymore. Judging from what has happened since 2008, I don’t know that there’s a perfect relationship between oil supply and oil price. It looks like the market’s reaction to a peaking supply is to, not produce an expected rise in the price of oil, but rather cut jobs and economic activity. It looks our economy is incapable of stability once oil approaches $80 – $100 a barrel. (There are people much smarter than me making similar argument on the Oil Drum…).

    Instead of the price of oil continuing to rise, we may instead see chronic unemployment and diminished GDP as a reaction to dwindling oil supplies. Unfortunately I fear this will only further confuse the issue of our very serious energy problems and give rise to a new class of political demagogues – much like the anti-bike lane crew here in NYC.

  • Anthony

    I’d like to drop Marty in the middle of a bike lane in Copenhagen. Just force him to stand in the middle of it for a few hours – his worst nightmare…

  • Anthony

    Sorry – wrong post!

  • Anyway, I think you really don’t have much to worry about. $6 gas ($7 in NYC) will shut these guys up really quick. You watch. In a year or two when gas skyrockets again, these politicians will be doing nothing but singing the praises of bicycle infrastructure and how they’ve been supporters all along.

    I wish! More likely, they’ll be pandering about “speculators” and “price gougers,” and clamoring to “drill baby drill” and “open the strategic petroleum reserve!”

  • Andrew

    No, they’d probably push for a gas tax suspension.

  • Marsha Kramer’s Eyebrow

    Why does the City Council pride itself on trying to make driving easier for people all the time? I just don’t get it. We live in the only city in the U.S. where fewer households own cars then do not.

    Yet here is just some of the pro-car council action….

    – Did away with Sunday parking rules.
    – 5 minute grace period for parking tickets
    – Recently found millions in the budget to keep meter rates rising by 25 cents in some neighborhoods.
    – Keeps finding ways to shorten the length of alternate side for cleaning rules

    And now a new proposal wants to allow pregnant women to park in no-parking or no-standing zones? How about the tons of women I see pregnant walking on the street and riding the subways, they seem to get around just fine.

    Yet we have people like Oddo in office who want to make it harder to ride bikes. And we don’t have councilmembers fighting for congesition pricing, or finding money for transit riders as service continues to go down and the cost of a ride goes up.

    Makes you wonder if we really are in a Democratic-heavy city.

  • bike lanes suck

    The bike lanes in nyc are traffic congestion spreaders.

  • Nat

    the cars make traffic congestion, not the bikes. I’d rather have too many bikes than too many cars. think of air that you breath.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Enviro Law Experts: Review For Bike Lanes a Waste of Taxpayer Money

|
You know something’s amiss when you hear Republicans calling for more red tape and government bureaucracy, as Staten Island Council Members James Oddo and Vincent Ignizio did earlier this week with their call to require environmental review for all new bike lanes. But let’s indulge Oddo and Ignizio and take their proposal seriously for a […]

Electeds, Local Media Wage War on Staten Island Cyclists

|
The recent motorist assault on a Staten Island cyclist is a symptom of anti-bike bias routinely displayed by local politicians and the Staten Island Advance, as chronicled on a web site encouraging action for safe streets. Council Members Vincent Ignizio (l) and James Oddo scientifically prove that bikes can’t fit on Jefferson Avenue in Dongan […]