We continue our series on City Council candidates with a Q&A with Green Party candidate Tom Siracuse, who’s running to represent District 6 on the Upper West Side. Earlier this week, we ran responses from real estate executive Ken Biberaj, Democratic Party District Leader Marc Landis, and former Community Board 7 chair Helen Rosenthal. We will continue later this week with former Community Board 7 chair Mel Wymore. Streetsblog did not receive questionnaire responses from Democratic State Committeewoman Debra Cooper and education activist Noah Gotbaum.
Streetsblog: The effort to bring protected bike lanes to the Upper West Side continues to face hurdles from some community board members. Do you think the lanes are a benefit for the neighborhood? Do you want to see them expanded and, if so, where?
Tom Siracuse: I am in favor of bringing protected bike lanes to the Upper West Side. The more people using bikes, the less air pollution. A study would have to made so that bike lanes will not cause undue traffic congestion such as on Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues.
SB: Outgoing Council Member Gale Brewer has been a strong supporter of closing the Central Park drives to automobile traffic. Do you also support a car-free Central Park? If so, how would you like to see a car-free Central Park implemented?
TS: I favor a car-free Central Park all year. The only roadways open to traffic should be the crosstown transverses that do not affect the interior roadways.
SB: Citi Bike was launched last month. Plans call for the program to be expanded to the Upper West Side in the future. Do you support the siting of bike-share stations in the neighborhood?
SB: On the East Side, Select Bus Service on First and Second Avenues has led to faster bus speeds. Do you want dedicated bus lanes and other service improvements for bus riders on the Upper West Side, and if so, where?
TS: We already have an express bus on the 5 bus that goes on Riverside Drive and then to Broadway. Express buses can alternate with regular buses on the 104, 7, 10 and and 11 lines. My experience with installing machines to buy bus passes before entering the bus is not good. People approaching the bus stop often do not have enough time to buy the pass at the machine before a bus takes off, delaying their travel time. Seniors and the disabled can get stressed out with this extra step.
SB: How can the Council best use its powers to reduce vehicular deaths and ensure traffic justice citywide?
TS: Taxis must be required to pull over to the curb or as close as possible to pick up riders and they must not be allowed to cut across lanes to pick up riders; the police and ambulance drivers should only be allowed to use their sirens and go through red lights and stop signs in case of emergencies; more time should be given to pedestrians at cross walk lights; and traffic violations should be strictly enforced. Speed limit signs should be out on our streets and avenues.
SB: The MTA is a state agency, but what actions would you like to see the City Council take to fund and expand transit service?
TS: The MTA should be turned over to NYC and its board should be appointed by the mayor with Council approval. Its finances should be under close public scrutiny. The riding public should not be made to shoulder the major cost of a mass transit system. Mass transit is an essential public service benefitting all sectors of our economy, just as the public schools. It should not be run as a profit-loss enterprise resulting in a cut in service when its budget is in the red. If fares are reduced, more people will use mass transit. A small transit tax on businesses, hotels and private cars would help finance mass transit as well as increasing subsidies from the Port Authority.