West Harlem Council Candidates Want Bike-Share, Complete 125th Street SBS

District 7 City Council candidates Brodie Enoch, Christina Gonzalez, David Sasscer-Bergos, Joyce Johnson, Mark Levine, Mark Otto, Zead Ramadan, and Ruben Dario Vargas at last night's sustainability forum, hosted by the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund and WE ACT for Environmental Justice at Convent Avenue Baptist Church. Photo: Stephen Miller

Candidates for a City Council seat on the west side of Upper Manhattan expressed support for bike-share expansion and complete Select Bus Service on 125th Street at a campaign forum last night. Some candidates urged the city to restore the original SBS plan and extend the bus lane west, after DOT curtailed its proposal to the delight of State Senator Bill Perkins.

Candidates Brodie Enoch, Christina Gonzalez, Joyce Johnson, Mark Levine, Mark Otto, Zead Ramadan, David Sasscer-Burgos, and Ruben Dario Vargas attended last night’s sustainability forum, sponsored by the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund and WE ACT for Environmental Justice.

Enoch, who serves on Community Board 11’s transportation committee and is a former Transportation Alternatives staffer, told Streetsblog after the forum that he is afraid riders on the western end of 125th Street are never going to get a bus lane. “[The city and MTA] are going to other corridors where there’s less resistance,” he said.

Levine called the diminished plan “crazy” because it no longer features bus lanes from Lenox to Morningside Avenues. “Our community will not have, under the current plan, a bus-only lane. That deprives us of the main benefit of Select Bus Service,” he said.

Johnson said that paying her fare before boarding SBS routes confused her at first, but she quickly understood how it helped speed up and improve bus service. “It is much quicker across town on these major thoroughfares,” she said. Otto joined her in expressing general support for SBS on 125th Street.

Ramadan joined Levine and Enoch in calling for the full bus lane proposal to be restored. One of his other ideas for bus service didn’t make as much sense: To reduce bus idling in the district, he suggested that Bronx buses should terminate on the Bronx side of the Harlem River, and that riders transfer to Manhattan via a shuttle bus every 15 minutes.

Neither Sasser-Bergos nor Gonzalez discussed SBS in response to a question about the program.

When asked to identify the greatest environmental challenge facing the district, Enoch and Levine both singled out traffic and livable streets. “To be a greener city and a safer city, we have to entirely re-vision how we use streets,” Levine told Streetsblog after the forum. He added that he supports on-street parking removal for bike lanes and loading zones, off-street parking maximums in the zoning code, and market prices for on-street parking. Levine and Ramadan both told Streetsblog after the forum that they support a car-free Central Park.

Ramadan, a former Community Board 12 chair, trumpeted his support for a public parking garage with ground floor retail built on a city-owned site at Broadway and 184th Street under an agreement with the Economic Development Corporation. “The city should develop municipal parking structures,” he told Streetsblog after the forum, adding that new residential or commercial development wouldn’t have served community needs. “What we needed to do is get cars off the street.”

The gray outline denoted the new District 7 boundary following redistricting. The yellow area is the current District 7, represented by Robert Jackson. Image: ##http://209.156.236.68/dist/nycdistricting20130206.html##NYC Districting Commission##

Sasscer-Bergos called for an expansion of the recently-approved speed camera program, and Enoch mentioned the harmful effects of MTA budget raids by Albany, adding that the city should increase its contribution to the agency.

All the candidates supported expanding bike-share to the district. Johnson expressed concerns that the $101 hold Citi Bike places on credit cards is a barrier to low-income people, and said that alternatives or subsidies must be examined to make bike-share more accessible. Enoch, echoing Johnson’s concerns about the program’s cost, again cited his experience advocating for bike-share during his time at Transportation Alternatives.

Otto, however, said that station locations were poorly planned. “I support bike-share, but let’s look at the communities that have already instituted and learned from their mistakes. We have to involve community boards,” Otto said, even though community boards were involved in the planning process. “Where are we putting the bikes? We’ve seen lots of bikes put in front of places where they should never be.” He worried about bike-share’s impact on street safety, while also raising concerns about dirt bike racers on neighborhood streets. “You can’t just bring a whole bunch of bikes and think everything’s going to be okay,” he said.

Levine batted away Otto’s objections, calling bike-share “wildly successful” and noting that there have been only three injuries in the program’s first 500,000 rides. Gonzalez, Ramadan, and Vargas also support the program, though Ramadan said uptown’s exclusion from bike-share’s initial service area arose from the city’s bias against less affluent neighborhoods, and Gonzalez objected to Citibank’s sponsorship.

All the candidates support the East 91st Street waste transfer station. A decade ago, the facility was proposed for the Hudson River at 135th Street, in District 7, but was moved to a different district on the East Side as part of the city’s Solid Waste Management Plan following pressure from environmental justice advocates. By transferring waste to barges, the station is expected to cut down on truck trips, although it would lead to a greater concentration of truck trips in the immediate area surrounding the facility.

The candidates all committed to participatory budgeting; Enoch and Johnson said they had participated in Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito’s budgeting process in East Harlem and found it to be very successful. Vargas also reiterated his call for complete overnight shutdowns of the subway system for maintenance, which he supported at a forum for Assembly candidates last fall.

The District 7 seat is currently held by term-limited Robert Jackson, who is running for Manhattan borough president. Jackson has not replied to questions from Streetsblog about the curtailed SBS plan on 125th Street.

The district’s boundaries have shifted southward in this election cycle, while the northern edge of the district, which once extended to the top of Inwood, now ends at 165th Street. The district includes parts of the Upper West Side, Morningside Heights, Manhattanville, Sugar Hill, Hamilton Heights, and Washington Heights.

  • Agnes Clarice

    Mark Levine for the NYC Council!

  • Mark Otto

    I would just clarify that I was in no way opposed to bike share and bike lanes. I was making sure to urge all candidates to be thoughtful about how we implement that program uptown to be sure we have community involvement and that we keep safety in mind. Too often we rush into important projects without proper planning and I want to be sure we do this well.

  • cc

    ” “Where are we putting the bikes? We’ve seen lots of bikes put in front of places where they should never be.””

    What a moronic statement. They only place they shouldn’t be in front of is fire hydrants. And they aren’t in front of fire hydrants. So there’s no problem.

  • Bronxite

    It’s a great misconception that Citi Bike placement was randomly implemented. There was great community involvement and quite an analysis by the DOT. This included but was not limited to online suggestions and hundreds of meetings.

    Personally, i’m glad to hear you support alternative transportation like Bike Share. However, keep in mind that the communities of Upper Manhattan and the Bronx are often neglected and desire new implementations seen in Lower/Midtown Manhattan and North Brooklyn. We wait a long time and receive little. Just compare the liveable streets improvements Uptown to Downtown.

  • Bronxite

    It’s a great misconception that Citi Bike placement was randomly implemented. There was great community involvement and quite an analysis by the DOT. This included but was not limited to online suggestions and hundreds of meetings.

    Personally, i’m glad to hear you support alternative transportation like Bike Share. However, keep in mind that the communities of Upper Manhattan and the Bronx are often neglected and desire new implementations seen in Lower/Midtown Manhattan and North Brooklyn. We wait a long time and receive little. Just compare the liveable streets improvements Uptown to Downtown.

  • Daphna

    You have not helped yourself with this comment and explanation. The DOT held over 400 meetings involving the communities and community boards in all the neighborhoods that received docking stations. To say that bikeshare was not implemented thoughtfully is to be ignorant. To say that it was rushed into without proper planning is also to be ignorant. To say that bikeshare was not done well is to be ignorant. There was thorough planning. There was extensive community involvement through meetings, through online involvement, through surveys – with both community boards and community residents. As much as you see projects that are rushed into, too often important projects gets delayed for years and years due to bureaucracy.

  • Daphna

    Mark Levine is very informed. His knowledge of livable streets issues is impressive. Brodie Enoch also has good views. Brodie is currently the co-chair of Manhattan Community Board 11’s Transportation Committee. However, in that role he is not a strong voice. He supports the right issues but doesn’t try to educate others on his committee who are against street improvements. Mark Levine seems like he would be a stronger voice on the city council level advocating for livable streets in his district. None of the other candidates seem sufficiently informed, which shows that street safety is not something that would be high on their priority list. Hopefully Mark Levine will win on Sept. 10th.

  • Daphna

    Mark Levine is very informed. His knowledge of livable streets issues is impressive. Brodie Enoch also has good views. Brodie is currently the co-chair of Manhattan Community Board 11’s Transportation Committee. However, in that role he is not a strong voice. He supports the right issues but doesn’t try to educate others on his committee who are against street improvements. Mark Levine seems like he would be a stronger voice on the city council level advocating for livable streets in his district. None of the other candidates seem sufficiently informed, which shows that street safety is not something that would be high on their priority list. Hopefully Mark Levine will win on Sept. 10th.

  • me

    I’d like to see bike share and protected bike lanes on the upper east side too. when will that happen?

  • Robert Lynn

    Sasscer-Burgos suggestion that we expand the speed camera program is practical , doable and can save lives.

  • Go Stina

    Stephen, I appreciate you covering the forum. I am confident that next time you will take extra attention to quoting me correctly. Perhaps we can sit down for an interview? You are a street blogger, a 600% increase of our youth being stopped and frisked on their own streets seems relevant. Perhaps the 61% increase of homelessness in NYC streets; Citibank along with Chase and Bank of America own 40% of the total commercial banking sector assets… Perhaps we can discuss the arrest of activists filming NYPD on Harlem streets, and illegal checkpoints on secluded streets, creative ways to bike-share other than tricking victims of predatory institutions into relinquishing more of their earnings to the same banks that stole from them in the first place, while disguising it as a solution to environmental collapse. Peace.

  • PurpleNinjaTurtle

    “I am confident that next time you will take extra attention to quoting me correctly.” – wut? uh, you were not quoted in this article…. 😐

  • PurpleNinjaTurtle

    … and Otto gets double pwnd.

  • Andrew

    This is all he says about you:

    Neither Sasser-Bergos nor Gonzalez discussed SBS in response to a question about the program.

    and

    Gonzalez, Ramadan, and Vargas also support the program, though … Gonzalez objected to Citibank’s sponsorship.

    Based on your comments here (I did not bother to watch the YouTube video), it does appear that description of your feelings on the bike share program are accurate.

    Your other points don’t seem to be particularly relevant to this blog’s focus, so they weren’t discussed. Seems pretty straightforward to me.

  • Go Stina

    Yes, that is my point. And when I completely disagreed with bring Citibikes to Harlem, that surely did not mean that all candidates were in favor. I don’t respect biased and inaccurate reporting. Thank you.

  • Go Stina

    Well, people who don’t experience racism and poverty never think that the topics are relevant. But thank you for attempting to be concerned. Peace

  • Andrew

    I’m glad you have priorities. I’m glad you are fighting for them.

    Many of us on Streetsblog have different priorities, no less important than yours. We will cast our ballots based on our priorities, not on yours.

    You needn’t run on a platform that we would find attractive, but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t attract many votes from us.

  • H

    How on earth do you know whether any Streetsblog reader has or hasn’t experienced poverty or racism? Or considers them irrelevant? That is quite an extraordinary, unjustified, thing to say.

  • Daphna

    Commentator “Go Stina” is Christina Gonzalez?

    Signatures of registered democrats from District 7 were due July 11th at midnight. I wonder if all eight candidates got enough signatures to be on the ballot?

  • PurpleNinjaTurtle

    “and to limit parking so that the cost of it stays high since demand outstrips supply, and to invest in public transportation and bike infrastructure so that people have a choice of another way to get around other than driving.”

    Word, +1. Adding more cheap garages just makes it easier for people to drive around, and in Ramadan’s case it’s a Lexus. :p

  • observer

    Is Christina Gonzalez the Green Party candidate?

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