Streetsblog continues our series on City Council candidates with a look at the race for District 5 in Manhattan, covering Yorkville, Roosevelt Island, and the Upper East Side. The seat has been held by Jessica Lappin, who is now running for Manhattan borough president, for two terms.
There are four candidates vying for the seat. Republican David Garland, a business management consultant, is joined by three Democrats: Community Board 8 member Ed Hartzog, government transparency advocate Ben Kallos, and Assembly Member Micah Kellner.
Streetsblog sent questionnaires to the campaigns to get a better understanding of where the candidates stand on transit, traffic safety, and transportation policy. We begin today in alphabetical order with responses from Garland and will run answers from Kallos in a separate post. Hartzog and Kellner did not respond.
Streetsblog: The East River Greenway could serve as a primary route for walking and bicycling in the district, but it is disconnected and in need of upgrades. Plans to complete the greenway proceed on a project-by-project basis without a comprehensive vision for a continuous path from 125th Street to the Battery. How would you improve the greenway as council member?
David Garland: I have a grand vision for the East River Greenway, as I think it’s some of the most poorly utilized real estate in Manhattan. Not only should bike and walking paths be seamlessly connected, but we should be finding creative ways to lure people to this beautiful area of the city with limited riverside cafes and restaurants. The area needs buttressing against future storms, and a redesign of the corridor should be done simultaneously.
SB: Protected bike lanes have increased bicycling rates on First and Second Avenue. Do you support these changes? Where else would you like to see protected bike lanes on the Upper East Side?
DG: Absolutely. I think anything that increases biking rates and decreases vehicular traffic is good for health and the environment. That said, the safety challenges that pedestrians face with speeding bikers need to be addressed, as well as the challenges bikers face with the bike lanes being used for commercial staging and pedestrian use also need to be addressed.
SB: Select Bus Service upgrades have sped buses and increased ridership on the same avenues. Do you support these changes? Where else would you like to see bus improvements on the Upper East Side? What types of changes, specifically, would you like to see to bus service?
DG: Yes. I am an avid rider of public transportation, and Select Bus Service has been a very welcome addition to MTA service. I would like additional improvements, such as speeding up the crosstown bus service which is still plagued with bottlenecks during rush hours, and also bus arrival clocks on the avenue SBS routes, similar to the subway, so people can better manage their commutes.
SB: Citi Bike was launched late this spring. Plans call for the program to be expanded to the Upper East Side in the future. Do you support the siting of bike-share stations in the neighborhood?
DG: Yes. I think the Citi Bike program, though it had some initial kinks, has largely been a positive development for the city. There are still some technical challenges with the system, but these will be worked out over time and ridership will continue to grow.
SB: How can the Council best use its powers to reduce vehicular deaths and ensure traffic justice citywide?
DG: The City Council needs to focus on ensuring that the laws are enforced, for all who use New York City’s streets. This, of course, includes, pedestrians, vehicles and bicycles. In my district there are areas that are particularly problematic for pedestrian safety and those need to be addressed first.
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?
DG: The City Council has a powerful voice in representing the public transportation interests of its constituents. The City Council should use this voice to ensure that Albany is aware of all ridership issues and they are properly prioritized. The City Council needs to ensure that there are proponents and regular users of the MTA on the board. The city does contribute to the MTA budget, but that contribution has been declining, and the city needs to prioritize its budget priorities to ensure the MTA is the priority it should be for the city. As we’ve seen with the Second Avenue subway, communication and transparency between the MTA and the communities of New York City can be vastly improved, and improving this communication would be a priority of mine as a city council member.