What the Manhattan BP Candidates Said About Bike-Share Last Night

Manhattan borough president candidates Julie Menin, Robert Jackson, and Gale Brewer. Photo: Camila Schaulsohn/AIA-NY

Borough presidents have limited power, but the influence they wield can still make a big difference for livable streets, especially by making community board appointments and weighing in during the city’s land use review process. The four Democratic candidates for Manhattan borough president — City Council members Gale Brewer, Robert Jackson, and Jessica Lappin, plus former Community Board 1 chair Julie Menin — often sound very similar to each other, and few distinctions emerged at a forum hosted last night by the Center for Architecture featuring Brewer, Jackson, and Menin. But telling differences emerged when the candidates were asked for their thoughts about the bike-share program and the planning process that preceded the launch of the system.

Over the course of 2011 and 2012, DOT hosted more than 150 meetings with business interests, neighborhood organizations, and community boards, including public meetings where residents could suggest bike-share station locations. The outreach effort included an online suggestion map for people who couldn’t make the meetings. All told, you’d be hard-pressed to identify a transportation initiative in New York City that underwent a more extensive public engagement process.

DOT hosted a bike-share planning workshop in March 2012 in partnership with CB 1, and also made two presentations — one to the planning and infrastructure committee, and another to the full board, according to the agency’s website. But that wasn’t sufficient for Menin, who chaired CB 1 until June 2012. “There wasn’t enough community outreach,” she told Streetsblog after the forum. “I fully support the idea of bike-share,” she said. “That said, it’s got to be put in places where the community is supportive.”

“You heard about it all on the news. The community wasn’t consulted,” Jackson said during the forum, asserting that powerful people were able to get stations moved after they were installed. “It needs to be a plan where the community board says okay, here are the areas where we’re going to put them,” he told me after the event. “It was obvious to me as an elected public official, that not enough was done.”

Brewer was the candidate who didn’t equivocate in her support of bike-share. “Some people would make Janette Sadik-Khan a dartboard, but I like her and I think she’s done a great job with the bike-share program,” she said. “I will get in trouble for saying that. But I believe in it, and I think that it’s terrific.”

In her closing statement, Brewer said she feels strongly about streetscape issues and mentioned that her Upper West Side district has become more friendly to the elderly thanks to pedestrian safety improvements, benches, and crosswalk countdown clocks. “I feel very strongly about the streetscape and how our streets look,” she said, citing her StreetsPAC endorsement.

All three candidates spoke against the Bloomberg administration’s proposal to develop housing on NYCHA properties to raise funds for public housing repairs. After the forum, Brewer told me that if any new development occurred on NYCHA parking lots, she would support one-to-one replacement of any lost spaces. However, she would want those spaces to be located in surface lots, so low-income NYCHA residents and those with disabilities would not have to access their cars in a valet garage.

Reducing off-street parking requirements is a plank in AIA-NY’s policy platform, and Upper Manhattan is still saddled with mandatory parking minimums. Brewer said she liked the approach the Department of City Planning took with its recent tweaks to the Manhattan Core parking regulations, which set maximum levels of parking for new buildings (in contrast to most of the rest of the city, where parking is required). Brewer was inclined to extend maximums to the rest of the borough, but added that she hasn’t studied the issue enough to say for sure.

Menin highlighted her support of residential on-street parking permits, but didn’t give a specific position on parking minimums, saying the issue could be examined as part of her proposed borough-wide comprehensive plan. After a forum in Harlem last month, I asked Lappin about parking reform, but she said she didn’t have enough information to take a position.

After the forum, I spoke with Jackson about Select Bus Service on 125th Street. Jackson welcomed the decision by DOT and the MTA last month to pull the plug on the project, but insisted last night that he isn’t against better bus service. “I think everyone wants a faster ride; it’s just how we’re going to get there,” he said.

When I asked what types of bus improvements he’d like to see, Jackson wouldn’t say. “It’s not me; it’s the community board,” he said.

Jackson also insisted that SBS isn’t dead. “They’re not canceling it. They’re pulling back right now,” he said. DOT and the MTA said they would continue to work with the community on other bus improvements, but Jackson hasn’t heard anything from them. “They haven’t followed up with me,” he said. “You need to ask Senator [Bill] Perkins.”

  • Anonymous

    Brewer was the candidate who didn’t equivocate in her support of bike-share. “Some people would make Janette Sadik-Khan a dartboard, but I like her and I think she’s done a great job with the bike-share program,” she said. “I will get in trouble for saying that. But I believe in it, and I think that it’s terrific.

    BINGO. I loved that she owned up to JSK. I cannot wait to vote for Gale Brewer. And that’s not solely because @Bicyclesonly has said so, about a dozen times, on my twitter feed.

    Seriously, livable streets is my number 1 issue. And I’m voting straight StreetsPac endorsed ticket.

    Also, Lappin’s big achievement was making e-bikes illegal and increasing the fines therewith. So we have situations where just riding an e-bike, yields a greater penalty, then running someone over by failing to yield. Sorry Lappin. Not getting my vote (also mad at Garodnick over that . . . but he’s been decent on other livable streets issues).

  • Anonymous

    I don’t know if it’s a big achievement for Lappin given that e-bikes are still all over the city and there’s a store dedicated to selling them in her district.

  • BornAgainBicyclist

    Between how Jackson handled SBS and now repeating the sham narrative that communities weren’t consulted about bikeshare . . . . yeah, he just definitively lost my vote. Most likely to Brewer.

  • Albert

    Don’t let anyone criticize you for being a “single-issue voter” if you plan to vote for or against a candidate “only” on the basis of their approach to transportation issues:

    congestion pricing, East River bridge tolls, lost opportunities with Tappan Zee Bridge and Hudson River rail tunnel, transit lockbox, SBS & BRT, bike lanes, bike share, “community process,” Ray Kelly, stop & frisk, bicycle harassment vs. tinted window “harassment,” Dorothy Rabinowitz, Janette & pedestrian plazas, Lappin & e-bikes, obesity, parks, street safety, pedestrian & cyclist safety, child & senior health & safety, safe routes to schools, slow zones, speed cameras, asthma, air pollution, noise, congestion, 75% of public space lost to the public for a century, sprawl, cement/asphalt heat islands, free/cheap parking, parking placard abuse, climate change, small business health, local economy health, auto/gas/oil industries sucking the air out of the rest of the economy, jobs, foreign oil, terrorism, Syria…

    Are these all a single issue? It’s not all about bicycles. How many more of these “different” issues did I leave out? Did I go too far?

  • Anonymous

    It was a phony, grandstanding play then, and it’s still phony grand-standing now. Shorter: Lappin likes phony stuff.

  • Anonymous

    You left out expansion of the subway system, starting with Second Avenue Subway Phase 2, not to overlook Triboro Rx, and restoring the abandoned Rockaway line to transit.

    But I take your point: the “single issue” we are talking about is the quality of life in the place where we are trying to live.

  • Anon resident

    Jackson is a failure in his own district when it comes to clean streets and bike lanes. For someone who sits on the sanitation committee you would think he had a better understanding of livable streets and cleanliness. Brewer gets my vote!

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