It’s official: Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez is chair of the transportation committee, and Council Member David Greenfield will head up the powerful land use committee. While Rodriguez’s appointment has been greeted mostly with optimism by street safety advocates, Greenfield’s ascendance raises flags about whether the city will be able to get much-needed parking reforms through the council.
Rules changes under consideration by the council would increase the power of committee chairs, making these appointments that much more relevant to the prospects for any given piece of legislation.
Rodriguez has publicly aligned himself with Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero objectives, issuing a statement last week in support of more traffic enforcement and slow zones, as well as home rule over automated traffic enforcement.
“We will seek to focus this committee on accomplishing Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative, placing a premium on pedestrian safety to avoid any further avoidable loss of life,” Rodriguez said in a statement today. “We will seek to cut travel times for New Yorkers to increase the efficiency of our city as a whole; and strike a suitable balance between the thousands of bicyclists and motorists who use our streets.”
Rodriguez is on the record supporting Vision Zero, surface transit improvements, and the expansion of bike-share to his northern Manhattan district, but his close ties to the livery industry raise questions about how he might approach certain proposals, like stronger safety protocols for drivers of for-hire vehicles. Rodriguez himself is a former livery driver, and he received significant campaign contributions from the industry.
While the transportation chair has limited ability to directly affect City Hall policy, it’s a powerful bully pulpit. Mayor de Blasio has pledged to build at least 20 “world-class” Bus Rapid Transit lines, and any efforts to reallocate street space from cars to BRT will be a test of the new chairman’s commitment to transit.
The committee itself contains seven holdovers, in addition to Rodriguez: Margaret Chin, Dan Garodnick, David Greenfield, Steve Levin, Debi Rose, Jimmy Van Bramer and former committee chair James Vacca. It also includes new additions, with Mark Weprin joining newly-elected council members Costa Constantinides, Carlos Menchaca, I. Daneek Miller and Antonio Reynoso.
Eight of the thirteen transportation committee members are part of the Progressive Caucus, and eight were endorsed by StreetsPAC in last year’s election. Many of the new additions to the committee highlighted their views on street safety and livable streets during their campaigns.
“Council Member Rodriguez was a committed street safety supporter before the Mayor took office,” said Transportation Alternatives executive director Paul Steely White in a statement. “Rodriguez will also be unafraid to use his committee’s oversight powers to push the Mayor to go further, faster.”
“We expect Chairman Rodriguez will actively pursue policies that prioritize the safe movement of pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users,” said Tri-State Transportation Campaign executive director Veronica Vanterpool in a statement. “In order to achieve the Vision Zero and Bus Rapid Transit goals set forth by the Mayor, it is absolutely essential that the Council’s Transportation Committee Chair is committed to improving safety and mobility for everyone who uses New York City’s streets.”
The land use committee, which in addition to Greenfield has 20 other members, has veto power over the Department of City Planning’s rezoning proposals and parking reforms. While DCP’s adjustments to off-street parking policies in Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn have been weaker than what’s being pursued in other, less transit-oriented cities, de Blasio’s yet-to-be-named planning commissioner could ramp up on parking reform to reduce traffic and make housing more affordable.
In his time on the council, Greenfield has showered attention on the plight of car owners who take advantage of free on-street parking. Now that he’s chairing the committee that oversees development in the city, he’ll wield enormous influence over any proposals to advance a progressive agenda for parking reform.